Monday, October 13, 2008

Rebuilding Piece by Peace

No, that isn't a typo in the title. It's a deliberate play on words--God rebuilds "peace" in our lives by reassembling the "pieces" of shattered dreams. The following poem (first published in Sol Magazine in September 2002, and reprinted in New Covenant Connections in November/December 2002) was originally written to commemorate the first anniversary of 9/11/01; but the message is relevant to anyone whose life has been effectively smashed to pieces--whether by a natural disaster like Hurricane Ike, or a private storm such as the loss of a career or the sudden death of a loved one.

God rarely heals such injuries instantly. We may wish that such miracles as in the New Testament were routine today: wouldn't it be wonderful if a tumor shriveled up overnight; if damaged muscles regained full function in a second; if the victims of sudden disaster were restored to life? Such things do still occasionally happen; in a few circles they even seem to happen on a regular basis. But most of us, however sincere our devotion and strong our faith, heal slowly. And why is it that many injuries never heal completely in this life, but leave us with permanent scars (physical or otherwise)?

No one has ever come up with a completely satisfactory answer as to why God allows so many of His children to suffer long and terrible pain. But perhaps we would ask the question less often--or at least with less bitterness and despair--if we remembered that God's highest purpose for us is not a constant state of pleasure and comfort. It is that we become fit citizens for His eternal Kingdom: patient; compassionate; trusting; and content, even joyful, to receive whatever He gives us. To remake natural, selfish human nature so thoroughly, He has to dig down deep, sometimes even pull us inside out.

It often hurts quite a bit--and all the more when we haven't done anything obvious to "deserve" suffering. Few of us really appreciate that God doesn't just want "decent" or "nice guy" followers; as far as He's concerned, we aren't finished works until we become unreservedly loyal and totally unselfish. That is the greatest miracle of healing--and like all healing, it usually happens bit by bit. Why is it so slow? Maybe for the same reason that the human author goes through a half dozen drafts before publication; there's just something about the "rush job" approach that makes most final products seem sloppy, inferior, not quite finished. To make something the best it can be requires time and attention to detail.

We all remain in the rough-draft phase throughout our earthly lives. But it should be some comfort to know that God regards us not as problems to be fixed, but as beautiful works of art to be lovingly perfected. And the Christ in Whose image we are being made over does understand when we feel sick of the whole process.

Remember that He Himself carries permanent scars.

When disaster's dust has settled,
When light dawns on a brand new day,
Life cannot be rebuilt in an instant:
Piece by piece is the only way.

When a human heart is shattered,
With no hint of a chance to mend,
The deep wounds will not heal in a second,
But a seed is planted within.

It may not mature for a season;
It will not reach full flower in a night;
But the final result's worth the waiting:
Inch by inch is the path toward light.

As the winter warms to springtime,
As the sun lights the world each dawn,
So the soul comes to life as time passes,
And, with strength fresh and new, goes on.

If a soul knows only pleasure,
Beauty soon proves shallow at best.
Scars can shine with a glorious splendor
When adorning a soul at rest.

When life seems to become a dungeon,
When there seems no hope of release,
That's the time to start gathering pieces:
Piece by piece is the path to peace!

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