Living in a foreign country requires a penchant for mathematics or a quick-draw calculator app. Recently moving to Romania at the onset of the war, we’ve had to adjust to the Romanian Lei (or RON), which is around 5:1 to the USD.
Every time we visit the ATM and pop in our US bank card, the bank recognizes the foreign card and offers a currency exchange rate. You have to approve the ‘currency conversion’ before the machine will dispense the local currency.
Conversion: the process of changing from one form to anotherOxford dictionary
The other day, I was wrestling with the hand of the Lord.1 You know, when the Spirit is encouraging you to deal with something but you are consciously or subconsciously avoiding that uncomfortable, inward place. Like Adam & Eve, we humans have a bad habit of hiding from God, or so we think – we’re really just avoiding ourselves.
So I was doing my thing, running about, staying busy and productive.
I had been sensing the invitation from the Lord to slow down, take a breath and acknowledge some things in my soul. We know, from experience, that leaning into brewing storms of the soul will ultimately resolve in the liberation that only our Savior can bring, but the process of deliberately acknowledging there’s something wrong can be a fierce battle.
Sometimes this incessant pursuit of the Spirit has to grind us down in our human strength, to the point of real surrender.
I fight this whole life-long formation thing, but I know it’s His plan for me. To be a person of integrity is to be whole. He is making us whole, removing the dissonance of inward falsity as His love brings the gift of resonance with God and ourselves.
I don’t know about you, but I find it so difficult to believe the genuine love God has for me, day in, day out. Where does He find the loving reserves to put up with my stubbornness? When my soul is shipwrecked, it’s usually because I’ve lost the north star of God’s love over me.
Anyway, this was the state of my soul as I robotically approached yet another ATM.
I had clicked through the screens hundreds of times before, without thinking much of it. I just want the money, and these buttons are slowing me down!
Do I agree to these terms, this exchange, this continued changing of form? It was a question that struck me as both humorous and haunting. Maybe it’s how Peter felt after denying Jesus.2 My avoidance of the Spirit was now staring me in the face. I smiled and let out a nervous laugh. I could see my own reflection in the ATM display. This was the question I needed to face. It was if Jesus was asking it to me, kindly, gently, but with certainty, “Shall we move forward, Bruce?”
Irenaeus (130-202 AD) suggested that the end of our being, God’s goal as it were for us, is formation. I believe this is true. Heaven is not our goal, as if God’s whole salvation enterprise is to remove us from this broken world and place us in a better place. Rather, Jesus has brought heaven into this broken world, and we are the ones being made better. We are what scripture calls God’s workmanship 3. Our choice lies in whether we want to remain on the potter’s wheel?
Shall we continue forming your heart, dear child?
My first reaction, was honestly, “Lord, where else can I go?” If I want the nearness of your presence, the continued fresh work of your Spirit in my heart, I have to click yes! There’s no way around this, it’s how God works, he changes us, converts us, and if we are not allowing Him access to our hearts, we can forget about the reward.
He’s got us, relentlessly loving and moving us to more surrender, more undoing, more conversion.
I’ve been technically following this Jesus of Nazareth for the better part of 30 years now. I’m only beginning, however, to recognize the deeper, slow work of the Spirit in my life. He forms us in these valleys. He’s not interested in production and performance. He’s going for the heart, the renovation of my entire command center, my way of being in this world. He sees the unhealthy ways, the stumbling blocks, my deep patterns that remain unshaped, unformed, unconverted.
Genuine Jesus following is Jesus trusting. Trusting that I can, at all times, bring my true self before him in ruthless honesty and receive the help I need.
If we want the nearness of his presence, we have to keep clicking yes. This, for me, is getting more difficult, not less with age. Clicking yes, giving continued permission to the Spirit to work seems to be a posture, a way of being, and starts over again each day.
I am thankful for the pursuit of God, and the times that he hangs with us as we attempt to find solace in the wrong places. His mercy is so great! You too can trust him to form and work in that most difficult place – do you have any other choice, really?
1- Psalm 32:4 “For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer” (NIV). The ‘hand of the Lord’ or ‘hand of God’ is accounted for 122 times in the Old Testament. It’s range of use is all over the map, from the blessing of God, empowerment to perform miracles, to looming judgment over evil.
2- John 21:15-25 the story of resurrected Jesus interacting with Peter after his denial and famously inquiring three times, “Peter, do you love me?”
3- Ephesians 2:10 (NIV) Paul shares to the church at Ephesus, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”