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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Sandpaper anyone?

Probe:  To search into; examine thoroughly; to place under scrutiny.  Some call this being "under the microscope".  As long as someone is only viewing with the "naked eye", what is seen is not always what it appears to be.  But...put the same object under the microscope and you see things hidden from view!  It is like when you thought you dusted well, then the sun comes shining through the window, or you turn on that bright light in the room, and poof - all the dust on the shelves you "missed" is quite apparent!  You just didn't "probe" far enough with the duster!  Yet, you thought you had "cleaned house".

Close the book on Evil, Godbut publish your mandate for us.  You get us ready for life: you probe for our soft spots, you knock off our rough edges.  And I’m feeling so fit, so safe: made right, kept right. God in solemn honor does things right, but his nerves are sandpapered raw.  (Psalm 7:9-11 MSG)

God has a way of "probing" which goes after areas we thought we could ignore without anyone discovering them, doesn't he?  He goes after the soft spots.  Why do we "feel our fruit" at the grocer?  Isn't it because we are probing for soft spots?  If we find those soft spots, we may put it back, thinking it is too ripe, bruised, or just not of the texture we'd like to consume.  If it is an avocado, we might actually like it to have a little "give" to it, but if it is too soft, it will not hold up well in our guacamole!  The purpose of the "probing" is  to discover what we cannot always see with the naked eye.  The process of "probing" is part of "selection", is it not?  We "select" based on what it is we discover in the probing.  I don't think God selects based on the same criteria!

Now, if God goes after the "soft spots" in our character, do you think it is to put us back on the shelf, rejected because we have a few "soft spots"?  Certainly not!  He only probes for the "soft spots" because he knows they impact the health of the rest of the "spots".  If we were to purchase the apple with a soft spot, bring it home, then carefully "excise" the soft spot, we'd still be left with a lot of good apple, right?  God's plan in discovering the "soft spots" in our character is quite similar - he wants to remove the damaged parts so the good parts are all that remains.  Some of us think there are too many "damaged" parts in us for God to find anything good - but I beg to differ!  Even the apple with "soft spots" has seeds!  What are seeds?  They are the potential for infinite growth!

We don't always appreciate the probing.  It seems invasive and kind of painful at times.  The process of probing is connected to the purpose of probing - without the probing there would be no discovery.  I had a father who loved to work out in the shop.  He had all kinds of power and hand tools.  He could craft things with his hands.  He showed me the value of "taking off the rough edges".  If we simply left a piece of wood with all its rough edges, it might actually cause us more problems in the long run - giving us deeply-seated splinters which would be hard to remove and set in as a festering, painful sore.  So, we "worked the wood".  We took the sandpaper, planes, and the like to the wood.  How were the rough edges removed?  Under pressure!  As we exerted pressure of the rough sandpaper against the rough edges of the wood, those rough places began to smooth out.  We'd change "grit" of sandpaper from very course and rough to smoother and fine.  Why?  If we continued with the course grit, we'd damage the wood.  If we further smoothed it with the finer grit, we'd soon have it smooth as silk.  

The smoother the wood, the easier it was to take on the stain.  The purpose of the stain - to enhance (bring out) the beauty of the grain.  The purpose of stain was not to "mask" the beauty, but to highlight it!  The stain came after the sanding - not before it.  Sometimes I think we get things mixed up in our minds when it comes to beauty in our lives.  We think beauty is something we can "put on" - but truthfully, it is only something we can "bring out".  The sanding "brought out" the beauty of the wood.  The actions of God's probing in our lives does exactly the same - it brings forth the beauty of the "grain" in us.  The grain in wood is indicative of something - growth.  

Dad always looked for wood that did not have a whole lot of "knots" in it - a few were good, but many were not.  Sure, a knot was a sign of growth, but it presented an area of "weakness" to the wood.  If there were too many knots, the wood would be less likely to hold up under pressure.  Why does the knot exist?  It was a place of growth - connection to a portion of the wood that is no longer there.  A branching off, of sorts.  Those reminders of the past "branches" exist in the finished board, but the branches aren't part of the finished product!  We have lots of "knots" in our lives - places where we "branch off" a little here and there.  God knows that in order to give our live integrity and strength, they need to be removed.  As he removes them, we grow taller, stronger, and in a more "upright" manner.  Yet, the "knot" will remain as a reminder of the branch.  

We cannot escape our past - it is like the knot in the tree - a reminder.  God highlights the "knots" which lend to the beauty of the finished product.  He eliminates those which don't.  In the end, the thing produced is a display of his probing and "sanding".  Just sayin!