We are always on the anvil; by trials God is shaping us for higher things.
~ Henry Ward Beecher
For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, Who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. … But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may He manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.
~ paul, The Least of The Apostles, in 2 Corinthians 4
Oh beloved, it is true. The physical always reveals the spiritual. Through the mysterion of our first birth, we are given a clue. In intimate relationship between male and female, we are conceived. A seed pierces an egg, and with a photonic flash of actual light, the two samples of G_d’s image combine to render another; the light also having implanted eternity into the heart of this being. This new-wrought life is then covered in the protection of its mother, and sealed to a rich bed of life-giving blood to comfort, nurture, and guide until (and even after) the soon-coming crisis of entering a new world that is drenched in air, rather than water.
To be born, though, is to endure a crisis. This is triggered by a mystifying cascade of 50 or so biomechanical messengers. Weighing (in total), no more than a few nanograms – a bewilderingly complex scope and sequence of events takes a baby, and forces it to be delivered from the mother. Within a few hours, a being that has lived inside the mother, now lives distinct from her.
However, the process is far from gentle. Generally, the process taxes the mother to the end of her strength, and the baby being delivered, is forcefully pushed around, and pressed through a birth canal that is usually far too narrow for this kind of event.
Can we see it? The entire process of natural birth is a microcosm of our new birth in Christ. This new birth, though, is exceedingly more violent than the first. While natural birth is a trial, our new birth is a slaughter.
When we come to follow Him, The Word speaks clearly as to what happens to us. As we reach out to Him, we touch the eternal and trans-temporal hand of G_d. And, this contact draws us into the timeless event of the Cross of Jesus. We, in the moment of our conversion, are drawn into the suffering of Christ, and die with Him.
However, we not only drawn into the triumphal death of Jesus, we are drawn down with Him into the grave. But, just like Jesus, we go down through a death so deep, that we emerge through the bottom of that valley, into a deeper, and much more real world that is nothing but Life. Death is beaten; tested all the way to its depths, and found wanting. And we are raised with Him – never to die again.
And, this is really good news. Anything short of this would not prepare us for the final marches of this life, as we sojourn in the falling dark of a tomb which we call: This World.
While we know that the sufferings of this present world are nothing in comparison to the glory to be revealed in us, the truth is that the suffering is real. We endure violence, and lust. We fight the decaying flesh melting away within our larger spirit. We are hated. We are rejected. We get sick. We lose jobs. We lose friends and family. It is as though we are undergoing a decades long delivery – and passing through a birth canal that exerts a crushing pressure akin to a hammer striking the work laid upon an anvil.
And the hammering never stops.
While mysterious at first, if we ask Him to show us this process through His eyes, He shows us that the hammering is what enables us to fully depend on Him. Grace is Him empowering us with His Very Self, that comes as the hammer falls on our lives. God steps into that deep part of us and draws the new creation we are to the forefront – in much the same way that a master blacksmith draws out a sword edge from an ingot of some alloy. And, as we yield to His work, lives get changed, eternity gets different, and God looks more real to those who see the power in our lives.
So, are you getting hammered by life? Good. We are in the womb of G_d. We are protected against permanent damage, and comforted through the process. Soon, the infants we now are, will be formed into fully mature sons and daughters of The Almighty – who will be delivered into a Kingdom which will have no end.
Rest on the hardness of the anvil. Let life strike. All is well.
When Christianity says that God loves man it means that God LOVES man: not that He has some ‘disinterested’; because really indifferent, concern for our welfare, but that in awful and surprising truth, we are the objects of His love. You asked for a loving God: you have one. The great spirit you so lightly invoked, the ‘lord of terrible aspect’, is present: not a senile benevolence that drowsily wishes you to be happy in your own way, not the cold philanthropy of a conscientious magistrate, nor the care of a host who feels responsible for the comfort of his guests, but the consuming fire Himself, the Love that made the worlds…
…How this should be, I do not know: it passes reason to explain why any creatures, not to say creatures such as we should have a value so prodigious in their Creator’s eyes. It is certainly a burden of glory, not only beyond our deserts but also, except in rare moments of grace, beyond our desiring; we are inclined, like the maidens in the old play, to deprecate the love of Zeus… [so] We were made not primarily that we may love God (though we were made for that too) but that God may love us, that we may become the objects in which the Divine love may rest ‘well pleased’… [and] To ask that God’s love should be content with us as we are is to ask that God should cease to be God: because He is what He is, His love must, in the nature of things, be impeded and repelled, by the certain stains in our present character, and because He already loves us He must labour to make us lovable.”
~ CS Lewis