Tuesday, October 26, 2004
God Started With Kindness
Once I did, though, once I'd been brought to Him, I discovered a different reality. That happened over a year ago and I still have problems! Every time I make a mistake I cringe and expect the internal hammer to fall.
It's MY hammer, however, not the Lord's. Yes, I deserve to have a hammer fall on me; I'm a sinner, like everyone else, and haven't earned a thing. Grace is a gift from God Himself and all I can do is pick it up. He meets all my mistakes with grace. Judgment is a human phenomenon.
We're all well trained. I'm even better trained than most, because I learned early that, if I judged myself, it led to fewer problems with other people. I just about managed to judge myself right out of the running for continued life, and God has had a real struggle teaching me how to live under grace.
You'd think this would be easy. Experience shows that God is very generous with forgiveness. The only thing He won't forgive is lack of belief in Himself and His Son, Jesus. Beyond that, the door is always open. Erwin, the pastor of Mosaic, said it best: "The safest place for a sinner to be is at the feet of Jesus." Everyone else judges, offering their "words of truth." God always speaks truth, but as He did with the woman at the well, He does so in a way that leaves the way open for growth. Human judgment cuts people off at the knees. Jesus very gently says exactly what the truth is, to let you know that He understands completely, and then He offers a solution. If you use it, fine. If you don't, He will try again the next time.
Here's an example. A few weeks ago I planned to do a sand sculpture. God has let me know that it's OK for me to continue sculpting--this was a problem a few months ago, but He has convinced me--so once the summer ended I went back to regular practice. The low tide was early, so I had to be on the beach before sunrise. I got up early, ate breakfast, packed my gear and took off. Arrived on scene, I went to work. After about an hour I started to feel that something was wrong.
God chooses many ways to communicate. Different people get different modes. I've heard of so many different ways that I'm astounded: God meets each person where he needs to be met and how he needs to be met. Whatever it takes. For me, I'm easy to influence through thoughts. I'm always thinking about something, and I can tell when something isn't quite right. It's hard to describe. Eventually I realized God was displeased, so naturally I started feeling guilty for having started this sculpture. So, just as naturally, I kept with the task and tried to ignore God's voice.
I can ignore Him, but this means the tap on the shoulder gets progressively stronger. Someday maybe I'll learn to pay attention immediately. But sand sculpture is important to me and I don't want to lose it. More important than God? This question is tough. Not more important, but it is more tangible, and sometimes I want something tangible. I trust things I can hold or touch. They're real. Could God be a figment of my imagination? Not likely. This was an awfully persistent figment.
Eventually I quit working and asked God to show me what was wrong. I expected to get the riot act for my idolatrous dependence upon being creative. I sort of cowered and waited for judgment. That isn't His way.
The problem this day wasn't sand sculpture per se, but how I was doing it. I'd Martha-processed the whole thing, being so busy that I never even said "Good Morning" to God. I focused on the sculpture and its attendant, time-sensitive tasks, and that was idolatrous. Can you imagine? The God of the Universe wanted to be there with me as I made a sculpture.
The kindness was in the timing. I wouldn't have started if He'd said anything earlier. He waited until I was committed to the sculpture before getting my attention. God didn't want me to quit, but He did expect me to be open to him.
Since then He has helped in more sand sculptures. I know this sounds silly, but He reminds me to eat. I tend to forget, and then I get weak and stupid toward the end of the day. If I eat I do better sculpture. And He helps me stay with the sculpture. Don't give up. Don't just accept what you did the last time. Try for something better. Learn.
Kindness. Kind of hard to imagine, but there it is. God is not distant, He is not uncaring. He is determined to bring us all as close to Himself as we will allow him to do. And I forget about this very easily, forget and get scared, and then run. Oh, Lord Jesus, please help me to see your kindness.