A Vision in Many Pieces
June 8th, 2001
“God, its too big for me to carry!”
“I know, my son.”
We sat at the bottom of my heart, facing the dark, concrete-like slab which was my need for love, my desire for human intimacy to the fill the void in my life and give me meaning. We had been doing some Spring Cleaning of my soul. It had been a while since I’d talked with God, and when I finally got around to it again I was surprised to discover lots of worries and fears weighing me down. The stuff on top was relatively easy – I handed over issues at work, my marriage, relations with family. But then we got down to things which had been undisturbed for years, maybe decades, and I realized I couldn’t move these myself.
“Will you carry it out?”
“Of course, but I will not do it alone. You must be a part of the process. It is yours, after all”
So He picked up the massive slab in his giant arms, my puny ones exerting what force they could against one tiny corner. We carried it out to a giant workyard, over to a foundation stone, dark and covered with writing that seemed familiar, but which I couldn’t quite make out. There He dropped it, fracturing it into pieces.
“Now you must break it down into small enough pieces to carry away. Use the hammer of truth.”
So I did. “I am loved. I am forgiven. I am valuable. I am beloved.” On and on I pounded, and somehow the earth itself seemed to resonate with me – not that I was driving it, but that my blows were in effect being driven by the same force that drove the earth, so that together we pounded away at the slab until it was mostly dust, but still with a lot of large chunks of rock of various kinds. It took a long time, but it seemed neither tedious nor tiring.
“Now, Son of Man, you must clear this all away.”
I looked and found a small shovel in my hand, and a larger funnel beside me, leading I know not where. Obediently I scooped a tiny handful of sand out of the vast jumble and tossed it into the opening. “This is my pain over growing up in the U.S., apart from an extended family to give me a sense of identity. ” Then another. “This is the rejection I experienced in grade school. ” Middle school. High school.
Once made a dent in the dust, I saw a some large chunks of rock that had escaped the earlier pounding. That boulder was a girl I pursued throughout college. That rock one who rejected me in grad school. I picked those up and dropped them into what seemed the bed of a giant pickup, yet low to the ground so I could easily reach it. When I finished carrying the many rocks of romantic rejection, I saw the debris of other unsatisfying relationships. This the gravel of my addictions, lusts, and follies. That pile the resentment at friends who never had time to hear my problems. I found a bucket, which I filled and emptied into the truck. Again. Again.
“This is taking too long, Lord, is there an easier way? Couldn’t we just vacuum it up or something?”
“No, you must do this with your own hands. But I will help you. Here’s a line of buckets. Just fill them, and someone else will carry them away.”
So I did, and things went much quicker. When the pile cleared enough to see the rock underneath, the Lord brought a broom and pushed it all together in one corner. I was about to dump it all into the truck when the Lord halted me.
“Now, Son of Man, you must look to see what of value is left behind”
I looked, and behold, there was a giant diamond, rough cut, glitttering in the dust. I picked it up, and lo, it was the Love of God for me, though a sinner I be. I looked amazed into the pile and saw numerous beautiful gems of all size and quality, as well as ores of precious metals.
“Lord, are you sure we didn’t throw anything of value away?”
“Nothing of significance, which is why you had to sort this through by hand. The rest matters not. For now, search through the pile before you”
So I did. I found the many things I had learned during the dark journey of my soul. The coppery sheen of Hope. The silver of Patience. The ruby of Sacrifice, which I had learned is the source of power. The double-sided amethyst of “Weeping endureth for the night, yet Joy cometh in the morning.” The centrality of Forgiveness. The healing that comes from Grief. The iron of Courage. Steadfastness. Gentleness. Dependence on God. Brokeness and Redemption. Mercy, Grace, and Peace. Finally, the deep green emerald of Community.
All these I laid within one of the buckets. I picked it up, and turned to find a giant furnace roaring beside me. I dumped the contents of the bucket into a large iron crucible, then picked up the handle and levered it into the heart of the blaze. My treasure seethed and bubbled as the ores were reduced to liquid metal, and the impurities burned away. Part of my mind worried the jewels might burn in the intense heat, but instead they only glowed as if with an inner fire.
When all the dross had been burned away, I carefully lifted up the crucible and poured the contents into a large clay mold. After it had cooled, the mold was broken away, revealing a head-sized lump of dark grey metal, with a few dull, featureless stones poking through.
“The fire of life has refined what it could. Now it must be polished with fire from above.”
Obediently, I picked up the lump and returned to the foundation stone, which I now knew to be an altar. During my absence, a large trench had been dug all around the stone. All the debris which I had so carefully picked up had been dumped back down, completely covering the altar and filling the trench besides. As I watched, large jugs of water were poured over the pile, until everything was wet and the trench full of water.
I’d read the book. I knew what I had to do.
“O Sovereign Lord, for the honor of your servant, and the glory of your name, send your fire down from heaven. Consume this offering, and show yourself mighty among the nations.”
All at once a vast sheet of fire roared down from the sky, blotting out my vision with its power and its purity. Strangely, though I knew the intensity of the flame was consuming all before me — the good, the bad, and the ugly — I felt no pain, only a gentle, comforting warmth.
When the flame subsided – or perhaps when I regained my vision — no sign was left of the trench, or the debris. The altar stone was beautiful, spotless, polished, and the land was flat and featureless all around it. The letters on the altar were stark, crisp and white against the blackness of what I could now see was intricately patterned marble. I did not (or could not) read the words, or perhaps I did but can no longer remember them, though it seemed a part of it said “I will give him a new name.”
The only thing left after all the debris had been burnt away (or fused into the ground) was a golden crown. A simple cylinder with triangular peaks along the top edge, like the crowns children make out of paper. Jewels were scattered tastefully throughout, with one large jewel in each triangle. And on the largest triangle, at the very front, I recognized the emerald of Community.
I stepped onto the altar and walked up to the crown, and knelt in front it on one knee, bowing my head. The Hands belonging to the Voice – which I had always heard but never seen – lifted the crown and placed it on my head. And as the crown came to rest on my brow, I heard the words:
“Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Come, Lord Jesus.