Wednesday, February 20, 2013

More Lessons With The Potter

"If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed."
John 8:36

"Selfishness can motivate unselfish acts."
It seemed a conflict of words.
From my yielded spot,
on the wheel,
I listened as He spoke....
cringing inside...
as He exposed the most cleverly-hidden parts of me.
Laid me open.
His words cut straight through to the inner core of my heart.
I had no excuse.

Who is the clay to argue with the Potter?

"Really, Lord?
Do you mean all of the selfless sacrifice in the world
doesn't please you,
if it isn't driven by the right motives?"

The impact of the meaning of His words
was hitting a bit too close to home.
I squirmed....just slightly...
between the wheel and the pressure of His hands.

That is exactly what I mean.
You can do all kinds of things, in My name,
for My cause,
to build up My church...on the earth.
But, the motive behind why you are doing them
is what really matters to me."

It is amazing how small and undone you feel
when it is just you...and God...
having a one-on-one conversation.

My mind immediately went to I Corinthians 13.
The love chapter.
I memorized it in school.
All these years later, it still rings in my mind, 
almost as precisely as the day it was deposited into my memory bank.

I have taken the liberty to substitute the word "love"
each time the word "charity" is found
since the meaning is exactly one and the same
in this passage of Scripture.

"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, 
and have not love, 
I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
And though I have the gift of prophecy,
and understand all mysteries, 
and all knowledge; 
and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, 
 and have not love, I am nothing.
And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor
and though I give my body to be burned, 
and have not love, it profiteth me nothing."
(verses 1-3)

"So, have I been selfish, Lord?
Have I done what I have done
without loving YOU...more than me?
Is that what You are telling me?"
I already knew the answer....
deep in my heart.

In some ways.
Watch closely, and I will show you."

He then began to play certain events over in my mind.
It was like watching a full-length movie,
with a special "Behind the scenes" feature...
unedited and uncut.
It was brutally honest.
Unsoftened, harsh reality.
Stone-cold truth.

It was playing on a split-screen.
The top part was called "Outer Appearances".
Every scene looked really good...on the surface.
There were a few pats on the and there.
Applause, on occasion.
The bottom half of the screen was called "Reasons and Motives".

I tried to block out the bottom part...
of the split-screen.
Tried to put my hand in front of my face....
so I could only see the top part.
The part that was pretty.
The part that made me look good.
There I go again...
self is so prevalent.
So alive.
I thought it was dead...
or at least dying.

The Potter wouldn't allow me to block out the bottom part.
He kept my eyes peeled....
wide open.
He wanted me to see the ugliness...
of the truth.

I reluctantly watched as scene after scene flashed before my cowering eyes.
Would it ever end?
Would the scenes ever stop?
I got the picture.
More than I wanted to, I'll admit.
Saw more and more why the Potter led me here.
Realized with even more clarity why it was necessary to be remade.
Into a vessel He could more effectively use.

It was almost dizzying...
remembering all of those conflicting emotions.
My head almost spun...there on the spinning wheel.

Each one of my reasons and motives was spelled out in words
flashing continually across the bottom half of each scene.

The only way to get help is to acknowledge we have a problem.
To look it square in the face, and tackle it head-on.

I was really ready to listen.
To hear it all.

The Potter began to speak.
"Caring so much about what others think
is one of the most blatant, clear indications of the selfish pride
to which you so tightly cling.
It doesn't matter how much you impress others.
This isn't about you.
None of this is about you.
What matters is how I am presented through you.
What kind of reflection are you of Me?
How are you making Me look?
You profess to be My child.
And that you are.
Your focus has been on you,
how things are affecting you,
how people feel about you,
what they say about you,
how pleased or displeased they are...with you.
I am God.
It is I Who created you.
I am the Master Carpenter.
You are a tool...
in My hands.
How you are perceived by others is completely irrelevant.
Their praise or criticism has nothing to do with what I am doing in and through your life.
Whether people understand or whether they don't
makes no difference to Me at all.
It shouldn't make a difference to you, either.
I am not concerned about how things make you look.
You shouldn't be either.
This is pride.
Completely self-motivated.
It hinders Me from using you in a greater capacity.
It stands in My way.
It has to go.
Do you see, child?"

"Lord, I do now.
I never equated this before.
I never saw this as pride.
I never identified it as self....
clinging on for dear life.
But, You are right.
Who am I to argue?
What else could be motivating this?
Why else would it matter?"
The full impact of His words sank into my
hungry-for-answers soul...
like water being lapped into a thirsty sponge.

"When you become so anxiety-ridden,
lose sleep,
become physically ill...
over something I am asking you to do,
you are not trusting Me.
You fear you will fail.
You worry that the words won't come.
That you will be embarrassed.
Don't you see?
You are self-reliant.
I have told you time and time again
as long as you have My Word in front of you,
and My Spirit within you...
you have all you need.
The Two Witnesses.
They are always enough.
Have I ever failed to fill your mouth...
when you have opened it wide?
Has there ever been a time when the words were not there?
When you needed them?
Have I ever left you alone?"
The pure truth of His words hit nerve after raw-bleeding nerve.

"No, Lord.
Not once.
I should know that by now.
So, why do I do this?
How can I stop?
I don't want to focus on me anymore."
I heard the last shreds of resolve I held on to
crumble into a heap behind me.

Just the acknowledgement of what He was telling me
gave a sense of great relief.
Confession is good for the soul.
Honesty, no matter how painful,
is very liberating.
"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32)
has never been more real to me.
I have never before experienced this like I am now.

Coming face-to-face with the Potter,
hearing His voice so clearly,
watching Him point out my problem areas,
realizing He is 100% right,
admitting to my own guilt,
acknowledging how selfish...self-driven...self-preserving I really am,
confessing everything to Him,
not holding anything back,
just facing the truth...
is setting me completely free.

It is a wonderfully liberating blessing
impossible to be put into words.

"Now we can make progress, child.
You are in a place that allows Me to work with you.
At last, your desires and Mine are one.
We both want the same thing.
There is a perfect, precise alignment of My will and yours.
We are finally on the same page...
in complete unity...
in perfect harmony.
At last, your motives are God-elevating,
not self-promoting."

I began to think of our car.
It developed a very annoying wobble because the front tires were out of alignment.
We took it in and the mechanic aligned the front end.
As we drove away, the wobble was completely gone.
Things were balanced.
It was a smooth ride.

I can see how out of balance things become
when my will is not in alignment with the Potter's.
It makes for a very bumpy spiritual ride.
But, oh the peace, when I allow Him to align my ways with His ways...
my will with His!

The Potter looked pleased that I had grasped today's lesson.
That I remained yielded...on the wheel.
That I didn't take His words.
That I am so eager...
so earnest....
so desperately yearning...
for the help I need.

While life is happening,
while ministry is in progress,
it has never before occurred to me to stop and examine...
why I am doing what I am doing.
What is driving me?
What is the compelling force?
Who am I trying most to please?
Is it the Potter...
or is it everyone else around me?
Worse yet, is it me?
Whose understanding do I lean on most?
someone else's,
or my own.
Whose leadership am I following?

The other day I read about the name Esther.
She is one of my favorite Bible characters
and also the one who inspired my parents
to choose my middle name.
The Hebrew name for the word Esther is Hadassah,
which means "myrtle".
The myrtle tree requires a long, hot summer in order to produce its flowers.
I also read how the leaves of certain types of myrtle trees
must be crushed in order to release their fragrance.

The crushing blows,
the deep wounds,
the intensity of the heat...
all of it is serving its purpose.
All are necessary.
The Potter is busy at work.
Smoothing the rough edges.
Sanding off the clingers...of self.
Applying the needed pressure.

Removing the signs that say, "Reserved for Cheryl".
I'm glad to see them go.
It feels really good.

He is taking the marred vessel and creating an emptied out, brand-new one...
to be filled with Him, not me.

He taught me today that...
True happiness comes when God's will 
and our deepest desires are one and the same.

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