Last weekend, I was blessed to attend a women's retreat at Riveroaks Reformed Presbyterian Church. This was a wonderful, fast-paced time of fellowship and study with my sisters from Grace and ladies from other churches in our presbytery. While waiting for one of our sessions to begin, I enjoyed studying the beautiful stained glass window above the pulpit area at the front of the sanctuary. The colors and the detail were gorgeous, a song of worship set in glass, illuminated even on a gray day by the light of the cloud-shrouded sun.
On the sleepy drive back to Obion County Saturday afternoon, I considered that my life - our lives as believers - are not unlike that stained glass window. Bits and pieces of color and light, carefully fitted together into a God-glorifying work of art.
I had recently been thinking about how life is full of unexpected, unimaginable joys and disappointments. Thirty years ago, I could have in no way predicted the path my life would take. As a young high-school graduate, my course was set: I was going to college, first for an undergraduate degree and then for a degree in veterinary medicine. I was going to establish a practice as a vet, specializing in large animal care. At some point, I would marry, and then maybe have two or three kids. La, la, la, la....
Anyone who knows me knows that none of the above actually happened. My life took a very different course. Along that new path - the one I hadn't planned for - God brought me incredible blessings and joys that I could not have even imagined for myself.
He also brought - and brought me through - tremendous heartache. It's as if, on a handful of occasions, He completely shattered my heart. Allowed it to be splintered into a thousand pieces. But, those heartbreaks are being redeemed. I was thinking Saturday, that it's like He's slowly taking the broken pieces and fitting them together into a living portrait of His grace, something even more glorious than that brilliant window in the sanctuary at Riveroaks.
Back home, I thought it would be interesting to do a little research on how stained glass windows are made. And this is where it really gets good...
The glass used in these magnificent windows is not made of bits and pieces of "accidents," broken chips swept up to be recycled. No, the glass is created specifically for each window. First, an artist designs the window. Then, glass blowers painstakingly create the varieties of glass needed, in exactly the colors and weights specified by the artist. The window-maker carefully cuts each piece of glass according to his pattern, and then grinds it to fit precisely into his design. When each piece - created, shaped, and fitted together with incredible care and precision, from beginning to end - is finally in place, the window maker "sets" the glass so that it is strong and structurally sound. Not only are these windows beautiful, they are extremely heavy - but, by the wisdom of their creator, they are designed to support tremendous weight.
God is not about the business of having accidents and then scrambling to clean them up into something that looks intentional. It's not as if He goes, Oooops! I made a mistake. I'm so sorry you're disappointed. - or - I'm so sorry your heart is broken. I didn't mean for that to happen. I will try to find a way to make it better somehow. No, God is not in the business of gluing together broken pieces of the ball He dropped, the fragile pieces of my heart.
Because God never drops the ball.
Rather, God has a plan and a design from the very beginning, from before the foundation of the earth. And every single thing that comes into my life - from the joy of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7! children, to the grief of shattered relationships - every single thing is a carefully planned and orchestrated part of His design and purpose to create in me a work of art that displays His glory and beauty to the world around me.
The fire of the glass oven is not an inconvenient consequence of the art of stained glass - it's the deliberate, carefully heated, closely monitored birthplace of something glorious.
3 weeks ago