Ever have a dream that you forget upon waking, but revisits you in the afternoon? It is as if somehow, the events of the dream seep into our memory in living color from the gray recesses of our subconscious. This is what happened to me today.
Not only did I get to see the whole thing play out again, but I got to hear the gentle voice in my heart explain to me the parables within it. I am left just simply so encouraged. This is what I remembered:
It was my first day at a new job: mixing cement at a factory. I was the only girl on the job as I showed up to this dusty garage-type warehouse in an old jeans and shirt. I was pretty much intimidated. It seemed like a rough environment, and I had no clue what I was supposed to do or how. There was nobody interested in training me so I just walked around and watched some of the men working. They were all mixing cement by hand in these big barrels, and some were adding various industrial ingredients. Oddly enough this either consisted of wood, metal scraps, cardboard, or unknown shavings of something.
I fetched a barrel and walked over to a separate area I would use as my own station, frustrated when I realized I had nothing to put into it. It was empty, and I was failing at my new job.
To my relief, this man walked over to where I was standing. He looked rugged from hard work. His hands were tough and caloused, and I couldn’t tell if his face had five o’clock shadow or just debris from the shop. It was weathered and tanned from the sun, but his eyes were bright, blue with kindness and surrounded with laugh-lines that complimented his smile.
I confessed to him that I didn’t really know what I was doing. He reassured me I would be fine, and he brought me over a new barrel. I looked into it, and there was the cement-like base filled halfway from the bottom.
“Where would I get that?” I asked him.
He replied, “Don’t worry, this one is for you.” Again, I breathed a sigh of relief.
Then he started adding to it materials that I didn’t recognize. Some were red like colorful gems, others were ugly and black like coal, along with some gray blob-like substance. There were metal shards and everything else in between. Then he put in something like the gold from a fire, and I asked him why no one else was mixing with these unusual things. I don’t know if he answered me or not.
As the container filled, he stirred it with a rod and it started changing the whole appearance of the mixture. It bubbled and came to life, and began to give off a beautiful glow. I studied intently. It was vivid, strange, and quite unreal.
I remembered him answering my next question..”What are these things you’re putting in?”
“These are all the things in your life that you don’t understand. Some of it is the good you’ve done to other people when you didn’t think it mattered; the ruby colored gems. Some are your painful experiences; betrayals, mistakes, failures; those are the ugly coals. I added every confusing time you lost your way, and every season you had forgotten who you are; those were the gray formless substances. The objects like gold from the fire..” he paused. “They are the intense and unbearable trials you have been through, and have yet to go through. These are the most valuable. Through all of them you have cried out to me with a clean heart. It was these times I could reach out my hand to you and you would take hold of it. I could build your faith in me, strengthen your trust in me, and grow your love for me…These trials I allow into the mixture because they refine all the rest, and firmly bond you and I. Through each one I can start to see more of my reflection in you. I use them to mix all of these different things together into something beautiful and useful.”
As I realized it was Jesus who I met in my dream, I was reminded of a couple different passages from scripture. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”in Romans 8:28…
“Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” Philippians 1:6.
Surely only He can use every single experience in our lives; the good, the ugly, the painful – and masterfully blend them together as His personal labor of love. And surely this pleases Him.
But we only see bits and pieces; fragments; shards. Mere footsteps of a lifelong journey can leave us questioning what it all means.
It helps to be reminded that God sees it all from beginning to end. That He knows every part of who we are, and he longs to show us the plans He has for us. He takes such care to lovingly shape us into His image. In hard-working, blue-collar fashion, He painstakingly adds just what is needed. Sometimes the process can hurt. Often it makes no sense to us. He simply asks us to take ahold of His hand and trust in Him.