Monday, July 19, 2010

Resisting the Work of God

I recently had the opportunity to do something that I knew I should do, that would be beneficial both for me and others involved, and that would support my wife in her work in particular. But in my heart I was not eager to do this thing. I really hoped I could find a reason to excuse myself in the end. But such an excuse did not present itself and in the end out of a sense of duty as well as a desire to demonstrate love to my wife, I chose to go ahead with the event. At first I found it hard to participate wholeheartedly, because my whole heart was not in it. But as I relaxed and allowed myself to enter more fully into the situation I found increasing interest and joy in what was going on around me. After the event finished and we were driving home I felt real joy in my heart that I had the opportunity to be a part of this and I thanked God for placing me and my wife in this place at this time.

Later I examined myself to see if I could determine what was behind my initial reluctance to participate. I saw that I hesitated to go because doing so would take me outside of my comfort zone. It would place me in surroundings that might be uncomfortable and unfamiliar and the harsh truth is that I like my comfort zone very much. I like being in situations where I know what is happening and can exercise some control over events. I also like the creature comforts I have around me, limited though they may be. And I like the comfort of my routine. I resisted stepping outside of these "comforts" and allowing myself to be stretched. I also realized that entering the situation would strip me of all that makes me "someone" in the eyes of is world. All of my life experience and the skills I have would would mean little in that particular context. I had to become a humble learner and sit and listen to others who by the standards of the world had little to offer me. My pride rebelled against this. As the Spirit revealed these things to me I had to humbly ask God for His forgiveness for my stubbornness and my attachment to the things of this world, both the material things around me and my identity and reputation. I thank God that he persuaded me to accept the opportunity, for had I not I would have been impoverished in many ways, even though I may not have realized it at the time.

How often does God want to grow us by taking us out of our comfort zone? And how often do we miss these opportunities for growth by resisting this very thing? How often do we cling to our status, identity or creature comforts because they give us a sense of security? And yet God would strip us of all of these so that we could become humble learners, sometimes through those we might least think could teach us anything useful. I am reminded of a citation attributed to Martin Luther:

God's nature is such that he makes something out of nothing.
Therefore, whoever has not yet become nothing, of that person God cannot make anything.

It is not easy to allow myself to become nothing, but if that is what must happen in order for me to be of use to God, then may he enable me to accept this humiliation. May I become like Christ, taking the nature of a servant so that God might be exalted.