Things That Are Stretched
“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all that we ask or imagine…”
I’m not a big game show fan, but there are a few that have piqued my interest over the years. One of them was the $25,000 Pyramid. Actually, it began as the $10,000 Pyramid but later increased its prize money…and its hosting talent (sorry Bill Cullen)…when Dick Clark took the helm. If you are unfamiliar with this oldie but goodie, then here is a brief description. Contestants had to take turns giving and receiving clues from their “star” partner in order to name seven items that were somehow related in a given category. The team with the most correct guesses would go on to the “big” pyramid. At this level, the rules reversed and now the contestant had to identify the category from a list of descriptive clues.
I haven’t thought of this game show in a long time…until the other day. I was thinking about the irony (or so it seemed to me) of God stretching our faith. I thought about how stretching things usually made them weaker, not stronger. I started to think of things that not only get stretched, but get stretched out. First, I remembered my grade school knee socks; one always seemed drawn to my ankle more than to my knee, which resulted in my using a rubber band to hold it up. (If you fold the sock down over the rubber band it goes unnoticed…unless the rubber band is too tight in which case the purple thigh gives it away.) This memory led me to add both rubber bands and socks to my list of stretched out things; then I thought of elastic. Next, I started to think a little more broadly and came up with imaginations, the truth, and a pregnant woman’s stomach! By now, I felt like a contestant on the $25,000 Pyramid, giving clues for the category “Things that are Stretched”. And there you have it. Stretched faith led to stretched knee socks which eventually led to an old game show. What’s not to understand?
When the reverie was over, I returned to my original thought: God stretches our faith. In doing this, our faith is made stronger; it never needs a rubber band to hold it up as with each tug and pull its elasticity actually increases. Every time God allows us to be in a situation in which we not only need faith to stand but we literally have nothing left to stand on without it, our faith grows. Every time we are made to go outside of our comfort area, God stretches our faith to cover this expanded territory, and our faith grows. And, every time we find ourselves at the end of ourselves, God holds out a rope of faith…just beyond where we can grasp without leaning way, way out to lay hold of it…and our faith grows.
I thought about the other dispositions God stretches for the purpose of strengthening: there’s knowledge, self-control, perseverance, patience, obedience, and love. Every one of these is bound to be placed upon God’s stretching rack at some point, and repeatedly, with the express purpose of increasing its durability and usability. When I think about what is required in order for these attributes to mature, I realize I shouldn’t have such an adverse reaction to those things that are used for my own good…and growth. When circumstances arise that tug on my patience, yank on my perseverance, or wrench on my obedience, I want to wriggle out of them and avoid the discomfort. But, if I would just remember that it is during these spiritual bouts of tug-of-war that God is strengthening me, then I think (I hope) I would have a whole new attitude…and even an appreciation…for what is taking place.
If I could remember this, I would realize I am in good company. I could even become a member of the ‘Stretchy Club’. In this select group, we find Moses, Joshua, Esther, Elijah, Rahab, John, and Peter. Every one of these individuals found themselves in situations in which their faith was stretched beyond their comfort zone, beyond their former belief zone, and way, way past their own ability zone. Moses informed Pharaoh each plague would come; Joshua told his army the walls would fall down, Ester told the king she needed to speak with him, Elijah told the prophets of Baal his offering would burn, Rahab told her family they would be spared, John and Peter told the lame man he could walk. Each of these acts required more faith than each person initially had, but when they reached out for more…when they put not only their neck but God’s name on the line…they found their faith was stretched, strengthened, and stationed. There was no recoiling or rebounding once their faith was extended; it didn’t snap back like a rubber band but kept its new shape while also keeping its elasticity. It would be stretched again, and it would expand again, and stretched again, and expand again, and…well, you get the picture. How God-like to do something so contrary to what we expect. Only He could pull on something again and again and receive a positive result; only He could stretch something out and make it better than it was to start with. When God does the stretching, it isn’t to make something less effective but more expansive. In His hands, things that are stretched don’t lose their vitality, they attain it.
So, with this new understanding of stretchy things, with this categorical mind-set of “things that need stretching”, and with this uncanny desire to watch the $25,000 Pyramid (while wearing knee socks and snapping rubber bands), I submit myself to God’s stretching table. I empty my pockets of wrapped up obedience and unwrapped patience. I retrieve my locked box and dump out the contents of knowledge, self-control, perseverance, and love. I take all the things I wanted to keep in their original containers and I allow them to be handled, and tugged, and stretched; I place them in God’s hands so He can continually reshape them and reshape me. I wait for the pull…and know with every tug and tweak, my faith isn’t being worn out, it’s being stretched out. And that’s a good thing; that’s a God thing.