Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust

7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 2 Cor 4:7-11 (ESV)

My earthen vessel isn’t cracked, it’s smashed.  It’s smashed to dust. And I admit that for a long time I thought there was surely something wrong with me. I felt victimized. I felt wronged.  It wasn’t fair.  It wasn’t right.  I’ve been abused.  I’ve been ravished.   I’ve talked to God about it a lot.  

“But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.” Isaiah 64:8 (ESV) 

If He’s the potter and I’m the clay, then why do I feel like dust? 

Did you know how dust becomes clay?  

“Clays form from millions of years of mineral erosion. Mountains break down into boulders, boulders into rocks, rocks into pebbles, sand, silt and eventually, when the silt reaches a certain size of fineness, an amazing transformation occurs. Instead of just being a loose mix, the fine particles manifest an attraction for water and each other at a molecular level. Clay can be thought of less as a material and more of a behavior, the phenomenon of very finely eroded minerals to agglomerate.” (Webb, Patrick “From Dust We Come: A Look at Clay.” Traditional Building. Feb 14, 2017 https://www.traditionalbuilding.com/opinions/a-look-at-clay)

Today as I began to write and lament about my suffering, the Lord reminded me of a vision he’d given me a few years ago. I saw a beaten and battered up old vase sitting on a pedestal.  Light showed through the cracks and broken places and cast an intricate pattern of spider web designs across the walls.  The room was lit up by them.  

The vision could have ended there for me to know that God was working and making beauty from my brokeness, but God had more to show me.  A huge sledgehammer suddenly came down and smashed the vase, but instead of extinguishing the light, an explosion of vibrant colors filled the room. The walls around it could not contain it, and they crumbled into dust as the light and colors filled the world outside with unimaginable beauty as far as the eye could see.  

As I recalled the vision this afternoon, I heard God say, “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”

There’s my dust. 

I thought back to the Garden of Eden.  Ashes to ashes, dust to dust was a consequence of eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God had warned Adam and Eve about it, but they didn’t listen.  

Yet I know I’m not suffering the consequences of my sin because I’ve chosen to eat from the tree of life through Jesus instead of the tree of slavery to my own debauchery.  My consequences got paid for on the cross. 

What I’m carrying are the marks of an enemy who hates me.  He hates me because I chose Jesus instead of death.  I chose to eat from the tree of life.  I called BS on the serpent’s lies. 

I think of Jesus, and why He chose to go the cross, and why He called His disciples to do the same.  “And he (Jesus) said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.’” (Luke 9:23 ESV) We saw Jesus carry His cross. He couldn’t even do it by himself, he needed help!  It was excruciating, horrifying, and brutal. But necessary.  

Jesus came in the flesh to show us that the pain of this world and the death that it brings doesn’t have to be eternal.  He came to show us that we don’t have to suffer the consequences of Adam and Eve and their bad decision.  We can choose for ourselves to take the fruit of life offered by Him. We can choose life. 

It’s a necessary step, suffering.  It’s the consequence of an evil serpent throwing a tantrum because Jesus has offered us eternal life. Jesus knows that road well. He faced those consequences, too.  He did it for us. He submitted to Satan’s tantrum and said, “Give me your worst!” and Satan obliged Him.  

Jesus’s life wasn’t pretty, and it ended brutally, but resurrection followed!  Jesus gets the last word.  Jesus is the Word made flesh.  And the Word cannot be overcome.  It is life and it is beautiful, and he carries the scars on his own resurrected flesh just to remind us of that.  What a gift.  I’m so thankful for it.  

If I’m to follow him in all things, then I must be willing to accept the crushing with the hope that it will bring resurrection life.  Not because God hates me, but because the world does, and God is not content to let me suffer in vain.  There’s got to be beauty that comes from it, or there’s no point in living at all.  

Jesus showed me that because He experienced it.  He laid down his life willingly so that I could see that all the suffering the enemy could throw at me in this world would not be the end of me.  Because He conquered death, if I follow Him in life, I too shall stand upon the wreckage of death and proclaim eternal life through Him who saved me from it!

Ashes to ashes.  Dust to dust. Dust to clay. Clay to life in the Potter’s capable hands.

Are You There God, it’s Me, Daisy

Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver;
   I have tried you in the furnace of affliction.
For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it,
   for how should my name be profaned?
   My glory I will not give to another.
Isaiah 48:10

The holidays are here. Pretty lights, joyful songs, bright smiles from strangers, all create an expectation of joy and anticipation of presents and family and celebration.  Candy and baked goods are passed around with enthusiasm. Decorations fly across houses and yards and streetlights and shop windows. Trees full of lights and shiny ornaments fill up living rooms, and gaily wrapped gifts pile up beneath them.

But what if you’re not feeling it?

Holidays are hard. For so many of us, Christmas and Thanksgiving become a time of sorrow.  Loneliness, depression, past memories and expectations from others take our minds and hearts to a place of affliction and trial, instead of joy.

There’s so much pressure to smile, to laugh, to celebrate. Our lives become performances of their own as we travel to shopping centers, recitals, concerts, parties and religious services.  Music and movies demand our happiness and celebration. It’s exhausting.

In times like these it’s no wonder people get cynical. As the season progresses our “bah humbugs” get louder and louder in our hearts.

It’s an affliction of false promises.

Where are you, Lord, when I feel so terrible?  When the world is singing praise and I’m full of constant sorrow, where do You go?  

Awake! Why are you sleeping, O Lord?
   Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever!
24 Why do you hide your face?
   Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?
Psalm 44:23-24

I feel so alone, Jesus!  Are you even there? Do You see my sorrow in this festival of light and joy?  Icons of trees and saints and presents and reindeer and lights, and You’re not in any of it.  It’s all a lie of faith. And Your name will not be profaned.

I see a baby in a filthy cave surrounded by animal dung and the sounds of lowing cows, snorting goats, and pecking chickens.  

In darkness and filth came the Light of the World.  

2 The people who walked in darkness
   have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
   on them has light shone.
3 You have multiplied the nation;
   you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
   as with joy at the harvest,
   as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
4 For the yoke of his burden,
   and the staff for his shoulder,
   the rod of his oppressor,
   you have broken as on the day of Midian.
5 For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult
   and every garment rolled in blood
   will be burned as fuel for the fire.
6 For to us a child is born,
   to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon[d] his shoulder,
   and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
   Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of his government and of peace
   there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
   to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
   from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
Isaiah 9:2-7

You are here.  You do understand.  Help me, Father, to receive the fullness of joy that comes only from Jesus. “The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will do this.”