My church is going through a time of transition. From founding pastor leaving to interim pastor arriving, to we don’t know yet. The process for the congregation started last fall and coincided with my decision to go back to school. The tandem personal and corporate journey has been a blessing at times and also seemed overwhelming at times.
A few months ago we as a congregation were encouraged to remember the goodness of God in a symbolic way. In the back of the church was a basket of rocks and a bunch of sharpies. We were to choose a rock and write on it a triumph or a blessing for which we were praising God and wanted to remember – a message on our ebenezers if you will. I Sam 7:12.
I chose a smooth rock that had a bit of a chip in it, but looked like a good writing surface. I took a sharpie and the word that came to my mind was growth. So I wrote growth on the rock and in keeping with ancient OT tradition, put it in my purse.
The last few months for me have been a time of trial; a sunburn that was my own dumb fault, a pulled leg muscle that is the mockery of turning forty, and a car accident that was someone else’s dumb fault. Not one of them was a massive life changing event or obstacle insurmountable, but the rapid succession of struggle seemed to be too much. Resources of time, money, and mental preparation, were redirected from all the summer projects I needed to get done before school starts to healing and finding another car.
The sunburn forced me to hibernate in front of a fan for a week and think about the damage that can be done from a day of fun in the sun. I saw it as a metaphor for so many things and a call to use wisdom and not shut out the voice that tells you what you already know to be true regardless of what feelings are telling you.
As that healed, I pulled the muscle in my calf and it forced me to slow down, be humbled by such a ridiculous thing, and learn to ask for help. To know some people have to deal with this situation for far longer or even a lifetime made me thankful mine was temporary and burdened for those who cannot escape immobility.
And then the accident happened and proved again you can do everything right and still need to clean up the messes of those who don’t. The reward system we want to be true isn’t. But we are to do the right thing because it is the right thing, and not because we are guaranteed an easy time. Also, Jesus take the wheel is not just a song as evidenced by spinning 360 not hitting anything and stopping perfectly within the turning lane facing the original direction. He was with me in that car and there were no injuries aside from whiplash.
So it’s been a little nutsy cuckoo. As things finally started to quiet down I did a regroup and organized things from the car, apartment, and of my purse full of all the important information I needed to carry with me. As I reached in the bottom of the purse, I found the rock and I noticed the chip seems to be getting bigger. The word is still plainly seen, but about a fifth of the rock is missing.
I thought it fitting and ironic a rock with the word growth on it is getting smaller. I thought of the last few weeks where it seems one thing after another keeps happening, all feeling like a loss of some kind. Sometimes things need to be taken away before they can be restored.
For years I have prayed with my hands open after hearing from a friend the concept of living life with an open hand. When I pray with my hands open it is a physical manifestation of a spiritual posture toward God and a discipline because I don’t always want to be open to loss. I mean the prayer when I say take out what doesn’t need to be there and put in what needs to be there. Only I’m more hopeful He will put more in than remove. And yet, I found myself in a season of coerced purging.
I felt a bit like the rock, I had a season of growth in my life, but at the expense of loss. And that is where God does His wonders. The things I have thought about and learned and relearned over the last month would not have happened otherwise. The number of small miracles I have seen; the witnessing of what it means when God can do exceedingly above all that I ask or think (Eph. 3:20) have been one blessing after another. And I have seen the humor God has to provide a replacement car the same model of the totaled car, two years newer, way nicer, and for it to cost less than when I bought the other one.
Growth is not linear. Sometimes loss leads to lessons that provide a blessing and grow us in ways we would never choose. Even so, God is the author and perfecter of our faith (Heb. 12:2), and sometimes the driver of our car.
I was out shopping for myself, which is a rare event. I found myself struggling to buy a much needed quality pair of sneakers, and dress shoes. I was going back and forth on how much to spend. Typically I go to Walmart and buy a $12 pair and call it a day. However they weren’t giving me the support I needed from being on my feet most of the day. I asked a friend, “why am I struggling to buy these for myself?” Her reply “ because you don’t value yourself”….I didn’t even text back. I bought 2 pairs of shoes, and a couple other things, then I took myself out to breakfast.
And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth… Matthew 25:25
I always felt for the servant who hid the talent in the ground. I related to his fear of losing it all, of disappointing others. He valued his fear more than the gift, and what could be gained from that. If you’ve had enough lack in your life it can impact your ability to value yourself appropriately. The times when I’ve worked too hard to please those who may see me, yet don’t understand me. He had to find a safe place to bury the talent, had to dig a deep enough hole, and then stand guard for a year,,, that’s a lot of work for something that doesn’t belong to you.
But when His disciples saw it, they had indignation,saying, to what purpose is this waste. Matthew 26:8
They saw the woman for who she was, a sinner, and opined that her actions could only be considered a waste. Maybe her actions were too grand, too generous for them to be interpreted correctly by equally sinful people.. Perhaps her recognition of who Jesus is, and the comprehension of what he was about to endure, could only leave them muttering feeble excuses about the poor in response to their own lack of worship.
And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. John 1:5
Pure goodness, and the deeds that follow can easily be misinterpreted if the light hasn’t shone in our own dark places. I’m quite certain that the woman was well aware of her past, her actions, and how people viewed her. What surpassed all of that was her absolute confidence in who Jesus is, and that what He thought of her wasn’t an opinion.The challenge is to take what you have that is whole and valued and break it wide open for God’s glory. What you hold dear must be let loose, what you consider the best thing about yourself should be given to God. Stretch out in God so the light can get to those areas that we’ve buried and guarded for far too long.