Friday, January 29, 2016

God is Good, But He Isn’t Very Nice

In “The Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe” by C.S. Lewis, Lucy asks Mr. Beaver if Aslan is safe.  Mr. Beaver replies, “Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good.”  If you are unfamiliar with this book, Aslan is an allegorical picture of Jesus.  Mr. Beaver’s words used to confuse me.  How can someone be good, but not safe?  I came to understand that the God who created the universe with just His words was not to be trifled with.  Sort of like your dad when he said, “I brought you into the world and I can take you out.”  Only much, much more serious.

But now I’ve come to learn a different, deeper meaning to this.  Somewhere I read that the Lord isn’t interested in making us happy.  Instead He is interested in making us like Jesus.  (I apologize to whoever said this because I cannot remember where I read it.)  And sometimes that is a very painful process that does not feel very safe at all.

Like a lot of people, I believed that Jesus had the power to save me.  I also believed…sort of…that He had the power to change me.  At least I said I did.  But my actions showed that I believed that I had to remake myself into someone who manifested all of the Fruit of the Spirit all of the time.  That is really hard.  There is a reason it is the fruit of the SPIRIT and not the fruit of the WILL.  That is because it is impossible to will yourself into being that.

However, that did not stop me from trying.  And, as I look around, it doesn’t stop a lot of other people from trying too.  I truly believed that I had to earn God’s approval.  Salvation was a gift, but not approval.  And so, I held on with every ounce in my being.  And it worked for quite awhile.  Sort of.  Well, not really.  But I managed to cover up my foibles from the outside world.  But I knew that I was totally failing the Lord.  And I was sure that He was watching me and just shaking His head in disgust.
I was deeply unhappy and started realizing that when I tried to do things in my own righteousness, I was getting the glory.  I wanted God to get the glory, so I told Him I was going to let Him have total control.  I expected that, even if everything wasn’t sunshine and rainbows, I would now begin to deal with the problems that came my way effortlessly.  And, deep down, where I don’t even admit it to myself, I thought there wouldn’t’ be any problems anyway. 

Boy was I wrong!  I expected the Lord to either calm all of my storms or calm me.  Instead the storms hit harder than ever and I fell apart.  I didn’t even like being around me.  I was one big raw nerve and so, so reactive.  I think I went a little bit crazy.  Maybe more than a little bit.  I was an absolute and total mess.  And partly because of my mess, life got harder.  I started having panic attacks.  It was horrible.

I had looked at my grand experiment of letting God take control of my emotions as taking a step off of a cliff, expecting that either there would be something under my feet or I would be given wings.  But instead, it was like God shoved me right off that cliff and let me fall and lie at the bottom, broken into pieces. 

That’s not what I signed up for.  It’s not what anyone tells you happens when you start trusting God.  Everyone tells you how God shows up and gets you through.  But that is not what happened to me.  God really pushed me off that cliff.
Why would He do that?  Why would He cause me, his daughter who was just trying to trust Him, to crash quite publickly.  What kind of witness is that!  There were a lot of non-Christians watching this play out.  I’m sure this didn’t cause them to move any closer to the Lord.  “If that’s what being a Christian is, I don’t want any part of it,” was what I was sure they were thinking.

See?  God is not safe.  And pushing me off that cliff was certainly not very nice.  But God knew that the only way to change me into the woman He had always intended me to be was to cause me to fall apart to the point that I couldn’t fix myself.  Only He could bring it about.

And so, in His goodness, He began picking up my broken pieces and putting me back together.  Sometimes I would think I was all better, only to find that He would have to break something new.  It was not fun.  There was pain.  There were buckets of tears. 
But now I’m not the woman I was a few years ago.  I’m so glad not to be her any more.  I know that I cannot hold myself together.  Ever.  And I don’t need to any more.  I am amazed at my current ability to manage the stress that comes my way.  Things that used to overwhelm me no longer do.  Things will happen and I will wait to see when the anger is going to erupt, but it rarely does.  Because I am the recipient of much grace, I am much more willing to give out grace to others.  And I am much happier.  Truly happy and full of joy, not the weak substitute that I used to manufacture on my own.

I can’t give you a step-by-step plan to go from crazy to sane.  There is no step-by-step plan.  I just went to Jesus and asked Him to help me love Him more, for Him to be more real to me, and for my life to be centered around Him.  I asked him to reignite my sense of awe in who He is. I read the Bible.  I prayed. 

Looking back, He was not very nice to me.  He hurt me and caused so much anguish in my life.  But He was at work to turn me into a woman after His own heart, who knows that her only hope for sanity is in Him.  When things do bother me, I know that the way out is through Him.  My Bible has become my refuge.  So, I am thankful for the process, no matter how hard it was to live through.

If things are hard for you right now.  If you feel like God has pushed you off a cliff to break apart, He probably has.  And the new you that He is fashioning is so much better than anything you could have done in your own power.  It is worth the pain.  Aslan is indeed on the move, and He is not safe.

By Elisa Gray

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