Monday, October 24, 2011

Refiner's Friday

You know those days when you act like the worst version of yourself?

I had that day last Friday. I said cranky things, I was an extremist, I hurt the people I love. Why? Well, I wanted something. A material thing. And I didn't think I was going to get it. And that made me mad. Because it wasn't just something I wanted; it was something I assumed God had promised to me. It was something I felt entitled to.

Ah, entitlement. Dangerous, dangerous.

It's been a tough year for me personally, and last Friday was kind of the end of my little rope. I got MAD. At God and Jeff and everybody. I was REALLY mad. Little tantrum and everything.

I found it sarcastically ironic that my theme song last week was "Empty Me" by Jeremy Camp. "Holy fire, burn away my desire for anything that is not of You."

Yep, I prayed that all week. On Friday, God said, "Okay. Do you mean it?"

Thanks a lot, God.

And on Friday, the answer was no. I didn't mean it. I didn't want God to burn away my desire for anything that was not of Him. I wanted Him to give me the thing I wanted, when I wanted it. And because He didn't, I was pretty sure He had stopped loving me. That He'd changed. That He just wasn't going to actually come through for me this time. That He'd broken His promise.

Jeff was diligent to impart truth to me all day on Friday, and by the end of the day, enough of it had permeated that I was able to act sanely. Plus, by the end of the day, I got that thing I thought I was entitled to. That cheered me right up as well. I even remembered to give God a jolly punch on the shoulder. "Hey, thanks, God. You came through. Your timing was a little off, but, you know, it's cool. It's all good."

On Sunday, halfway through the sermon, I started to wonder if someone had tipped off the pastor about my Friday issue. Do you ever feel that way about a sermon? That it was preached just for you? Obviously, no one had tipped off the pastor, and if they had, he certainly wouldn't have said, "Oh, I have a good sermon for that person. They really need to hear this." No, when a sermon feels tailor-made, it is always an obvious indication of the working of the Holy Spirit.

The text was Malachi 2:17-3:6. Israel tells God that He has cut them a raw deal and they deserve better treatment. They say to God that He must have changed because their experience indicates that He has broken His promises to them.

God says, "Not so. My plan now is the same plan I first told all y'all about in the Garden of Eden. My Son will come and fix everything. That's the plan. It's always been the plan, it's still the plan, and it'll always be the plan."

Israel says to God, "Yabbut..."

That's what I said to God last Friday. Yabbut.

Yabbut, my experience gives evidence to the contrary, God. You probably don't really love me after all. You've changed.

Israel thinks God has changed because they can't see why He's doing what He's doing. So He graciously reminds them. "The plan is to redeem you. To refine you. To cleanse you. I'm not trying to make you happy. I'm trying to make you holy."

I looked at Jeff wide-eyed quite a few times during that sermon.

This is the thing. God doesn't look at the things I want and say, "No. You can't have that because I've suddenly turned cruel." He hasn't changed. He hasn't gone back on His promises. He, in fact, withheld what I wanted on purpose, that purpose being nothing less grand than redeeming my life from the PIT.

He wants to refine me!

That is LOVING.

And, whether I like it or not, the answer to my prayer.

"For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed." ~Malachi 3:6