I have spent more time in the garden this week. Planting and tenting tomatoes and capsicum, just in case there are any frosts in these next weeks to the middle of October. I was listening to an audio book and having a discussion with God about writing. I’m always talking to Jesus about something - all the time, it’s quite easy, try it. Writing is “The Thing” for me. It’s what I have always wanted to do, and it seems that now, the timing is right. So we’re chatting, and I’m turning over the fattest worms I’ve seen for a long time – which is a great sign for my tomatoes - and he comes up with this line which sounds like it’s out of one of the Anne of Green Gables movies. “Just write what you know.”
This is good advice. However it doesn’t necessarily mean that what I write is going to be any good. Lots of people write what they know, and it doesn’t turn out to be anything flash.
Unless I am able to translate what I know into something that people want to read, even if I think it’s interesting, it could just be a waste of time, or become an expensive exercise - that’s what vanity press publishing companies have built their entire business structures around… Selah.
When God said to me “Write what you know”, I then had a disturbing week examining what He considered it important for me to know.
So the challenge then arose. What do I know? This didn’t apply to writing, although for me that would be one of the end products, one visible and tangible expression of what I can do, coming out of what I know.
This question was not about the breadth of knowledge that we possess, or the wealth of experience that we have had, or shared.
As I was wrestling with a situation, He showed me a brief glimpse of something. It was a skeleton inside a body, like in the old Encyclopaedia Britannica with the transparent flip pictures that show the different pictures of muscles organs, skin etc.
The bones are the scaffolding structure. In the body the scaff is internal, it allows us to stand upright, to live and breathe. It is the most basic structure possible in some ways; (being intricately fashioned in and of itself, mind) but without it, we would be jellies on the ground without any hope of life. Our muscles could not work without a scaffold to attach to, in order to function around. This would first mean that breathing would be out, and there goes life for us! Let alone any other function of our bodies…
It’s the scaffolding that I have had cause to examine this week. I don’t know if you’ve ever considered what the distilled essence of you boils down to? What are the few things about you that are the grounding and founding things that everything else is built on?
I think this is what God is doing when He takes us back to our bones. He’s wanting to distill in us the essence of who we really are, and what our truest identity is in Him. This is what is happening whenHe reminds us of who we are, particularly in the unexpected moments. If I want to make sure that what comes out of my mouth, out the ends of my fingers, out of the end of a pencil, is Holy and helpful, it’s the scaffolding that needs to be attended to. To be double checked.
The process of taking us back to our bones, the simplicity of the structure that holds us upright, allows us to breathe, to walk forward, a place to house our brains so that we can actually think. That is what stripping is actually about. It’s not about snatching things away that we love, hurting us, denying us our dreams or other things that we may feel like is happening or be told either by the enemy or by other people.
Why Eustace in the garden? In the book the ‘Voyage of the Dawn Treader’ by C.S.Lewis, Eustace lay and slept on a pile of treasure in a dragons’ cave with greed and selfishness in his heart and when he woke up, he had physically become a dragon. In order to become a person again, Aslan had to strip off the whole dragon skin and he had to wash in a pool.
There were things in the fundamental parts of Eustaces’ character that were not only obvious to other people, but became obvious to him through the process in the cave. His willingness to change occured, and then Aslan stepped in. This is not perfect theology, because God will do what He wants and for some people, His Grace will change things for them, willing or no. That’s not our business. Our business is ourselves. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep, and keep your eyes on Jesus the author and perfector of YOUR faith. (Also a very simple way of looking at it, I know…)
God wants me to be familiar with the bones of who He made me to be, the internal structures of me. When we know intimately the absolute basics of who we are, it’s easier and easier to make the choices to live from those foundations. When our bones are strong, our bodies are strong, and can grow stronger.
When I think about it like that, the process of discovery suddenly becomes exciting, rather than a journey of potential pain. What are the handful of things that God Almighty desires me to be grounded in, really grounded in, so that all the rest of my life is walked out based around these truths.
In Matthew 6:19-23 & Luke 11:33-36 Jesus talks about the eyes being the lamp of the body, and if our eyes are healthy, the rest of the body will be full of light. While we’re being disciplined about what we allow to influence us from the outside, it is also a good idea to work with Jesus on the work of refining, removing and honing what is going on inside.
I have learned that you can be as disciplined as you like about what comes in, but if there’s a cancer on your spiritual bones, it’s still going to influence your behaviour, no matter what kind of choices you try to make…