This morning I was sat in bed (with my cuppa!) watching a show I’ve come to love: The Repair Shop.
If you’ve never seen it – it’s a show that does what it says on the tin – a team of specialists and experts lovingly and painstakingly restore people’s family heirlooms so that they resemble something of their former glory. (They always strike me as a being a great team of really lovely people too!).
This morning one of them was restoring an old baby’s cot, that had been in the family for generations. He had a piece of wood on a wood turner to carve the curves and designs to replicate the original. This takes incredible precision and skill – but it is the process of eliminating the unnecessary that eventually produces beauty, form and function.
This long and difficult process of restoration is something we do for things we love and value most – if we didn’t we wouldn’t bother and they’d simply get thrown away!
The best creative artists have spent time learning this painful but essential skill too – many an idea has had to be left on the drawing board or cutting room floor because, as good or as loved as it was, it would have distracted or detracted from the core purpose or beauty of what was being created or shared.
For many of us right now, it feels like we are going through a similar, and often painful, process. There are many things that are being eliminated from our lives – and that is always hard to go through.
Yet I wonder if it is possible that through all of this stripping back and taking away, whether something new and beautiful may perhaps be being formed? Is it actually an opportunity to come back to the realization of God’s love and value for us?
We often sing that song:
When the music fades and all is stripped away, and I simply come
Longing just to bring something that’s of worth – that will bless Your heart
I’ll bring You more than a song, for a song in itself is not what You have required
You search much deeper within, through the way things appear
You’re looking into my heart
Well, the music has faded, and much of what we once knew has been stripped away – and we are having to find our own personal ways to ‘simply come‘, and open our hearts to God. As difficult as these circumstances are for us all – on a personal level, this just might be a rare gift.
In the book of Ecclesiastes, we find these incredible words:
“Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart
to utter anything before God. God is in heaven
and you are on earth, so let your words be few.” (Ecclesiastes 5.2)
Maybe, in all that is being eliminated, there is something beautiful about cutting through all the hurry and noise, to get to a place where we truly see our lives on earth in their proper scale before the God of heaven. And to learn again to say to Him the words that matter most.
I was reading yesterday that with the reduced access to shopping, people are posting online of their renewed determination to make the most of this time in dealing with addictions to smoking, drinking and bad eating habits. More people than ever are calling loved ones, trying to support neighbours and spending more time with their kids. Churches, (like ours!), are being forced to experiment with new forms of communication and are actually feeling the benefits of reaching beyond their walls!
At a time when we are hearing of mortality rates on a daily basis – many are considering “what really matters in life” and some are asking big questions of their purpose and eternal destiny in ways that they weren’t, and possibly wouldn’t, before this crisis hit.
I was reading only this morning of a bunch of Instragram Live sessions that bands from The Message have been holding – and during the last few days 30 young people have given their lives to Jesus! In their email they write:
“That’s 30 new brothers and sisters who have woken up today knowing they’re loved by Jesus and that in everything that’s going on they can find their hope in Him. We’re now making sure that each of these young people gets access to a Bible and that we’re teaching them how to read it, pray and grow in their new faith!”
And that is just one of the many new forms of mission and ministry going on right now!
The Apostle Paul realized that the Art of Elimination was essential in his life and heart in order to become an effective servant of Jesus:
“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ – yes, to know the power of His resurrection and participation in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3.7-11)
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4.16-18)
So don’t you lose heart – we might feel small and frail here on earth, but God is still God in heaven, and is able to bring good, beauty, wisdom and truth even out of this situation. Regardless of whatever you’d like to be doing today – whatever you are doing today, He is with you – and He is for you and not against you.
What might the Art of Elimination be producing in your walk with Him today?