Another month was about to go into the history annals. As the last weekend in January approached, my excitement meter ticked higher. Even though I was usually still by myself in the bedroom on Saturdays and Sundays, the weekends became pleasant diversions from the boring weekday routine. I guess it was just nice knowing that I wasn’t alone in the house, and those voices filtering through the house and ringing off the walls soothed my psyche.
Parker, never a Saturday morning cartoon-type, would bound downstairs and snuggle next to me to briefly watch the latest in floozy entertainment and junk food commercials. It was the commercials to which he seemed most attracted. The commercials displaying epicurean kiddy goodies that never passed through the doors of our home. Goodies he convinced himself he’d perish without.
Fortunately, he disliked most of the animated shows, because they were “too strange and scary,” and he eventually grasped the sales pitch formula after my repeated explanations about their motives.
After an hour or so, back upstairs he’d bound to resume his intense marathon bouts of constructing Lego airports, fire trucks, buildings, and innumerable creations tumbling uninterrupted from his imagination.
Being the sensitive, concerned type, I think he really only came down to keep me company for a while. And I was grateful.
Sunday mornings were highlights of the week, when I’d watch the morning lineup of television evangelists, particularly Dr. Charles Stanley. I so very much missed attending church services and felt guilty about not being able to maintain weekly, corporate worship. But Dr. Stanley and his messages brought me renewed hope and promise, and He introduced me to a God I hadn’t heard about in a very long time. (Or if I had been told about Him, I hadn’t been listening very well.) A God with perfect ideals and lofty expectations for His children. He introduced me to a loving, uncompromising God who is always there for me. A God who never forsakes His own, who is eternally and perfectly faithful, and intensely personal—if one allows Him to be Lord over their life.
I started to learn my way around the Bible, and one day I “happened” to swivel my radio dial to a local Christian station. Some of the programs I found offensive, since I wasn’t in the mood, or ready, to be “preached at.” I certainly didn’t think I needed anyone telling me how I should be living my life. Although I didn’t need “saving,” I certainly needed the next step in discipleship: biblical instruction on godly living.
I was still picking and choosing according to my comfort zone—like a child carefully examining a candy display case, thinking, counting out his limited pennies to spend, carefully selecting and pointing out his choices. My flesh wasn’t yet ready for all the truth. And the term “lordship” rankled my pride and stiffened my neck hairs, not to mention what the terms “submission” and “denial of self” did to me.
Denial of self! As a competitive athlete, I’d been trained to apply heroic efforts to positioning, validating and asserting my self! And to compound that, I’d grown up in the have-it-your-way (actually, fight vehemently for your way), and feed-your-ego-and-bolster-your-self-esteem-any-way-you-can generation. We didn’t possess a techie Gen X, Y, Z or Millenials moniker. We were officially christened “The Me Generation,” and there was a good reason for that title.
And, as so many believers still nursing on spiritual baby food, I was content to suck on that bottle and mix it with the flavoring of the world’s wisdom.
I did manage to read some Christian books my dad shipped to me, about the history of Christianity following Jesus, but that lying-on-my-back-holding-a-heavy-book-over-my-head-to-read act never lasted very long. My arms always gave out. Even lying on my side and propping the opened book up next to me sent my eyeballs into figure eight patterns.
Yet slowly, consistently, the dormant desire for more knowledge of the faith I professed to hold—and the cornerstone of that faith, Jesus Christ—wormed its way to my heart’s surface and my soul’s core. The world of complete truth was opening up to me, like a curtain slowly gathered back to let the sunshine in. And it was now uncluttered by the “truth” of my Jehovah’s Witnesses friends because their visits had to be canceled due to my precarious condition.
The brilliant silver lining of my existence: Just God and me in His classroom.
Truth. Real truth. That’s what I needed. And I now know that I wouldn’t have gone searching for it unless I wasn’t prodded firmly into a position—through utter weakness and surrender—to seek it.
As I’ve stated so often, God had me right where He wanted me, right where I needed to be for Him to get my undivided attention and shape me into a vessel the way He wanted to shape. To slap my human clay on the spinning pottery wheel, stick me in the fire to burn off the dross and shape me into something beautiful, something He could be proud of. Something He could hold up and say, with a satisfied smile, “Well done!” Something that perfectly reflects Him.
Slowly, methodically, day by endless day, He was dismantling that stubborn Me Generation pride, without me even realizing it.
Have you ever wondered what’s going on in your life? Especially when not-so-great things are happening? When life gets tough. When the bottom of it has dropped out. When there’s no crack in the clouds that seem to stretch endlessly permanently on in the dark sky.
I’ll give you an early heads-up on what I learned from all of this mental pain and physical torture: God’s in the vessel shaping and pruning business. Neither of which are comfortable.
Ever watch a master jeweler shape a gorgeous piece of jewelry? A one-of-a-kind masterpiece? The metal doesn’t look like much when he starts. First, he sketches a design on paper or computer. Then he makes a wax model or mold for a template. He melts, fires, bends, (often with sharp, needle-nosed pliers) and snips, shapes and grinds and polishes, removing every nick, burr and flaw. Then he applies a brilliant rock that’s also been cut and highly polished. He's meticulous in his work. It’s labor intensive, time consuming and often slow. But the result is stunning, and often worth millions.
Just like you.
What I learned was to ask, especially in the middle of pain, heartache and the unknown: “What are you trying to teach me here, God?” What do you want me to learn from this? Teach me now, not later!”
I’ve learned to lean into whatever’s going on, to pick God’s brain for answers. To reason with Him, as He calls us to do. Instead of resisting and fighting, I want to walk right alongside Him on the journey, stuck to His side. Learning, growing, becoming one with Him. Absorbing His knowledge and wisdom like an ocean sponge soaks up sea water.
It’s not always easy. There’s so much that gets me, and my mind, sidetracked.
But living that way helps take my focus off of me and lay it squarely where it should be—on God.
And that reminds me on which piece of the jeweler’s loop I’m stationed.
And that quickly reminds me that He is the Master Craftsman.
And His designs are always original and precious.
And exquisitely beautiful!
NEXT WEEK: Superbowls and simples pleasures…
Until next week,
Thanks for joining me!