My whole life has been a process of trying to be brave enough. Enough for the next obstacle, enough for the next problem to solve. Sometimes, I have not felt brave at all. Most times I want to and have retreated into the walls and spaces I have built; paper refuges, hiding from paper giants. And that is just it! The giants that threaten to tear down my paper castles are paper themselves and so the walls come down with a crash and yet, the giants are paper too. This is to say that one cannot fight big or small battles from the same plane as they were created. We must rise above the obstacles, rise above the empty threats of our paper giants.
There is a story in the bible of one such example where a great army was coming against the army of Israel. And they were terrified. The enemies’ armies extended as far and beyond what the eye could see. In fact, the description given in the bible is that they were like grasshoppers. I am not really afraid of grasshoppers, but I still hate the idea of a swarm of grasshoppers surrounding me. Still, God speaks to the quaking Israelites and tells them not to be afraid. The people before them, the grasshoppers, will soon disappear, as God goes before them and fights their battles.
You see, paper giants cannot be destroyed with paper swords and we cannot hide from them in paper castles. We need fire. The kind of fire that burns up very quickly all that it touches and leaves nothing more than a black smudge from where it was.
Often, the threats are very real and God knows. He hears our cries and sees our terrified faces. But he also knows His own power and ability to save “even to the uttermost”. The question is..Do we? Do we understand that it is only in the face of threat and danger that true courage is tested and developed? It is only in the gym that a stronger physique is created or only in the rat race that one develops the strength and courage to get out. Life is hard but the magical moments and triumphs far outweighs the struggle. The small victories we experience each day only prove to us that we have a God who wants to polish and perfect us.
There is a song that I had the privilege to sing this year. The words speak the following truth.
“There is a fire that burns within, white hot with holy flame
And those who dare pass through its blaze will not emerge the same
Some as gold and some as silver some as bronze then with great skill
All are hammered by his suffering, on the anvil of his will.”
Suffering does not bring joy to the heart of our loving Father. Only perfect and unconditional love comes from above. No, suffering and evil are from the Devil. But in God’s vision, he sees us fulfilling and living a greater purpose. He sees what we can become and speaks to us words of truth, telling us what we are becoming each and every day. God will not give us something that we cannot handle without him. He permits certain things and intervenes in others, all of them designed to help and mould us. Not to harm us but to give us hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). I struggle with this thought and my heart aches for those who have gone through tremendous loss and pain. But God’s heart aches too. He sees your pain, he cries when you cry, he is moved to tears by none other than you. The God of the universe to be so affected by you and I. He is not the bad guy in this story, he is the one with your best and tenderest interests at heart. Don’t hide from his gaze when you feel unworthy. Don’t let the sins and abuse of the past speak louder in your life than what God speaks and pours into you.
The first human being was carefully and tenderly crafted, by his own hands from mud. The creator of the universe, literally getting his hands dirty for humanity. And so, he perfectly sculpts the first human. He breathes life into Adam and he becomes a living soul. But then the first pair sinned and the beautiful, perfect sculpture that humanity was, now became deformed and sickly. But still God chose to redeem this sickly and deformed soul because he loved them. Not a copy of them, not a future self or past version of Adam and Eve. There, in their guilt and shame he loved them and chose to restore them rather than throw away the useless lump of clay. Instead, he promised to recreate them. Not from the outside but from the inside out.
Just like the blind man in John 9, the creator of the universe once more stoops down and gets his hands dirty. He takes a handful of mud and uses his own spit to create a poultice. Placing the mud on the man’s eyes, he tells him to go wash in the pool of Siloam called Sent. The imagery is so beautiful. Sent, meaning himself, He was the one Sent. And so, Jesus provides the cure and the remedy for both his eyes and his soul. Jesus sculpted the poor, blind beggar into a new creature. One who would praise him and worship him out of a true and abiding love. That is the story of redemption. It is a simple one. One that never used to make sense to me and in many ways I can’t comprehend how amazing it is.
But the creator of the universe saw me and chose to create in me a clean heart, he moulded me once, he can mould me again. He can craft me from the ashes from the cold, hard clay and start over. Why? Because he is the potter. I then live each day, not trying to be brave enough, good enough, smart enough, beautiful enough, loved enough. I am simply, loved, redeemed, cherished, saved. I am simply a daughter, one who can happily sing his praises and fall more and more into God’s love knowing that whatever I go through on this earth will be worth it. Worth a glimpse at the one who loves.