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Friday, December 27, 2013

Among or In?

I am sometimes guilty of judging a book by its cover - like when I pass a quick judgment on someone or something because I see something on the "surface" which kind of gets my dander up, but really don't understand the reality just beneath the surface.  We never really know what another will bring into our lives until we get beneath the surface - look beneath the "cover". Lest you think you are beyond concealing things beneath a "cover" in your lives, ask yourself this question:  When was the last time I was truthful about the toughest struggle in my life today?  That question can be very telling - for we often don't have anyone with whom we can share these struggles; or we don't really want to be honest about the struggle because it is kind of humbling to admit we struggle in that area of our lives.  In reality, we have no struggles which are not "common" among all men and women - things like fear, anxiety, mistrust, pride, addictions, lust, etc.  We ALL are "earthen vessels" - plain folk with down-to-earth problems and desires.  

If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us. As it is, there’s not much chance of that. You know for yourselves that we’re not much to look at. We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken. What they did to Jesus, they do to us—trial and torture, mockery and murder; what Jesus did among them, he does in us—he lives! Our lives are at constant risk for Jesus’ sake, which makes Jesus’ life all the more evident in us. While we’re going through the worst, you’re getting in on the best!  (2 Corinthians 4:7-12 MSG)

It should not catch you by surprise that God uses "earthen vessels" to display his greatness.  Plain folks with plain old real life problems putting him on display before a hurting and hungry world.  God doesn't go for the most glamorous, or the most charismatic - he uses us!  As with all truth, we have to believe it to make it worthwhile in our lives.  I can "know about" gravity, but until I fall a few times, I don't really believe it exerts a forceful pull in my life!  You come to appreciate the truth once you realize it has validity - having "validated" it by exposing yourself to its reality.

I had knee surgery when I was 19 and they did a little nerve damage in the process.  For days, I tried to tell the therapists I couldn't make my leg do what they wanted me to do with it.  For days, they ignored me thinking I was just trying to not face the pain.  So, day after day, they'd lift my leg, in the bulky dressing and partial cast, dropping it to the table and having to catch it just before my leg smacked the table with full force.  After about a week of this, they began to unwrap the leg and do some "deeper" investigation.  Do you know what they realized?  I really wasn't kidding!  I couldn't feel portions of my leg!  

What made the difference in their realization of my true problem was not my "confession" of the issue, but the "unwrapping" of the leg.  As soon as they got beyond what they could "see" with their eyes, they could begin to understand what I was trying to tell them.  The same holds true if we are to finally get beneath the "cover" in our lives and the lives of those we have relationship with in this world.  We ALL are "earthen vessels", holding onto some things we would do well to get out in the open, and containing light which needs to be shared with those around us.  

Look just at the "earthen vessel" and you can make pretty inaccurate judgments, huh?  Pour out the contents and you will often see a different side of a person.  Most of us are concerned others won't "like" us if they see the "real" us, so we only allow "surface" looks.  It isn't until we begin to be "poured out" that we can actually see what it is that God has been doing "inside" us all that time.  He contains himself in "ordinary lives" - using "ordinary lives" to touch "ordinary lives".  Here we find the "connection" we so desperately need - one "ordinary" life pouring out into the "ordinary life" of another.

As with my knee, there may be "severed" parts of our lives which really need the skill of one more knowledgeable of the issue, and the time to allow the healing to occur.  This is the value of connecting with another, allowing them beneath the surface, and into the "severed" parts of your life.  There is this opportunity to allow another to share the path to healing.  Most of the progress I made with therapy and the return of this lost function was not because the doctor told me to give it "time" to heal.  It was because I went twice a day right alongside others with different types of injuries and we worked together to get each other back on the mend!

God knows exactly what we need in order to break free of our struggles - and it is often best accomplished when we aren't trying to walk alone!  It took me a while to get off the crutches, but when I graduated to the cane and then to halting independent steps, my companions in therapy cheered me on.  The same was true in their progress - one step forward, two back, but eventually, we made it.  Each supporting the other - each not afraid to encounter the other when one of us was being a sissy!  Some of us need that - someone telling us we are being a little bit of a sissy when it comes to our issues.  We need a "goading" once in a while.  God places "ordinary lives" together to do just that!  

The good news - what Jesus did AMONG us, he does IN us - he lives!  We cannot settle for just having life "among" us, we need it "IN" us.  We don't get life IN until we are willing to go beneath the surface stuff.  A book has to be cracked to be read.  A light needs to be switched on before it illuminates what is hidden.  A buried treasure cannot be found until someone starts to do a little digging.  Just sayin!