Thursday, October 01, 2015

Rejoicing in Trouble??? (Romans 5:3-5)

We also have joy with our troubles, because we know that these troubles produce patience. And patience produces character, and character produces hope. And this hope will never disappoint us, because God has poured out his love to fill our hearts. He gave us his love through the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to us. (Romans 5:3-5, NCV)

I was in my second or third year serving as Minister of Music and Youth at Lane Avenue Baptist Church (now The Crossing Community Church) in Columbus, OH, and Dawn and I were exhausted (especially Dawn) in our struggle to balance the church responsibilities with the demands of parenting a very difficult toddler. We knew that Taylor was not your average toddler, but we did not yet know that we were dealing with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.
From my very first Youth planning meeting I had been hearing this one name over and over again. Pete Kelly had served as the Youth Ministry intern a couple of summers earlier, and every story I heard told me that he could do no wrong. He planned the most creative activities that were the most fun anyone had ever had; and the Bible studies he taught were deeper and more compelling than anyone had ever taught before. I soon began to realize that nothing I did could possibly measure up to "The Legend of Pete Kelly." I began to strongly dislike someone I had never met.
After about 2 years, I finally met Pete Kelly when he came to visit one Sunday morning. I tried hard to maintain my dislike (beneath a gracious fa├žade, of course) as we talked after the service, but I was disappointed to find him annoyingly likeable. I just couldn't help but like him. Our conversation was punctuated by my struggle to manage the very difficult toddle version of Taylor, whom I was holding as we spoke. When Taylor head-butted me in the face I mumbled an embarrassed apology and briefly acknowledged our difficulties. Pete responded, "Maybe he is the chisel that God has chosen to use to shape you into the image of Christ." I found it a little easier not to like him after that. 
Pete Kelly's response was NOT what I wanted to hear. I didn't want theology, for crying out loud! I wanted--no, I needed--words of understanding to help me get through the next few hours. I needed someone to tell me that I would be OK ... that we would get through this. Instead, Pete Kelly gave me a word picture that keeps ringing in my ears whenever I encounter difficulty in my life. it doesn't make the struggles easier, but it does change my focus.
Horatius Bonar (1808-1889) wrote a hymn that I have never seen in a hymnal (though I must admit to never having searched my own collection for the text). I know it from a beautiful choral setting: The Master's Touch.

In the still air the music lies unheard;
In the rough marble beauty lies unseen.
To make the music and the beauty needs
The Master's touch, the Sculptor's chisel keen.

Great Master, touch us with Thy skillful hands;
Let not the music that is in us die;
Great sculptor, hew and polish us, nor let
Hidden and lost, Thy form within us lie.

Spare not the stroke; do with us what Thou wilt;
Let there be naught unfinished, broken, marred;
Complete Thy purpose that we may become
Thy perfect image--Thou our God and Lord.

That's enough to think about for now. The peace of Christ to you.


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