Every day, I live some and I die some; I save some, and I lose some. I find life, and I lose life. Kingdom living is like that. Jesus said, “Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.” (Lk. 17:33, NKJV) Eugene Peterson’s The Message put it this way: ‘If you grasp and cling to life on your terms, you’ll lose it, but if you let that life go, you’ll get life on God’s terms.’ An interesting phrase: ‘… life on God’s terms.’ It sounds, well, almost un-American, doesn’t it? Freedom in Christ is not the same thing as ‘freedom in America.’ As a citizen of the United States, I get to vote. I get to have a say in the way things happen. But, as a citizen of the Kingdom? No vote. No seeking a plurality, or majority, or consensus. As I lose my life in Him, I get ‘life on God’s terms.’
I have come to appreciate that the formative years of my life are, somehow, never over. The peel of the hammer pinging on the anvil of my life never stops. The feel of the Foundry Fire on my face never seems to diminish. Or, to use a different metaphor, the potter’s wheel never stops revolving, and The Potter never stops touching the soft and worthless clay of which I am being ‘made into his likeness.’ There are moments or seasons in my life when I wish it weren’t so, because formation can be a violent and painful process. And yet, I am, at least on some level, grateful he doesn’t leave me in the miserable state I am in, but is, forever, fashioning my life in spite of all I can do, into something He is pleased with. Life on His terms, not mine. Nothing else matters.
The fact that I might not particularly like the sound of life on God’s terms is of little consequence to him, being the Sovereign that he is. God works for my benefit and His glory, whether I like the sound of it or not. I hear the ping of the hammer. In the midst of the fray, I see sparks flying as His formational hand changes me, transforms me, one day at a time. I lose some of ‘me,’ and I gain more of His likeness. Slowly, perhaps imperceptibly, He fashions and forms my inner man into what He had in mind when He thought of me. Although I am ‘made in His image,’ God doesn’t look like me. He wants me to look like Him. And, I must avoid the temptation of thinking that ‘being made in his likeness’ means the same thing as ‘being made into something he likes.’ I must continually re-settle the issue of ‘life on His terms.’ God doesn’t like me. God loves me. And life on His terms means being brought into conformity with the image of His Son.
It’s no wonder the formational years never end, and the noise of the hammer, and the heat of flame, and spinning, spinning, spinning of the wheel never stops. I need a lot of work. And if I imagine, in my wildest dreams, that I’ve got a lot of living ahead of me, well then, I’ve got a lot of dying ahead of me, too. I’d better buckle up. In the words of that old war horse, the Apostle Paul, ‘I am crucified with Christ (every day) nevertheless, I live (every day) and the life I live every day I live by faith in the Son of God who loves me (every day) and gave his life for me.’ If I grasp and cling to life on my terms, I’ll lose it, but if I let that life go, I’ll get life on God’s terms.
No matter how you measure it, that’s an incredible trade. His ever-present touch brings comfort, health, learning, and ‘forever change’ to an open and hungry heart. May I never stop listening for ping of His hammer.
How about you? Feel free to share your experience about the ‘formation’ process God has used in your life.