What could come from the felling of that which we once counted on, from the harsh testings we sometimes know and the changes this brings?
I wonder how many times we’ve logged into our day with a similar question in mind.
When seasons and stands of faithful ministry in which we’ve served have been cut down for whatever reason, we are left with questions and choices.
Will we try to hide, tempted to leave behind the wooden rings of godly wisdom and gospel witness in protest of the pile upon which we’ve been tossed? Once saturated in the sap of deep rootedness in Christ, will we regress in elements of shame until we eventually become buried beneath layers of human scorn, dried up and torn morning by morning by perceived disgrace?
Or, will we let the Spirit still flow?
Will we gather up languishing logs from the forest floor of faith in the woods of our wounds to discern an altered purpose? Will we assess the decaying situations in which we find ourselves with the doubly sharpened blades of Spirit whispers and biblical comment to discover a continuing source of ministry? Will we die to self, accepting new and sacrificial forms of service in his name?
We would not naturally choose adverse circumstances in life for our ‘top ten’ list of desired experiences. It’s probably fair to say we all have an instinctual aversion to that which causes pain or discomfort either physically or emotionally. But if we were to peek at the log entries of faithful servants down through the years, it would be during such times that most people look back and give thanks for the lessons learned which prompted a love now burning brighter than before.
Will we settle into being at loggerheads with ourselves and others in the human story of self-pity when life is rearranged and stacked against our earlier dreams, when stately assessments of once proud expectations have been chopped to the ground?
Or will we graciously allow him to shape us into cords of wood with others who have surrendered it all to be made channels of his love by whatever means?
When in the midst of flying chips, it is difficult for us to see how being cut to pieces by the disillusionments of life can be turned into blessing. No matter how you split it, there is pain to be endured in genuine spiritual growth caused by forceful change beyond our choice.
Any one who has been on the receiving end of axes swung in haste or in the cruel ease of seemingly wasting that which has taken so long to form knows the bruising which occurs.
Jesus too … for he was bruised and broken for us.
Blow upon blow. Cut off. Lifted up on a tree cut down and raised for us.
And he is in the darkest woods of our ‘what would things be like if only’. He holds out his peace when the pieces of what we have known fall apart to fan the fire of divine love in 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. So death is at work in us, but life in you.” (2 Corinthians 4: 8-12)
Our times of suffering are logged into an accounting which would first appear to be piles of broken pieces, rough edges, chiseled corners whose constructive purpose is initially unimaginable along side those realities we would prefer. This reticent record of regeneration grows with the passing of time, ledger lines covered with the chill of elongated pining for ‘what might have been’ unless we let him whittle it down to be transformed for good, highlighted by grace.
Seasoned from the logging of last year’s fall, we are made ready for the flames to set us free from all constraint. Not looking back, we press forward into the woods of self-denial, not counting the cost because of love for him and the world he came to save.
Kindling old fears in the deforestation of what had once been, frustration or fury may at first rage, but if left to settle into coals of recommitment at deeper levels, new hope is refuelled. The burning bush of holy ground encountered in the presence of God as we walk in the wilderness of our unknowns draws us nearer to the heart of who he is … the one who gives his all for us to know the purifying heat of his love and redemption.
‘Lord, bless each one being made ready for the furnace of complete surrender, ready to log on many more miles for your kingdom in the love of Christ. May we find strength in the fellowship of being piled high together with a deepening recognition that a cord of three strands is not easily broken.
Before we log out tonight, reassure us that the logarithms of your grace can take any number of broken pieces and multiply them to the extension of your good news in and through your servants. We give ourselves again as logs for the fire of Christ’s ongoing work in the world.