Partners in Revelation: Bringing Beauty into View

By Michele Morin

If it is true that, as we age, we become even more of whatever we have been all our lives, then Luci Shaw is becoming more and more difficult to “shelve.” A poet and essayist well into her eighties, she continues to tackle topics ranging from quantum mechanics and the incarnation to the haecceity** of things and what it means to “doubt faithfully.”

Thumbprint in the Clay examines these themes and more within the context of Luci’s decoding of the rich presence of purpose, design, and beauty in the universe in which we see God’s fingerprints and His invitation to become part of the creative process.

In four places in Scripture, God is identified metaphorically as a potter, and, made in His image, we also delight in the creation of useful and beautiful things. This response to beauty should not surprise us, for it is a “mark of the Maker,” and Luci Shaw has concluded that “beauty doesn’t reside simply in what we observe or the fact that we can see and take note, but in how we perceive and distinguish with all our senses.” The glory of this is that as seers, we become “partners in revelation to bring beauty into view.”

A collector of pottery through the years, Luci invites her readers to consider the beauty that results when something is imprinted or stamped upon clay — or upon a life. Impressions are made and influence has its “in-flowing” way with us and we are changed. As reflectors of the image of a creative God, all believers (and artists in particular) are called to reflect that image authentically so as to impact culture. By way of illustration, Luci shares a heart-warming story in which she helps a homeless woman, and the happy-ever-after just doesn’t come true. The help of one person was not enough to fix the “sad, smeared print” of a whole life, and yet out of that untidy tale of disappointment has come a more informed community of believers who are working together to help the needy.

Luci’s generous sharing of the sting of inadequacy (“Oh, God of living compassion and tender mercy, what could we have done differently?”) gives me courage to view my own failures with more grace, perhaps as part of God’s marking and molding of this lump of clay. Certainly God used various methods in Scripture to mark His people: Jacob’s limp from wrestling with God never left him; Miriam was marked with leprosy and Moses with radiance in direct correlation to their demonstration of faith; Zechariah was stamped with a nine-month silence.

Most joyful and inspiring is Thumbprint‘s underlying narrative of Luci’s own yielding to the Potter’s shaping and molding. Her heritage of “missionary blood” with all the baggage and expectations that cling to it, her wrestling with faith and doubt (something she reminds me that one cannot do from a distance), and her ever-curious approach to life through travel, outdoor adventures, and asking the questions have all marked her. Poems sprinkled liberally throughout the pages serve to document her progress and to pull me into the quest for fresh ways of saying the ancient Truth.

I’m challenged by this observation about words and The Word:

. . . we must be prepared to open our eyes, to move from what has become a well-worn bit of dogma in our minds to a vivid picture vigorous enough to freshen a relationship with God.

I can just barely imagine the experience of being present when THE wardrobe from C.S. Lewis’s home arrived at the Marion E. Wade Collection in Wheaton, of finding his coat still hanging inside, of looking for tufts of Aslan’s fur. Insights into Luci’s formative relationship with Lewis scholar Clyde Kilby and Luci’s creative collaboration and friendship with Madeleine L’Engle are a treat for those of us who have followed Luci’s career (and say that we want to BE Luci Shaw when we grow up!).

“Generativity” is a word that shows up in one of Luci’s books, a word about growth and pushing forward into the future, and the reality of that word emanates with blazing brightness from between the lines of Thumbprint in the Clay. Having been imprinted by Christ, the questions to His followers hang in the air like a challenge:

Can we live in awareness of the rich evidence of purpose, the fingerprints of God upon His world, and then invite others into the creative process?

Can we listen and respond to the voice of God as He speaks Truth to the world (and directly to our searching hearts) through beauty, order, and grace?

Can we view the circumstances of our lives (whatever they may be) as the continual reshaping and remaking of our Potter God?

** I never read a Luci Shaw book without gaining a new word. Naturally I had to show this one off. It literally means “thisness”and refers to “the essential unique quality of every created thing.” The idea was proposed by 14th century philosopher John Duns Scotus and is demonstrated well in the poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins.

[This book was provided by IVP Books, an imprint of InterVarsity Press, in exchange for my review.]

This post was first published at michelemorin.wordpress.com.

michele-morin Michele Morin is a teacher, reader, writer, and gardener who blogs at Living Our Days. She has been married to an unreasonably patient husband for over 25 years, and their four children are growing up at an alarming rate.  She is active in educational ministries with her local church and her writing has appeared at SheLoves Magazine, The Mudroom, (in)courage, and elsewhere. Michele loves hot tea and well-crafted sentences, poems that stop her in her tracks and days at the ocean with the whole family. She laments biblical illiteracy, finds joy in sitting around a table surrounded by women with open Bibles, and advocates for the prudent use of “little minutes.” You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Feature photo by Mike Kotsch on Unsplash

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27 thoughts on “Partners in Revelation: Bringing Beauty into View

  1. April Fields says:

    Isn’t it a rush to stumble on a new word? I learned ousia, which also means essence, from Madeleine L’Engle. Interesting that she was friends with Lucy Shaw. I do adore your reviews, Michele.

    • Michele Morin says:

      Madeleine always enhances my vocab as well, and I love her imagination. Wouldn’t it have been great to have been invited to one of Luci and Madeleine’s visits? Their husbands both died of cancer in the same year, and Luci edited and published some of M’s books so they certainly had plenty to talk about.

  2. A says:

    What a thought! I’m pretty sure I’d be completely muted. Just to listen to the collective, hard-earned wisdom of those two would be the ultimate life experience!

  3. Lesley says:

    It’s always good to learn a new word! And I love the image of God as the potter and the idea that his fingerprints are upon the world hr created and that he is constantly using circumstance to mould us and shape us. Thanks for sharing about this book!

    • Michele Morin says:

      That’s one of my favorite qualities of Luci Shaw’s writing. She has such a deep appreciation for God’s creative work, and she truly sees herself as a co-creator with Him. Thanks, Lesley for your thoughts here.

  4. Molly Stevens says:

    Love the new word, but how do you pronounce it? If I can’t figure that out I won’t be able to use it in everyday conversation. LOL. What an amazing person and she had such fabulous friends! Deep questions at the end of this post, Michele.

  5. Mary Geisen says:

    I am wondering if you remember me messaging you one day trying to figure out who Luci Shaw was and what book you would recommend? I was standing in the middle of a bookstore with a gift card burning a hole in my pocket. I prayed you would answer my message so I could purchase a book that I knew you had written about on your blog.

    Well, I ended up buying Thumbprints in the Clay. Now I need to admit I have only read a little bit. But this post inspires me to dig in again. Thank you for describing so clearly the journey Luci takes in this book.

    • Michele Morin says:

      YES! I remember that! (Aren’t gift cards just wonderful? I got a package in the mail yesterday with 3 books that came to me via a gift card! So delightful!)
      This is a good season in your life to pick up Luci’s book as you are so involved in the creative process with your writing.

  6. Betsy de Cruz says:

    Your writing is so beautiful, Michele. And this is such a good question: “Can we view the circumstances of our lives (whatever they may be) as the continual reshaping and remaking of our Potter God?”

    Looks like a really interesting book with bits of memoir and essay together. I’ve been thinking of God’s fingerprints on us a lot lately.

  7. Meghan Weyerbacher says:

    Looking at our experiences and wrestlings as thumbprints is beautiful! I love writing and reading about clay because it reminds me even the things I deem “flawish” (my own word haha) God may see differently, and most likely he does.

    Thank you for sharing this, Michele. I always learn something from your reviews.

    • Michele Morin says:

      On e of my favorite things in this blogging life is the opportunity to share good books with others and to engage in conversation about them. Thanks for so often being an important part of the discussion!

    • Michele Morin says:

      I’ve said for years and years that I want to be Luci Shaw when I grow up — not only because of her gorgeous words, but because of her adventurous approach to life.
      Thanks, Debbie, for these encouraging words.

  8. Brenda says:

    There is that challenge to see with fresh eyes, isn’t there, Michele? That’s one of the reasons, I try to take a short passage each morning and read it alone. This way, I’m forced to sit with those words, rather than skipping over their ‘obviousness’ while reading. Familiarity can often blind us, in so many areas of life. I’ve never seen this book before. I like the concept of “doubting faithfully.” 🙂 Thanks for sharing, friend. xoxo

    • Michele Morin says:

      I was just talking to a friend about the importance of reading thoroughly in stead of racing through the Bible as if we got extra points for more words. Sometimes I read out loud so I can hear the words as well as see them.
      Always so good to hear what you’re thinking, Brenda!

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