December 7, 2004

Trial by Fire

I think that I'm finally beginning to understand the meaning of the word "overwhelmed." Being the scientifically-minded person that I am, I require emperical evidence before arriving at a conclusion of any kind, especially one relating to feelings. In other words, I've had a lot of experiences lately that tell me how one can feel "overwhelmed".

We'll skip the part where I yell about how me and science don't get along too well anymore.

For instance, my week thus far has been an exercise in discipline - how long can I stay awake and focused without either falling asleep or drifting off? The answer would seem to be "about fifteen minutes," which is, of course, shorter than my usual twenty, and is probably due to the amount of stress I'm under. Our group project is due tomorrow, one that has taken many painstaking hours of work and not a few arguments with some of my closest friends about the book. My music history final is tomorrow, which frankly I'm very scared of, as my history with music history is somewhat dismal - I can't remember wrote facts like everyone else unless the professor talked about it extensively (which for the most part, she didn't).

Or, take another example: early this afternoon we had our last Bible study of the semester. Now, it's not a "Bible study" in the proper sense of the term, since we've been reading a book, and so "small group" is probably a better term, but that's just semantics - it's the book itself that is my focus here. The book is called Intercessory Prayer, by Dutch Sheets. As the title implies, the book is about prayer ... not just "hey, you should pray," but "hey, these are all the things prayer can do, and you should pray in lots of ways because God wants and needs you to."

But Chris, how is this overwhelming? You know you're supposed to pray?

Duh. However, the book has impressed upon me how very important my role in God's kingdom is, as is everyone who is part of it. It's not just that we're supposed to be nice to people and try to stay out of trouble, but we play an active part in bringing God's kingdom to earth. Heresy? Not really, it's all in the Bible. God doesn't disobey His own rules, and if He says "you guys are going to be the way I work, so if you don't help, I'm not going to help."

It freaked me out. Maybe "utterly terrified me" would be a better way of saying it. Mr. Sheets describes so many things that prayer is like and how it works and why it's important and it suddenly dawned on me what an awesome responsibility I've been given. On the one hand, I share the responsibility with other Christians, but at the same time, I'm the only one that matters, because I'm the only one I can make do this stuff. And sometimes (or lots of the time) I can't even make myself do it!

And that's what terrified me.

I feel inadequate to the task. No, this isn't just some bout of humility, I really feel (often enough) that there is no chance in hell (or heaven) that I'll be any use to God when He asks me to do something. I know God works with us, and doesn't give us stuff we're totally incapable of (in one sense), but in another sense, He does! He'll give us stuff we can only accomplish with His help.

It's kinda like exercise, a topic I'm only familiar with (sadly) in concept rather than in practice. When you exercise a muscle to make it stronger, you have to push it slightly beyond its ability for it to actually grow; it has to break down before it can grow back stronger. I hate the analogy and what it implies - God has to totally break me (spiritually) before I can grow again.

That really sucks.

Yet somehow it's comforting to me right now ... I'm definitely feeling broken, so where else can I go but back up? I know I've been praying for God to help me grow, to see Him, to learn to be like Him. I didn't count on this at all, and go figure, I figure it out while I'm down. Does He honestly expect me to want to grow again after this?


But I think He also knows that I'll do it. Nothing else satisfies like growing with God, as hard as it is to accept. Somehow I think that's what "trial by fire" means - the silver smith refining his silver over a fire to just the right temperature (very hot, I might add) so that it becomes pure and oh-so-shiny, not to mention stronger. What other kind of silver would you use for pretty things? I can't think of any. Can you?

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