January 13

“In all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” Romans 8:37

“This is more than victory. This is a triumph so complete that we have not only escaped defeat and destruction, but we have destroyed our enemies and won a spoil so rich and valuable that we can thank God that the battle ever came. How can we be “more than conquerors”? We can get out of the conflict a spiritual discipline that will greatly strengthen our faith and establish our spiritual character. Temptation is necessary to settle and confirm us in the spiritual life. It is like the fire which burns in the colors of mineral painting, or like winds that cause the mighty cedars of the mountain to strike more deeply into the soil. Our spiritual conflicts are among our choicest blessings, and our great adversary is used to train us for his ultimate defeat. . . Just as the wise sailor can use a head wind to carry him forward by tacking and taking advantage of its impelling force; so it is possible for us in our spiritual life through the victorious grace of God to turn to account the things that seem most unfriendly and unfavorable, and to be able to say continually, ‘The things that were against me have happened to the furtherance of the Gospel.’” (Streams in the Desert)

The setting was familiar—a small church on a quiet street in an urban neighborhood, family members assembled along with friends of the deceased as well as the decedent’s family, and a sampling of ministers that know by heart the ins and outs of just such moments in time. Most gathered to remember a long life well lived. I joined them in order to honor a friend who was also the son of the woman that had passed. Somewhere in the mix of singing and testifying and Scripture reading came the prayer for comfort by one of the clergy present, evidently chosen for the task because he had known the woman for many years. He spoke as much to the family as he did to God, but he said a curious thing in the portion of his prayer addressed to the Father: “If you drop something and break it, you meant to break it, because you can surely drop it without breaking it.”

Broken on purpose or broken for a purpose, we are all damaged goods; the critical decision of life surrounds who we allow to put us back together and according to what pattern. It is good to think about our own raggedness, not just in broad strokes that we are accustomed to doing on the rare occasion when something rattles us about ourselves, but in exhausting detail like an archeologist dusting off and tagging ancient artifacts rescued from a dig. Like detecting dirt hiding in folds of skin that are prominent but no longer useful, we approach our task of remembering so that we may relinquish all our broken pieces, not in the effort to become a different person but to morph back into the individual we were created to be in the first place. Brokenness is a gift. Fermentation is a process of quiet turmoil; chaos appears to rule in-between the crushing and leavening, but the outcome when guided by a master vintner can be beautiful. This is especially difficult for those (like myself) who abhor chaos, preferring sameness, routine, predictability. I actually apologize frequently to my wife for being so boring. She smiles, assures me I’m not, and I go on being dull—Jan Karon’s Father Tim in real life. The joy of living is risking confession, acknowledging in honest detail the cracks in our pots and then allowing the Potter to recast us into what he had in mind to begin with.

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