I am working on a project right now that has turned into therapy for me, which is now being turned into a blog. Hang with me, because I am going to be self-disclosing a bit, and expounding on an intense metaphor I have just discovered.
My wife and I are expecting our first child in a few short weeks! We are having a baby girl and could not be more thrilled about it. We have a pretty incredible church family here in Denver and have been afforded the opportunity to participate in the most supportive community we have ever been apart of. Through these relationships, we have been gifted with things leading up to the birth of our daughter that only God, in His immense mercy, is able to provide.
One such item is this beautiful wooden crib. My dictionary provides two main definitions of this word:
1 the baby’s crib: cradle, cot, bassinet.
2 the oxen’s crib: manger, stall, feeding trough.”
Suddenly, I’m struck by the significance of this. It’s almost Christmas, and I am preparing a vessel into which I can provide a safe place for my child to rest, just as God did when it was time for Jesus to step into time and live among us. God picked and prepared Mary for this assignment.
With all that is going on in the world, a trusted Savior is needed to direct our hope towards. But, hope seems to be in very short supply these days as the political climate intensifies and acts of evil and violence burden the hearts of all of us. As my heart has been grieving this week over continued murder and threats of further attack, I asked God… “What is my role in all of this? I feel fairly helpless and insignificant” I hear Him whisper, “Hold onto Hope, son. Carry my Love. Show the world these things with the life you live.”
We asked the permission of our generous friends to sand the crib pieces and re-stain them with a fresh coat and protective sealant. I cannot tell you how meaningful this process of praying, sanding, staining, resealing, and assembling has been for me the past few days.
Before I began, I disassembled the crib parts in order to reach each hidden area. As I began praying and sanding these parts with course paper, I start to feel a parallel process.
I am the wood, the crib parts…
Then, this scripture-
“Hardship (distress, pressure, trouble) produces patient endurance; 4 and endurance, proven character (spiritual maturity); and proven character, hope and confident assurance [of eternal salvation]. 5 Such hope [in God’s promises] never disappoints us, because God’s love has been abundantly poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:3-5 AMP).
I wonder if what this Scripture is saying is that my ability to experience Hope is dependent on my character? Oh, but it sounds like perfected, mature character only comes through the endurance produced by the grinding pressure of hardship? Ouch. But, HOPE never disappoints… so, it sounds like the process is worth it.
The distressing, course, heavy trials of life are the sandpaper…
As I sand for hours and hours, the bite marks, crayon drawings, previous tints of stain, and protective coating layers are removed and stripped as the original wood comes forth, unmasked. It is raw and bland, and vulnerable.
You are removing all of my false forms of protection, the evidence of experiences that left an ugly impression, and stains of my past… “Let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance (unnecessary weight) and that sin which so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence” (Hebrews 12:1).
I am worshipping and praying aloud on my deck as I work, dust covering me from head to toe. I realize that am the vessel in His hands, learning patient endurance, being perfected in my character, being crafted into a place to securely keep His Son. And I suddenly get to glimpse into His perspective, as I hold pieces of this wooden crib in my hands, a place to securely keep my daughter.
I am overwhelmed with revelation…
I complete the sanding process and immediately begin re-staining each piece, carefully and methodically covering it in it’s entirety. Jesus re-stains us with His sacrifice, ensuring that the former stains are removed.
“… and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you” (Exodus 12:13).
“…and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin [by erasing the stain of sin, keeping us cleansed from sin in all its forms and manifestations]” (1 John 1:7).
The new stain provides some protection that the parts would not have in their original form, but I spray an even layer of sealant to secure the stain. The Holy Spirit seals us and promises continued protection of our souls.
“Set me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm” (Song of Solomon 8:6).
I re-assemble the crib parts, each one now covered with a fresh layer of protection while still allowing the natural beauty of the wood to show through.
“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (Ephesians 2:10).
I step back and admire the work that is before me. I feel proud. I feel certain that this vessel will safely and securely hold my child. I know this is how God feels about me. I look at the bits and pieces of sandpaper.
They are useless now and they will be discarded and forgotten. But the work that has been created by their use will serve the most important purpose. Why would I waste something that I invested so much time and care into creating?
“And she gave birth to her Son, her Firstborn; and she wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room or place for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7).
The Greek root word for “inn” is the word katalyō which means “to dissolve, disunite, overthrow, subvert, or destroy.” The inn represents all of the powers of darkness that attempt to dissolve and destroy the intended resting place for the Son of God…… us, his masterpieces.
When there is no room for Him in the “inn”… He will continue to use a simple manger, a crib like you and I, to bring the HOPE that comes at Christmastime.