Saturday, July 12, 2008

The bottles that come back.

The bottles that come back.

I think I've mentioned before that my fear about the great opportunities that the site Stuff Christians Like is opening up is that I'll waste everything. That I won't manage it the right way or maintain it the right way and the whole thing will just fall apart.

When I told my counselor Chuck that a few weeks ago, he said that I should stop worrying. He said that "God doesn't waste anything. He doesn't work that way. He uses everything to His purposes and if you feel like you could waste it that means you feel like you created it and you're not God."

That was a very freeing thing to hear. That in essence gave me permission to enjoy it rather than try to maintain it. To take part in the accidental community that is developing right now instead of trying to hold on to it.

I think that one of the reasons I was worried about wasting things is that it seems like we rarely get to see the way God uses what He calls us to do. Certainly a mission trip has very visible results. You can see that a child was fed, a mother was comforted, a baby was clothed. But often, it feels like God calls us to do something for Him and we do, and it's like a note we put into a bottle and then promptly throw into the ocean of life.

That guy at work He calls us to reach out to switches jobs and we never hear from him again. The neighbor we walk through a divorce moves to another town and disappears. Our prayers for people line the shore like a thousand bottles floating away from us without resolution or closure.
But sometimes they come back to us. Sometimes, God blesses us with the gift of knowing exactly how He used what we do for Him. And that can be a very beautiful thing.

The other night, I shared a story my counselor had told me on my site, 97secondswithgod.com. It was a short story about how God loves when we wrestle with Him because it's impossible to wrestle with someone far away. We feel guilty about it, because we think we should trust instead of wrestle but He sees it as a sign of intimacy.

Here is what a reader said on my site in response:

Jon, my wife has stage 4 metastatic breast cancer, and it looks like she's entering the beginning of the end. As you might imagine, I've been wrestling with God quite a bit lately.

When I read your words just now I broke down and cried because the guilt, frustration, fear and anger were instantly replaced by the image of a loving God. Thank you so much.

God is weird. A man I've never met, in Oregon, a state I've never been to, dealing with a disease I've never dealt with, got the bottle he needed. I threw it out into the ocean and God sent it across the country.

That's how He works. It's not my talent or anything I'm doing that matters. What matters is that I throw out the bottles. He wants them. He wants us to throw them out even if we can't begin to imagine how He will use them.

So today, let's throw some bottles.

15 comments:

Jenn said...

How do you find a counselor like Chuck?

dorothy (vicar of vibe) said...

In every adversity, there is a seed of equal or greater benefit…
A truth that has been played out in my life so many time…

Nothing done in obedience to God is wasted…most of the time we will not be blessed to see the seed of equal or greater benefit.

Jon, I have said it before and I’ll probably say it again to you (because if feel God promoting me that you need to hear it)…
You are touching peoples live and occasionally you are blessed to actually see the fruit; like that man from Oregon. I cried when I read his response.
God has called you to a really interesting “mission field”. You just keep on doing what God has called you to do…

chrisdliu said...

praise God! it's true that many times we don't know how we are impacting the lives of those around us (good or bad) by what we say or do. so it's especially exciting to see and hear how stuffchristianlikes has exploded and how God is using that site, through you, as a tool to open peoples eyes, hearts, and minds about Himself. i'm sure i'm the kajillionth person to tell you that i love the site (and i'm sure i've wrote this before too), but i wanted to encourage you again. keep up the good work! keep being humble before the Lord. and may all glory go to God :D

Brenda said...

Precisely! As you are faithful to do what you are able to do, God will do what only He can do--so that He gets all the glory! I'm sure you would be shocked to know all that God does through your writing, as would all of us in whatever "it" is that God has us involved in...though we won't know til eternity--Keep throwing out those bottles!

x-ray chick said...

Jon that is a beautiful analogy. Often I wonder what is going to happen to this person or that, but I know they are in God's hands.
I have this feeling when I get up to Heaven, I get to watch a movie of how I affected others lives.

Donna said...

Jon........sometimes the bottles take years.......but they do return......i've sent a few and opened many.........

Campman62 said...

Jon,
"Bottles" & "Arrows"...
~Sending out "Encouraging" & "Challenging" messages to our neighbors, & raising our children in the wisdom & admonition of God's Word to be "Sharp Arrows" in the faith.

*Keep "tossing" those bottles & "sharpening" those arrows my brother!

inthelight-campman62.blogspot.com

Travis Thompson said...

This is still my favorite blog. Another fantastic post. I sometimes feel like I'm responsible for some stuff going wrong, particularly at church, but I feel like God's saying "You can't take credit when it fails, because you also can't take credit when it succeeds." Okay.

Your post reminded me of that.

Jan Owen said...

We never do know the impact of our life......maybe that's good in some ways because I might become more prideful. I don't know. We want to see it here and now, but we often don't. We actually many times just have no idea how God will use something small in our life to minister at a pivotal moment in someone else's. An encouraging word, a hug, a prayer, a blog that made us think, etc. etc.

I think we'll all get to heaven and see how our lives were used and we'll be stunned.......
I hope this keeps me out of discouragement and trudging faithfully on.....

sam said...

Awesome post. I love your perspective on things. And you're absolutely right. God is using you in amazing ways. Sometimes I want so bad to see those bottles return, and sometimes I have trouble writing the message God puts inside them, but I always want to keep sending out those bottles.
These posts really help me come to terms and challenge certain things in my own life and I want to say thanks. Thanks a bunch. And maybe I need to start seeing a counselor. Hah!

Miriam said...

Whoa, I don't normally read your blog and was just scrolling through when the "comment" stopped me. I went to the original post and realized - that it was written by my Dad.

Rae said...

I'm glad this site is back.

I mean, SCL is cool and all, but . . .

Lindsey said...

Hey Jon,
I read your blogs a lot and wanted to thank you for your encouragement. I blog as part of a missions trip I am going on and wanted to let you know I reposted this entry and encouraged my readers to visit your sites! Thanks!
(You can see the blog here: http://lindseyhogg.theworldrace.org/?filename=encouragement-from-the-blogosphere)
Also, I say I loosely follow your blog bc my boss reads my blog... but I really read your blog all the time;-)

Heather said...

Thanks for sharing this. The analogy about wrestling with God and the guilt that we feel rings so true in my life. In the past two years my younger brother (he was 18) and my aunt have both died and there has definitely been some wrestling. But you're right, there's a closeness when your wrestling that is so much more comforting that trying to shut God out or ignore the pain and questions. And I've already seen some of the ways that God is redeeming these seeming tragedies...He doesn't waste. I'm so thankful.

heartafire said...

That's right, Jon. And really, most of the "bottles" you throw out there, you will never get to see where they land nor by whom they are received. .. which is also God's way... It is very sweet when he allows that, but it's not something to even look for.

This has always been one of my favorite sentences from the Big Book (not the BIG Big Book, but just the Big Book):
"In God's economy, nothing is ever wasted."