Saturday, February 9, 2013

Removing the Dross

"Living by faith includes the call 
to something greater than 
cowardly self-preservation."  
-JRR Tolkien, The Hobbit

What a week it has been.  The wrestling and doubting.  Feeling the tension between faith and the very real present.  Trying not to hold offense when I thought I knew what God was doing, and I was wrong.  Fear seized thoughts being handed again and again to the One allowing the dross to surface. Allowing it to surface because He knew it was there all along. 

I think of all the times we could have played it safe.  Taken the path that would have lead to something different than this.  I still have moments when I am quiet certain that would have been easier, more responsible, less the risk with more the security.  "We don't have to do this"  I find myself saying to Jeff.  "I could teach full time, you could build houses, we could try normal life for awhile, get our footing."  He says he knows.  We sit in silence.  Saying it feels good, like we have options, a choice.  But we both know we will not trade this life in.  

Luke at age six or seven asked me why Jeff was always talking to High school kids.  Why when we went to the park, store or out to eat he was always talking to them.  I told him that he loves them.  And because he loves them he wants them to know God created them in even greater love and with a purpose.  "What?! So WHO do they think made them?"  Luke was shocked.  I told him they think their mom and dad made them, that is it.  "Well, then what do they think this life is about?  Just to make money and buy stuff and die?"  

I replay his words in my head again and again this week.  Right now, in this moment of not knowing how this will end gracefully and how we will begin the next chapter with confidence.  And when the dross of fear and doubt appears I offer it to God.  Knowing the dross is sifted and I am left with more of Him.  Jeff has lead us well.  He is a man who trusts God to provide and protect year after year.  The leaner seasons filled with substitute teaching and building.  Provisional bookends that happen before and after Young Life.  Today I found a poem written about Jeff by one of the first Culpeper High school guys he worked with. It was written long after we shared the last of the high school years with him.  Here is just a piece of it: 
... the young lives who do not just imitate his humor,
or that throat-clearing before the bomb drop,
"Here's the thing guys..."
but young lives that imitate who he is imitating,
this, a line dropped from heavenly booth-
a calling-and not just a static call, but extended (call-ing),
extended like an arm out of the clouds, meeting the finger at just one atom,
and he is not impersonating, but following some invisible pathway,
is always in a constant state of arrival-arriving,
meeting each new challenge with faith
the kind of faith that trusts, 
and we can't help but trust Him in turn."

I cannot say how encouraging it is to read some of those lines right now.  To know that it is worth it.  And that the next chapter will be worth it too.  There is no other life worth living than one lived in Him and for others.

"Remove the dross from the silver , 
and out comes material for the silversmith."
Prov. 25:4

"For whoever wants to save their life 
will lose it, 
but whoever loses their life for me 
will save it."
Luke 17:33

Monday, February 4, 2013


"Our vision is so limited we can hardly imagine a love 
that does not show itself in protection from suffering.  
The love of God is of a different nature all together.  
It does not hate tragedy.  It never denies reality.  
It stands in the very teeth of suffering."
-Elisabeth Elliot

I am a quick fix person.  I have puttied holes in the wall with toothpaste, colored in wood scratches with brown marker, and even hemmed and entire skirt with tape. Tape that fell off in long strips throughout the day as I taught art.  And yes, I throw out entire puzzles if one piece goes missing.  Things should be whole, or at least fixed.  An attempt made to be aesthetically pleasing.  I get frustrated that things have been made so breakable, so easy to lose in the first place.

So, maybe I shouldn't be so surprised when it feels unbearable to see my friends or family suffer.  Why it is I am tempted to slap band aids and OKs on confessed pain.  Why my own past sufferings have produced a frenzied busy instead of seasons of receiving.  I am in a place of seeing friends suffer.  I am often left not knowing what to say or what to do.  Their combined pain making my humbling week seem small in scope.

It is hard to not be able to fix.  To not have the ability to help a friend make sense of why  God seems silent and the heart feels tricked.  Why would a good father not protect, not provide?  Why would a friend abandon and hope of a child not get realized?  Sickness and slow healing.  I know my eyes are weak.  I can't see what He sees.  I only see in part and I am afraid of what everyone's whole will be if it keeps going this way.  But He does know of the redemption to come and that the tragedy and the heart break that will 
lead to our faith affirmed.

Luke is done with The Hobbit.  I asked him how it compared to the Chronicles of Narnia.  He said, "No offense to C.S. Lewis, Tolkien writes a better story.  The risk and danger in it all.  He (Bilbo) almost dies.  Two of my favorite characters do die!"  Then why should I finish it, I ask, that sounds horrible.  "Mom, that is how it is suppose to be.  Biblo becomes who he is suppose to be in the end."  He becomes more of who he is created to be, because of it all?  I prod him to tell me more.  Luke tires of talking about it, "just read the rest of it, then you won't have to ask me questions."  

I think about my friends.  Their risk and danger.  More real and scary than my story right now.  I want them to be more of who they are suppose to be,  their true self made in His image.  I want to be that too.  That story includes the tragedy and the reality that we are not there yet.  And the here can feel down right painful.  But He has not brought them this far to abandon them.  He has not turned from their cries silent.  He is a Father who loves far more than we can imagine.  Who doesn't see in part, but sees the whole beautiful story.  He pulls off the band aids and takes the OKs off our lips.  And lets us walk through the suffering with the knowledge that we are not alone.  We are protected and provided for, and WE ARE LOVED in this moment, in this very part of our life.

I pray that we are able to rest in His love this week. That 
 we will be able to trust a good God who has not abandoned us. 
That we rest in a love that protects and provides and is not silent even in the suffering.

"Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 
perseverance, character; 
and character, hope.  
And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love 
into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us."
Romans 5:3-5