Stones. They are everywhere. Stumbling stones, stepping stones, stones for throwing, stones for piling. In the bible, stones are used for remembering. This is a place for me to pile my own rough stones of remembering along the road I am traveling, one post at a time. They are more than mere words thrown out into the wake of my path. They are a concrete testament of God's faithfulness, provision and goodness along the way.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Velvet Vice

I heard about the velvet vice a few weeks ago in a Chip Ingram video. He used it to very briefly refer to God's pattern of pressure and release on our lives. It is a remarkable analogy and has really helped me recognize the gift of pressure and cause me to explore it further in my own mind. It is not a pleasurable experience to feel the tightening of the vice. We stiffen, buck, twist and turn trying to evade it. And yet James 1:2 refers to this pressure as something we should consider "pure joy" or as the Message says, a "sheer gift";

"Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith is forced into the open and shows its true colors. 

Your faith is forced into the open. Somewhere inside us, under all the fears and insecurities and anxieties lies something that God has gifted to each of us when we first opened our ears and hearts and lives to Him.  It is the heartbeat of our walk with Him, and without it is impossible to please Him (Heb 11:6).

I have to admit I squirm when people refer to my faith and pair it with words like "inspiring". As if I possess the kind of faith it takes to walk this road, when really... my daily life oozes with faithlessness. In much the same way that courage is not the absence of fear, but the willingness to act in spite of it, so it is with faith. We are not (yet) people of great faith. This is not a fun experience for us and while we seek to keep our courage and cling to peace like a lifeline, most of the time I feel like I am floundering in an open ocean being kept afloat by nothing more than the knowledge that He is sovereign and He will not let us drown. A truth I need to remind myself of daily.

Daily I struggle with multiple variations of "what if's" and feel panic begin in my chest and rise to my throat when I contemplate the uncharted (for us, we know He holds the master map) territory ahead. Daily the questions how and when and where and who  tumble around in my weary mind and daily I have to re-surrender them, take a big shaky breath and remind myself that the faith walk requires us to let go of the need to know and embrace the two simple commands to trust and obey.

As I contemplate the pressure and release pattern of the velvet vice I come to see that as the pressure mounts, our faithlessness is forced to the surface first, as though the fingers of God are squeezing out a sliver of deadwood. And as we submit to having the ugly forced into the open, behind it the pressure is forming something beautiful. Faith like a diamond.  Just as a diamond can't form void of pressure, my faith can not be refined without it either.

To view faith as the diamond that God is forming in me that will sparkle for eternity in the light of His glory brings a quickening to my heart. How can one forget the moment the velvet box was opened and we were presented with a diamond in a setting of gold and the question that set our hearts to pounding? To view my life as an I do, and my faith as the diamond pledge to the lover of my soul changes how I respond to pressure. Instead of seeking to squeeze my way out of it, I will submit to His intentions to squeeze the impurities out of me.

"So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well developed, not deficient in any way." James 1:4