I find that I am not very interested in becoming God’s Masterpiece . . . And yet that is exactly what is going on here. Ephesians chapter two says, “WE are HIS workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
Workmanship . . . I’ve been told that in the Greek this word, at its root, is Poema. Poem . . .
We are God’s poems . . . His . . . Art . . .
A city slicker, driving through the countryside saw an old farmer standing on a ladder, almost hidden in the branches of an apple tree. Thinking he might buy some apples he stopped his car. He saw that the farmer wasn’t picking apples at all. The farmer was holding a pig in his arms, and the pig was contentedly munching the apples right off of the branches of the tree. Dumfounded, the city slicker said, “Hey up there! What in the world are you doing?” The farmer looked down his nose at the man and drawled, “Wa’al, this is my favorite pig. I’m feedin’ him some apples.” Flabbergasted, the city man said, “But man . . . don’t that take a lot of time?” The farmer squinted at the man. “Shoot boy, What’s time to a pig?”
What is time to a pig . . .? This joke illustrates by absurdity a truth about our lives in respect to God’s attention upon us, and a much higher truth about human beings as his artwork. Why does He take such pains with us, carefully shading all of our lives to turn out art? What is time to a pig?
If he liked, an Omnipotent God could do anything. Pursue any interest . . . Create anything . . . The most wondrous lengths of space itself are his. How is it that I / we . . . merit such attention? Why such a single hearted focus He has brought to bear upon planet earth? He became a pig Himself, incarnated Himself into our air, subjected Himself to ‘rooting in the mud.’ Yet, He beholds our lives.
He does all for the sake of his poems . . .
We are His art.
About four or five years ago, after I had been in pain for nearly four years, I finally began to seek other interests. Finally began to lift my head from the depression of constant pain and the emptiness of my self and began to commune with God. I began to seek him and want him, rather than blame him. (I have avoided talking much about the turning process itself, from resentment to worship. Suffice to say that it was difficult and it still is a daily choice.)
A work of art, and more so, a work of God, is always a process.
I do not, by any means in this writing want to give the impression that I am ‘overcoming,’ that I, like an inspirational story in Readers Digest, am the conquering hero under the strain.
You know the stories, the hero hits the wall of adversity, he ‘discovers’ a deep source of strength within himself that he didn’t know he had, then applies that force to annihilate the problem . . . No . . . I am not ‘overcoming.’ I am not ‘beating this thing.’ (It’s beating me.) I don’t have this ‘deep well’ of strength. I only find weakness, and despair, and longing inside my own being.
I’m looking for weapons. For some . . .Thing . . . Some psychological, spiritual trick that will beat the pain off me but there is none. THERE IS NONE . . . (At least not within me . . . I think that after nine years I would have found it by now.) There is only this waiting for me now.
Yesterday was horrid . . .
Horrid . . .
I had only slept an hour or two the night before. I kept coming awake with a jerk and a cry because of pain. Then lay there groaning.
Finally morning . . .
Dragged off to work.
On the way to work I drive past a prison. Groaning I glanced over and thought, “How incredibly fortunate those prisoners are, sitting comfortable in their bodies there, able to rest, to read, sleep, etc.”
Somehow a miracle happened today and I made it through the day . . .
Weeping frequently in pain and despair I ‘went through the motions.’
I feel as if some essential part of my spirit is being ground away today. As if all these notions of ‘growing closer to God through suffering’ are just hogwash . . . That none of this really means anything and I truly am suffering so much in vain.
After that horrid day I went to worship practice. (It was like pulling teeth to motivate myself to go but I did.) After practice everyone on the worship team gathered around and prayed for me. Good, solid prayers I’ve heard a thousand times before. Helpful, encouraging, a true blessing . . .
One precious lady didn’t pray though. She just stood there and wept for me. I felt so bad for her. Her heart was breaking for me. “Here’s Roy again,” I thought, “Inflicting discouragement and depression, handing it out like candy wherever I go. Complaining, weeping, hurting, and now I’ve bummed out this child of God . . .” I felt like the plague. With tears dropping off of my own chin I became even more discouraged, felt even more useless and broken.
She just continued to weep for me.
Like a light turning on, God’s ever present, ever speaking Holy Spirit began gently chiding and encouraging my heart. “Don’t worry for her, it is I that weeps within her for you.“ (The Holy Spirit intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.) “It is her spiritual sacrifice of worship to participate in your pain as a visible example that I participate in your pain. I groan in you and with you, for you. This is why my word says ‘Rejoice with those who rejoice. Weep with, with, those who weep.’”
I really think that more than anyone else who has ever prayed for me, or listened, or ever said, “I wish there were something I could do for you.” She did more. She ministered more, helped more, accomplished more than any of them. And she wept . . . Just wept. She, in absolute humility, acknowledging her own uselessness in my situation, just wept. In the only way she knew how, in the only possible way there is, (By choosing to connect through her own pain,) She identified with me, and demonstrated God’s incredible compassion for me. And that was everything I needed in the moment for God to speak within my soul.
I believe God weeps.
Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of himself, but what he sees the father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.” John 6:19
The shortest verse in the entire Bible, but perhaps the single most important verse for the suffering is “Jesus wept.” Hebrews 1:3 says, “He is the radiance of His glory, and the exact representation of His nature . . .” Therefore when Jesus wept, He was only doing the will of His father in heaven. Just doing what God does.
When things become intolerable, and I scratch and pull at the walls of my cell, just yearning and seeking a way out, He is there. He is enthroned in the center. In the very middle of the maelstrom of agony He sits calmly, absorbing my suffering, and offering communion through it all.
I choose to turn from my thoughts of escape. To stand leaning on my sword here in the desert, and commune. ‘Oh be with me MY Lord, I need you so bad . . .’
Job and his wife understood very clearly the two ways (and ultimately the only two ways possible for the suffering to turn.) “You are a fool,” yells Job’s acid-tongued wife. “Curse God, and die.” Job’s response, “Shall we indeed accept good from God, and not adversity? You speak as a foolish woman.”
Acceptance . . . Acceptance . . . The most difficult task left to us . . .
How easily in my life, (that is, the first thirty years,) I accepted good.
How easy it was to believe in a loving God back then, (Even though I wasn’t very interested in knowing Him.) But now my entire being recoils from pain.
I am not ‘accepting’ this well at all.
I don’t even want to try and explain the ‘trick’ God played on Job. “I bet he turns away from you when he’s hurting.” says the devil. “You’re on,” says God, “You can do what you like to him, only don’t kill him.” Something about that really bothers me. A careful reading of Job shows that, after a while, all Job wanted was to be killed . . . Sometimes . . .
Sometimes I agree with him.
Now the only two places I can go to find evidence of a loving God is in the Scriptures, and the temple within my soul. The presence that lives and loves here, within me . . .
I love the last verses in the book of Habbakuk. Chapter 3:16-18. “Decay enters my bones; and in my place I tremble, because I must wait quietly for the day of distress, for the people to arise who will invade us. Though the fig tree should not blossom, and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail, and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold, and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, and he has made my feet like hinds feet, and He makes me walk on my high places.”
I don’t love that these verses describe terrible suffering. I do love that in the midst of terrible suffering the true lover of God can exult, can rejoice, and can even walk on the high places.
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