What's Mine is His
Director of Discipleship
When we got a puppy, we committed to training him, because no one enjoys an untrained, misbehaving dog. Bad behavior in a dog is usually a sign of insecurity and neglect, and definitely indicates an unhappy animal. One training exercise is to give the dog a treat, and after a minute or two, take it away. The dog learns not to growl or resist in any way. (Then we give the treat back!). While this might appear to be mean from a human point of view, the exercise teaches the dog not to be aggressive or overly possessive about his food or what he considers “his”. He learns not to bite the hand that feeds him!
God has a similar goal for those he calls his children—he wants to teach us to not to viciously guard what we think is ours. After enduring terrible losses, Job says, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” Job 1:21
Thinking of God taking away the good blessings he has given us can be tricky. It’s tempting to think of him like Lucy offering to hold the football for Charlie Brown. She waits until he trusts her and fully commits to the kick, only to snatch the ball away—and Charlie Brown ends up flat on his back! But God is not capricious and vindictive. He truly wants the best for us, and sometimes that may mean he has to take things away.
Even Jesus had to learn how to let go. In Philippians 2:6, scripture describes Jesus as letting go of his “grasp” on the glory of being God. I never understood this verse (and am not sure that I do now), but I think all this giving and taking away that God does in our lives is intended to help us reach a state of indifference. In Sacred Rhythms, Ruth Haley Barton describes indifference as not a negative attitude, but instead a positive and spiritually mature point at which we let go of everything that is not God’s will. This indifference is a state of submission that allows God to have his way in us. By releasing our tight “grasp” on even the good gifts he has given us, we are also letting go of the vanity, pride and self-identity that competes with God for our affections and attention.
A couple of weeks ago, I attended the SHAPE Summit at SCFBC, during which participants explored their spiritual gifts, talents, abilities, passions and experiences. How easy it is to get caught up in the excitement of unwrapping these God-given gifts! But all of it is a gift from the Lord, and unless we own that and loosen our grip even on our own SHAPE, it is unlikely that he will use us as he wants to for his purposes.
Dear Lord, all that I have and all that I am is a gift from you. Even my desire for more of you, to know you and to serve you is a gift. Teach me to hold your gifts with a loose and grateful grip! Amen.