Keep Us From Sitting in the Seat of the Scornful

I’ve been slowly working my way through old journals and blogs as I put together a timeline of my life (no small task :-P). In that process, I came across this excerpt from The Savage My Kinsman by Elizabeth Elliot. She wrote this final chapter years after her initial two years with the Auca’s, after she had ample time to see and reflect on the fruit of her time with them — the good and the bad. Her perspective is so good and so timely for me right now, so I want to share it again:

“How we long to point to something – anything – and say, ‘This works! This is sure!” But if it is something other than God Himself we are destined for disappointment. There is only one ultimate guarantee. It is the love of Christ. The love of Christ. Nothing in heaven or earth or hell can separate us from that, and because God is God and loves us He will not allow us to rest anywhere but in that Love. We run straight to Him when other refuges fail. Our misconceptions are corrected in Him, our failures redeemed, our sins cleansed, our griefs turned to joy. But first ‘The life also of Jesus must be manifest in our mortal bodies.’ First the drama must be played out – through suffering, weakness, failure, death, and resurrection” (p. 146).

“God keep us from sitting in the seat of the scornful, concentrating solely on the mistakes the paltriness of our efforts, the width of the gap between what we hoped for and what we got. How shall we call this ‘Christian’ work? What are we to make of it?

We must not proceed from our own notions of God’s action (it will appear He has not acted) but must look clearly and unflinchingly at what happens and seek to understand it through the revelation of God in Christ. His life on earth had a most inauspicious beginning. There was the scandal of the virgin birth, the humiliation of the stable, the announcement not to village officials but to uncouth shepherds. A baby was born – a Savior and King – but hundreds of babies were murdered because of Him. His public ministry, surely no tour of triumph, no thundering success story, led not to stardom but to crucifixion. Multitudes followed Him, but most of them wanted what they could get out of Him and in the end all His disciples fled. Yet out of this seeming weakness and failure, out of His very humbling to death, what exaltation and what glory. For the will of God is not a quantitative thing, static and measurable. The Sovereign God moves in mysterious relation to the freedom of man’s will. We can demand no instant reversals. Things must be worked out according to a divine design and timetable. Sometimes the light rises excruciatingly slowly. The Kingdom of God is like leaven and seed, things which work silently, secretly, slowly, but there is in them and incalculable transforming power. Even in the plain soil, even in the dull dough, lies the possibility of transformation for, as the psalmist wrote, ‘All things serve Thee.’

The missionary, with all his sin and worldliness, stands nevertheless with Christ for the salvation of the world. As I learned when I was with the ‘savages,’ they do not need Christ more than I do, for we are all of us sheep who have turned every one to his own way. If I know who the Shepherd is and how to find Him, it is surely my duty to do what I can to point other sheep to Him. The effort to do this must not be seen in ‘either/or’ terms – either it is flawless and therefore a success or it is flawed, and therefore a miserable failure.

Every time my hopes are dashed I am asked to exchange my small view of ‘good’ (when things work my way) for God’s view of it expressed in Romans 8: ‘God who searches our inmost being knows what the Spirit means, because he pleads for God’s people in God’s own way; and in everything, as we know, he cooperates for good with those how love God and are called according to his purpose…..that they should be shaped to the likeness of his Son.’ That, in the last analysis, is for us the only good – that shaping, no matter what it takes” (p. 147-148).

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Beautiful Things Out of the Dust

“Beautiful Things” – Gungor

All this pain
I wonder if I’ll ever find my way?
I wonder if my life could really change at all?
All this earth
Could all that is lost ever be found?
Could a garden come up from this ground at all?

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

All around
Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos life is being found in You

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

Oh, you make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

You make me new, You are making me new
You make me new, You are making me new
Making me new

You make beautiful things
(You make me new)
You make beautiful things out of the dust
(You are making me new, making me new)

You make beautiful things
(You make me new)
You make beautiful things out of us
(You are making me new, making me new)

Oh, you make beautiful things
(You make me new)
You make beautiful things out of the dust
(You are making me new, making me new)

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust

You make me new, You are making me new
You make me new, You are making me new

(Listen to the song here)

This has become one of my favorite songs since we first sang it in the Boiler Room a few months ago. It’s a declaration of hope. And it’s so true. God does make beautiful things out of the dust. He is making beautiful things out of us. I see this over and over, particularly in my own heart lately.

These past four years or so I’ve cycled through so many seasons in my life, both exhilaratingly profound and heart-wrenchingly painful (sometimes both at the same time). I’ve watched things fall aside and fall apart in my life. Communities that surge together in joyful anticipation of God’s work among us, only to scatter. Young believers rejoiced over and drawn into life, who have slipped back into old lifestyles again. Friendships gone awry or simply faded away. Each and every time I wrestle with the disintegrating of relationships I valued so much and spent so much time cultivating.

And yet, I’m discovering that these experiences have become like compost for my soul, the bits of experiences disintegrating over time (and yes, sometimes stinking in the process) until they settle into a layer of good soil in my life that wasn’t there before. Though sometimes it feels like chaos, a scramble to make sense of the transitions and situations, and often it feels fruitless, I’m beginning to see new life springing forth, fresh shoots of green pushing their way through the jumble of experiences and losses that somehow became that good soil. Good, rich soil can begin to bear fruit.

In particular I’m finding faith springing up all over my life in a measure that was never there before. Faith that I am loved, that I am provided for, that I am called, that I am able (or rather, that He is able), that His redemption is a reality we can experience, that His plans are beyond what I ever hoped or imagined, that His promises are sure.

Thank You, Abba, that you do make beautiful things out of the dust, that in Your faithfulness and love, nothing is wasted and You use all these things to create good soil for us to grow more fruitful in You.

Again

Here I am again, processing through another set of changes and struggling to put words to the immense magnitude of it all in my heart. It feels like trying to scoop up an ocean in a bucket.

Yesterday Derek was let go from his job at the Roasterie.

The news didn’t come as a complete surprise this time. About a month ago his supervisor sat him down and gave him a list of things that he needed to improve on (things the he felt he was doing already) within the next two weeks or his position would be terminated. She assured him the next day that the threat of termination was really more of a “scare tactic” (an effective one, too, from the standpoint of this wife) and said that they would discuss it again at the end of the two weeks. That date came and passed with no meeting, though. When Derek asked her about it, she said it was postponed until one of the other supervisors could be there, too, so we thought that perhaps things were settled. Derek was getting more hours again and things seemed to be going better in general. But then yesterday he went to his other supervisor with a scheduling question (they kept scheduling him during times that he wasn’t available) and was told that, actually, they’d decided to let him go. His supervisor pulled an official letter off a shelf (how long had that been there?), handed it to him, told him that if he had any questions he could call the main office, and sent him home. Just like that.

With that news rolled in a whole host of questions, from the serious and weighty (Will my job cover all our expenses? Will we still be able to go home for thanksgiving? What the heck is life going to look like in the next couple months?) to the ridiculously small and petty (Where will we get coffee now?). I have this urge to scoop them all up, collect all the details, and fit them together like a puzzle so I know exactly what everything is going to look like, exactly what to expect, exactly how it’s all going to work out. But that’s not how life works, is it? It’s certainly not how faith works.

Last night we scrolled through lists of jobs on craigslist. This morning we sat together and made a budget, discussing where we can possibly cut back expenses. Right now Derek is at the local community college, talking to someone about the possibility of going back to school next semester (something he’s been thinking about for a while). And I still have my job, crazy though it may be. Practically, I know we’ll be okay. Hopefully we’ll be more than just okay. Perhaps this is opening a door to whatever God has planned for us.

But to be honest, a part of me is so tired of the constant transition, constant instability. We just went through this three months ago. When Derek got this job the Roasterie, it seemed to offer a glimmer of hope for something more than just getting by in the moment. And yet here we are again. By God’s grace, my heart has stayed fairly steady through each transition. Time and time again, faith, hope, and love (the three that remain) have buoyed me back to the surface. But will we ever get to a season where every day stops feeling like a battle to fight, another obstacle to push through for the hope of what’s to come someday?

I feel like all of this has simplified my dreams lately: A home. A garden. Good, honest work for both of us, where we can serve faithfully. Friends nearby. Family. Time with God. Time with each other, unburdened by the heaviness of depression and discouragement. Simple celebration of each season. Vibrant relationships. Fullness of life. Growth. Simplicity. Rest. Joy. Balance (yes, here my dreams start to trail away from the concrete and into the less-definable longings of my heart).

I remember a while ago Michael Flowers spoke about the Psalms of lament and how most of them include the questions “Why?” and “How long?” I can feel those same questions welling up inside right now. Abba, will you meet us here and turn my cries “why?” and “how long?” to heartfelt cries of praise!

“For in hope we were saved. Now hope that sees for itself is not hope. For who hopes for what one sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance.” (Romans 8:24-25)

Hope Does Not Disappoint

“Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us.”
– Romans 5:3-5