Wednesday, April 5, 2006

On Being Sculpted and Bruised...and "Made" for His Glory.

May the God of peace, who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, make us perfect in all goodness so that we may do his will; and may he make of us what he would have us be through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen (Hebrews 13:20,21 NEB).

"May He make us what He would have us be..."
On the surface, reading that brings to mind happy thoughts. As we submit to Him, He makes us into what He wants us to be...and we know that, because He is good, what He is making us into is good as well. We can read happy stories of God's working in others that go something like this:

I was a mess. God called me. I fought. He continued to call and woo me. I surrendered. He changed my life and here I am now, content, happy, whole, healed, glorying in what He saved me from and where He brought me to. Often what we don't get in those stories are moments like the one I had yesterday. We don't hear many tales of all the ugly things, the hard things, the disgusting things that had to be purged along the way. I don't mean that as a criticism on the common mode and focus of testimonies. Those things should grow dim and vanish from view over time, surpassed by the goodness and kindness and providence of God. In most cases, too, these types of recountings give us the aerial view from the mountaintop and naturally those momentary, light afflictions are not seen clearly or at all from that vantage point. But, the reality is that in order to get to the mountain top, you have to walk through a valley...and climb the big honkin rock first. It stands to reason that there will be difficulty, pain even, wounds likely in the process.

No unclean thing can be offered to God...that includes us. We can't get to the mountaintop of our lives and be suitable for His service without consistent purging and cleansing. We can't. The Lord doesn't purge and clean out sweet smelling and appealing things...he purges and cleans out junk...garbage...filth. It ain't pretty. It don't smell nice. And most of the time the extraction hurts quite a bit.

But it is necessary if we are to die daily and live the crucified lives we are called to.

This whole process makes me think of scuplture. Picture a large, gleaming hunk of marble. Now picture the scupltor, violently (yet lovingly and purposefully) hacking away at it. For a while there, it just looks a mess. Bits of marble fly through the air and crash to the ground. All that can be seen are rough edges with no discernable shape. But the sculptor knows. He can see what we can't. He has a clear image in his mind of what lies beneath the hacking and the jagged edges. He looked at the gleaming hunk of marble and where we saw shiny wholeness, he saw something inside that needed to come out...something far more beautiful than a big hunk of marble. But, to get to it, a lot of marble had to be hacked and chipped and swept away.

I am feeling fresh chisel marks on my flesh this morning. It hurts. What is being chipped away makes me feel like doo-doo on the sole of a shoe. But I am reminded that He corrects those He loves.

Last night I began my second study through the Book of James. I read:
My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;
Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let
patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire,
wanting nothing.
(James 1:2-4)

The footnote to this passage in my bible said "Those Christians whom God can use the most are those whom God has bruised the most." What comfort to know that God is so purposeful in my personal refinement and growth that He not only intends to use it to make me all He thinks I ought to be, but will also use it for His glory, to minister to others in the body and, hopefully, further the His Kingdom.

Lord, for the joy set before you, you endured the cross. May I endure my daily cross with equal joy. Take my eyes off of the momentary, light afflictions and set them on the joy of knowing you more...of being made into that which you see beneath my flesh...and being used by you.

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