I am a product of my times– of microwave meals and instant downloads, fast food and high speed internet. I want things fast.
This is not how my Father works.
I see this heart, and all of its failings and all of its struggles and all of its weakness. I see it and I wonder how– after 32 years His child– it is so slow to grow, so slow to change, so slow to become what it was created to be.
I’m impatient, stuck in a rut, still falling over the same old tripwires. I want to be My Best Me– I want to be like Jesus– I want to be different than I was a week– a year– a decade ago. This is what I pray– change me, whatever it takes.
Oh, what a crazy, wild, foolhardy prayer! If it weren’t that the One to whom I pray is fully trustworthy, this would be completely ridiculous. Even now, it feels ridiculous.
Change me, whatever it takes, I pray– and I find myself flat on my face in a swamp of sinful behavior.
Change me, whatever it takes, I pray– and suddenly I am walking in the valley of the shadow of death.
Change me, whatever it takes, I pray– and I am struggling with depression and stress and anger.
Change me, whatever it takes, I pray– and there are problems in the checkbook, or problems with the children, or problems with my health or the health of a loved one.
I do not often like the way God changes me. And just when I have my focus laser-sharp on the Thing that I think God should deal with in my life, He does something completely different and I am on my knees again, crying out– what?
The way He grows me, the way He teaches me, it is never what I expect. And it is always slower than I desire. He sees the finished product– His perfect plan for me, and He knows exactly how to get me there. But all I see is this little messy corner right here.
I watch my husband paint, and the work is slow. He sketches his ideas carefully, tries different ideas, throws many away. He blends colors on a palette, tests them out. He paints a background, patiently lets it dry, adds new layers and new tints. Every step I think is beautiful, and often I think NO! as he adds a shadow or an outline or a highlight I didn’t know was missing. My husband is an artist, and he sees details I miss, and strives to add those details to his work. And when it is done– it is beautiful. And it is complete, in harmony, every stroke working together for this finished work of Art.
And this is where I am– just a canvas on an easel, a vessel on a potter’s wheel. I can’t see everything. I can’t see how this dab of shadow here, this unpleasant poke there, could possibly make me grow. I want sunshine and rainbows and frolicking puppies, but God doesn’t often grow His children with sunshine and rainbows. More often He grows us in the dark places, the deserts and the swamps, the deep valleys and the lonely nights. But He is the artist and He has a plan.
I have learned I can trust Him, this Father-Friend of mine. He calls me His workmanship– His masterpiece. I may feel ugly and incomplete and pointless and useless, bound for the garbage pile, but He sees much more than that. He sees how this path in this dark valley will teach me to lean on Him in my sorrow. He sees how this deep, gut-wrenching spiritual battle will teach me to rely on His sufficient grace. He sees how my loss will give me opportunities to comfort others with the comfort with which He comforts me.
I see loneliness, hardship, darkness, pain, and grief– but He sees what these teachers are creating in me– love, joy, peace, patience, and gentleness. He grows up His fruit in me slowly, slowly, so that I wonder whether He’s doing anything at all. But He is. And I can look back and say–
During those years in Christian school and AWANA and Bible college He was giving me a base knowledge of His Word that I use every single week as I teach the kids at church.
When I was seventeen years old and I ran from God and He brought me back, He was giving me an assurance of my salvation– that I was His and He was not going to allow me to walk away from Him.
In those times of financial strain that came so often in the earlier years of our marriage, He was teaching me to trust Him and His ability to provide.
In my first miscarriage, God showed me how near He is to the broken-hearted and taught me how to comfort others. In my second miscarriage, He allowed me to walk through a time of doubt and so to find myself asking questions, seeking answers, and finally stronger and truer in my faith.
The long time of waiting while Art finished seminary taught me of the perfection of God’s timing and the goodness of waiting for His perfect plan.
Rheumatoid Disease has taught me the reality of pain, and given me compassion and understanding for those who experience it daily.
My deep struggle with food and my inability to lose weight in the last year have been a harsh teacher, but I have learned– am learning– that my God is enough for me, in everything.
Walking through these experiences, I could not see what God was doing. It all seemed hard and dark and painful. And yet now these are my past with God— they are the times He has drawn near and met me in my weakness and been my God. And they are a foundation for trust and obedience as I submit to His daily work in me.
Right now I might just be a canvas with a bunch of random paint on it, but someday– someday— the picture will be finished, and it will be beautiful. It will be a masterpiece.
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.