You know that classic nightmare of showing up to school completely naked? Parenting has done that to me except there are no clothes in sight because they’re all in dirty piles in the laundry room and every day seems to last forever as I Magic Erase every single surface of my house in perpetuity. And my body is nowhere near its high school shape. Instead of a Nevernude, I’m a Permanude. Being a mom has denuded me of all of the things that I had previously relied upon to maintain the illusion that I had it all together. I’ve slowly been stripped of the benefits of a sleep-refreshed brain, a well-fitted suit and a good haircut, the niceties of polite social interaction, idealistic intentions and the sense that I had some pretty decent answers to life’s problems. Parenting usually leaves me feeling haggard and impatient, sometimes bitter and resentful, often unfulfilled and definitely unaccomplished and bereft of perfect answers. It’s more than just humbling and embarrassing, it gets ugly sometimes.
I’ve seen ugliness in myself before, but in the past I could manage to store up enough successes or good deeds to deceive myself into thinking that the broken thing was just an anomaly, not an integral part of who I was. I was living as if I was just dealing with minor imperfections that required a little extra effort in front of the mirror to remedy. But something about parenting, perhaps because there’s no break from its demands and therefore no way to hide the fact that I am not enough, has forced me to accept that my deformities are woven into the very essence of who I am. It feels hopeless, how pervasive is my brokenness. But I know what I’m supposed to do. So I do it.
I ask for His help and I look for answers in his word and through others who walk in his ways. But even if I sometimes make two steps forward (usually followed by one step back), I don’t feel always feel much better. Getting closer to him just makes me more hungry to be like Him and more impatient with myself that I’m not. The more clearly I see him and the deeper I delve into his word, the more I try to change, the more convinced I am of the depth of these two seemingly irreconcilable factors: The perfection of his holiness and the persistence of my own sin. The more I get to know God, the more unworthy I feel.
In some ways it seems masochistic to look to “the word of God [which] is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” because it cuts so very deep! But what other choice do I have when remaining in this state is an even more miserable prospect.
I think I assumed that after that first major surrender of my life to Jesus that I’d mostly been healed. That probably all the really painful work was behind me. Surely, any following procedures would just be minor touch-ups because essentially I was “in”…right?
Instead, each time I encounter the truth about who I am and who God is, the cut feels deeper and more profound. Malformations and malignancies and sometimes whole limbs are surgically removed and I’m wondering what else could possibly be left? It has felt less like I’m becoming more alive and more like I’ve been disappearing, dying a slow and torturous death.
Which, of course, I am. I’m dying to myself and becoming more like Jesus. Except maybe I haven’t always really been too keen on that. Maybe what I’ve wanted is NOT really to be conformed to his image, but to be conformed to a more beautiful image of me. In years past, I assumed that basically I was a pretty decent person, so what’s the need for a total overhaul, right? I think what I had pictured happening in that verse that talks about that seed falling to the ground and dying so that it can bear fruit is that the fruit that comes forth is an even better version of Rachel Fruit instead of something that resembles Rachel less and Jesus more.
But what the transformation He’s getting at, thank God, is much more dramatic than the one in which a broken human becomes a somewhat better human. He’s got bigger plans for me than that. The transformation we undergo is one of a creature of the darkness being made into a creature of the light. As I seek God, I’m a mole coming into the presence of the sun.
Moles have very small, almost imperceptible eyes that are often covered in fur and skin. They can sense light but can’t actually see. Being essentially blind, the bright light of day is not the habitat they function best in. If they do come towards the sun, it’s usually on a cloudy day when the sun is veiled and the rain welcomes them up to feast on earthworms. (Much like us when we find ourselves coming to God more often when we the storms of life come or we’re feeling particularly hungry). In fact, on a bright day I wonder if the mole might actually be injured by the sun if it spent too much time above ground. I imagine that a sudden sunburst would leave a mole’s inadequate eyes smarting and squinting and her subterranean-dweller’s body quickly scrambling back into the ground when faced with the full magnificence of this heavenly body around which our entire solar system revolves.
This idea of the full presence of God being potentially damaging to us in our earthly states reminds me of when Moses asked God to reveal himself and God agrees but with a very specific set of instructions.
According to scripture Moses, a patriarch of the faith, cannot see God’s face and live. In fact, it says no one can. Seeing God in his full glory would be a death sentence for a human in his/her earthly body. So instead, Moses gets a momentary, peek-a-boo glimpse of God’s backside after God has walked past Moses, covering him with His hand until he is, presumably, at a safe distance away and all the while Moses is firmly hidden in the cleft of a rock.
So in my daily life here on earth as I seek God in his word and in prayer and through my relationships with others, these encounters with God’s holiness, even just a dimmed experience like a mole on a cloudy day, would feel too harsh and sometimes even painful.
But then there’s an even more intense reality than just our daily seeking after God. In Revelation, we’re told that “the Holy City (heaven)does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its lamp.”
Yikes. If a holy man like Moses can barely stand the glory of God’s backside, how will I, this wretched creature of the damp and dark underground, ever make a home in heaven where it is completely lit by the Glory of God? Won’t I be devastated by his holiness?
Meeting God as a mole I imagine myself just wanting to crawl away from the reality of his glory, back to where I’m comfortable into the earth. I can see myself thinking that maybe if I just work a little harder, tunnel a little deeper, after awhile longer I’ll be able to present myself before him with some good works, some worthy labors with which to endear myself to him. Interestingly, a group of moles is known as a labour. Yet no labor of moles is ever going to be enough to make themselves into citizens of heaven who are equipped with what they need to live in the light of the Son.
But the good news it that God is not only holy, but he is also full of lovingkindness for me. Even though I squirm and squint and burrow away from him at every chance I get He, miraculously and mercifully, does continue to reveal Himself to me. And when I come to Him, he gently scoops me up in his Great Physician hands and slowly surgically reconstructs me, transforming me from a mole into a creature who is better equipped to know him and experience him fully. He loves me so much that he’s not content that I would just encounter him in a dimmed, fleeting way. He wants me with him forever. Forget mountains out of molehills; He wants to make children of God out of wormeaters, citizens of heaven out of slaves to the earth. In fact, it’s to be transformed into a creature that not only can experience his glory, but also can bear his glory on us as we’re transformed to be more like Christ!
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12)
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)