Did you ever go into a pet store and watch the mice run around the wheels in their cages? Around and around they run, going nowhere until they’ve exhausted themselves. Silly mice, we think, what little mice brains.
Sometimes I feel like like one of those silly mice running hard, getting dizzy, and getting nowhere.
Knowing my scatterbrained tendency, I came into this school year all prepared. I printed and laminated my schedule of classes. I bought two daily planners (that way I’ll be able to find one). I stocked my over-sized book bag with multiple pens, highlighters, calculator, and lab glasses. I made sure the car had a full tank and a full CD deck. This year, nothing was going to take me by surprise.
It only took one day to shatter that rosy vision. “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” Perhaps I am not as superior to my furry friends as I like to think. The first day of class flung me right off my whirling wheel.
I missed my first class. Somehow I’d missed the memo that the schedule was changed up for opening day, pushing all classes up an hour. Miss-communication error on my part. And now I had a bag full of heavy textbooks, a useless laminated schedule, an unneeded calculator, and three whole hours to spare before my next class.
So I did what any other normal person would do in the situation — I hightailed it for a coffee shop to study. That was the good part of the day. I drank coffee, I ate a consolatory brownie, and wiped crumbs off my Periodic Table with the “September” page of my daily planner. It was the getting back to school that posed a problem.
I got lost. I have no idea how it happened (OK, maybe I do), but all of a sudden I lost total sense of direction. Let’s blame the second cup of coffee. None of the roads were familiar and more than one I found myself parked once again in front of the coffee shop, clueless as to how I got back there. Oh, silly mice. You’ve got nothing on me.
Finally by a miracle, God heard my fervent pleas for direction, and guided me back to the school. I finally made it to one class that day — with half a gas a tank, a crumbled schedule, tousled hair, and brownie crumbs in my bag.
Later that evening, I sat down to spend some time in the Word. To be honest, I knew I needed it. I felt irritated, tired, and confused. Why couldn’t just one day go smoothly? Why did I have to be reminded every day of my ineptness?
The Lord directed my reading to 1 Thessalonians 4. Because I had extra time, I sat in my car and read my Bible. It came like a refreshing douse of cold water: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification….For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.” The will of God is not my outward presentation or my orderliness or my perfected purposefulness. The will of God is my sanctification. What He wants, more than anything else is for me to be inwardly conformed into the image of His beautiful and holy Son.
I’m realizing that it is a day to day process. A slow, gradual, but steady change. And it is all the work of God. No matter how much I mess things up.
Things don’t go as I plan them. Oh, have I learned that. There are missed classes, miss-communications, misdirections. But that doesn’t mean there is no plan. God is sovereign even over human mistakes and foolishness. His will — my sanctification — is being worked in me. In spite of me. And he uses moments like my first day of school to increase my trust in His will.
So, how do I respond to situations that come up? As accidents or frustrations or interruptions? Or as stepping stones and training ground in God’s work of sanctifying me? Every moment can be used as an opportunity to draw nearer to Christ and seek His likeness to be formed in me. Temptation to grumble is an opportunity for prayer. Loss of control is an opportunity to increase my faith. Irritations are an opportunity to cultivate patience and self-control. Periods of waiting are an opportunity to spend time with Jesus and His Word.
Martin Luther described this soul-beautifying process this way:
“This life therefore is not righteousness but growth in righteousness;
not health but healing;
not being but becoming;
not rest but exercise.
We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it.
The process is not finished, but it is going on.
This is not the end, but it is the road.
All does not yet gleam in glory, but all is being purified.”
We need to keep that end in sight. “We who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:17) This is my hope beyond present cloudy skies. One day, all of Christ will be all mine. I will know Him purely without the shortsightedness of my human frailty. There will be perfect communication and harmony between His heart and mine. That is the goal that I am now being purified for. It is enough to give me joy in trying circumstances. The joy of the Lord is my strength.
“Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” I am so thankful that I don’t have to do it. Goodness knows I’d get lost or misplace the master plan. Lord, teach me to submit to Your Master plan. Teach me to not be so caught up in what I’m not doing right to miss what You are doing. Even if it means missing classes, missing turns, and feeling no smarter than a pet-store mouse.
I’ll run in circles for Your glory.