Sunday, April 27, 2008

HAVE THINE OWN WAY, LORD – Part 5: The Hot Seat - April 26, 2008

Well, the red letter day is finally here. We lumps of clay have been kneaded, pounded, wedged, sliced, and slammed and are now soft and supple. We have been skillfully shaped on our Heavenly Potter’s wheel, air dried, glazed, and are now ready to take a lickin’ in the fiery furnace. Just bake for 24 hours at 2000 degrees.

"Excuse me? You’re going to put me in a kiln, heat me up to 2000 degrees—and leave me there for how long? I DON’T think so! When I sing, ‘Have thine own way, Lord,’ inviting you to mold me, I agree to wait and yield and be still. I see no fine print indicating that I’ll be sauna-tized at 2000 degrees. You surely read the recipe wrong, Lord.”

My unyielding attitude and my questioning God is nothing new. According to Isaiah, God’s people are often prone to argue with their Maker:

“You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay! Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘He did not make me’? Can the pot say of the potter, ‘He knows nothing’? (Isaiah 29:26)

"Woe to him who quarrels with his Maker, to him who is but a potsherd (a pottery fragment) among the potsherds on the ground. (Isaiah 45:9)

When I’m in an adolescent, pottery-fragment sort of mood I often speak back to God. I’m resistant throughout this process of becoming a clay vessel, but now—NOW—I’ve reached my limit. I kick and scream all the way to the kiln. “Woe to him who quarrels with his Maker”? I’m WAY beyond quarreling. I’m out of here!

There are times in life when the pressure is so great, the heat so hot that we can’t imagine being able to endure and survive. The Bible encourages us to“…yield your hearts to the Lord,” (Joshua 24:2), but this yielding can feel more like succumbing, losing, or dying. “Yielding” conjures an image of a flexible tree branch that yields to the wind or bends low when pelted by rain or burdened with snow or ice. I think of yielding to cross-traffic or moving aside to let someone go ahead of me in line. I hear a senator saying, “I yield to the good senator from the state of Indiana.”

Perhaps “yielding” is an apt term for clay as it is being shaped on the wheel, but I think there needs to be a different word to describe what is expected of me when trapped in a kiln-like experience; a word that blends courage, determination, guts, grit—a word one might use to describe a Navy SEAL, perhaps.

The prophet Ezekiel reveals to us a God who yields:

"This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Once again I will yield to the plea of the house of Israel…” (Ezekiel 36:37)

The God of Israel put up with the repeated unfaithfulness of his people, yielding to them with a grace beyond measure. As I enter the kiln, I need to remember that even in my unfaithfulness, God continually forgives me, loves me, and never gives up on me. Can I bring myself to yield to my Heavenly Potter who has modeled for me a holy yielding?

Sometimes I feel as if I am thrown head first into the kiln of crisis, like when I entered the hospital to give birth to my husband’s and my first child, only to be devastated a few hours later when our baby died. Sometimes I voluntarily step into the chamber, as when I chose to conceive again and entered the fiery furnace of fear. I personally fanned the flames—until the moment when our second child, Matt, announced his arrival with a lusty cry.

I hope that my yielding will “yield [a] harvest and God, [my] God, will bless [me].” (Psalm 67:6) I want to be like “a tree planted by streams of water which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.” (Psalm 1: 3) Maybe I can endure the blistering heat if I know good will come of it. And I take heart that “my leaf does not wither.”

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