Can I have this one?
Earlier this season I attended a local art show with some friends and family. There was an artist there that was a wood craftsmen. I found his work very interesting, but mostly I found him interesting. He had all sorts of beautiful crafts and he would always perk up when someone reached for one of the wooden buttons he had scattered over this plate. As soon as someone reached for one he would gently tell them what type of tree it was from. If they let him continue, he would go on to tell them how it was made, where he got the tree from, how many years it took to create and anything distinct about the tree. If they continued to listen he would go onto another button to tell it’s story, and on and on. At which point he would comment “I can’t believe there’s all these different kinds of trees! All the different growth patterns and ways to work with each type of tree. I can’t believe they are so diverse.” When I asked where his trees came from he simply said “Oh the dump.” To which his wife crouched in embarrassment. He followed up with “I stand at the entrance and as people come in with their brush and garbage I awkwardly ask “Can I have this one?’’
~What was once left for trash
has been redeemed to an item of beauty.
Here was something
that brought him joy to create
and something that was created
to bring joy to others.~
He truly loved his work. He took his creation very seriously and he wanted everyone to know how unique each piece was. I realized, this is how God would talk about us if human souls were on display at an art show.
Over the summer I attempted a challenge to myself in Christian meditation. I have always valued quiet for my home and life. At times our life schedule is embarrassingly bare, but it’s how we enjoy our lives. As two introverts, my husband and I relish the joy of personal time and one on one relational time with each of our sons and each other. To be honest though, my life still didn’t feel quiet. My life is simple, but it’s not quiet. When quiet befalls my home, my mind is still a flutter with desires to read, create, study, or engage in other relationships. My thoughts are constant and endless. During a commercial break, I more often reach for my phone than not to fill my time. It doesn’t seem like I’m the only one either. As I wait at the door for pick up from school, more adults are on their phones than not, even if they are standing with other people. I can’t believe how many times I’ve been at a red light only to look over and see someone’s face a glow from a device to wait out the seconds. Even our quiet moments are filled with something.
Given this realization about my own life, I tried to give meditation a try. My expectation was to develop the skill of focusing my thoughts. To be able to have some true quiet in my life to let God in more. I didn’t want my simple life filled up with so much unnecessary noise. I knew how to recognize God’s presence in my life, thoughts, and feelings, so what could be better than dwelling in his presence consistently without distraction? I had beautiful idealizations of peace and joy surrounding and transforming me into this blissful creature full of patience, serenity and all manners of fruits of the Spirit. Ha! First of all, completely unrealistic, second of all, pure selfishness. No manner of fruits of the Spirit will flow from such an unrighteous motive. That notion was lost on me in the beginning, and boy was I wrong.
I had no idea what was coming for me. Do you know what it’s like to stare in the face of the Almighty? Even the veiled face of the Almighty as we get to experience him in this life? You are staring into the face of perfection. This perfect being without a single spec of anything to stain his existence. This all knowing, all controlling existence of love. What actually happens when you sit down in front of that? Every bit of sin in your soul is exposed. Open for display. Every thought you can’t let go of, every shame you ever endured, every soul that has been hurt by your existence sticks out like a giant red wine stain on a bridal gown the size of Julie Andrew’s dress in the Sounds of Music. It’s noticeable, and vulnerable for the Almighty to see. Even though you are only sitting there with your own thoughts, it still feels open and vulnerable to the outside world. Shame washes over you constantly as you sit in your sin and stare at that giant stain. Not because God is standing there pointing everything out, simply because it’s obvious. The last part of Hebrews 4 comes to mind. “For the word of God is full of living power. It is sharper than the sharpest knife, cutting deep into our innermost thoughts and desires. It exposes us for what we really are. Nothing in all creation can hide from him. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes. This is the God to whom we must explain all that we have done.” It sucks. Most people give up after the first 10 minutes. After the first week. Me included. Why would I want to sit there and let myself feel that shame day after day after day? How is that of any value? How is that loving me? This was not the way I was used to experiencing God and I didn’t like this new facet I was getting to know. In reality though, it was just myself that I didn’t like getting to know.
Then one day I finally sat there. I finally allowed myself to sit through whatever was going to bubble up from my mind. I was going to sit, and feel whatever I was going to feel, let go of whatever thoughts that were going to pass by, and just wait. Wait for the grace that I knew would be his truth. I told myself that I knew this constant shame was not the end of this journey. If the Lord had something to work through in me, I needed to sit there and wait for it. Not run at the first struggle. And do you know what happened? The Almighty didn’t just sit there in his perfection, blaring his glory to mock me. He showed up. He showed up to say “Can I have this now? Are you done with it? This shame you’ve been stuffing away, pretending it was over, but really you just stuffed it in the closet of your soul and forgot about it? Can I finally have that now? And here, I’ll trade you this beautiful piece of joy in return.” Now that I was not expecting, and I don’t know why. I expected to have to do more. I expected there would be much more effort to work through everything that came bubbling up to the surface. The only work it took was sitting there, letting him take it, and not picking it back up again after I set it down.
God systematically cleaned out my heart. Piece by piece. Memory by memory. Day after day. Trading shame for redemption. Creating a heart made for joy over and over again. From tiny to enormous moments from my past, he made this beautiful piece of art that only he could create from a heart that didn’t even realize it was broken, or how continually broken it becomes. God set up camp in areas of my life that I hadn’t even realized weren’t his to begin with. Areas I never realized weren’t surrendered to him. I think as a Christian it’s easy to say ‘yeah I gave him my life. He decides my job, my money, my relationships…’ But really, those are the easy ones to give him. They seem like the biggest and most important pieces, but they aren’t the hardest. The hardest parts to give him are the ones you don’t want him to see, or the ones that are so small it doesn’t seem like it would matter. Addictions, desires, words, thoughts, daily activities, and every little thing in between. It’s the little things that we hold onto that are really what determine the course of our lives. I repeatedly see this anonymous quote that reads
~Watch your thoughts,
for they become your words.
Watch your words,
for they become your actions.
Watch your actions,
for they become your habits.
Watch your habits
for they become your character.
Watch your character,
for it becomes your destiny.~
Our thoughts are so powerful. Allowing God to be the Lord of even those, will change the course of our lives. He is a complete perfection of love and grace. Giving him the most intimate parts of our souls, changes our lives completely. The start can be overwhelmingly hard. So hard that it is easiest to quit and continue on as if it was never even an option to give up those things. God cares about every ounce of our being, and he has the best for us in every part. I can see him as people walk by saying ‘Want to know where I got this one from? Here’s what makes her unique. Here’s the part that made that heart of art. Here’s this part that I repaired to make her whole again.’ and as I walk by others I can see him say ‘Want to know how unique these are? They’re different from you, but they’re beautifully the same. They were created out of joy and created to bring joy to you. Want to come get to know them?’
God created you out of perfect love. His greatest feeling towards you is that of joy, because he sees you as the work of art he created. Live in the presence of someone that sees your perfection. Live in the love that you were created from, and enjoy it! That is why Christ came. The second part of that chapter in Hebrews is as follows “That is why we have a great High Priest who has gone to heaven, Jesus the Son of God. Let us cling to him and never stop trusting him. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same temptations we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it.” Yes, indeed. Approach the throne of God in boldness, because it will take boldness to allow ourselves to be loved by his grace. Let him take what stands between you. He is already asking for it. Can you hear him say ‘Can I have this one?’ Let him take it, and replace it with the joy you were created from.
Consider the Word
Our thoughts are an incredibly powerful tool for our faith. Training our minds to love what is true is a constant dedication. As you go about your day, pay attention to your thoughts. Simply being aware of what they are is the first step in allowing ourselves to let the negative ones go.
God’s greatest feeling towards us is that of joy. Don’t allow whatever lie you’ve believed about him otherwise. Meditate on this verse until you believe the love you were created from.
Both parts of this section need to go together. You can’t have one without the other. Holding ourselves to the light of Christ will illuminate our imperfect selves. By illuminating it, we can willingly and boldly come to Christ for him to redeem it. Don’t settle for one without the other. Don’t assume God’s only purpose it to illuminate shame in our life, only to leave us in our death without a Savior. And don’t assume all things are permitted because we have a Savior to redeem them all. Take each section exactly as it is laid out. First we understand our imperfections because of the Truth, so that we can come to our Savior for the grace-filled love we are freely given.