Jeremiah 18 English Standard Version (ESV)
The Potter and the Clay
The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2 “Arise, and go down to the potter's house, and there I will let you hear my words.” 3 So I went down to the potter's house, and there he was working at his wheel. 4 And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter's hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.
5 Then the word of the Lord came to me: 6 “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the Lord. Behold, like the clay in the potter's hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.
I am clay. Continuing to reflect upon this last year, I've come to realize "I am clay." God is the potter. I am a vessel that He is creating, as He is with all of us.
Genesis2:"7 then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature."
It's amazing enough to think about God creating us from dust, but He also is creating us in our soul (our inner being) our mind, our will and our emotions; and if that were not enough when we believe in his Son Jesus - we receive the Holy Spirit and He continues to shape us, to mold us, to develop and transform us into His glorious image!
We will never have some qualities of God, like being Almighty, omniscient or omnipresent; but we can grow into the qualities of his divine love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, patience and self control. We can obtain hearts that serve and give sacrificially, not just out of duty.
It is seasons as in this last year dealing with student sin, dealing with the illness of my wife and caring for our daughters and many other disappointments and hardships that I have felt stripped down, pounded on, tested through flame and cut to the heart and soul - I am clay. I've been stripped down and through this I have discovered (in my times of solitude with God and his word) that there are vulnerabilities, weaknesses and insecurities that have been covered up by clay that I shaped into a mask to hide such things. Where is my fear? Where is my anxiety? Who am I? What is my identity really? There are layers here friends. We all have layers. We are human. We are sinners.
Since I have taken time to slow down (really forced to slow down) and find a place of solitude and silence, to pursue my relationship with God and not just work for Him, I am faced with myself in the presence of a Holy God. I have only Him to compare myself to. Yikes! He is Holy! I mean He is really Holy! I am, well, a man, a sinner who has been trying to work hard to build His kingdom, but He lives in me and I need to nurture that relationship; as God is desperately desiring. I am a single stone in His kingdom. Christ is the foundation upon which I stand. But if I don't let God chisel me to size and shape, I will be a stone only worth casting away. I need to keep my first love, Jesus. Only then can I do the work HE calls me to. It is then that I will cease to please men and even myself. My identity will be in Jesus and my reputation will be in his possession. This should offer me security that can withstand any storm - but there will be continued shaping by the potter, until I reach completion on the day I stand before Him.
I am clay. As I am vulnerable and sharing my weaknesses with others - God's light will shine through the cracks. If I keep covering up the cracks to seem like I have it all together - his light will not shine so brightly. I've been fearful of what others will say if they see my cracks, my weaknesses, my faults - but now when they do see, I will boast of Jesus. This is all that I have and all that I am.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!
Let your gentle spirit be known to all men.
The Lord is near.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made know to God.
Rejoice? Now? How? (A poem)
I love to rejoice in worship and praise.
Singing songs, dancing along, clapping and smiles.
But in these days, it is only a haze,
a cloud, fuzzy and dark.
The wise in their own eyes,
rejoice because they are so smart.
Rejoice? Now? How?
The leaders have shown their hearts are grim.
The darkness starts from within,
an aching, sin saturated mind and in thought,
Who would of thought this type of liberty could be bought.
The prize in their own eyes,
their voice squelches victory, but naught.
Rejoice? Now? How?
Grief, grief, I cry out loud!
People rejoicing for freedom to kill?
That is a hard liberty to swallow, a pill;
a knife or suction away, generations have fallen.
What more can we say?
The lies in their own eyes,
Oh who ends up calling, this day?
Rejoice? Now? How?
Sorrow, sorrow, my heart spills a flood.
Joined in a union, sacred by God,
But now, taken root, not blood of thy blood.
Worshiping self, man's lustful surprise,
Is this the last word for freedom and truth?
Their voices rejoicing, this is God's plan?
Rejoice! Now! Wow!
His voice thunders over the mountains,
His breath covers the seas,
His arm is not too short,
His is Deliverance and peace,
His words are like a sword,
His power is mighty and strong,
Almighty, almighty, he saves, he saves.
His Name is salvation for all who believe!
His Name is Jesus, bow down to him.
Nations take their stand against all that is Christ.
He shall dash them like pottery, on a cold and stormy night.
His love casts out fear, He is always near.
Whether in exile, or jail or hardship or night,
He will deliver, bring, comfort and light.
Rejoice! Now! Wow!
He deserves our praise! He desires to hear us cry out!
Come to me, come to me, hear my call!
Be wise in your own eyes?
Last word to be heard
Lately people have been asking me a question that I've had to reflect on more deeply. My first reaction was to hesitate but then answer 'Yes'. But after conversation with my wife and reflection and prayer I have concluded a different answer.
The question, "Hasn't this cancer journey strengthened your marriage?"
Looking back, we did what we needed to in the moment to care for each other. Laina is a strong woman, but she still needed care. I've seen her weak and tired (as I have before when she had a parasite and when she had mono). Typically we walk equally yoked, making decisions together, doing house chores together, caring for the girls together, handling financial decisions together and so on. Through this journey however, the scales started tipping in my direction in regard to responsibility. Laina was tired and feeling ill after chemo, so she rested. The girls needed attention and care too; not to mention all the illnesses the girls and I had during this time as well. I was getting weary and tired. Laina and I did not communicate as well during this time. We were constantly having to make health decisions and attend appointments, but that seemed to consume our time together. We made special attempts to have date nights and a marriage retreat, but still our communication was lacking. Cancer not only affected Laina's body, but also the way in which we were comfortable in relating to each other. I would want to help solve Laina's discouragements and help her process her feelings, but that seemed to just make things worse. I just could not figure out how to fix this.
So to answer the question, 'No' cancer at this point has not strengthened our marriage. It is like a storm beating on a ship. We hold on to the strongest thing we find and endure the winds, rain and crashing waves as they beat upon the ship. Things start to go overboard, the ship breaks apart. We keep holding on. We keep holding on to the strongest thing around. But nothing on the ship is strong enough. Then we come to a rock and fall on it. The waves still beat against the rock, but it is not moved. Everything else is washed away. We are broken, tired, worn. Nothing remains.
The rock is Jesus. Our marriage could not survive without holding on to him. We survived, we endured this storm. But if it were not for Jesus we would have nothing to hold on to. Marriages cannot survive by our physical attractiveness; marriages cannot survive on all of the stuff we own; marriages cannot survive on just doing the same old things day in and day out. Marriage takes effort, endurance, commitment, passion and vulnerability which leads to intimacy - all to be modeled by the image of Jesus and his bride (the church). Jesus gave his life for a bunch of sinners who are diseased, broken, neglectful, disinterested and disobedient; that is us. So too in marriage - no matter what you or your spouse go through, take on the attitude of Jesus and love them without expecting anything in return - that is agape (love); make the effort, endure, commit and give sacrificially.
I don't know if this experience will strengthen our marriage or not, but with God's help and wisdom we can endure and be made more into the image of Christ, as we seek him and obey him. He has the best in mind for us even if there is some work and suffering along the way.
Because of Jesus we have endured this storm. It is my prayer that others will first seek God through Jesus and also love their spouse (or other family members) as Jesus first loved us.
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