I have been going to Church all my life and I have been very blessed to be involved in a variety of different denominations and enjoyed many different styles of worship and teaching. Recently I have been thinking about something that I have heard talked about, preached on and inferred to in most of these communities. Whether they were Charismatic or Conservative Evangelical, Anglican or Free Church, House or Café, I have heard a similar message. It’s is about how God uses us. I am not really talking about the practical ways in which God uses us, I don’t really want to spend ages telling you my thoughts on words, visions, Bible, friendship, actions, service etc. Although it might help if I tell you that I believe that God works in all these ways through us.
What I really want to think about is more to do with the process of God using us. People have described to me in all sorts of ways, how we should or could be used by God. They have used metaphors like: we should be Vessels, a pipe, an instrument, a mouthpiece, a lighthouse, a signpost, a light and so many more. It’s not that I have a problem with these descriptions in their entirety, but I wonder if some of their meaning has got lost along the way. These metaphors do not fill me with joy or a sense of relief that God would want to use me anymore, they make me feel anxious that I won’t reach the standard expected or that I need to morph into a different shape to be truly usable. I worry that we are being taught and have been taught that God wants to use us, that God could use us… but we have to be very careful not to contaminate what he is doing with our own thoughts, actions, reactions or emotions. That we must be hardly there.
I have been told that when I should pray for a word or encouragement for someone I should be very careful not to add any of my own thoughts to it. Well, how do you do that? I have been taught that to help someone I should put myself completely aside, that when I teach I should ask God to do the talking. Of course on the one hand that is great teaching because we should ask God to lead the way, we should aim to be servants, self-sacrificing… but, when these teachings are taken out of context or heard by a more sensitive ear then we can become fearful of ourselves, anxious to not spoil God’s work, unable to do anything for fear of making mistakes, or even lazy.
There have been times when I have done nothing, like the man that hid his talents in the ground because I don’t want to let God down, to get it wrong. Or I have been lazy – instead of putting in the time to grow in my relationship with God I have sent quick arrow prayers up before acting, just as insurance… asking for forgiveness and then for God to work… sorted! I think that some of this laziness is born out of our belief that God does not need the whole of us in any ‘real way’ to reach others. He will do it anyway, we must not contaminate his work.
But surely, if I had actually devoted more time to my relationship with God, listened, prayed, read the Bible more, had I tried daily to ask forgiveness and yearned to walk closely with Jesus, then I believe I would be acting more like him. That more of me would be like him. That in growing our relationship with Jesus we would activate all the ‘God Particles’ that make up who we are. At our core we are created by God and made to be like him. I don’t believe that our true core is a hateful character or a sin-filled creature (makes me think of Gollum), bug ridden and contaminated.
Yes we are sinful, but before sin we were created by God. We do need to be restored and cleaned of the sin and muck that is stuck to us.
God promises to do this whenever we ask.
And, I firmly believe that before we act on what God has asked us to do or led us into that we should give it all to him, we should ask forgiveness and desire to be right with God. But, I don’t believe that we should become a non-entity, our characters hidden, held back, in case they should infect God’s work. In the Bible in Psalm 139 v 14 it says:
“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”
We are created in God’s image. I believe that God ‘knitted us together’ and in every fibre of who we are, we have the Creators finger prints. That each of us is made in the very image God. We were created in his likeness.
I think somewhere along the line we have mixed up the essence of who we are, our characters and personalities with Sin. We have become afraid to be ourselves when we are living for God. We end up an anaesthetised bunch of Christians that seem devoid of personality. Is this because we are taught that when God uses us we should stand back and let him work? Like a drain that lets the water rush through whilst we pray that it doesn’t touch the sides. Or an empty vessel with a precious cargo? Or a lighthouse where we must be a solid structure that holds light and lets it be seen?
Or perhaps God is not so 2D? What if we were more like an intricate stain glass window in the lighthouse, that God’s light shines through? So, maybe we are not the clear glass we would hope to be and in some places the light has to shine though mottled or badly shaped glass. But, God promises us that if we give our weaknesses to him in prayer that his light will show through our flaws. There will also be the parts of our character where God shines through much brighter. The overall picture can be one of beauty! What if that stain glass window was to keep changing? If the maker was to clean some windows brighter and maybe re-arrange the patterns differently, if it was an on-going project of re-creation
God has created us to be unique and if we hide who we are because we are afraid of wrecking God’s perfect plan or are nervous of being accused of acting like a poor Christian, then we are missing the point. Maybe the way God has made us, individual and full of character means that we reflect light in different ways, reaching different corners, bouncing off in different directions.
My favourite quote:
‘Your playing small does not serve the world. Who are you not to be great?’