Thursday, February 14, 2013

Songs of Joy

I shared this at church a few months back, on the topic of joy....

Several years back I grew tired of making New Year’s resolutions. I would just keep writing the same things, year after year, on the next year’s list. Instead, I decided to ask God for one specific thing each year. I would spend a bit of time listening to what it was I thought God might be telling me to request of Him, and I would pray that first day of January for whatever it was I thought He was saying. A couple of years back I asked God to increase my faith. I had no idea that the way He does that is through some pretty painful moments, and, while I highly recommend that everyone ask God for the same thing, I also highly recommend that you brace yourself for what is to come.

Before the month was up I lost a baby.

And then a week later I lost my grandma.

During that year my then-husband lost his job. And then I lost an 11-year marriage. With the loss of the marriage came a loss of my home, the loss of my role as a stay-at-home mom, loss of financial security, loss of a life-journey companion, loss of free time, and even the loss of some friendships.

I can remember feeling scared and uncertain. Desperate about how I would provide for my two children. Fear that I might be alone for the rest of my life. There were moments throughout that year when it was all I could do to get out of bed. Get dressed. Show up at church. I sang on the worship team at my previous church, and there were times when praising God in worship simply meant that I sat, tears dripping, with one hand opened on my lap in surrender.

My faith grew. All throughout that year God showed up in little and big ways. There is a song by BarlowGirl called Never Alone that has these lyrics in it…
I cried out with no reply…and I can't feel You by my side…So I'll hold tight to what I know…You're here and I'm never alone….And though I cannot see You…and I can't explain why….Such a deep, deep reassurance…You've placed in my life…We cannot separate…'Cause You're part of me…and though You're invisible…I'll trust the unseen.

We often talk in church circles about God being the master potter. That we are His clay. That He molds us into what He wants us to be. I think we like to imagine that He makes us into these beautiful little pots, so pretty, so perfect. And that if we submit to His will, then He will create gorgeous masterpieces.

And we are wrong.

God IS the master potter. We ARE His clay. We are pretty little pots, which quickly, through our own sin, through the sin of those around us, through the brokenness that is the world, become broken shards of pottery.

We make decisions based on anger, fear, pride…and pieces of our pot break off.

An unexpected death. There goes another piece.

Loss of a marriage. Another piece.

All of the different ways that life has of causing storms, and our pot teeters and falls.

And we take those broken pieces, and hold them up to God, asking Him to fix it. And He does.

Only, not in the way we expect. We expect a perfect, pretty little pot to be returned to us.
And we get back a pot with holes, and scars, and cracks still showing. A pot glued together with His love and grace. And definitely not perfect.

How can God use this pot? Why would God use such a pot?

The answer lies in this. A perfect, pretty pot is a lovely thing to look at. But place such a pot over a candle and what happens? It blocks the light.

An imperfect pot, cracked…with holes…placed over a candle…shines the light in a unique way. In a way that only that pot can. It is a beacon calling others to the light.

What I learned that year is that my broken places, my redeemed sinful moments, my pain, my loss, everything which hurt within me is useful to God.

He doesn’t waste a hurt. Beauty from ashes.

What does all of this have to do with joy? The next year I asked God to give me joy. And He did. Overflowing, abundant, exuberant joy.
I am married again. To my best friend. I have been given four more children to love on. I am more than halfway through a master’s degree program which is pointing me in a direction where God can use more of my broken pieces.
Each of these gifts is more beautiful, more joyful, because of the previous pain.

Psalm 126:5-6
Those who sow with tears
    will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
    carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
    carrying sheaves with them.

Life is full of painful moments. Let God use those to bring others to Him. Let God use those to pour out joy into your life, and into the lives of others.

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