Saturday, June 26, 2010

As Much As Is Needed

I have a thorn in my flesh, like Paul. I want God to heal it, to remove it, to make it go away. I pray for this everyday, multiple times a day. Sometimes I beg. It is the temptation I can't resist. The thing that keeps coming back. The thing I work on day after day, sometimes moment by moment and can't shake. It torments me. Torments. Sometimes I think it separates me from God. It is this one thing that I think keeps me from being everything God wants me to be. Fully aware, fully in His will.

Despite this thorn, God uses me. He prompts me with Scripture to give to others to encourage them and build into them. He has filled me with love that flows out of me and brings people to Him. He entrusts me with so much. It's crazy, really. He gives me people to lead and says to me as clearly as if you said it out loud right now: "Lead them." I obey Him and I disobey Him. I pay attention and ignore. I accept and refuse. I cannot believe or comprehend He uses me.

So, I think God will heal my thorn one day and then on that day, I will be fully formed, fully in Christ. One day. It's coming, I can feel it. I will overcome it. That will be a great day. I will be able to do great things for God. That day will be a day to throw a party, a great celebration, with music and champagne and family and friends. They will say: Remember how much you struggled? Look how far you've come! Look what you've accomplished! You've made it! Success!

And then I think about grace.

Paul said: "To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corin. 12:7-10)

Max Lucado describes it this way: "You wonder why God doesn't remove temptation from your life? If he did, you might lean on your strength instead of his grace. A few stumbles might be what you need to convince you: His grace is sufficient for your sin." (In the Grip of Grace at 137)


Maybe the celebration with the champagne and music and family and friends should be right now, today. God's grace is sufficient for me. It is as much as is needed. It is enough. Thus, I will delight in the torment and the struggle because when I am weak, Christ's power will rest upon me and I will be strong.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Love Them Like Jesus

Was thinking today about loving people without trying to change them, just loving them where they are, like God does. Jesus said: "Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:34-35) Simple enough, right? When you're walking from the train to work, or work to home, or to grab a sandwich at lunch, does everyone around you know you are a disciple of Christ, that you follow his command?

Today, I was walking down to the passport photo store because my passport has expired. This was a very important task, of course. Didn't want anyone to get in my way. I was loving the cooler weather, the blue sky. I was weaving through the sidewalk lunch strollers lolly-gagging back after their turkey sandwiches and cobb salads (sheesh, the nerve). Then, I reached a clear path and darted ahead, really feeling good at that point. Nothing standing in my way! I would get my photo and get back to the office in no time!

But then, the homeless guy with the deep brown eyes and graying hair who sits on the newspaper stands spotted me. I've seen him frequently. And, I find myself at what they call a "choice point." There are several options: 1) stare off to the side and pretend like I'm focused on something and just don't see him (even as he gets closer and closer); 2) confront him and politely, but brusquely, so he doesn't think I might change my mind, decline to give what he seeks; or 3) meet his eyes, dig in my purse and give him what he is asking for even though I don't feel led to do that and don't feel quite like it's the right thing.

As I'm running through all of these options in my head, God intervenes with a lyric I had heard earlier in the day on the train ride: "Love them like Jesus." I wasn't totally sure what this meant under the circumstances, so I let the Spirit guide me. I walked over to him and reached out my hand. Our hands clasped. Mine: small, white, soft. His: large, black, calloused and hard. I held his hand and looked him in the eyes and asked him how he was doing today and was he enjoying the weather. He said he was and told me I had a nice haircut. Our hands fell away and he said have a nice day. I told him I'd see him again soon. My soul soared. He had blessed me.

Giving someone what they are asking for or not giving them anything at all are not the only two options. Love them like Jesus.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Box In The Sand

This past Sunday, I watched this sunset on a beach in Michigan. I got a little antsy because it was an hour or so before the sun actually hit the horizon, and I can't sit still for more than, oh, 5-10 minutes. So, I started drawing shapes in the sand, feeling like a kid again. I drew a box, just a small box with a water-logged skinny stick. That little box inspired this little poem:

A Box In The Sand

I sketch a box in the sand and
in that box, there are more tiny grains
than all the people in the world,
but fewer grains than all the ways
I have doubted, refused, ignored and disappointed you.

Writing this brought to mind Romans 5:20-21: "The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."

Reading this passage made me thank God yet again for his grace and that it is wide and deep and ever-increasing to cover my many and ever-increasing grains of sand.