Let Your Clay Be Moist

When my boys were small, they invented a character and an imaginary world to go along with him. Meet Fingerface.

When Fingerface first emerged, Teddy was not yet in elementary school, so he had to be under five. This means Jeffrey was, at the most, three. It was sweet and amusing how they used this character to explore their world and communicate. Suddenly, everything belonged to the —-face family. We had Footface, and Bellyface, Kneeface and Elbowface. They were exploring their bodies under the cover of this character’s voice. Then one day I overheard them talking about Penisface and Buttface. While I was quite pleased that they had little self-consciousness about these more, er, functional parts of their bodies, I had to have a little talk with them at that point.

Not too long after that, Teddy started school and Fingerface disappeared from our lives. For a kid who has such social challenges, the boy seems to have this internal monitor that helps him weed out the weird. He quit sucking his thumb on his own that year too.

Anyway…Imagine my surprise when, somewhere around Teddy’s tenth birthday, Fingerface was resurrected. He came out of nowhere, like a long suppressed memory, and has been haunting my days ever since.

It took me a while to realize that this annoying creature was my son’s way of handling an emotional developmental leap that he was going through. Fingerface said all the hard things that he couldn’t say. When I tucked him in at night, it was Fingerface who begged me not to leave him alone in the dark. When I told him I loved him, it was Fingerface who responded with the catch phrase Teddy had coined: “You’re mean.” Which, translated from Fingerface language into English could mean anything from “I love you too” to “You’re pretty cool.”

Fingerface has become so much a part of the family that my youngest son gave him up for Lent. Now, the child lurks on the stairs every Sunday morning, waiting to pounce on me with Fingerface ; all the pent up longing of a week’s worth of being deprived of shaping his hand into a mouth springing upon me in one day.

This may sound odd, I know, and I have considered therapy. But, this too shall pass; just like the phase right after potty training where Jeffrey insisted on sitting down on the toilet to pee. This practice maddened his father, who seemed to consider such an effeminate way of emptying the bladder by his son an attack on his own manhood. I can’t remember the precise moment when Jeffrey decided that it was more fun to stand up and urinate; subsequently learning that manly practice of spraying down nearly everything within a sprinkle’s reach. I liked it better when he had to tuck the little thing down.

Fingerface will fall by the wayside in this manner too, I presume. I do not anticipate missing him much. But last night I gained a new appreciation for Fingerface’s usefulness.

Last night I participated in a focus group at church that is trying to identify some key recommendations for reconciling parts of our congregation. We have been undergoing a program on conflict resolution, which is a long story, but it has been quite a roller coaster ride. Anyway…at one particular point last night, I felt this crazy urge to bring out Fingerface to say some of the hard stuff. I imagined shaping my hand into a mouth and saying to one lady, “You’re mean!” or “Open your mind!” Fingerface would have no trouble telling others when they are being selfish and close-minded. He wouldn’t hesitate to tell them that our church is going to die if we don’t embrace a Contemporary worship service. He wouldn’t blink an eye (well, he has no eyes) about telling a couple of folks that they are just angry old bitter people who make Jesus sad when He looks down upon them!

I know, I know, Fingerface can be very judgmental at times. But that is the beauty of him. He gets stuff out in the open so we can deal with it. There’s no hypocrisy in Fingerface. He is, after all, only a hand. A hand character invented by a little boy who has yet to master the falseness of posturing.

But I didn’t break out Fingerface. Instead, I did the mature thing. I listened. And I loved. And I desperately tried to wrap my mind and my heart around this incredible fear of change. And just trying helped me understand a little more. I guess just because someone can intellectually understand that change is inevitable and necessary for growth, doesn’t make it easy. I’ve been just as guilty of seeking my comfort zone on many occasions. It stretched my mind to extend myself in this way. And there is a little more love in the world for it.

I just want to leave you with something that I heard read at a women’s conference recently. I hope as you read it, you let it permeate your mind and your heart. It really has stayed with me. Whenever I experience fear, I let these words surface in my mind, and I am able to experience it as an opportunity for growth.

Let your clay be moist

It is not thou that shapest God
It is God that shapest thee.
If then, thou art the work of God,
Await the hand of the Artist who does
All things in due season.
Offer Him thy heart,
Soft and tractable and keep the form
In which the artist has fashioned thee.
Let the clay be moist
Lest thou grow hard
And lose the imprint of His fingers.–St. Irenaeus

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