Several years ago now the Lord gave me a prophetic picture. It was of a carpenter sitting at a neat looking table. The table was veneered to look like an oak table, but the carpenter was shaking his head in disappointment while he looked at it. Then the carpenter took out his chisel and began to skillfully remove the veneer to reveal the wood underneath. Once the veneer was removed the glue that held it there was also skillfully removed. This took a great deal of time and patience from the carpenter. What remained was a genuine oak table that had knots, imperfections, and grains that went in differing directions. However, the carpenter was now smiling and took out his sander to begin to make the oak table smooth again. Once the surface was sanded he then took a waxing oil and began to work it into the wooden surfaces. When he was finished the table was beautiful. Each imperfection seemed to add beauty, character and charm to the table, and the carpenter was happy that the table was all it was meant to be.
This is how I interpreted the picture.
Our lives are the table. We spend many years learning to hide and cover our imperfections with a fake veneer that looks good and is acceptable to others. We are told that God is not pleased with us as we are and that we better measure up in order to be acceptable to Him or the church. In doing so we lose sight of what is authentic or genuine in our lives and become less than we were made to be. Jesus is the great carpenter that is at work in our lives to remove the veneer and the glue that held it there. It takes a great deal of work to remove the veneer but the carpenter is patient and works diligently until He is finished. He is able to make things beautiful because of the imperfections in our lives. His redemptive qualities ensure that each one of our knots, dents and imperfections is not wasted but revealed as a trophy of grace for the greater good. The waxing oil is the Spirit of God adding yet more beauty to that which is genuine and authentic. God looks at us and is pleased. It is very good indeed!
The reason I share this picture and how I interpreted it, is that I believe this picture is as relevant today as it was when I first received it. As a church God is speaking to us about being an authentic expression of Jesus in our community, and as an individual I am on a quest to be the genuine, authentic person God made me to be.
Here’s what I’ve learned so far on this journey. Who knows, it may help you on yours!
There is a pattern of death and resurrection in this process
The cruciform way always includes the pain of the cross. The cross speaks to us of pain, of death and resurrection and in our quest towards authenticity God puts things to death in order to birth something to life. It might be an issue of character that needs to die, or perhaps ambition or pride. It might be a doctrinal position that needs to be laid down, or perhaps it might be the false things we place our trust in (our idols) including our performance and our successes. Sometimes we don’t even know what it is God is working on, but we feel the pain of it anyway! Like a master surgeon cutting away cancer cells it seems to leave a scar, but what I can confidently say is that as hard as it is, it is worth it! When you come through in an area into new life you will quickly forget the pain and death that made this new life possible.
You can feel very alone in this process
When God is working deeply in your heart and soul you can feel very alone in that process. People around you still sporting the veneered life find it easy to accuse, misunderstand and even take swipes at you. They haven’t yet let themselves come to the cross and bear its weight, nails and suffering. They prefer to remain inside their safe bubble, treating Father as some kind of sugar daddy that exists only to meet their needs and demands. These are those that “honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” (Mark 7:6) and those that have never really questioned what it means to declare that “Jesus is Lord”.
Sometimes the pain is so intense we feel like we have been forsaken by God and He is nowhere to be found. In those times it is well to remember that He has promised “Never to leave us nor forsake us” (Heb 13:5). The dark night of the soul may well last for a night but joy comes with the morning.
Everything you go through can be used by God
I believe with all my heart that nothing need be wasted in our lives and that all that we go through can be somehow used by God for a redemptive kingdom purpose. Does God cause our suffering? I don’t believe that to be the case. I believe that we each bare the consequences of our own actions and the actions of others, good, bad and ugly. That being said, I do believe that God doesn’t waste those opportunities through which He can make us more like Christ!
So, where I have gone through experiences that are painful and where I have experienced suffering, I become someone who in empathy and authenticity can share the learning from that experience with others encountering the same sort of things. Sometimes we need the voice of experience speaking authentically to us and hearing from God for us to bring us a step closer to wholeness and healing. This is right, and this is good.
There is much more to be said on this, but I’ll leave that for another day. A part 2 if you will. For now, may God keep you and bear you up in your journey.