On Sunday, we walked into church and these words were being sung:
Already, my heart was ready for these words, because I was feeling God's presence there... that He had things to say to me, and that our circumstances were to teach us more about Him and ourselves.
I began to realize that I usually process those words like this: "God takes dust and turns it into something beautiful". Or, "There are hard/yucky times in life, but it will all be changed and we will have good times." Does that make sense?
How about the "beauty from ashes" phrase? Applied to our situation, I may think: "Right now we are struggling, but if we hold on... we will have enough financially. We will be able to plan ahead. We will be happily ever after."
Yes, I do believe that God answers prayers and that he has our family in his hand... but.
What if... part of the truth there is that God makes even the dust beautiful to me? What if he makes me find beauty in the ashes? In the mourning? In the struggle? What if the beauty isn't in escaping the pressure, but in embracing the pressure? What if the difference of a God-life is that we aren't always seeking just one more thing, but delighting in each season, each place? Truth is, we don't need God to be happy when things are going well. That's human nature. What is not human nature--what definitely requires the divine--is in learning to thrive and delight when there is no earthly reason you would.
As these thoughts were going through my mind, the song "The Wondrous Cross" was sang. Again, these words poured into my soul in a way I hadn't heard them before. I've heard/sang that song my whole life, and--to be honest--I didn't really connect the word "wondrous" with "cross". I interpreted it to mean, "The wonderful gift given to us through the cross"...but.
What if the cross itself is wondrous? What if the altar, the sacrifice itself is a thing of beauty?
I believe I am learning: Beauty is not when the ashes, the cross, is gone. God-life means He can show us the beauty in the ashes, in the sacrifice.
I have long heard the verse, "Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart" spoken as if it were a "A + B = C" formula. I don't believe it is. I don't think God wants us to tell him what we want, and then grit our teeth and bear up until we get that thing. Consider this passage:
" Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Philippians 4:6)
"Present" to me paints the picture of transferring the request from my hands to God's hands, laying my request on the altar. Here's a question I had never thought of before: Is my request truly on the altar if I define the answer?
Another way to ask that question is, "Am I the one who truly knows how to define what good is? What beautiful is? What wonderful is?" I believe part of the process now is in letting God redefine for me all those things--what is good, what is beautiful... for me. Right now. Can I really say my situation right now, as it is, is beautiful? I think I am beginning to be able to say "yes" to that question.
Which brings me to that second part of the presenting your requests to God thing...
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7)
See--that's supernatural. That--to me--is saying: "While your request is presented... while it's still there.... God's peace will be taking charge of your mind and heart... and it's not going to make any rational sense. But, that's how it's going to be." Isn't that cool?
It made me think of Paul and Silas, singing in... while bound in chains... in jail... probably facing death. I'd often heard that they were invoking the "power of praise" to bring a deliverance from their bondage. Perhaps. Or maybe it went something like this: "Hey, Silas... Let's talk to God about our situation." And then, once they'd presented their requests... maybe the Silas said, "Hey, Paul... It doesn't make sense but God has filled me with such peace and joy right now... let's sing about it!" Singing even when they didn't have their answer... and then their answer came. In this case, the answer was deliverance. But... they didn't know that when they were singing. (Acts 16)
Which made me come to a realization about that "formula" verse some people like to use: "Delight + in God = you get what you want." And, I think you do, sometimes. But, I think sometimes... if we let him... God will change our wants and desires. He will gently turn our eyes to better things, soften our hearts to new things, expand our borders in ways we never imagined. Maybe he wants me to see the answer is not changing that thing I despise right now, but in letting it change me.
Yearning to become more and more alive to him-- to his beauty, his vision. Even in--or dare I say, especially in--the times of pressing and difficulty. Because... that is how he works. He sees beauty where no one else sees it... and he transforms it into a work of art.