I have been reading Rick Lawrence’s wonderful book Sifted, for the last couple of weeks. A chapter here, a page there. It’s taking me longer than many of the books I have read lately because I honestly am digging it. It’s a good read but a hard read when you think of it. I just finished a chapter that repeated the phrase, “beat-separate-reveal.” I love the concept. It’s the metaphor often used in scripture to define the process of discipleship. The idea that we often must go through the fire to come out on the other side as we are meant to be. We sign about it in songs with lyrics of “we’ve been through fire, we’ve been through pain, we’ve been refined by the power of Your name.”
And, in theory I love it. I love what comes as the end product of refining and sifting. Pure gold, pure silver, the kernel of wheat. I like those things. I don’t wear jewelry save for my wedding ring but I appreciate the work of a goldsmith. I don’t grow wheat but appreciate bread. Yet without refining, sifting and clarifying there is no flour, pure gold or drawn butter to dip your lobster tail in. Yet we like those things.
In theory I love the process. In reality, in my life, I have tried to avoid that process like I try to avoid Church Coffee. Refining, sifting, clarifying doesn’t make in us new things but reveals what was planted in us by the creator. And the process is overseen by the creator. Overseen by the God who loves us. He stands over and near and with us as we are beaten, accused and burned. He doesn’t stand idly by and watch something happen that He doesn’t want to happen, He stand with us telling us that there is a purpose for this. But the process still hurts. The sifting is still beating, separating and revealing.
In theory I love the process, in other people. Rags to riches, stories of redemption. Stories of hope in the darkest times. Yet in my life I want only the mountain top and not the valley. All the gain and none of the pain. But that doesn’t happen. We live in the a world when we need to be sifted to reveal what is in us. Christ in you the Hope of Glory, is revealed most when we are broken, like jars of clay. (scripture says something about that doesn’t it?)
So if discipleship is a process of sifting why do we, why do I avoid it? Why do I not let God completely reveal Himself in me? Why do we look at the person in trouble and assume they did something wrong? Maybe we are being sifted to reveal His glory more. Reminds me of John 9 where Jesus says, “this man was crippled so that the Glory of the Lord would be revealed.” Really? He lived his life as a beggar and a cripple so God could be revealed? That’s doesn’t fit most people’s theology, but it’s starting to fit mine.
God is not a God of torture or torment, but a God of love who knows what is best and needed in each moment of our lives. Like a physical therapist who pushes your stiff leg to the point of extreme pain, God knows what needs to be accomplished in your life.