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"At", "to" or "beyond"?

The moments come into our days when we might just doubt God's presence with us - those moments of stress so great we think our heart is about to explode within.  Stress is an actual "physical force" exerted on one thing by another.  I'd like us to consider it also as a "spiritual force", "emotional force", and "mental force" which exerts some type of pressure or "forceful action" which brings about this impression of being "strained" to almost the point of breaking.  As these conditions exist, we are often faced with the tremendous challenge of keeping our eyes firmly fixed on Jesus and what he is doing in that moment within our "exertion".  A rubber band is a good thing to have in our junk drawers.  When we need to bind one thing to another, we want one of those around.  Yet, we have all experienced the truth of a rubber band stretched beyond the point of "no return" - that moment in time when it just breaks away and leaves us with a whole lot of sting!  What happened?  It met the point of maximum stretch - as much force as could be exerted and still have it maintain its usefulness or purpose.  At that "added" little stress, the band broke.  It no longer was able to endure the stress of the stretch because it was not made to go beyond that particular stretch.  It is just like when we have pressure exerted upon us and we are certain the next little stretch is going to the one which is our breaking point.  The moments in time when we are "stretched" to what we believe to be our capacity are often not truly times of being stretched beyond our capacity.  Instead, they are times when God is taking us to our next level of capacity!

Why am I so sad? Why am I so upset? I tell myself, “Wait for God’s help! You will again be able to praise him, your God, the one who will save you.” (Psalm 42:11 ERV)

"To" and "beyond" are two entirely different concepts.  "To" capacity means we come to the point we cannot possibly "contain" anything else.  It is kind of like the glass being full to the brim.  The thing within is just not going to take much more in the way of input before it begins to seep out of the glass.  If you have ever poured a soda into a glass of ice, you know the "bubbling up" effect of those gaseous bubbles within the soda.  The foaming effect may even come up beyond the edges of the glass.  What happens when we see this effect?  We slow down the pouring, don't we?  Why?  We know the soda needs time to allow those bubbles to "settle".  In just a few seconds we can begin to pour again at a slower pace, eventually bringing the cup to capacity with soda.  If we stopped when we saw the bubbles rising over the surface of the cup, we'd only get a partial cup of soda, right?  We want our cup brought "to" capacity so we get a full drink!  We all understand the "to" capacity concepts, but have you ever opened a box of crackers or cereal which stood say 10 inches high and found content inside which was merely 8 inches high? Manufacturers would call this "settling" - the box was once filled to capacity, but as movement occurs, the content settles down into the nooks and crannies which were not entirely filled, leaving the impression of a less than full box.  Yet, this box is still filled "to" capacity - at the time of "stress" when the box was initially under "pressure" to be filled and sealed, it was "at" or "to" capacity.  In a short period of time, it becomes quite evident that there was an ability for the box to go "beyond" capacity!

God is in the "business" of bringing us "to" capacity, but also in helping us recognize we can go "beyond" our perception of capacity when we allow him to take over the process of being "filled" or "stretched".  Any good athlete will tell you of the importance of getting a good "stretch" before beginning their particular sport.  Why?  Those initial stretches not only "warm up" the muscles, giving them a little more "elasticity", but they actually serve to "make room" for the added stress those muscles will be under during the activity to come.  Much as muscles only grow when put under stress, our mind only embraces new truth when we apply it toward learning the truth (we allow it to be stretched to a new capacity).  "Capacity" is almost always a matter of perception.  I saw an illustration of this once which really made this clear to me.  A large jar was filled with marbles.  Not only did the jar look like it could not contain anything else, but it was just about to overflow.  Then something revealed how much "capacity" was really left.  Slowly and with calculated accuracy, sand was added to the jar.  That sand settled into the places "in between" the marbles until the jar again looked like it was filled "to" capacity. My perception of "capacity" changed - the jar was not "to" capacity with just the marbles in it.  But...when I saw water beginning to slowly be added to the jar after the sand, I saw something quite amazing - the jar was indeed not anywhere close to capacity!  In fact, even when the water was almost to the top, something happened - settling of the sand and marbles, revealing "more capacity" than originally believed possible!

What happened in this illustration is what often happens to us when we are feeling like ware "stretched" and "stressed" to capacity.  We are like the jar of marbles - filled to the top with what we "feel" we can handle.  In those times, we wax and wane in our perceptions of the circumstances we find ourselves in with attitudes ranging from "Don't give me any more!" to "I'm done!"  What happens next is what continues to amaze me - God shows us just how much more "capacity" we have when we allow him to be the one to fill us a little fuller!  When the water was added to the jar, not only did "settling" occur, revealing additional "space" or "capacity", but small air pockets were eventually revealed - those pesky things which once they come to the surface are soon dissipated and leaving us with capacity for more!  This is often the case in our times of greatest "stress" or "stretch" - we have "pesky" things which need to get to the surface and it isn't until we are placed in this point of being "stretched to capacity" that we realize they have been taking up "valuable space" in our lives!  As they rise to the surface, God can help us to quickly "dissipate" them so we have even more capacity for what he desires to bring into our lives.  Yep, we all have "full jars of marbles", and some even have lots of sand added.  Most of us never get to the point of letting God fill us to the greatest capacity we have simply because we insist we are already "at" capacity - trusting our perceptions of our "capacity" over his!  Just sayin!


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