BEING MADE PERFECT
“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance… These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.”
When Jacquie threw a lump of smooth clay onto the wheel head and started the wheel spinning, a miracle began to unfold. With jiggering and jolleying the clay began to take symmetric shape. It widened. It rose. It narrowed and flared gracefully. To me it looked perfect. Jacquie, hands muddied and shirt splattered with grey clay, knew better. She explained the series of steps still necessary for her work of art and function to be complete.
The writer of Hebrews describes a similar process in God’s plan of making His people complete, of followers being made perfect. Unlike clay, those of us who choose to follow God are not merely passive, though. We must somehow apply our God-given faculty of choice to embrace everything God’s hands press into our lives. We call this faith.
Faith submits. Faith sees the invisible. Faith understands, builds, goes, and speaks. Faith prays.
Twice the writer admits that the ancient men and women of faith did not receive what had been promised. But it’s not an embarrassed admission. It’s more of an explanation of a process, a God-ordained business. While we see God’s muddied hands, He sees the final result. He sees His people being made absolutely perfect. Somehow, when His people experience difficult situations yet resist the temptation to reject Him, they are being shaped into something beautiful. Somehow when they find their prayers are not being answered, yet leave the outcome to Him, something truly amazing happens. They are becoming exactly who they were envisioned by God to be.
Prayer is essentially the verbal expression of faith. It’s the means by which we communicate with God our commitment to Him. And perhaps the greatest, most valuable conversations we can have with God are those that surround our unanswered prayers. Here we feel the weight of being clay in the hands of a much greater Being. We feel jiggered and jolleyed, hard-pressed on every side, painfully disappointed at times. God’s plans are good plans, but He never promised they would be easy plans. When, by faith, we ask Him to move in our lives and in the lives of our loved ones, He will do exactly that. But His ways are not our ways. His wisdom surpasses ours more than a potter’s mind exceeds the mind of a wad of clay. Take comfort, though. He is working. He is molding and shaping. He will not rest until we are made perfect. His promise will be fulfilled.
On a cold evening when I sit down with a cup of sweet herbal tea, I most often choose one particular mug. It is tall and slender. It flares at the lip. The handle is smooth and slim. The glaze is a mixture of earthy tones of blue and beige like waves at the seashore. It’s one of Jacquie’s works of art. It’s truly perfect and I am reminded of the process of being made perfect and complete. God, make me the work of art and function You envision.