Thursday, August 16, 2007

grace withheld

When God chooses to NOT clunk me over the head with something, I would almost prefer the 2x4. This process of waiting for the next step to be illuminated can be rather, well, shall we say… challenging? The 2x4 is decisive. It is immediate. It can be painful, abrupt, life-altering, but at least that next step is unmistakable – right? We are currently in faith-walk mode here in our household. The Lord has illuminated several steps –but the last of these was a while ago… we are dangling in that place of following through with the last thing we KNEW He wanted...

We believe it was decisively God’s will for us to no longer run our business. But that awareness dawned after several years of bringing us to where we could see it. In retrospect, the process was more 2x4-ish than it seemed. But for one part of this process, the Lord began withholding the grace for tolerating the bump-and-grind of the business world. And that looked drastically different for each of us. For me, it looked kind of like this guppy that naively started out on a new adventure and discovered that it was in a shark tank. And the sharks were not very nice. And they had this appetite for guppy fins.

Withheld grace looked a lot different for Jake – his fins were much tougher than mine. The costly lessons we could emotionally write-off as tuition. After all, it’s the school of hard knocks, right? But that all required grace. Without God’s grace, for me, it was becoming traumatic. I was being wounded. But once you are in certain situations, you cannot just high-tail it when you realize you no longer like where you are. This was one of those situations. A few more years were required to get things to where clients' needs could properly be met while the company was being handed off to a new owner.

So in retrospect, God withheld His grace from our pursuit of that which was not in His will. We opened our company about a year before we became Christians. As we began to seek His will, abandoning our own, the steering commenced. I see the withheld grace as a means of steering... directing...leading. At times all I had to cling to were these words in James 1:2-4 : "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." The Lord allows trial and difficulty at times – for our refinement… perseverance builds character…James 1:12 goes on to say "Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him." love Him we DO... and persevere we did – for 7 years - before God gave us the escape route. But that is another key - - GOD provided the escape. And it was really cool.

I’ll spare you the details, but the process the Lord used to reveal the way out felt like an action-packed chase scene. It put action to Proverbs 16:9 "The mind of a man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps." It involved Him revealing information we did not know, opening doors, which led to meeting new people, who then revealed more information, and as we were thinking this info contained the answer, and were preparing to “go for it” He then did the bait and switch… took that person out of the picture long enough for new information, new people to come into the situation – with whom we were given peace and clear sailing to pursue, and then when the deal was sealed, the first entity showed up again… but we knew by this time what God’s will was… the deal was done, we were at rest, we had found peace. In the process the Lord also prevented – truly restrained us from making a big mistake. At another point we were desperate for some very specific information, so we raised up a fleece prayer. Then later that day we repented, realizing the Lord’s faithfulness deserved greater faith than THAT - - then the Lord answered that fleece prayer anyway in a HUGE and unquestionable way. It was like He was saying yes yes yes YES YES YES YES!!!!! This IS the way - - WALK in it!!!
So now we are dangling...oops, I guess we call that "faith-walking". But if I can be honest, it really feels like dangling. I will be returning to work in health care - likely persuing more schooling as well, but must tend to more hand surgery in September, which will put me out of commission for several months - so I'm basically useless for a while. Jake must remain available for 2 months of transitioning clients into the care of the new owner of the company, during which time he cannot start a new job. So we are trusting the Lord for light on that next step, but in the meantime, dangling is beginning to feel sort of free... restful...dependent....I'm sure glad holding the other end of the string on which we dangle, is the faithful, competent, utterly trustworthy hand of God!

Fionia's Shark Mania gracious provider of first two shark images
Christian Clipart gracious provider of last fish image


davtre said...

Have a problem with the phrase "grace withheld." I'm pretty sure I see what you mean - ie-directed, lead, etc.

As I understand it, grace is not only an attribute of God but actually who He is, so it is eternal and bigger/more than we can comprehend. Look in Psalms for the word "lovingkindness," which I would say is an old testament version of the new testament word "grace." In the new testament look for how grace is used to describe God the Father or Christ himself.
I don't believe there is such a thing as "grace withheld," the limitations are ours in understanding and experience. As believers, grace is always ours in full measure, we are limited in our ability to see and understand.

Don't forget, it was Lucifer who told Adam and Eve that God was "holding out on them." And when Peter tried to protect his master from a painful reality what he was told.

Wish I could be with you guys and catch up in person. Thanks again for sharing.



Dinah said...

Hi Dave!

Perhaps I was careless in my choice of title for the post, and you did get it (directed, lead...)but here is my thought process...

Yes, my understanding of grace is that it is an attribute of God's, and is His goodness shown to us who don't deserve such kindness (don't you wish there were words to say that succinctly without flattening the beauty, the joy the utter wonder of it??) and as an attribute of God, it is something that He always IS - like holiness, love, truth, goodness (and others) are also attributes; ie. God can't NOT be holy, He can't NOT be good... - but isn't God's method of dispensing it optional?
In using the "term" grace withheld, I was seeking to identify the tool God used to bring us to a greater blessing. What I had noticed as this thing ("grace?") was withdrawn or withheld, was a noticeable absence of any "flow" or any "ease" that would be evidence of the Holy Spirit working (instead of me...), which I would consider to be a type of grace, or blessing (working in one's gifting, at one's calling...).

If I sounded like I was complaining or felt God was "holding out on me", I'm glad you called me on it - because that means I failed to convey my own point! I was seeking to share how God showed us the work we were doing was not His perfect plan for our lives, and anything God does to bring us closer to the center of His will is blessing to me (even if it means a season in the wilderness).
But I'm preaching to the choir...

I appreciate your comment - - it feels like we're sitting around the table at Olive Garden again - -boy I miss that!

davtre said...

I understand what you mean and feel when things seem out of whack. We can feel abandoned or short-changed or even that we are being punished but God is always loving us and grace is always fully ours.

I don't think Job could really appreciate grace until heaven where he could see what God accomplished and how his suffering was used by God for all generations.

Only Jesus was able to completely understand and experience perfect joy in His suffering, but the same measure of all God offers is available to us. The only limitation is our mortality and its inherent weakness...but one day we will be FACE TO FACE.



Dinah said...

Amen and Hallelujia!!!

Elder's Wife said...

Just found your blog.
I'm with davtre on the understanding of grace. Maybe it was more a matter of your not recognizing His instruments of grace than His withholding it.

Dinah said...

Hi Kat!
I realized that the title was probably poorly chosen, because the very point I was attempting to make was that this was indeed an instrument of His grace, because it maneuvered us, through trial, into alignment with His will. I unintentionally negated my entire message with the title. I appreciate your post - - the last thing I want to do is misrepresent any aspect of God or His goodness, and you are helping to build this new bloggers awareness of how carefully my words must be chosen!