A warm candlelight casts unruly shadows across the wall, as he works tirelessly into the night.
We sit in no particular order on the bare, stone floor of the room. The weaker ones rest along the walls, their shadows misplaced. We have been here for a while now, some longer than others.
I rub my eyes, trying to stay awake; it might be my turn soon. Ire is sitting next to me, too fidgety and too active for a person with her condition. She nudges me sharply, "Psst. Look at her."
I throw a lazy glance at the front door, to which she’s pointing; the one we all came in through. A girl steps in uncertainly - frightened and self-conscious and rightfully so; her skin is pale and cracks run haphazardly along her dehydrated skin. Her face is dirty with streaks of dried tears.
As she gets closer, I flinch a little at a jagged line that runs over the right side of her grey, scaly lips, it cuts deep like a trench.
"She looks like she fell on her face," Ire chuckled.
Everyone is staring at her now. Some edge closer to the walls, leaving her exposed to our scrutiny.
"Yuck!" Ire whispers loud enough for her to hear.
The girl moves along, to the work bench, through the path created by the others. Her eyes fixed on the floor, she drags her feet until she’s standing right beside him at the bench.
The potter stops and looks at her. He picks her up and stares for a while. He carefully runs his thumb along the frightening crack, then flips her over on her head, inspecting, his fingers smoothing and his nails scraping.
"He's going to throw her out, for sure. What a waste!” Ire hisses.
"Why is he paying so much attention to her?" She grumbles, "I got here about fifteen years ago, if anyone needs the potter's attention, it's me!" She pouts, as she self-consciously fingers the place where her other handle used to be.
Suddenly, she nudges me hard, her sadness evaporating,"Psst! Harry, look at that guy, his pouring spout is broken", She giggles, pointing at a dark clay pot, who was lying on his side, motionless, save for his steady breathing, "Where is the broken-off bit? What a klutz! Reckless klutz."
My gaze resettles on the potter's hands around the new girl. He carefully turns her over again and dusts her with a light brush. As he does, before my eyes—the unsightly cracks on her skin begin to connect with other patterns that lay beneath the accumulated grime. The more he dusts, the more he reveals the most beautiful, intricate patterns etched into her red clay skin. His face remains still but his eyes gleam and dance. He can remember when he created her, when he drew those patterns. For a split second, I see a smile, a quick show of white between his lips. The potter takes his time with her. I watch him for hours and when he sets her down, I can't believe my eyes. Her patterns are breathtaking, her warm earth tone, even more florid in the candlelight.
"Psst, Harry. Look at this one", Ire stands awkwardly, her lone jug arm sitting akimbo as it always does. I ignore her. She wanders away into the rows of broken vessels, poking the ones who catch her attention and asking them why they look the way they do. What did they do wrong? She seems completely oblivious to her missing arm and cracked back.
I inch closer to the potter, something rattling with every move I make. He looks at me and I stop short. It's a peculiar look. I know what he sees, he sees a perfectly made blue porcelain jug with little hand-painted white and yellow petals around my neck, both handles present, spout intact, no scratches. There was no apparent damage on me, not like the others with the tarnishes and cracks, not glaring like the red clay pot.
As he reaches for me, I feel his warmth. His fingers close around my trunk and he lifts me to his working table. He inspects me but finds nothing. Then he looks inside and there they are; the cracks, the chips, the stagnant fluid that has sat for years and has stained my base, a light rancid smell emitting from within.
Then he begins. He cleans and scraps and works, not taking a break. With every chisel and chip, I feel myself becoming the person he intends me to be. Clean. Strong. Radiant. A little strange but beautiful, an advertisement for the Potter himself.
The chiseling aches and the scraping hurts but I know when he is through, I will be wonderfully new.
Draw closer to the potter's bench. He made you, he will fix you, he knows what he's doing, he knows where it hurts, even when you don't.
Also, the church is made for everyone, please come in. No, you don't even have to knock!
Meet Jesus, here.