Saturday, July 5, 2014

Cracked Vessels

“but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God.” 
-1 Corinthians 1:27-29

“In a very real sense not one of us is qualified, but it seems that God continually chooses the most unqualified to do his work, to bear his glory. If we are qualified, we tend to think that we have done the job ourselves. If we are forced to accept our evident lack of qualification, then there's no danger that we will confuse God's work with our own, or God's glory with our own."
 - Madeline L’Engle

“It is not the strength of the body that counts, but the strength of the spirit.”
J.R.R. Tolkien

            I must be honest as I write this time. I do not think that I am effective as a Christian, as a friend, as a teacher, as a human. Bound by my own weakness, I find myself seduced by the lie that if I don’t have my own life together then I will be unable to make an impact on the lives of others. In this mindset the self is bearer of all power to change a life, and is not only responsible for himself, but for those around him. I can buy into this when I have my life in order, but what about when my life is in shambles?

It is an unfortunate message that so many people, including myself, are buying into – that you merely learn from your struggles, you grow from them, so that once you have passed through them you can be stronger.

If I am to believe what 1 Corinthians says though, the strength and power occurs during the struggle. In the very literal sense, “His power is made perfect in weakness.

My brokenness is a tool. I finally see it. I am not supposed to endure my struggle but embrace it! Sue Monk Kidd has ministered to me greatly through her book “When the Heart Waits.” Through her testimony of trials and periods of waiting, she learned that “God is found not in the erasing of an experience, but in the embracing of it.” Latching onto the metaphor of a butterfly going through metamorphoses, Kidd understands that the pain in life is how God shows himself in the most grandiose of ways.

“We seem to have focused so much on exuberant beginnings and victorious endings that we’ve forgotten about the slow, somewhat tortuous, unraveling of God’s grace that takes place in the “middle places.””

Indeed, I have forgotten about the unraveling of God’s grace. Yet it is everywhere around me. 
God’s grace is inside me, carrying me through the valleys.
God’s grace is around me, in His church, ministering to my needs.
God’s grace is beside me, in companionship of close friends.
God’s grace is in my mouth, encouraging fellow struggling Christians through my own supernatural endurance.
God’s grace is above me, anointing my life as worthy to suffer for the sake of the Gospel.
(I believe that yes, suffering for the Gospel can also be in a local, personal suffering context)
God’s grace is beneath me. His promises and his Word sustain me.

Beautifully indeed, I find that I am MORE of an encouragement in my silent suffering than in my strength (and this is NOT by my own power).
In my silence, God is deafening. Perhaps my own voice was drowning him out. Who knows what all He intended to say through my life that I was too proud to allow him to say.

The question used to be "Why". Why does God allow me to go through such valleys?

The question now is "How". How does He do it? How does God manage to use such seemingly bleak situations to have such a far-reaching impact? Even though I find much difficulty in ministering, I find that it is genuine now.
I relate in a pure sense, I sympathize realistically, and I connect spiritually.
I read a Rumi quote that says “Suffering is a gift. In it is hidden mercy.”

I see Jesus in every situation now. I must rely on Him, else I would collapse.
Somehow or another I keep going.

I keep living.
I keep breathing.
I keep celebrating beauty.
I keep loving Jesus.
I see Him everywhere.
He is literally all around me.

Grace is like a lens by which we can see the image of our risen Lord.

I find myself broken frequently. Yet, if scripture is true, this brokenness allows Jesus to be seen more clearly. So perhaps what I though was weakness is actually a hidden strength?

My depression, my mental fatigue, my physical pain – what if they were all conduits for God to show his grace in an even more tangible way? Not to me but through me?

Maybe that’s why God allows such weakness to exist, so that he can love more perfectly. Love without sacrifice is merely lip-service. Love is only experience through a PERSON, and if I am going to be a person who claims Christ then doggone it, let me be a person who demonstrates LOVE.

I love the idea that people are not living life, but ARE life…. This is true if you stop and think about it. So in this mindset then I need to ask, as Abraham Heschel so brilliantly put it –
“How should I live the life that I am?”
Will I waste years of my life trying to merely endure pain? Yes, I will grow from it, but once I have reached the other side (or IF I have reached the other side) then I still have lost those years of endurance.

OR, will I embrace my cross, choosing to LIVE through and with pain. I may live through pain the way Christ was present mentally every second of his passion. I may live through pain knowing that it connects me on a deeper spiritual level to every other suffering person in existence. I may live through pain knowing that it enables my life to be a pure conduit by which God can work.

When I choose to LIVE through pain, then LOVE wins.