Wednesday, June 03, 2015

With Glory Just Around the Corner

"... I couldn't get everything right...In addition, I was not achieving well..I had nothing to hide behind. This was a gift. With a light shining on my inadequacy I needed something I couldn't produce. Grace. I needed to hear I didn't and couldn't get it right, but I had someone I could run to who would embrace me like a dad after a game telling me he was honored to be my dad and was pleased I was playing the game. Through grace, I began to see God looked into my heart and not my performance and was simply pleased I was out practicing, competing and in the process of growing up. His grace said 'slow down and relax, this is a long process'." - Gordon Bahls

These are the words I needed to hear today.

If you continue in your faith for long enough, digging deeply into the heart of the Father, you will be confronted with your inability to "get it right". Sometimes people will say something that rips your insides to shreds. The one that seems to recur among my friends and in my readings is that you're not gifted. Maybe you don't finish what you start. Maybe you are so emotional that you're told you can't be trusted. Maybe it's something else. But it will hit you right in the deepest part of your heart. It's a piece of your heart previously untouched. A place that is so tender, so intimately personal that you feel you just can't recover. There is no going back. How can you even be in the same room with that person again? How can you attempt to share God's love with others when you are decimated and suddenly unsure of yourself.

This is not a singular issue. I can think of several friends and acquaintances walking this path. They limp along dripping brilliant drops of blood in their wake. Their limps are noticeable when you look in the right place. They struggle with despair and feelings of uselessness. They are told sometimes to suck it up, get over it, move on, or their necks are on the line. But their struggle is real.

Do you know what I have learned from these saints?

Go deeper. Deeper into the heart of God. Deep enough even to lie in the grave with Christ*, as it were. For in that place you find a balm for the aching, stinging, bleeding parts of your soul.

Abba is there. He holds us. He sustains us. He brings peace. He comforts us. He delights in us. Even when we get it wrong. Even when we screw it up. He dances over us and invites us into the dance.

What does it matter what man says? What can they do? Can they separate us from the love of God? (Romans 8:35) What does our reputation matter? So what if we can't get it right? 

The blessedness of owning nothing, in the words of Tozer. Wholly surrendered, utterly obedient, possessing nothing. Not owning our giftings, not our words, not the affirmation of others, not the approval of authority. But lying quietly in the grave with Christ, listening to the gentle whispers of the Father, not unlike Elijah in 1 Kings 19. Or as Brennan Manning puts it, "abiding restful union".

God does us a mercy when he prunes us. Think of the tree. It has two branches cut off; one because it is dead, but the other branch was producing fruit. So why, oh why, would you cut off that branch? John 15 says so that it will produce even more! It may feel like abandonment and punishment, but it is the picture Jesus gives to show abiding. He in us, and we in him. What a grace!

So what do we do then when confronted with the very person who does not love us well? How do we have a loving relationship with them when they are so unsafe? I don't have all the answers to that, it's still confusing to me as well, but... but maybe we should see them as the pruning sheers. Yes, they made us bleed, but they were in God's hands the whole time. And we are deeper in the arms of Jesus because of them.

"Friends, when life gets really difficult, don't jump to the conclusion that God isn't on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner." 1 Peter 4:12-13 The Message (italics mine)

*a line from Spurgeon's sermon entitled The Shame and The Spitting. Well worth reading.