God’s Undoing

“Whenever God starts to work, whenever God starts to move, it always looks to us like undoing, rather than doing.” – Charles Spurgeon

I remember going to school and being bombarded in every classroom with motivational posters. They all followed the same pattern: gorgeous picture of a person running, or standing on the peak of a mountain, and then white text with some positive encouragement. As I grew older, I could not shake the feeling that all the calls to “get better everyday”, or that “anything is possible”, or how “special I am” were nothing more than desperate cries to a society of people who are stuck.

When I became a Christian, that motivation rhetoric became finding “God’s plan for your life”, or “seeing God work”, or watching “God move.” I remember nodding solemnly to these exclamations all the while wondering to myself what does that mean? Is God moving in my life? How do I know? Is it a feeling? Is it a magical moment where my life suddenly clicks and makes sense?

Is Christianity just a motivational poster? A life filled with step-by-step self-improvement? 

It was dealing with a congregation of whining and ungrateful people in the desert for forty years and not the parting of the Red Sea that molded Moses’ character the most. I was not a birthright or riches that brought Jacob near to God, but an all-night wrestling match that resulted in a dislocated hip. It was not getting everything he wanted, but losing everything that he had that showed Job the deep love and sovereignty of God. And it was not ministry success, but a thorn in Paul’s side that drove him into deeper joy and intimacy with God.

And of course, there is Jesus. His life was one long undoing. Rejected, betrayed, abandoned, and ultimately, on the Cross, completely undone. And God was working. And God was moving. And on the Cross, God said that it was finished.

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Words Like Rain

It is easy for me to get lost in lofty and heady abstract concepts about God while my heart sits locked up in a freezer somewhere completely unaffected. God is not a machine. He is an artist. A master storyteller. He did not, after all, snap his fingers and poof the Earth into existence. Instead, he painted it layer by layer, carefully separating the earth from the heavens, and adding contrast by dividing light and darkness.

In Isaiah 55, God speaks of how rain and snow descend from heaven, every drop brimming with purpose and life. It nourishes everything it touches and never fails to accomplish its task. And God gives us this vivid imagery to show us how his Word works. I love that.

It’s heaven-sent with a purpose. A gift of life that can turn the even the most arid of deserts into an oasis. No drop is wasted. There is a time to dig deep and wrestle with the sufficiency of Scripture. There is a time to pour over old books and that connect the threads of how the Bible works. There is a time to form creeds and confessions to articulate core doctrines.

And there is a time to sit in wonder like a child at the fact that somehow, someway, his words are like rain.

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven

and do not return there but water the earth,

making it bring forth and sprout,

giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 

so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;

it shall not return to me empty,

but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,

and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”

– Isaiah 55:10-11