Monday, May 21, 2012

Like a mustard seed

It was awhile ago now that this revelation presented itself to me. While I was working, no less.

I guess you could say it was one of those "Oh wow. Duh" moments, and I had to completely stop what I was doing and think about it.

That famous verse, Matthew 17:20, where Jesus said, "If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed" had popped into my head. And it suddenly dawned on me what He meant.

I thought of how many times I had seen the proverbial hand outstretched above the pulipt, cradling the tiniest of tiny seeds, and heard the text recited and explained. "If your faith was only as large as this tiny seed--if you only had this much faith--you would have enough."

I took it for granted that they were right: after all, it makes sense, does it not?

I used to ponder that, and then look at my own life. I felt certain I could move no mountains, perform no miracles, not walk on water. Therefore, my faith must be non-existant: because the pastor just said that if my faith were as large as that little seed, I would be able to do all of that... I must not have any faith.

I think for just about anyone, that would bother you alot.

It bothered me.

But then, what could I do about it?

So when this text jumped out at me at work and a new meaning presented itself to me, I started. Jesus said, "If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed". I imagine Him holding up a few in His hand and showing the disciples, and then gesturing to the full-grown mustard plant growing nearby. If ye have faith as a grain of mustard.........

The text doesnt say "If ye have faith as large as...". It says, "If ye have faith AS...."

In a way, it was a rebuke to the people at the time. In a way, it's a rebuke to us today. But in another way, its full of more hope than the textbook-pulpit version of this text. Let me rewrite it...

"If you had as much faith as this grain of mustard seed does..."

If we had faith... Like a mustard seed. If we had as much an inanimate SEED.

Ouch. And hallelujah.

But wait, you say, how do seeds have faith? They cant think or decide things.

No, they cant. And yes, they can. Every part of God's creation recognizes its Creator: when He comes again it is said that the mountains and hills will bow to Him. Creation knows from whence she came--and she reverences her Maker.

The mustard seed has faith enough to know that the God who created it will take care of it: food, water, sunshine, protection will be forthcoming, and the seed doesn't stress about its basic needs. It knows that it will be looked after and used as God sees fit, even if that use is to be harvested or eaten by an animal. The seed doesn't complain. Whatever happens to it is okay, because its Maker ordained it.

So. If I had as much faith as a mustard seed. I guess I don't have that much faith. But, in a way, that realization comforted me. Maybe I do have faith after all! Not as much as a mustard seed, but maybe I have some! The thought comforted me, and I proceeded to forget about it, planning on writing a blog post on it sometime. In fact, in the next couple of days, I decided that it wouldn't be such a terrible experience to die, even; something I'd been terrified of for years. I felt like it would be okay, since I did have some faith afterall.

And then one evening, after a long day at work, I got home and collapsed on my bed, rubbing my left arm. It hurt, and badly at that. I didnt know why: I hadnt done anything to it to make it hurt. Upon inquiry, I was told that often left arm pain is the only symptom of impending heartattack in women.

The lesson about faith and my relief at having some faith entirely thrown out of my head, I panicked. I wasn't ready to die. I didn't want to die. I couldn't!

In the couple of hours that followed while my dad got in touch with a doctor friend from church, I sat alone in the dark, terrified out of my mind at the thought of going to sleep, having a heartattack and not waking up. I thought of waking up in the second resurrection, not the first, because I wasn't ready...and it was enough to tear me to pieces. My mind didn't even return to the mustard seed or my decision of a few days before that it wouldn't be so bad to die if the Lord had me in His hands.

Finally, late at night, I was assured it was only a pinched nerve and I relaxed. I fell asleep, and then the next day, reflecting on it, realized that God had used that small happening to show me how little faith I really had.

Yes, I had some: but it was a mere pittance when compared with the mustard seed's faith. The seed that is willing to live or die as God sees fit. The trust of that seed, and my severe lack of faith in a simple test, led me to my knees to ask forgiveness... And for more of that faith.

All my life I have struggled with faith. Believing. Knowing. Trusting.

Perhaps you can identify.

I still have a long ways to go. We all do. But by God's grace, Im a step closer.

If ye have as much faith as a tiny seed...

"For such is the Kingdom of Heaven."

Friday, May 11, 2012

Worth it

I learn the most astounding things about myself and about life when I'm working. It's almost not funny--yet I know I discover these things because God is using what I do to speak to my heart. It happened all the time for awhile, and then I thought it had stopped.

Yesterday afternoon proved me wrong. God is still speaking. Very loudly, I might add.

One of the tasks in my task list was from Melissa, superintendent-upstairs-office-buddy-friend. She handed me a small stack of unedited articles and stories and asked me if I'd type them into the computer for her. "We're going to use them in upcoming magazines."

Okay. No problem.

It was afternoon by the time I got to them, and I picked up the first one. It was a very old Youth's Instructor, from 1938 in fact. The story was called All Aboard for Happiness, and I started typing.

Finally, the story intrigued me so much I quit and just read it before finishing typing. What a tale!

A young man from the Marines comes to Wyoming to stay with an elderly uncle. He (the young man) is calloused and rough, but with a tender heart--a love and longing for beauty and peace. He has the soul of an artist, but the swagger and squint of an army man. He takes a position driving a school bus.

After a time, out of all the rowdy, loud, flirting girls and showoff guys in that bus, one young lady catches his attention. She's a Seventh Day Adventist girl, named Catherine Cooke. And Henry--the tough, calloused, and very unChristian young man--begins to fall in love.

He asks her to go to the theater with him, and is gently, but firmly refused. Catherine explains that she is an Adventist, and not only would she need to break the Sabbath to accompany him, but she also does not believe in attending theaters. Henry, in desperation, asks if he might call on her then. She agrees, and thus begins their friendship.

Henry's first visit to the Cooke home is strange, but wonderful. The whole family welcomes him and entertains him and he leaves not with the feeling of having been in the company of religious fanatics, but with truly amazing people.

All summer long Henry keeps company with the Cooke family. And as the summer progresses, he watches Catherine. He falls in love--hopelessly in love. Her every look and word and action speak of gentleness, pure joy, grace, and the love of Christ. She is the epitome of beauty and loveliness for Henry...and as I read his thoughts of her, I began to wonder.

He proposes...she refuses, though with tears in her eyes. She cannot marry someone who does not believe in God. She will not so endanger herself as that. Henry leaves for Indiana and home and throws himself into work to try and forget the beautiful girl he loves and has lost.

Over the course of time, he decides to pay a visit to an Adventist family nearby--and the love for Christ which bursts forth in him from the gentle and patient teaching of an old farmer and his wife results in not only Henry's conversion, but his whole family's. He sends a letter to Catherine...and one day receives a response. He leaves for Wyoming at 6 that evening on the train, headed into the sunset to claim the love of his life, with a deeper, more redeeming love for God burning in his heart.

It was a beautiful story. A story of how Christ can break through to people no matter where they are in life. But that wasn't what stuck out to me.

It was Catherine.

After all, I am a girl.

Her sweetness, her gentleness... How truly happy and filled with joy she was. Her "untouched loveliness"... How flirting and "soft" ways of the other girls in her class were nowhere to be found in her quiet, meek spirit. Everything about her which drew Henry in and made him fall hopelessly in love with her. She truly reflected Christ's love.

And I was forced to think... Could the same be said of me?

Sadly, I had to shake my head, though tears welled up in my eyes as I did so.

For I know that for most of my life, I have been molding myself into something God never intended me to be. For nearly 12 years I have fought against being anything that looked remotely like Catherine. I didn't want it. And yet, suddenly, when I read that story, something changed.

I wanted it. And I wanted it badly.

And yes, everyone is different. No one but Catherine herself could be exactly like her. I know I'm different...and yet, I needn't be as different as I've been for so many years.

As I sat in front of the computer with the papers in my hands, I stared into space and almost choked. I knew I wasn't like Catherine. I had been guilty of blending in with flirtacious, silly, loud and boisterous girls before. My spirit wasn't warm and gentle--all my life it had been rough and icy. Years before I had locked myself in winter, and yet, for some unexaplainable reason, it was thawing. The land, so gripped by frigid words and icy stares, loud avalanches and heaping snowdrifts, wanted spring to come.

I want it still.

But then too, as I looked within my heart, I found something surprising--startling even. More of Catherine's attributes lay buried in me than actually showed. More of her gentleness, sweetness, unassuming and open manners, were there--but covered with snow and ice. They, to all appearances, were not there, or irretrievably lost.

But I am forced to look at the seasons around us. When winter comes, the flowers are gone. The birds songs disappear, and the land is white and barren. Yet, the potential for spring still lies in the earth. Spring will come again...with more of the sunshine and loveliness of awakening life than the year before.

I must come to the conclusion that I, too, have the potential for spring.

And, if I am willing to allow the warm breezes of God's love melt the icy exterior, it won't be long in coming.

In the end, though the story didn't specifically say, I'm sure Catherine and Henry married. I'm also sure that though it wasn't "happily ever after" in the sense of no troubles ever again, it was "happily ever after" in the sense that they had each other and the God that had brought them together. And I'm sure that Henry never regretted his choice.

During those summer months, the author described her thus: "Oh, she was exquisite! A jewel, once won, to be treasured above all other things." Henry's pursual of Catherine...and by extension his pursuit for God...led him to the final climax--and it was worth it. Looking back, every heartache and pain and trial and obstacle was worth it. Catherine was worth it.

With little embarrassment, I'll admit: I want to be worth it. Someday, should time last, I want someone to look back over the course of his life and say, "Yep. She was worth it. Worth it a million times over." I want to be worth it.

How about you? Do you want to be worth it?

Are you seemingly dead in winter's grip? ...the potential for spring lies within, but only Christ can awaken it to the fullest extent of its true beauty and fulfillment.

So. Time wears away.

Lord, you can let the warm winds blow. This icy desert is ready for spring to come. This life is ready to truly live--as You would have it to. This warrior is ready to let refinement and gentleness sink into her soul.

I am ready... Ready to be worth it.