Wednesday, September 26, 2007

SOUL-SANDING: More on Pain in the Christian life

From time to time, I do a little bit of wood-working, whether it be
building shelves for my office, fixing the front porch, hanging new
trim in the living room, or making a footstool in my basement...

So over the years, at various points, I've needed to use Sand Paper
to remove unwanted material, or to smooth out rough spots in the piece
I was working on...

Sand paper, of course, comes in many degrees of "grit", referring to
the size and quantity of the stone-like, abrasive "flecks" on the surface
of the paper. The lower the grit, the larger and more rough the
flecks are, the higher the grit, the smaller and finer the flecks...

When I want to remove large amounts of unwanted material, and do so
with maximum effect from the effort I will be putting into the sanding
process, I'll buy a 60-grit, or an 80-grit; 4 or 5 passes with this
kind of paper -- depending on the toughness and resistance of the
thing to be sanded -- and I will have achieved the effect for which
I bought that grade of sand paper... A higher grit (finer) paper
simply would not get the job done...

It's not hard to see how this is analogous to the Christian life;
James 1:2-4,12 teaches us that going through difficulties and trials
should be a JOY to us, specifically because of the Change than can
result; in other words, when Life -- or God Himself -- pulls out
the 80-grit sand paper and starts to go to work on us, sure, there
is PAIN involved, and a lot of us tend to cry out to God, asking that
the Pain or Trial be removed...

But if God's primary goal for us is Transformation, and
our own Sin and Rebellion and Stubbornness and (even) Stupidity
make it necessary for Him to use the roughest grade of paper to
"SAND" our Souls, isn't that, ultimately, what we WANT, as Believers?
Is perhaps our deepest sin that we don't passionately WANT to glorify
God by BECOMING what He wants to make of us?

We should perhaps ask ourselves, then, what the possible "Sand Paper"
in our lives looks like... Is it a critical, argumentative, selfish
spouse? How about an unfaithful, belligerent, condescending spouse?
A rebellious, self-centered teenager? An immature, irresponsible
co-worker? Poverty? Physical ailments? A death in the family?

C.S. Lewis wrote,
"God whispers to us in our pleasures,
speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains:
it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world."

So let's accept the Pain as being usable by God to "sand" away
those parts of our character that are not in line with the
masterpiece He intends to make of us; let's re-engage those painful
relationships in our lives, recognizing that since God's primary
VALUE system cherishes the person next to me, I should
submit to the hard work of Loving that person, too...

It's often very difficult!! Indeed, the process sometimes drags on,
involving a great deal of PAIN (and frustration, disappointment,
headache, heartache, and failure), but the Character change that will
almost certainly result is what profoundly pleases the Divine Woodworker.

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