Sudden Loss of Veneer

Let me make a confession. In a certain way, I love when things go awry. When the plot thickens. When unforeseen issues come up that require improvisation.

I don’t love when bad things happen. But I do love when things don’t go according to plan.

I almost feel guilty saying it (it is in fact happening right now to my plans for the next couple of days), but in the midst of all the very real challenges, there is a certain freedom that comes about when expectations have been dashed.

When we begin to play the first song at a worship night it doesn’t take long for me to flub a note, play the wrong chord, or sing off-key. Then I really relax and settle in and it gets good. When I’m teaching and I mess up my first phrase or a truth doesn’t land like I thought it would, there is a shift:

I stop thinking about how I am being thought about.

I have often laughed with musician friends that when you buy a new instrument, you can’t really write a good song on it until you ding it on the corner of the coffee table. Call it “impact christening.” The ruining of fragile perfection transforms your guitar in more ways than just the ding in the finish. Before impact, your instrument is a hallowed, perfect, beautiful thing that is to be guarded and protected. After impact, it’s ready to be about something greater than itself. That’s why I love the look of a vintage mandolin; it seems truer with all it’s scratches and dings and places where the finish has rubbed off.

We are instruments and we need to lose our shiny finish.

They call an instrument like that “distressed” but for me it’s not distressed. It’s relieved. I’m much more distressed when I’m trying to protect my image. I’m relieved after the first mistake, the impact christening, the sudden loss of my veneer. I almost want to stop and announce, “OK, now that we have established that I am not going to be perfect, I am in a good mood and we are all going to have an amazing time together!”

The freedom of it all is so wonderful. The shedding of who we think we should be and the unveiling of who we are makes room for God. You see, God doesn’t indwell who we pretend to be. He can only indwell us. I believe this is what Jesus was talking about when he said “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.” (Matthew 10:39 NIV)

God often uses issues, problems, and failures to thwart our false identities so we can have an opportunity to bring our true selves to the party. The selves that he imagined when he thought of us. The true selves that carry the life of God.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
– 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (NIV)

One of my favorite memories of my Papa, my grandfather on my mom’s side, was that when he wanted a cold drink he would take an ice cube tray out of the freezer, remove one ice cube and throw it on the kitchen floor and then proceed to casually fill his glass with ice. If you were watching this ritual for the first time you would laugh and ask “why did you do that?” and he would explain that if he didn’t throw one on the floor to begin with, he would end up fumbling with the rest of them, and probably end up with half the tray on the linoleum.

We would all do well to be as proactive.

February 13, 2013