Study any ecosystem and you might agree with King David, “Only fools say in their hearts, ‘There is no God.’”
Everything has its place, its purpose, its niche. Termites demolish logs to enrich the soil. Forest fires crack the hulls of Sequoia seeds. Tiny krill fill the gullets of Blue Whales, earth’s largest creature. Snow that melts on the mountain top wends its way to the heart of the sea.
Our Creator orchestrates it all with breathtaking precision. And one truth is crystal clear: nothing goes to waste!
In our personal lives, this is especially true with hardship. Have you stumbled, made mistakes, gotten off track? Have you squandered relationships, nursed bad habits, or worried needlessly? Do you regret missed opportunities? Did you fail to love because of selfishness? Have you suffered through tragedy, heartache, or illness?
Surely there is pain in this wreckage, but God can employ every piece to expand our spirits. Even more, when we open these wounds to others – unafraid to share our humanity – it releases great healing.
Consider the local church. On any given Sunday, it’s a rich repository of wisdom. So many living sermons sitting in the pews!
Parents who have struggled to raise children. Couples who resurrected troubled marriages. Divorcees who found new love. Survivors of cancer, heart attacks, and strokes. People who are overcoming addiction. Adult children caring for ailing parents. Those who resolved their grief after losing a precious loved one.
I could go on, but you get my drift. The church is a holy ecosystem where nothing need go to waste. As a pastor, it makes me want to shout from the rooftops. “This is what we have to offer! Authentic human beings who have grown from the hard knocks of life. People who can be God’s ambassadors of grace, walking alongside you in your journey. We are not here for religion; we are here for relationships!”
But this only happens, my friends, when we reveal ourselves, when we put our experience at God’s disposal. It happens when we risk vulnerability, allowing our stories to intersect with others.
I think of Marlene, sexually abused by her father throughout childhood. Bitterness and rage consumed her adult life. In our sessions, she finally said to me, “I have to find a way to let go. If I don’t, I’ll be a prisoner ‘til the day I die.”
One winter morning at a windswept Michigan cemetery, Marlene stood before her father’s headstone. She read a letter to him that she had crafted for months: words of resolution, words of hard-won forgiveness only God could give her. As light snowfall began, she shredded the paper, spread it on the grave, turned and walked away.
Months later a young woman joined our congregation. I discovered that abuse had twisted her life as well, so I introduced her to Marlene. On a Sunday morning after Spirit-filled worship, I saw them sitting beneath an oak tree. Marlene had a hand on her new friend’s shoulder. They were praying together, seeking the balm of God’s presence.
In God’s holy ecosystem, even our worst pain can serve the power of redemption. Alleluia!