I would say I am a grateful person.
Almost every night, I write down what I am grateful for on that particular day. Those writings become part of a journal of praise; a place where I process through what has happened to me during the day and find my way back to the truth that God has given me so much to be grateful for. If you have been following my posts for a while, then you might remember when I wrote about that journal. But something I have been realizing lately is that it is hard to say I am grateful when the holes in my blessings tend to come to the forefront of my mind.
For the past few weeks, I have hosted my church small group. During the school year, we get together once a week, have a short Bible study, and pray. In preparing to host, I tried to make sure my house looked as good as it possibly could. But while I cleaned and organized, I couldn’t help but notice that the stains in the carpets will never come out, even if they were steam-cleaned, and I can’t possibly do anything about the multiple layers of peeling paint and wallpaper, and don’t get me started on the cracks in the walls… I thank God almost every day for the home I get to live in, but when I’m not thanking Him, all I can think about is what it will look like when it is finished, and I find myself apologizing to guests for the state of the floors and walls.
On Wednesday night, as I was writing in my praise journal, God brought my ingratitude to my attention. Too often, I complain about the cracks in the walls, rather than thanking God that there are walls. I have it so good, so much better than a lot of people, and not just people my age. The cracks are not even foundational, they are just unseemly and purely cosmetic. Cracks in the walls, or discontentment in my heart, have not kept my Abba from faithfully providing for me and giving me above and beyond what I need.
As I wrote that last sentence, I suddenly realized how this whole lesson is so much deeper than my ingratitude for things. Too often, I complain about cosmetic things in myself, worrying about how I look or how I appear to people. I worry more about the foundation being even on my face than for God (my eternal Foundation) shining through my life. If only I am attractive enough, then maybe people will get close enough to want to know the God of my heart… Pah! What a ridiculous thought. Even my Savior, when He was on earth, was not fair to look upon. He was not desirable to anyone, yet the masses followed Him, because He came with power and truth.
To think that I must be attractive to present the Gospel well only serves to cheapen the Gospel. My Abba is working beneath the surface of my skin, in my very soul, and I don’t have to apologize for His unfinished work or pretend to be someone I have not yet become. The walk of a believer is meant to be humble, and though it may have a 360 degree change at a few points, it is still not a sprint to the finish line. God warned against young believers gaining too much responsibility in the church too quickly. He knew that, even in the church, people are prone to become proud and overly confident in themselves. (1 Timothy 3:6) Though God would be the first to tell you how different each of His children are, He would also be the first to tell you that they are all beautiful works in progress. It may not be easy to see growth, but our Father knows the hearts of His children, and He is grateful for even the smallest mustard-seed of faith. There may be cracks in the walls and innumerable scars, but God can still use any house to do amazing things. As long as the foundation is strong, none of the cosmetic things matter.
Eventually, the walls on the inside and the outside will reflect the strength and beauty of the foundation, but what if God wants to make His grace and strength known through cracks in the walls? What if my Abba wants to use the weak and seemingly incomplete people in this world to show how He is strong and how He completes His children?
You don’t have to search that hard in scripture to understand that God works exactly like that; taking imperfect, incomplete, and even unholy people and transforming them into instruments of mercy, grace, and truth. There are also a lot of messed up people in the Bible that never followed God, but even those people could not help but be useful in God’s work. Though Satan be the god of this world, yet the work of Yahweh is unmistakably manifest and is stronger than any work of darkness.
Nothing and no one can keep my God from finishing what He started; not even death. So, I will strive to see myself and this world as God sees it, a beautiful work in progress.
I don’t have time to worry about cosmetic things when too many people live in houses without walls, a roof, or a firm foundation.
Dear Abba, fit me for Your Kingdom work and give me the wisdom and courage to confess that You are working, even in a beautiful mess. As long as You abide in me and I in You, there is nothing that I lack. Amen.
Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s Word, but by the open statement of the truth, we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is hid, it is hidden from those who are lost. In their case, the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ, Who is the image of God. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, Who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. – 2 Corinthians 4:1-11
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