Playdough in the hands of a hopeful God

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. play_dough_04799Well, 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,
Mike

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2 responses to “Playdough in the hands of a hopeful God

  1. This post is amazing in that it echos a different way of viewing “what this is about” that I came across just last week–and, for me, it has changed everything and made it “doable”. You sum it up with this statement:

    “I believe that God has created us OUT OF love. I believe that God created us FOR love.”

    I have recently discovered the Heidelberg Catechism which has its roots in the 1500’s. As a good Methodist, my view of catechisms was not positive until I ran across this one and started going through it along with “Body & Soul: Reclaiming the Heidelberg Catechism” by M. Craig Barnes. What we, as United Methodists are missing is a catechism. I have come to realize that, in the terms of current pyscho-babble it is a new and different tape that I can play, it is God’s tape of who I am. Not to mention I have gained more head knowledge/understanding/insight of what this is about in a week and a half than I have been able to gather in more than a few decades of “being a good Methodist”–it has been overwhelming. Out of many statements Barnes made that left me with my mouth open, wondering “Why have I not known this before”, this assesment of us “blew the lid off”:

    “We were never created to be mean or hurtful. In Christ, our great Sculptor has removed all the false images from our lives”.

    This gives a whole different perspective as to “what this is about”. We are no longer “bad people” struggling to “become better”, we are now people who, like the prodigal son, are trying to live lives we were never intended to live and God through Christ is inviting us to return to our true roots and live the life we were created for! Furthermore, in the analogy of a very early theologian, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are the “arms” of the Father reaching out to welcome us back.

    John Wesley concurs. I have “held on to” this satement, wondering why it is not part of our liturgy:

    “Glory be to thee, O holy undivided Trinity, for jointly concurring in the great work of our redemption and restoring us again to the glorious.” John Wesley

    I had recently written a statement about “true Methodism”; I rewrote it somewhat after encountering this concept:

    True Methodism is an active, living religion, it is truly the body of Christ in action, whether collectively or individually; that is another thing The UMC has forgotten, it is not necessarily about the collective church being “out there”, it is also about the individuals being “out there”–like the planner of the triathlon–that was not a “church-sanctioned” event, that was one person “out there” publicly declaring his love of a triune God of holy love who is way more verb than noun to 400 athletes–and he did it in the most subtle yet profound way–it was all part and parcel of “who he is”. True Methodism is not about inviting people to church, it is about inviting them to live the life they were created for by enticing them into a relationship with a triune God of holy love who is way more verb than noun: God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, the three working together for our redemption, restoring the image of God in us.

    And yes, in response to an earlier post, Methodism has become more cross than flame; but depending on what congregation you spend time in, and what your family is like, both can be “fuzzy”.

    • One realization given me about our Wesleyan Theology is what we both referred to. Where Calvinists tend to begin with our sinfulness (hence, “sinners in the hands of an angry God”) we, as Wesleyans begin with God’s love – the love which brings us into being in the first place. It is not that we do not believe in hell or that “being saved” is irrelevant. We just believe we are saved not “from the fires of hell” as much as we are saved INTO our true selves – back into the image of God. Thereby we have a greater emphasis on the sanctifying work of the Spirit that transforms us more and more into the likeness of Christ.

      Thanks for the thoughtful comment.

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