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Friday, April 17, 2015

More than a little water, please

I have watched my grandsons grow older, smarter, and bigger.  They are now 6 and 11, great students in school, engaged in creative activities which occupy their minds and time, and loving as all get out when it comes to caring for others.  I have seen them wrestle with each other, kind of taunting one another one minute to see if they could get under each other's skin, while they are embracing and telling each other how much they love the other one the next. One thing I have noted is just how much they are like fresh sponges - absorbing not only what they hear, but what they see modeled.  It is not uncommon to see one or both of the boys jump up to help their great-grandmother locate her walking stick she has absently left somewhere, or to open a door for her on her journey out to the car.  It is also not uncommon for them to bring handwritten notes and handcrafted cards to each of us just telling us how much they love and appreciate us in their lives.  Early in their wee lives, they became insanely interested in what we were doing and then they paid close attention to it.  Some of the habits they now reveal are simply that - habit.  Some of the actions they reveal are more than habit - they are purposeful expressions of how God has created them to respond to the love of another and to show their love to another.  We all have a certain amount of "sponge capacity" in each of us - able to take in things around us and then hold onto them.  If you have ever been around a saturated sponge that never gets used you will know it soon develops a pretty sour smell.  Why?  The sponge was meant to not only soak in the water it was put into, but to disperse that water elsewhere as it moves across the surfaces it touches.  The same is true in our lives - it isn't all about us being absorbed in what we are doing - but us being instruments of God doing with us what we were created to do!

All those people who didn’t seem interested in what God was doing actually embraced what God was doing as he straightened out their lives. And Israel, who seemed so interested in reading and talking about what God was doing, missed it. How could they miss it? Because instead of trusting God, they took over. They were absorbed in what they themselves were doing. They were so absorbed in their “God projects” that they didn’t notice God right in front of them, like a huge rock in the middle of the road. And so they stumbled into him and went sprawling. Isaiah (again!) gives us the metaphor for pulling this together:  Careful! I’ve put a huge stone on the road to Mount Zion, a stone you can’t get around.  But the stone is me! If you’re looking for me, you’ll find me on the way, not in the way.  (Romans 9:30-33 MSG)

It is important to note this concept of being interested in what God is doing - for this is the beginning point at which we actually embrace what he is doing and allow his actions within us to straighten out our lives.  We might soak up all kinds of truth in our years on this earth, but truth soaked in will stagnate and leave nothing but a sour smell to all who are around us if it is not used to actually change us and the environment we create around us!  We can read about God and all his actions, then spend time pontificating and talking it through with others, but until the truth begins to be "used up" within us, we don't have capacity for any additional truth.  This is the purpose of truth - to be taken in, but used in ways which actually begin to affect not only us, but those around us.

We will miss what God is doing if all we do is sit as passive sponges and never put to use what God puts into us.  We will miss out on what he is doing, as well. How many times have we put the cart ahead of the horse in our lives, thinking we "had this one" and then plunging ahead without really being fully equipped to handle whatever it was that was ahead of us?  Why does that happen?  I think it may be associated with our tendency to soak in what God gives us, thinking we are ready for what lays ahead, then us thinking all we needed was a little water in our sponge!  If you have ever tried to clean up a greasy stove top with nothing more than a sponge and water, you know the futility of that effort. All you do is spread around the grease!  What you needed was a little bit of some enzymatic cleaner added to the water in order to cut the grease.  By jumping ahead, you missed this important "additive"!

Most of us need some form of "enzyme" in our lives - not just the truth.  We need the truth to begin to become something which "works up" and "works out". This is the purpose of the chemical added to the water put into the sponge - to work up a lather and work out the stain!  The truth is good, but the powerful punch the Spirit of God gives when he brings truth to life within us, this is more than good - it is great!  We stumble around, just making a bigger mess of life when we try to do things on our own - going off half-ready for what life sends our way.  No wonder we stumble and fall so often!  We don't have all the "ingredients" for living as we should.  We have been "sponges" of God's grace and goodness, but missed out on the "powerful enzyme" afforded when his Spirit begins to bring conviction which leads to confession and consecration.

Truth isn't found in our lives when we trip over it.  It is found when we pay close attention to finding AND embracing it.  The sponge with water is good, but when the enzymatic cleaner is added, it accomplishes great things in his hands!  Just sayin!