When I awake in the morning and lay down at night, there is one hope that I can hang onto. It brings peace to all arguments, vision to my life’s dreams, and authenticity in my mistakes: He’s not finished in me.
The work He began has not been completed.
And my head falls onto my pillow in relief. You won’t always be this way, I tell myself. He won’t leave you like this. He’ll continue the work He began. It’s this hope that allows me to fall asleep.
He can’t leave me this way. And I know this because when Paul spoke of having a thorn in his flesh, the word thorn is singular and not plural and, let me just testify to you right now, that there are still a dozen or more thorns God needs to pluck from my body. I guess you could say I man-handled a briar patch before I knew Jesus.
So, this is my hope — this is my promise from Him: That He will make me more like His Son and less like myself.
But right now, I hurt all over and I keep handing God the tweezers pleading through squinted eyes and clenched fists, “Go ahead. Dig them all out right now. I can handle it. On the count of three …”
Yet I feel no pain, and the tweezers are still in my hand. I open my eyes and notice God rubbing the thorns out, with both hands, like a potter with clay, He is massaging the thorn in my foot — the one that plagues me the most and keeps me from following Him to the ends of the earth.
“God, don’t You know how long this is going to take?”
“Shh, child, I’m working here.”
“But I brought the tweezers. And alcohol swabs to keep infection out. And band-aids to stop the bleeding.”
“Or we can do it My way and you won’t need any of those.”
“But I have things to do for You. Places to go. And if you do it my way I’ll be on my way, livin’ to bring you glory starting in just a few minutes.”
“I have some extra glory saved up,” God smiles. “What’s your rush? Besides, while I have you here, there’s been some things I’ve been wanting to teach you.”
And, of course, He has my foot in His hand, so I’m all ears.
What is my rush? Why am I so eager for God to heal me now, when I have the opportunity to sit and be ministered to by His hands and Spirit? Because I have to be honest, most days I’d rather be doing for God more than I’d rather be with God. I have books to write, bible studies to research, women to share coffee with, and church to attend. I have kids to bring up in the ways of the Lord, I have a husband to partner with in ministry, and I have only seven short days a week to do this.
And I could move a whole lot faster if He’d just take the stupid tweezers and get the thorns out.
Part of me whispers, “But how would I feel about God if the pain were unbearable?”
Recently, we brought our daughter home from Ethiopia. The first two months home with her were a blur of doctors’ office waiting rooms, a flurry of immunizations, pharmacies, and anti-fungal creams. We had a nasty bout with parasites and were ready for vacation. It was going to be a thousand mile car ride to the island my husband grew up on — but aside from an act of God, nothing was going to keep us from this vacation. We needed it. I couldn’t imagine life without it.
The night before we were supposed to leave, I am cleaning my daughter after she used the toilet and I notice that something isn’t right. In fact, something is terribly wrong “down there.” Without adding too many disturbing details, she had an infection that her immune system wasn’t equipped to handle and an invasion of tiny bacteria had caused pustules and infection that swelled beneath the skin and desperately needed to be drained.
The doctor ordered salt baths and drainage of each pocket of infection until everything was healed. Here was the clincher — I had to drain the infection myself because our vacation was going to be in Canada and our insurance didn’t work up there. And, even if it did, we were going to be on an island — an island with my new daughter who was just starting to like me.
Every morning and every night I gave her a dose of “medicine.” She screamed and thrashed and cried while I pinned her sweet little legs down and begged her to forgive me when it was all over. The look in her eyes let me know that she wasn’t sure she could do it.
We had worked so hard on understanding each other and I was ruining it. It took over a month to rebuild the trust with her I lost during those three weeks. She wouldn’t even let me wash her in the bath or change her clothes without shutting down emotionally while we were hanging out together. It broke my heart. And I decided there had to have been a better way to heal her. I decided I would never do it that way again should the need arise.
My hope is in the truth that God’s way is better than my way. So I’ll put the tweezers back on the shelf and let God work. And while I’m here, I think I’ll listen while He works. Someone told me the best way to hear from God was to give Him a chance to speak.
So I will sit quietly while He massages the thorn out of my foot and listen, because if I know God, He has something He’s wanted to talk to me about anyway. And since He has my foot, I’m all ears.
Suddenly, it sinks in that He’s going to heal part of what’s been ailing me today. I get excited.
“So which one are you pulling out today, God? Is it the insecurity I feel about my writing? Or maybe it’s the one where I feel like I’m always trying to make everyone happy? Oh! Wait! Can you get this one up here? The one that looks like jealousy? It’s really starting to do some damage to my marriage and the thorn in my foot doesn’t hurt nearly as much as the thorn in my finger.”
“Shh, child. I’m working.”
I cross my arms and then quickly uncross them, slightly embarrassed at how childish I look.
“Fine. Next time, then. Can you get the one in my finger next time?”
“Of course, I can.”
I sigh. God reminds me a bit of one of my old English teachers. “Will you?”
“I was hoping we could talk a little about this one right here in your foot today, because once it’s out, I’m going to have some new expectations of you. There have been some opportunities you’ve turned down in the past and I’m hoping that with your foot healed, you might consider the journey.”
I can hardly believe that God has something for me to do and somewhere for me to go. I swell with excitement — and since He has my foot, I’m all ears.
Isaiah 55:13 talks about the power of God’s word and its ability to landscape some harsh terrain.
Instead of the thornbush will grow the pine tree,
and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the LORD’s renown,
for an everlasting sign,
which will not be destroyed.”
God’s not finished with me, yet. That’s my Hope. Because it was all finished with Jesus, I can wake up every morning and know that if I meet with Him, He has a work to do in me, but I need to hoist myself up out of bed, and position myself before Him and get in His word.
From the mouth of God comes power and change. His word has the ability to create and destroy. I want to be under the reconstructing power of His word.
He’s not finished with me yet. As my head hits the pillow every night, the day’s events and conversations replay themselves in my head and I cringe. I murmur a prayer of thanks, because in a few short hours I will wake up and meet with Him and He can continue the work.
He’s not finished with me yet.