Play-Doh. What child doesn’t love playing with the colorful, pliable, squishy substance? You can take it and mold it into whatever you want. Well, almost. You can’t make a full size house out of Play-Doh (or can I…?). Anyway, you can make LOTS of things out of Play-Doh. Your imagination is the key and the possibilities are endless. I think that’s a great analogy for who we are with God.
A preacher named Jonathan Edwards once delivered a sermon – “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” The sermon is fairly well-known in preacher circles. He preaches about how our fate is the fires of Hell and only the will of God keeps us from that eternal destiny. I tell you all that to say the title of this blog post is a play on the title of Edwards famous sermon. I am not so prone to see myself as a sinner in the hands of an angry God. I tend to see myself as Play-Doh in the hands of a hopeful God.
I believe that God has created us OUT OF love. I believe that God created us FOR love. I believe God wants to mold us in a way that allows us to love most deeply and to help others feel loved most honestly. I believe that if we will give ourselves over to God – truly give ourselves over to God in every aspect of our life – then we will find ourselves being shaped in ways we may not fully understand, but in ways that will best serve our desire to love and be loved. I believe God wants to give us a life of great significance that leads us to a depth of joy and peace we cannot find on our own. I also believe it won’t happen without our permission.
I once heard a pastor talking about Paul’s words in his letter to the Romans – he urges the believers to offer their bodies as a “living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God…” (Romans 12:1). The pastor acknowledged the difficulty of being a “living” sacrifice is not so much that we have to put our life on the altar and allow God to use it as God sees fit (or, in keeping with my Play-Doh analogy, to mold us as God sees best). This preacher explained that the greater difficulty comes in STAYING on the altar. The challenge of a “living sacrifice” is its ability to crawl back down off the altar.
That truth resonated with me because, well, that’s me. I am regularly coming to God in prayer and quietness asking God, in the words of the hymn, to “take my life and let it be consecrated Lord to thee.” My heart so longs to be shaped by God, and yet, at the same time, my heart wants to go its own way. The Play-Doh I had as a child is not the same type of substance God has to work with. God’s subject matter is a living person with a will of his own and the gift of freedom to use that will. In other words, I can step away from the hands of God and seek to shape my own life. The only way God shapes me is if I allow God to shape me.
When I do crawl off the altar, when I do try to shape my own life – and it is far too often that I do – my life tends to be just a lumpy, unformed mess. Oh, I convince myself I can get my act together. I read books that tell me I can shape myself into the leader/pastor/father/person I want to be. But it’s not true. It never really happens. Oh, I can make it look like something for a minute or two, but it soon falls apart.
My only hope, OUR only hope, is to put ourselves into the hands of a hopeful God. The God who has high hopes for us and great plans for us. The God who created us and is ready to mold us in ways that allow us to give love and know love and share love in amazing ways.
And so, my prayer, AGAIN, is that God would help me to stay on the altar where God works to shape my life. My prayer is that I would allow God to do whatever it takes to shape me into a person who loves deeply and helps others know the love of God more truly.
May this be your prayer as well.
Holy high-five to you,