Tuesday, May 29, 2007

It All Matters

I have my trumpet issues, or "items" as I like to say, my family items, my church things, etc. Each area tends to have it's own little life. Maybe this compartmentalizing of our lives was born out of the structure of our public school education. First period was science, next, social studies, gym, French, band, Latin, algebra, etc. I did well in some, and miserable in others. Success and failure were only separated by mere minutes as the bell rang and we were off to either triumph or trauma. My high school days were usually lived in a state of exuberance followed by exasperation. Unfortunately this view of life continued well after graduation. Some items were important and mattered while others were ignored. How many hard classes would we rather just skip?

One of the neat things we've been learning recently is probably what should have been learned long ago. Call it Life 101. Sadly some basic things have taken most of a life time for me to begin to grasp. My life as God sees it is not all divided into subjects, nor is it to be micro-managed by me. He has been revealing his deep affection well before those days of algebra and band. My day is all about his attention on me for the purpose of me acknowledging his hand in life's every detail. It is in these details, good and difficult, that He shows His gifts and implanted abilities. He is the teacher of faith in his contant working in symphony rehearsals, teaching of students, living with family, and learning to live with difficult scenarios. Sadly it is so easy to turn a blind eye to his plans as they are unfolding in our daily routines.

This is not to say that life centers around our success and comfort. It's not about getting all A's, but growing to trust Him when the best we can do is a C. His will doesn't center around our lives, but our lives are made for His will. He doesn't fit into our world, but we are brought to participate in his plan for the ages, a much bigger and better picture.

The lesson that is slowly being learned is that it all matters. All that comes our way has its well-intended purpose, and is orchestrated for our best as it fits into God's ongoing plan. It is not about what I can control, what I prefer, what I like or dislike. He is conforming us to Christ and he is using all the events of my schedule to draw my attention to Him. When that begins to sink in, it is supernaturally reflected in our responses to all of our items in life. We have been signed up for those irritating classrooms to develop our trust in Him, and to strengthen us for the rest of life in His plan. From his perspective, all of our items are good, and they all matter.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

When Growth Hurts

When doesn't it hurt, is the question? I wonder if our concept of growth is skewed, or maybe even totally opposite of what the ideal conditions are as designed by God. Doesn't the gardener know the best growing conditions for his garden? When did the vegetables ever resist the gardener's plans? Does the clay complain that the potter doesn't know what he is doing?

Scenario #1: Warm and fuzzy things make us feel like we have become strong. Life is good only when it is pain-free. This view says that growth happens when we look back after storms and smile at how God took us through. "My, how you've grown. How sweet!" says grandma! But mom's take is quite different. Her view from day-to-day is probably a much less sweet perspective. This grandparental view is not wrong, but there is much more involved in growth than a fond admiration for the end product. How much deeper the appreciation when the pressures have been borne well. Mom and Dad would be quick to point out the constant growing pains of consistent disciplined training with its necessary corrections, reproofs, and non-stop instructions! Absolutely nothing negative intended towards grandparents, (I am one). But without the tough training of the parents, we might lean towards a pain-free, problem-sparing upbringing. What kind of maturity would result in a struggle-free adolescence? A weak and whiny adulthood.

Scenario #2: Pain happens, and pressures do their pressing on everybody. But agonizing struggles ultimately produce peaceable fruits of righteousness when the gardener is trusted, and when the potter is patiently allowed to do his molding. Remembering the bigger picture, even when the vice seems to be twisting ever tighter, is our best medicine. God's purpose in pressure is refining, maturing, strenthening, and even chastening those he loves. Without seeing his purpose, our responses only frustrate and drive us to further defiance. Without realizing it, we further twist those vice grips.

If life is about growth, then the hurting never stops! It is our view of it that must change. The book of Psalms was written by those who learned to deal with enormous pressures and yet managed to genuinely rejoice on a regular basis. Growth will hurt, but it has its intended purpose. We can survive only with the supernatural help of our Owner. Without any problems, we would have no needs. Our weaknesses serve to show us our desperate dependance on our Creator. His strength, he says, is made perfect in our weakness, (our hurting). The more we hurt, the greater his readiness to reveal Himself in the midst of it all.

Be encouraged. When life hurts, He is growing us. Sometimes we say, "not so fast, please!" But He never gives more than we can handle. He prescribes for us exactly what we need. His fruit soon ripens, and the lumpy clay soon becomes a valuable vessel of honor. Are we not of more value to Him than fruit and pottery?