On the surface, rubber mallets, zip-up freezer bags, permanent markers, and clay flower pots may appear to have nothing in common. But at the women’s weekend retreat that our church sponsored recently, we were assigned a well-thought-out project that involved using each of these items. Sixty of us gathered in the lodge of the retreat center for the afternoon activity with our sets of supplies in front of us.
It was the second day of the retreat. The night before, we’d sung praise songs and listened to a keynote speaker who gave her personal testimony of how her faith got her through her darkest time — the death of her daughter, who left behind a husband and three young children. That morning we’d watched the church praise and worship team perform a skit through interpretive movement, offering a powerful message.
Now it was our turn to take what appeared to be random items and create something spiritually meaningful. We were instructed to jot down our worries, fears, and anxieties in and on our clay pots using a permanent marker. The next step involved slipping the pots into the gallon-size plastic bags, sealing them, and laying the bags on the floor. Then we spent time in prayer, turning all of the concerns we’d noted on our clay pots over to God and asking for healing. On the signal of our activity leader, we raised our mallets high above our heads and brought them down hard against the bags, smashing away at our concerns.
To an outside observer it may have appeared that we were a group of overgrown children trying to recapture a time when we made mosaic artwork in our elementary school classrooms. What we were actually doing was working on strengthening our relationship with the Lord. Many of the women told me the exercise was cathartic. I felt the same way. In fact, I didn’t think about my worries for the rest of the retreat.
About 10 days later I was in Nice, France, following a business trip that brought me to Paris. After leaving a restaurant, I was walking past a plaza and came to a dead stop, stunned by what was in front of me — the largest clay pot I’d ever seen. It was well over 5 feet in height, and nearly as tall as me. It had a tree growing out of it. I knew it was there for aesthetic reasons — to accent the festive mood of the restaurants and live entertainment nearby — but it served an entirely different purpose for me. It reminded me of the intent of the clay pot activity, to remind us that no problem is too big for God and that we should cast our burdens onto God (Psalms 55:22, NRSV). Through God’s love, we can feel at peace.
“Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7, NSRV).
You can read more from Lisa on her personal blog: https://lisabraxton.com/blog/