Monday, October 24

Perfectly Square Rocks

One Sabbath afternoon not too long ago, I overheard a conversation between two of my friends, and it intrigued me. A group of us had decided to go hiking at Laurel Falls, but some of us needed to be back home earlier than others. Our group split, and while the majority of our fellow hikers went up to the falls, the rest of us played and hiked down among the large rocks in the stream.

I was sitting with Allana, Margie, and Heather on one such large rock while Ivan was skipping rocks, throwing big stones in the water, and just generally being a guy. Then Ivan came and showed us a great find-- a very large flat rock, which he then proceeded to throw in the water after each of us had commented on how much we liked it. A few minutes later, Ivan returned again with another large, flat rectangular rock.

"Do you like my rock?" he asked as he showed it off to each of us.

While he was preoccupied, Allana turned to me and said jokingly, "We'd better not tell him that we like it or else he just might toss it into the water as well."

And so Allana feigned indifference toward the rock. Ivan was a little dismayed.

"What's wrong with my rock, Allana? Why don't you like it?"

"Well, I don't know what's so great about it," she answered apathetically.

"What's not great about it? It's a perfectly square rock!" Ivan exclaimed exultantly.

We all laughed, and Allana replied, "There's nothing square about it! How can you say it's a perfect square?"

Ivan was quick to defend his find. "Well, it's an awful lot better and more square than all the rest of these rocks!"

The banter continued for a while until we moved on to other amusements. But Allana's and Ivan's discussion got me thinking. It was quite clear to all of us that the rock was not, as Ivan had claimed, anywhere close to a perfect square. Even his defense admitted that fact.

Sometimes I think we present our plans and designs to God the same way that Ivan presented his rock to Allana. We tell Him how great it will be if things will just work out the way we've planned, and when God says no to our plans, we're so quick, whether by words or by actions, to defend our schemes.

"What's not to like about it? It's a perfect plan!" we complain to God. And even when we're honest enough with ourselves to admit the obvious flaws, we still try to sell God on the point that it's a much better plan than any other that we can see at the moment.

But that's just it-- God sees so much more than we do. And while our designs may seem like the closest thing to perfect we can imagine, God sees the true perfectly square rocks that are hidden from our sight.

"Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him." Psalm 37:4-7a, ESV

"For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. O Lord of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you!" Psalm 84:11, 12, ESV

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil." Proverbs 3:5-7, ESV

Saturday, October 22

Musings: Light and Darkness

God has been teaching me so many neat little lessons and giving me so many small glimpses into His love lately. And I want to write about them all, but it's late, and I must work tomorrow morning. So I will just write a short thought that most recently presented itself to me.

My housemates all left to go various places toward the end of this past week. One went to North Carolina for a funeral, and the other two went backpacking. I stayed home (like the second little piggy) so that I could go to work. Friday evening when I came home from work, the house was completely dark and forlorn. It was really discouraging, especially because it was Sabbath, and I felt like coming home at the end of a long week to enjoy Sabbath should have been more comforting than empty.

As I walked through the house, I began turning on lights. This is amusing to me because one of my greatest pet peeves since coming back from Africa is wasted electricity and lights left on that aren't being used. But nevertheless, I turned on several many lights in our house. Somehow it made the house seem less empty.

I began to ponder this phenomenon because it seemed curious to me. I then made a connection in my mind. In the Bible God is often symbolized by light. In fact, during the time that the Israelites were in the desert, God's Presence in the Sanctuary was manifested as a glorious light. And read this from Revelation 21:23-25:

"And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day-- and there will be no night there."

And so I sat by myself in my empty house with many lights on, comforted by the symbol of God's Presence on the Sabbath. And as desolate as the darkness had seemed, so the light seemed full and un-lonely.

Saturday, October 1

God's Chisel

I found this video on my friend's page, and I found it particularly meaningful for me right now. I was especially struck by the discussion about control. Tommie says, "I'm just saying, You've done some great work, maybe we take a break, a sabbatical from each other, you know? I'll stay right here..." And God responds, "That's just it, you never just stay right there; you're either moving toward Me, or away from Me, but never you 'just stay'." So Tommie concedes and allows God to begin chiseling out the things that don't belong in his life. But then Tommie asks God, "But can we chisel where I want?" And God answers, "That's called control."

There are two things I relate to in that discussion. Recently I've realized that I keep praying for God to take control of my life, to lead me in His path, but all the while I'm pleading with Him to let my chosen path be His path. And that's not surrender. That's called control.

The other thing in that discussion on control that really resounded with me is when God says, "you're either moving toward me, or away from me." Sometimes, I get tired of God chiseling. Sometimes, I feel like I can't take any more refining at the moment, and I want to take a break. I want to just stay right here, rest awhile, and then God can start refining me again when I've regained my strength. But there is no staying right here, because to stay right here is to be moving away from God. And I don't need to regain my strength because God has promised to be my strength. In all His refining, when I feel like I can't stand any longer, when I feel like I can't take any more of the flame of God's holiness burning away the dross, He reminds me that if I would rely on Him, I wouldn't have to stand for myself; He will be my sustaining power as He chisels away everything that keeps me from reflecting the image of God.

"Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another." Isaiah 48:10, 11 (ESV)