Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Jars of Clay

We each have our passion.  For some it is organization.  For others, music or sports, mentoring or constructing.  You fill in the blank.  But one thing is evident.  When we rest from that one thing which drives us, we discover our heart's true calling. 

Though to an outsider it may seem that I've been coasting in summer time bliss, deep down it has been a struggle.  When God directs me to pull back for a season and rest, I flounder.  It seems so out of place, so odd.  Most of all, it causes me to realize that my identity belongs, not in what I do, but in Christ.  In this place of vulnerability, I am pulled into a deeper wonder of God's grace and a greater dependence on Him.

Trust is not always in more doing.  There is nothing noble about working ourselves into the ground.  Why are we made to feel guilt for setting limits and saying no?   Life holds many seasons and right now, mine seems to be that of waiting.  Yet, as my entire church rallies around a large scale VBS, I find my heart aching to teach.  However, due to various circumstances, this was not my year to do so. 

I am so uplifted when I teach.  I love how the lessons grip me personally and cause me to worship with a greater intensity.   And yet, how easy to hog that for myself, never allowing others the opportunity.  To pull back now and then is a win win situation because others are given the chance to receive that blessing as well.  But there is a deeper pain than being set on the shelf, that is, coming to believe that you have been disqualified from ever practicing your gift. 

Several months ago I encountered a conflict which threatened to derail my passion for teaching, causing me to lose all confidence.   I know, it is God, not me, who works through me to accomplish His purpose.  Yet, I was petrified because of an attack on my integrity, causing me to live in false guilt and overwhelming shame.  How can I carry on if what I am wired to do is squelched?  If this is my spiritual gift, (and I believe it might be), then what is my purpose without it?  I thought I might wilt.  But some interesting creatures have recently crossed my path to help me gain perspective. 

Sunday night, my family ventured out on an exploratory hike.  There we met some wildlife, which, at the time were quite entertaining.  Now I'm realizing they were a gift from God's hand, for these animals provided the picture I needed for the last few months to make sense.  It was an "aha" moment.

A kangaroo mouse scurried across our path.  We followed it because we found it peculiar, those long legs on its hind quarters looking like a kangaroo's, plus it had a strange tail.  But we were surprised to find that as we approached, it did not move.  Finally, we came so near that my daughter nudged it with her foot.  It tipped over a little, stiff as a board, as if it were a bobble toy, and then sat upright again.  It was obviously paralyzed with fear.  No wonder these small creatures often become a snake's dinner!  

Likewise, in my own life, my fear was causing me to be 'food for snakes'.  I was embracing defeat like that mouse, stopped dead in my ministry, thinking I could never teach again.  I assumed my purpose was thwarted.  But now I realize that the enemy sought to use this situation to destroy me and hinder God's work.

However, we also met another creature.  Coming around a bend we came upon a mountain sheep, all stately in his curly horns.

He stood there for quite some time, completely still.  He watched us hike toward him, scarcely moving an eyeball.  When we began to venture too close for comfort, he proudly sauntered away. 

This sheep reminds me that there are times when God would have me pull away from intense ministry and be still.  He commands me, in fact, to rest.  But not in paralyzing fear.  Rather, God would have me simply be still and know that He is God.  And sometimes that stillness is brought about by a perceived failure. 

The contrast was striking.  Such confidence and assurance were displayed by the big horn sheep!  That is the kind of stillness I desire.  One that keeps its dignity intact and refuses to let a snake intimidate, or worse yet, eat it.  I may have been derailed, but I know the character of my God.  He will not let me be destroyed.  More than that, He will restore and "cause all things to work together for good to those who love [Him]."  (Rom. 8:28)  God is for me.  He is not against me.  Ever. 

I will trust Him in the silence.  

"But we have this treasure
 in jars of clay
to show us that this all-surpassing power
is from God and not from us."
2 Cor. 4:7

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