Saturday, October 20

A Forging by Pain

 forge 1  (fôrj, frj)
1. A furnace or hearth where metals are heated or wrought; a smithy.
v. forged, forg·ing, forg·es
1.To form (metal, for example) by heating in a forge and beating or hammering into shape.
2. To give form or shape to, especially by means of careful effort: forge a treaty; forge a close relationship.
intr.v. forged, forg·ing, forg·es
3. To advance gradually but steadily: forged ahead

I have been meaning to write this for some time now.  I've been ruminating on this thought - reflected in the title - since the beginning of September. A few weeks before I wrote the title for this post, I received some news threw me into a Giant Wrestling Match with God. On par with Jacob's wrestling match. Only that I demanded that the Lord bless me and he didn't. At least, he didn't bless me the way I wanted.

(It would be easy to try to come up with some quick redemptive "insight" into how he did bless me at that point, but I think that his blessing will be revealed in the future, with clearer vision looking back. And it's not lost on me that Jacob's blessing came also with a limp.)

What did result from that news was that the terrible pain I was in - the wrenching pain and confusion -  seemed to intensify everything. Everything. Everything about what I thought about my circumstances, the future, If God was Good, my anger with "his plan," my insight into what I wanted. What I demanded.

 In the midst of all of this, I pondered - a lot - the idea of sanctification by fire,  by crucible.

In the past, I thought that the idea of burning dross from silver (me) sounded quite painful, thank you. In my mind, though, it was always the image of silver being refined "until you can see his face in the reflection." Right? yes? It almost sounds pretty.

These current circumstances, they didn't feel like silver becoming pretty. Certainly it felt like burning, but burning with pounding. Hammering. With Careful Effort. Hard. Black.

I was being - am being - forged.

Yep. Like this.

This is what sanctification feels like.

Isn't it beautiful? I think so. I think the photo is beautiful, and I think wrought iron is beautiful when it is completed.

But as the iron, as that thing so strong and beautiful in the end, when it is demanded that it change and form to another, it is weak. Helpless. Lying there, Burning.

I can't help but read the last definition above: To advance gradually but steadily. It is wonderful that the word has so many robust and appropriate applications. I am advancing in my faith, gradually, steadily. He is not disappointed with my slow progress.  Psalm 72:13; Psalm 138:6

And this morning, while reading my devotions, I came across this hymn:

Beneath thine hammer, Lord, I lie
with contrite spirit prone
Oh, mould me till to self I die
and live to thee alone

With frequent disappointments sore
and many a bitter pain
Thou laborest at my being's core
till I be formed again

Smite, Lord! thine hammer's needful wound
my baffled hopes confess
Thine anvil is the sense profound
of mine own nothingness

Smite, till from all its idols free
and filled with love divine
My heart shall know no good but thee
and have no will but thine

 Frederic Henry Hedge

Saturday, October 13

And then I quietly quit Facebook

A few months ago, I noticed something happening. I would wake up, get a cup of coffee, log into facebook, and stare at all the things going on in people's lives. Good things. Shiny lives. Every now and again a prayer request of some kind as an indication that something was amiss, but by and large just posts of how well things were going in other's lives.

So I started posting a lot of Spurgeon, Scottie Smith, other pastors that were slowly ministering to my heart.  Hoping it would stem the tide of Shiny, and get to Real.

But it remained that I would log off of FB and get ready for the day feeling outcast, covetous and angry with God.

I tried managing my Newsfeed so that only certain people would pop up, but Facebook is tenacious that way. Take people out that are semi-close friends of yours, and the really random people start showing up. Oh, and they have lots of perfect lives, too.

So I quietly quit Facebook.

I didn't make a splash, didn't announce it ("I'm fasting from FB, message me" kind of a thing.) Just...stopped logging in.

Knowing that I had made a habit of checking FB,  I revamped my Google Reader, which I truly can manage with interesting articles and those blogs that are so very encouraging to me. Many of them - frankly - have to do with grief, and how God redeems lives, and gives joy in spite of the shadows and valleys. People share more of their lives  - the good and the hard - when they have multiple paragraphs to do so.

I'm happier. Well, more content. I pay more attention to the voice of the Lord. I read my devotions in the morning, instead of FB.

I do check a few FB pages about once a week - those of friends I actually talk to regularly, just to be sure that I'm keeping up. Some of the college students we work with, my husband's page.  I have notifications set up if people message me.

I just stopped looking at the Feed. Feeding me shiny, happy lies of unbroken lives.

Saturday, October 6

A Poem I love

We cried,
“How long, O Lord, how long
   will we be made to wait, and swallow jagged shards
      of that unchristened chalice
         of whose warm wine we never took a taste
            and all we drank was emptiness unplanned?”

And he replied,
“Until you learn the song
   that only sorrow sings, of how my soul regards
      your ev’ry wound, and malice
         has no place in my design, but all is paced
            to come with double blessings in my hand.”
                                                               John Piper

Wednesday, October 3

How good is this?

A few days ago, I had lunch with a dear friend that, now that I live in Chattnooga, I don't get to see very often. We talked a lot, cried a little, and grieved the pain the Lord has seen fit to send us. It was an amazing time of encouragement, seeing the emotion in her face and knowing that we could so thoroughly relate to one another. 

This poem strikes me the same way. Poetic and accurate, it reflects to me my experience, but it encourages me that someone else knows what I am feeling.

It also reminds me that all grief is the similar, though each person grieves different losses.

With octaves of a mystic depth and height