Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Magic Tablecloth

Life is messy, but I have a magic tablecloth! So when spills occur (notice I said "when" and not "if"), they are much easier to take care of.

For years I've had vinyl tablecloths covering my dining room table because invariably when I'd succumb to the temptation to put on a nicer fabric cloth, I'd be taking it off to throw in the wash after the very next meal (sigh). Maybe someday ...

But hope springs eternal, and one day I put a new fabric cloth on the table and when the milk was spilt it immediately became a little ball that looked like a pearl! And if you lifted the tablecloth, the ball rolled around! A few more intentionally flicked drops of milk, to our delight, had the same effect. It was a magic tablecloth! The spills would sit on top of the fabric long enough to be cleaned up. No longer were they immediately absorbed into the weave.

Life is messy. Things happen to us that have the potential to permanently stain. Acute disappointment, betrayal, unfair treatment, cruel words, unmet expectations—and the list goes on and on; when these things happen (notice I said "when" and not "if") what kind of souls do we have?

There are plastic people out there—whatever happens to them just seems to roll right off them. I think we've all known and wondered about them. But then there are the rest of us, who think and dream and live and love deeply, and when something happens we take it into our hearts much like a stain settling into the weave of our being. If it stays there long enough it becomes almost impossible to remove, and therefore we'll always carry a blot of that mess. I don't want to be that person who says, "Well, twenty years ago this happened and I've never gotten over it / refuse to forget it / remember like it was yesterday how I was hurt." I don't want to carry with me every one of life's painful experiences.

Psalms 18:30 says "As for God, his way is perfect. All the LORD's promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to him for protection." I've always pictured God's protection like a fort with strong walls available for me to run into, but let me venture to say that this shield of protection that's offered to us is similar to the scotch guard finish on my magic tablecloth.

When my soul is splattered with the messiness of life, the knowledge that God is aware of every detail of my life (Psalms 37:23) acts as a buffer to my soul. Knowing that He sees and care and that He will take care of me allows me to isolate the incident and view it from His perspective first and not let it immediately seep in to damage my heart. Seeing it contained this way makes it easier to deal with.

Recently something I'd been pouring my life into was upended and spilled all over my heart. My first response was "Okay, Lord, what do I do with this?" Because I first looked to him, the incident sat on top of my heart instead of soaking in. So I looked at it, and rolled it around, and had some wise, trusted friends also look at the situation, and we all came to the same conclusion: "This is what happened, this is who you are … put it behind you and move on." And I did.

Come look at my heart—no stain mars its peace for God really is a shield to all those who look to Him for protection, to those who follow the words of Philippians 4:6-7 "Don't worry about anything; instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank Him for what He has done. If you do this you will experience God's peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus."

Will there be messes? Yes.
Do I have to bear a stain in my soul for every painful experience? No. Absolutely not. For God has promised to be a shield of protection for us, and when we turn things over to Him that He will give us peace beyond our ability to understand why we should be peaceful about this when it was really not a peace promoting kind of thing. My heart needs that kind of protection and God has promised to provide which makes a magic tablecloth nothing compared to this!

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