I keep telling God I want to inherit someone’s mantle. You know, like Elisha apprenticed under Elijah and then literally and figuratively inherited his mantle (see 2 Kings 2). I keep looking around for someone to apprentice under, someone to mentor me into the role God has for me. Surely it would be easier and better for everyone to not have to build from the ground up every generation? To just shape myself to fit and then slot in?
But I’m starting to get the sense that God wants something else for me: to create my own mantle, to build myself in the process, not to be shaped by someone else’s way of doing any role, but for me to be fully myself, to create that role for myself.
It would be nice to have someone guide me by the hand along a pre-shaped and predictable path, to have a molded shape to grow into, and then hand me a fully set-up job on a silver platter. It would be easy.
But God doesn’t take the easy way.
My grandmother used to say that “God writes straight with crooked lines.”
The easy thing to do with us problematic humans who don’t just do what they’re told (hello my three-year-old much?), the easiest and simplest thing would have been to just throw it all in, start fresh. Scrap everything and start over.
But our God is a God of transformation, of renewal. As I heard in a sermon recently, our God is left-handed.
The obvious and logical way to work is to use the strong and good of the world to overwhelm, to straighten out the weak and bad, the sinister.
But our God uses the unexpected ones, the ones we think are useless and no good. Our God uses the weak, the broken, the outcast (see 1 Corinthinans 1:26-28).
And through our least we can best see God’s beauty, God’s love, God’s compassion and mercy.
It would be a simple matter for an all-powerful God to bully us into submission, and I know the ‘church’ has done that in the past, but our God is gentle (see Matthew 11:29). God is able to use the subtle and coincidental just as much as the blatant displays of power. In these days of cinematic special effects, I think many of us are rather blasé about amazing feats of what they used to call ‘biblical proportions’ and now call ‘cinematic proportions’.
What catches us are the series of coincidences that can’t be explained and are too many to simply be chance; it is the stumbling across just what we needed but didn’t know to ask for; the abundance when we were simply looking for enough (see Ephesians 3:20).
When I ask God why I never get the big cinematic shows of God, I get the smallest breath of a whisper back: “because you don’t need it.” And when I complain about not knowing how to shape myself for the role ahead of me, God nudges me back by gently saying, “it’s You-shaped, so focus on the step I have placed before you and trust me that you at your most you-ness, fully self-accepting and confident in who I made you, will fit perfectly.”
And so I am reminded, once again, to focus on celebrating and living as who God made me, the me who God delights in (see Psalm 104:31 and Zephaniah 3:17), doing the task at hand as fully me, not as I think I should, but to continue practicing being me.
As I put on Christ (see Galatians 3:27 and Romans 13:14), I find there is more room to swing my arms, more space to breathe deep and let my tummy expand with it. I no longer pinch myself as I move, nor do I need to curb my free strides, and the rough seams that rubbed me raw are replaced with cocooning softness.
Slowly I am gaining surety in this shape. I’m delighting in being able to stretch and grow in areas that for years have been held tight and twisted into knots of the “good and proper” and all the “should”s.
As I allow myself to take my true shape, the one God calls forth out of my inner being, to deliberately grow into it, I find freedom and joy. I find peace and a quiet confidence in being who God has made me to be. And it is there that I can best reflect God.
To quote the One who knows best: “It is good.”