Wednesday, February 13, 2013

My Trip To The Potter's House

"Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:
And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."
Psalm 139:23,24
(KJV)

I think David was onto something really wise and important.
Asking God to search his heart and life,
instead of attempting to search his own.
When we examine our own heart,
our own motives,
our own temperament...
we tend to justify the wrong we find.
We blame our hot temper on poor, old Aunt Ruth,
assuring ourselves that we inherited it from her.
That our tendency to fly off the handle and lose our cool
is surely all her fault.
When jealousy rears its ugly head,
manifesting itself in the most undesirable of ways,
we explain it away by pointing our finger at Granny
and how she always did have a jealous bone.
It's funny how we never do want to claim our problem areas as our own.
How we convince ourselves that we are the way we are...
just because it runs in our family to be that way...
or if so and so wouldn't have happened,
we wouldn't be so bitter or ill-tempered.

When God searches our hearts,
when He examines us to see if there is any wicked way in us,
He gives a completely honest and 100% accurate assessment of our spiritual health.
He doesn't justify wrong.
He doesn't explain away our shortcomings.
He doesn't overlook the slightest thing.
He calls it what it is.
He tells us the truth.
If He made allowances for wrong,
He would not be a just God.
If He allowed us to drift through life without dealing 
with our hearts about the things we need to change,
He would not be fair.
To call us to meet Him without ever having brought 
problem issues to our attention would be completely unjust.

It is hard for me to comprehend how we, as human beings,
have the most difficult time seeing ourselves for who we really are.
Our vision, when looking at other people, is crystal clear.
We don't miss any of their faults, shortcomings, or issues.
We are so critical.
So judgmental.
So condemning.

But, when it comes to ourselves?
It is quite a different story.
We tend to sweep unsightly attributes that we do admit to and acknowledge under the rug.
We convince ourselves that if no one knows about them,
if no one sees,
then they really don't exist.
And that is just the things we do acknowledge and admit to.

What about all of the ones we don't acknowledge?
How about all of the faults we don't even see?
The things about our character that are unsightly to God...
and to others?

It takes a brave soul to pray the prayer David did.
A brave one...
and one that is desperate to go to Heaven.
The more determined and desperate we are to spend eternity with God,
the more willing we will be to ask God to search our hearts.
The more we will realize that if He doesn't search and know us,
if He doesn't dig deep and bring the hidden defects to the surface...
where we have to own them as our own...
where we have to admit they are part of us....
we will never know they are there.

Facing ourselves is not for the faint of heart.
In plain English, having to really see ourselves for who we really are...
is brutal.
Because every, single one of us have flaws.
There lies within the most spiritual
the need for improvement.
Wise ones realize this.
They acknowledge it.
And acknowledging it is the first step in getting help.

This week has been a week of deep contemplation for me.
I am still battling a couple of the mysteries that plagued me
the day I wrote the devotional about "Telling God It's His".
God permitted me to find answers concerning one situation,
but the other two are still as unsolved as they were that day.
I have told God it's His over and over....
and each time I have gone back the next day 
and taken it back from Him.
I hate when I do that.
It must be beyond frustrating to God, too.

While trying to unravel the mysteries,
as I searched for clues,
God began to deal with me.
I mean really deal with me.
It was like He held a mirror in front of my face,
and no matter how I tried to squirm and turn away and wiggle free,
He held it right there....
smack in front of my spiritual eyeballs.
Why did I keep trying to shimmy myself free?
I'll tell you why.
I did not like what I saw...
in the mirror....
at all.

But, God held it there.
No matter which way I turned my head.
No matter how hard I tried to ignore it.
No matter how many distractions I tried to conjure up...
hoping I could drown it out....
the mirror was in front of my face,
and it wasn't going anywhere.

God loves me too much to allow that.
He has heard me pray too many times....
begging Him to search me and let me know where I really stand with Him.
How many times have I begged Him to show me myself?
If there is any wicked way in me?
If I am doing anything that is displeasing Him?
I meant every word of those prayers.
God knows.

The way I look at it,
it is better to see it now.
No matter how appalling and grotesque it is.
Isn't it better to discover it now...
while I still have ample time to deal with it...
and make necessary adjustments?

But, even though I have asked repeatedly,
and this is what I wanted God to do.....
it didn't make it any easier to look at when He pulled the veil off the mirror.
I finally stopped squirming.
I finally laid aside the distractions.
And stared at the problem.
With 20/20 vision.
Complete clarity.

Ouch!
It hurt.
What I saw yesterday could be summed up into one four letter word....
or six.
S-E-L-F.
or
C-H-E-R-Y-L.

One and the same,
either way,
I identified the problem.
Or rather, God did.
Point by point,
He examined my motives.
They were all selfish.
Self-absorbed.
Self-seeking.
Self-promoting.
I was dumbfounded.
I had never...ever....ever....seen it before.
I honestly, from the bottom of my heart, did not know.
It wasn't that I was trying to hide anything from God.
I promise.
It wasn't a matter of covering anything over or false pretense.
I speak only the truth.
I honestly did not see it.
I did not know it was there.
All this time.
Sometimes, when we do things in the name of service to God,
we make completely wrong assumptions.
We automatically think it is all good.
It appears that way...on the surface.
God is keenly interested in what is under the surface.
He cares about the thoughts and intents of the heart.
It absolutely matters to Him why we do what we do.

As soon as my eyes stared into that mirror,
what a surprise!
What a stark eye-opener!
What a totally unexpected revelation and solution
to the problem that gnawed incessantly inside my spirit.
It smarted keenly....to see what God revealed.
But, only for a moment.
Because the most amazing thing happened....
in the moment immediately following.
After I figured out the problem,
after I saw it staring back at me,
I felt the most incredible relief...
wash over me.
An all-consuming, sweet peace
wrapped itself around me like a soft, warm blanket.
It filled my soul.
I had the answer I needed.
Now I could deal with it.
I felt a precious freedom...
a calm that had evaded me for days.

Layer after layer,
God began to peel.
His honesty was what I needed.
Finding and owning the root of the problem is very liberating.
Facing the facts brings about even more freedom.
My love for God intensified...
with each fault He brought to the surface.

Tears flowed....
oh, so freely.
It felt good...
cleansing.
I turned my face Heavenward, 
and the words to my prayer went something like this...
"God, I see what you are showing me.
I acknowledge my wrongdoing.
I want to change, Lord.
I can't change myself, 
no more than a leopard can change his spots
or someone can change the color of their own skin.
But, You can change me, Lord.
I want this.
I am ready.
Father, I want You to just turn me upside down,
and shake me out.
Shake out all of self.
Clean me out.
Empty me.
You must increase,
I must decrease.
More of You,
requires less of me.
In this moment,
I make a long overdue decision.
To go down to the Potter's house. 
(see Jeremiah 18:2-6  below)
I just want to start over.
I want a clean slate.
A fresh start.
I want to begin anew....right now...right here, Lord.
Here I am.
A marred vessel.
In Your hands.
Seeking redemption.
Begging forgiveness.
Wanting what I need.
Totally honest.
Holding nothing back.
Completely open in Your sight.
Pretending nothing.
Broken and spilled out.
At Your wheel.
Pleading to be made over again.
In Jesus' name,
Amen."

Why couldn't I see this before now?
Why don't we ever see ourselves?
The importance...dire necessity..of praying David's prayer has never been more real to me.
Ever.
The Bible calls David a man after God's own heart.
Do you know why I think David was most like God?
He was humble.
Did he make mistakes?
Absolutely.
Did he make a complete mess of his life?

If you call....

  •  committing adultery with a woman married to one of his most loyal, trusted soldiers,
  • finding out the woman was pregnant with his baby,
  • calling her husband home from battle to give him time with her so it would look like the baby was his,
  • seeing the guy didn't fall for it because he was too noble to spend the night with his wife while his comrades were out fighting a war,
  • coming up with plan B which included putting him on the front line of battle with the intention of getting him killed so he would never find out about the affair,
  • executing plan B which resulted in the noble man's murder,
  • then marrying his widow....
a complete mess...

well then, yes, I guess you could say David was guilty as charged.

The thing about David I most admire is when it came down to the nitty-gritty,
when God forced him to stare straight ahead into the mirror,
when he saw the ugliness of his own condition,
he was quick to admit his wrongs.
He was quick to humble himself.
To take the deserved blame.
To stand ready for his punishment.
To accept the repercussions.
To plead God's forgiveness.

We might as well.
We want to go to Heaven someday, right?
It would behoove us to just face up to reality.
We are flawed.
We need help that only comes from God.

Jeremiah 18:2-6,
"Arise, and go down to the potter's house, and there I will cause thee to hear my words.
Then I went down to the potter's house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels.
And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: 
so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.
Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying,
...cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. 
Behold, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are ye in mine hand..."


Once a vessel is marred,
once it is brought to the Potter's House,
how long does it take the Potter to make it anew?

Aren't we all in the continual process of being made into another vessel?
One that will be more suited to the task to which we are called?
Aren't you glad God doesn't call the qualified,
but He qualifies the called?
The best thing we could ever do is just yield.
Give ourselves completely over.
Allow the Potter to do His work...
without any resistance....
just like a lump of clay.

I feel so at peace....
here on the wheel.
I feel a pang here and there,
as He continually molds and remolds me.
As He hones off self.
As He snips and prunes and sands away the rough spots.
It's all in the process.
He is patient.

In the words of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow,
"Though the mills of God grind slowly,
Yet they grind exceeding small;
Though with patience He stands waiting,
With exactness grinds He all."

Here I am, Lord,
at Your house...
on the wheel...
more than willing to wait...
as long as it takes.



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