Thumbprint In the Clay: Divine Marks of Beauty, Order, and Grace
Author: Luci Shaw
Published: March 2016 | InterVarsity Press
Length: 195 pages
You may be familiar with Luci Shaw from her poems that have been included in numerous anthologies (For example, Between Midnight and Dawn). You may also be familiar with her as the “more conservative” best friend and writing partner/editor of the delightful Madeleine L’Engle, as celebrated in Friends for the Journey.
This book did not really begin to speak to me until I went out into nature this last weekend, hiking up to Tahquamenon Falls in Paradise, MI and ferrying across Lake Huron to walk the clear beaches of Mackinac Island. It was there I realized how much Luci Shaw’s Thumbprint In the Clay had infiltrated my perspective. Everywhere I went was like a scavenger hunt, looking for Divine marks on the landscape. Beauty does something to your heart; listen to Shaw’s arresting definition:
“Beauty…the appearance of something of such supreme worth that it begins to make sense of all the breakage, the heartache and distress of our world.”
Finding glimpses of beauty, evidences of God’s presence and His goodness, ushers in a hope and healing that has the rare ability to push through the muddle and despair we so easily fall prey to. I, at least, cannot separate finding beauty from finding God.
Strikingly, Luci’s hunt for these treasured glimpses is not limited to nature or to things that immediately strike us as beautiful. She stretches, turns over, and wrings out the concept of God’s imprint till it’s sheer. His hands surely fashioned mountainous vistas, and his lips spoke life into mankind, marking him by diversity and unique gifting. Yet, sometimes God’s mark takes the form of a wound in a side (like Adam) or both a humbling and empowering limp (like Jacob afterwards called Israel). Imprints can be emotional like a memory, or physical like the direction a painter strokes his brush. The marking of a signature bears witness to authenticity, authority, and pride. Nature remains an ever-rewarding place to start the search, but Shaw casts a much larger vision.
Many of these ideas Shaw leaves open, like gifts unlaced from their bow. You must draw your own conclusions about how exactly forensics reveals God’s identity, or how emotional imprints are sign-posts beyond ourselves. But would you ever have thought to look there?
On the other hand, woven in to her prose reflections are poems that shed a slant of light at a different angle. Many of these poems were gathered from the repertoire of Shaw’s history, so, in a sense, this book trails her personal journey to see God through life’s seasons. Along with recounting her time at a Mountain Advance gathering, she contemplates finding new eyes through the gift of images and metaphors:
or perish. Thrust out now
the unseasonal ripe figs
among your leaves. Expect
the mountain to be moved.
Eye-less, learn to see
truly. Find in my folly your
true sanity. Then, Spirit-driven,
run on my narrow way, sure
as a child. Probe, hold
my unhealed hand, and
bloody, enter heaven.”
With her images she gifts to us glasses shaped by faith.
Putting on Luci Shaw’s glasses reveals that being marked by God is not limited to that seal he put on his own for salvation. His markings grow and deepen over a lifetime, and can be found under every upturned rock of our own lives, and every outward ripple. It’s good to be reminded to keep looking.
Review copy courtesy of InterVarsity Press