Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Garments far better than we can make for ourselves

I do not know how to sew (yet), but I have several friends who are quite talented at creating skirts, pillows, and other such wonderful items! I often envy their ability to do the family mending and be able to make beautiful baby shower gifts for others. One thing I have learned, however, in talking with these friends about their various sewing projects, is that many times the end product is not what they actually planned on when they started. Maybe they had to simplify it when they realized all the intricacies that were in the original pattern. It is possible that after a fitting, adjustments had to be made which altered the character of the piece. Sometimes this can be disappointing to the seamstress, as she had big dreams of the result and spent hours plotting out the design - all to have it literally "unravel" in the end!

This morning, as I was reading a devotional by Charles Spurgeon at 5:00am because I could not get back to sleep, I thought about this analogy to sewing. In reflecting on Matthew 6:30, Spurgeon says this: "He who made man so that when he had sinned he needed garments, also in mercy supplied him with them; and those which the Lord gave to our first parents were far better than those they made for themselves." Anything we ever make for ourselves will not even come close to what God can and does create for us! All our anxieties and plans have no place in the Lord's kingdom.

I have been plagued by sleepless night recently as I often indulge sinful anxiety over what the future holds for my life. I moved away last year to try and pursue opportunities for full-time ministry, and after six months of relying on my parents for income, it was time to come home. Though there were many hopeful jobs I encountered, they were all either part-time or unreliable enough that I could not continue there. In my mid-thirties, I came home ready to "give up" in a sense my dreams, and settled on going back to school (again!) to get my RN license and become a nurse. Long story short, I just found out in recent weeks that despite already having bachelor's and master's degrees, my admittance to the program will be based solely on a GPA of just my nursing-related classes, which is solid but definitely not at the top of the applicants. So all the hard work I put in to get my degrees and graduate with honors will not really be considered and there is a good possibility I will not get accepted. Let the anxiety begin! Anyone who knows me well, knows this has often been a weakness in my life, and every time I think I have conquered it, the Lord reminds me that it will only be permanently conquered as I look to Him in faith and seek His kingdom first. All the things that may be "added unto me" may not be exactly what I was thinking.

Therein lies the problem. We quote verses like "Seek first" in Matthew 6:33 and "delight in the Lord" in Psalm 37:4 and use them as a blanket confirmation that if we simply seek and delight, we will get what we want. However, sometimes what we want is not always what brings God the most glory. Many times, He is glorified in us as we conform our hearts and minds into alignment with His. And this is where the rub is - we end up stomping our feet so to speak in a refusal to do it HIS way. For me, this means my mind spirals out of control considering things like - "how will I make a living?" "what will people think if I tried something else and then don't do it?" "why can't I find a job where I can use my abilities and gifts, but still provide for myself?"

Spurgeon may have written his devotional about trusting the Lord to clothe us, but it is easy to see that the application can be made for any provision we are seeking. Right now, I am concerned about the "garments" of my future - a job, a husband, children, security, income, ministry, so many things! My sin makes me need a different garment - one that can only be provided fully in Christ. And because the Father so graciously provides that garment, who am I to say back to Him, "well this isn't what I had in mind"? Like Spurgeon's words, I must remind myself that His garments will be much better than anything I could make for myself. When I consider many of the great missionaries and others who gave their lives in ministry to the Lord, submitting to whatever He called them to, I am reminded that it was not typically what they had first imagined themselves doing. God had a better plan and in time, He revealed it by hemming in their ways.

I am planning to learn how to sew very soon - I hope! Someone gave me a very nice sewing machine a while back and there are a number of women in my church who would be happy to teach me. Maybe this means I will be able to approach it with a different attitude now, realizing that my creations probably will not turn out how I originally planned, and that will be OK. In a favorite biography of Robert Murray M'Cheyne, he was quoted as saying: "It has always been my aim, and it is my prayer, to have no plans with regard to myself, well assured as I am, that the place where the Savior sees meet to place me must ever be the best place for me."

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