I wonder if anyone has ever experienced feeling like a carefully constructed ‘cut out’ in our servant roles, stiffly offering ourselves as a ‘cookie cutter’ version of a much higher calling. Perforated credentials may release us to positions of leadership, but an inflexible form of expected faith expression may keep us bound from letting the wind of God’s Spirit blow through the uniqueness of our lives as we are shaped by his word and not the worries of winning approval; of fitting into opaque containers of someone else’s making. Carved on the palm of his hands, we long to carve out completely authentic ministries which move by his leading alone. But so much stuff, inside and out, may get in the way.
What might need to be cut away in us to create a new reflection of his love, an alabaster jar ready to be spilled out for him with all sincerity, vessels of suffering love?
I am drawn to filigree patterns where lovely images rise from within the individuality of each form. The creator’s fully intended design only becomes visible when a cutting away, an emptying takes place. Light can then shine through, releasing new glory. More from less.
We catch glimpses of the true beauty that is ours to embrace when we see how ingrained thoughts, untamed emotions, and unrestrained actions of self centered defense block our ability to let Jesus live fully through us: ways in which his way is not found emanating from our souls; lenten periods in which his character is lent on short term only as we try to be like him in our own strength.
Some things must be removed to be and become all that he envisions in us.
To be the tool of reshaping us in love, Christ chose to be cut out as the sacrificial Lamb of God on our behalf in complete freedom, fully God and fully man. He was slashed with penetrating gashes. Floggings flayed his perfect flesh. Thorns tore sensitive tissues issuing thoughts of forgiving grace in the face of brutal injustice which tried to completely sever the severely inconvenient truth to ‘religious types’ that we are held solely by the love of God dependent on his mercy, not the law; we are held by faith through the amputation of our sin placed on him; we are held, welded together from the precision cuts of the double-edged sword of his word rightly dividing our need for his salvation in covenant faithfulness.
Not by institutions. Not by human resolutions.
But by Jesus, wounded and cut off for us.
To follow in his footsteps is to hold the light of his love before the world against the darkness all around. Yet, so much of our time is spent fashioning a solid ego untouchable to the deeper sculpting of his Spirit. We and those we serve avoid the necessary cracks of our remaking, avoid the chipping away of our unwillingness to bear the cross of forgiveness, avoid the giving away of ourselves to truly find ourselves.
Those who would lead with servant hearts become willing to undergo the knife to find new life in death to self as we know it, knowing that his hand is steady and will do no harm regardless of the pressures we endure to see ourselves emerge with frail weakness our new strength.
Yet, no matter how you cut it, letting go of the old self hurts. Deep change results from the process of shedding what we have clung to for a long time; shredding characteristics and conditioned responses to replace them with fresh ways of being, but it comes at the cost of releasing our hold on the familiar backdrop of our lives in body, mind, and spirit to discover the light of Christ shining through areas we had previously kept at a safe distance from his scalpel of sanctification.
A piece of privilege here. A slice of entitlement there. Cutting offense everywhere.
“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put in you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” (Ezekiel 36: 26-27)
And what is his rule? “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22: 37-40)
Come, let him remove whatever needs to go to be free …
Mary breaks her jar of expensive perfume, breaks all expected protocol, breaks silent suspicion by leaders busy polishing their roles with a crash of broken pieces made whole in Jesus’ acceptance and grace. She openly displays a heart of flesh whose fear and shame was cut away in Christ, lit with the resurrection hope she had witnessed in the raising of her brother, Lazurus. The beautiful light on her face of filigree faith is still visible to us, filed away in a living word which will not pass away. (John 12: 1- 3)
‘Lord, these fragrant scents would have lingered with you to the cross on nail pierced feet. I wonder what blessing might flow from our lives if we were to live with this same faith, with a courageous desire for you to cut away anything which holds us back from serving in this way? If we were to truly discover we’re not cut out to be a copy of anything but your love reflected in our uniqueness, handcrafted by you for your glory?
Wash all those who seek a clean cut shave of your grace today yet fear its blade with an overflowing measure of your love holding up the tree of life before our eyes. Amen.”