Merriam-Webster defines discernment as “the quality of being able to grasp and comprehend what is obscure; skill in discerning; an act of perceiving or discerning something” (quote source here).
2020 has certainly been an interesting year so far–a year unlike any other in recent history thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic and everything else that has come from it. While pandemics are nothing new in the history of the World (see this link for the 20 top pandemics in history), most of us have never experienced a pandemic on the level of this particular pandemic known as Coronavirus or Covid-19.
And, in a few short days, another presidential election is taking place here in the USA, and it is one of the most fiercely contentious elections of our time, capable of fracturing friendships, relationships (social, church, familial, and work/business related), and every other social unit in our society. As volatile as it has been you might even be convinced that Armageddon (and no, not the 1998 movie starring Bruce Willis) is right around the corner.
However, in the midst of all of this “stuff” that 2020 has thrown our way, the good news is this: Stop watching the news on TV (I can almost guarantee that you’ll start feeling better), and wear a mask when around others at a close distance (whether you believe wearing a mask helps or not), and things will start looking brighter… I say that “tongue in cheek” as recently I went without a TV for almost three weeks after I moved from a hotel room that supplied a 42″ wall mounted TV in the room to an unfurnished apartment where I needed to buy my own TV, and it took almost three weeks before I got to the point where I bought a small 32″ flatscreen TV. And during those “no TV” three weeks I discovered a tranquility of sorts that I had not felt in a long time because I was no longer getting a daily dose of “news” from the TV.
The title of this post (it is not meant to sound ominous) has more to do with discerning the times in our own personal lives then in world events, so scratch off “Armageddon” as the main theme. It’s hard enough discerning our own place and time in history without taking it to a global level. What made me think about it is due to how suddenly my life changed back at the beginning of October when I found this apartment to rent after six years of hotel room living while trying to find an affordable income based senior apartment in a senior apartment complex. None ever opened up to me in all that time, and when I decided in late September that I was done searching for it, I found this apartment (not in a senior complex) practically “overnight.” I’m still shocked at just how fast it happened. I’m very happy about it, too. However, it has been an adjustment going from living in a hotel room to living back in an apartment after six plus years.
It also reminds me of something stated in James 4:13-14:
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.
None of us knows what tomorrow will bring, even with all of our plans and assumptions. As I look back on my six years of hotel room living that I never thought would last so long, I’ve lost count of the number of times I prayed for God to open another door and provide me with an apartment in an income-based senior apartment complex, but it never happened. However, I never had a clue that I would end up finding an apartment where I am now living as it seemed out of the realm of possibility. It wasn’t even on my radar screen, but it feels exactly like this is where I am supposed to live for now. And after six very long years of looking, suddenly this opportunity opened up to me.
I’ve written previous blog posts on the topic of the “bigger picture” that is always going on all around us on a daily basis, and in God’s economy that “bigger picture” that He sees and orchestrates that we do not see is always at work (see Isaiah 55:8-9). He sees the entire tapestry of history in the making, and we are all pieces in it but we cannot see the whole picture.
In my last blog post published 12 days ago titled, “Never Too Late,” in an article titled, “God’s Waiting Room,” by Dr. Duane Durst, he stated, “Waiting on God requires us to put aside our way of doing things and trust His timing and plan.” While God is always working on the “bigger picture,” He is also always working on us individually and especially during prolonged times of waiting.
As I look back on my six years of hotel room living and even previous to that going back to when I lost my last job in my career field over 11 years ago that started me down this path I have taken for the past dozen years, I can look back on that time and see some major changes in my life that evolved over time–positive changes–and my whole world opened up in ways I never would have experienced or understood had my life kept going down the “status quo” career path it had been taking. I became aware of a lot of things going on in our society and around the world that I never would have known had it not been for these past 11 plus years. And in the process I’ve learned a lot about myself that has widened my world and given me some life experiences I never would have had, and yes, that includes hotel living. You’d be amazed at how many people in our society have no other housing option other then living in hotel rooms.
In an article titled, “5 Ways God Shapes You,” by Dr. Saundra Dalton, a Board Certified internal medicine physician, she writes:
Clay is not easy to work with. One day my son returned from school with a white substance on his clothes. When I asked about it he replied, “Sorry mom, my clay was too wet.” His class was attempting to make cups as gifts, but someone put too much water in the clay mixture. Instead of a firm sturdy, pliable clay that could molded, what they had to work with was a sticky, gooey, weak mixture that refused to conform to the desired shape.
Before clay can be put upon the wheel, it has to be properly prepared. It has to be supple enough to adapt to change, yet firm enough to not collapse under pressure. Just like clay, before God can begin remaking and changing us, there are some preparations that have to occur.
“Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was making something at the wheel. Yet the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make it” (Jer. 18:3-4).
God sent Jeremiah down to the potter’s house to reveal more of Himself in a very tangible way. God still uses life as a classroom, guiding us into His truths. Every event, hardship, failure, sin, and success is a part of our personalized lesson plan. Learning the lesson will require being able to see the situation through God’s eyes. His ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts (Isaiah 58:8). Seeing life through a heavenly lens puts it in a new perspective. Spending time in His presence can open the door to God revealing to you what type of vessel He wants to make you into. Once you get a glimpse of God’s vision for your life, you have to then be willing to go through His process for change. No vessel is so flawed that it cannot be made new. Each can be reworked into a useful vessel in the hands of the Potter.
The 5 Stages of Godly Change
Brokenness is a prerequisite for a life change. It is a state of complete yielding to doing things God’s way. You no longer desire for there to be any distance between you and God. You can feel the disconnection that comes from unconfessed sin in your life. Your desire is to turn away from whatever has marred you. You want nothing more than to be restored. I love how the Scripture states it “marred in the hand of the potter.” Even when you mess up the worst you can imagine, He still has not left you alone. Your life and destiny were always in the palm of His hands.
Ironically, the journey to being remade, restored and renewed starts with being crushed. The NLT states, “But the jar he was making did not turn out as he had hoped, so he crushed it into a lump of clay again and started over.” Isaiah 53:5 (NLT) says, “He was crushed for our sins.” Jesus shows us that being crushed is not a sign of defeat, but a part of God’s plan for redemption. Accept God’s invitation to take all past sins to the cross, nail them there and leave them. Then allow him to place you on the potter’s wheel.
Once reduced to the point of wanting nothing more than the potter’s touch, you are ready to be molded. You have come to the end of yourself and what you feel you can do to change your situation. You now know that only His touch can mend the broken and crushed places in your life. “Yet you, LORD, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” (Isaiah 64:8) He knows the right amount of pressure to apply to your life and when to loosen His grasp, as He molds you into a useable vessel.
Once your new characteristics begin to take form, you are moved into a season of intense heat. God’s loving fire comes to strengthen you leading to permanent change. This fire may not feel loving during the process, but as impurities are pushed out you are drawn closer and closer to God. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) It is during this stage that God adorns you with the glaze of His glory, and you become a living reflection of Christ.
Once taken off the potter’s wheel, you are never alone. Rather than simply sending you off to fulfill your purpose, the potter deposits a part of Himself inside of you. “Be filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18) He fills you with Living Water so that you may pour out His love and truth into the lives of others. It is not something that you can do on your own, but is a gift from the potter. It is a sign that He is ready for you to be put into service. It does not suggest that you have reached perfection, but rather that you are now useable for the purpose for which He created you. He has never been interested in perfect vessels, only usable vessels. Do not be afraid of failure. If you become marred, He can make you over again. (Quote source here.)
While my living situation dramatically and totally changed three weeks ago, I still take life one day at a time. There are new people to meet and encounter, and new things to learn, and I’m looking forward to seeing what each new day brings in my new surroundings.
I’ll end this post with the words from Proverbs 3:5-6 that have played a key role in my life (and they still do, too): Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him…
And He . . .
Shall direct . . .
Your paths . . . .
YouTube Video: “Canvas and Clay (Live)” by Pat Barrett ft. Ben Smith:
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