Have you ever mined for gems? It’s a popular tourist trap…I mean fun, family activity…in many mountainous areas. For those of you who have been deprived of this experience, it works like this: a bucket of dirt (presumably containing precious gems waiting for you to uncover) is dumped into a wooden square box with a wire-screen bottom that acts as a sifter. While standing at a trough of flowing water, you shake, sift, dunk, and scrape to remove, and then discard, the dirt and debris that has literally buried the precious stones. You find it. You keep it.
I have wonderful childhood memories of mining for gems on family vacations. However, Jesus has been performing a different sort of gem mining with Claude and me. Over the last seven years, our faith (or “Christianity”) has been the bucket of dirt dumped into the wooden box for some shaking, sifting, dunking, and scraping.
After being dumped out of our comfortable bucket – with its safe and definable parameters, where right and wrong are black and white, where methods and rules keep things neat and tidy, and where teams forming us and them are clearly distinguishable – the shaking started, sifting out elements of our faith that were relatively easy to relinquish. Phew! Our faith is not comprised of a bucket full of worthless dirt, but real, valuable gems of Truth. Woohoo!
Then, the dunking began. Plunged into the moving waters (because Jesus is always moving, never stagnant, full of LIFE) we watched with feelings of shock, which eventually turned to shouts of liberation, as tightly held misconceptions un-lodged themselves from the gems of Truth and were carried away by the stream. Good riddance! After all, the gems being revealed were MORE THAN. In other words, we were discovering the Good News of Great Joy, the very thing that our faith claims to offer, is MORE brilliant and beautiful and bigger than we had comprehended or experienced.
Finally, the gentle scraping commenced. This served to remove particles once so hard and tightly affixed to the gem’s surface that, until the looser fragments had fallen away, revealing the gems true color and shape, the particles could have been mistaken for part of the gem itself. For us, many of those stubborn-stuck-ons amounted to syncretism, i.e. where the American Dream had converged with the Gospel message resulting in a “Christianity” that hardly looks like the Gospel taught and lived out by Jesus and the first century disciples. In fact, some of this gospel is done-right heresy, completely counter Jesus’ message! Honestly, some of the things that needed to be removed in this phase were sobering, uncomfortable, awkward, and disruptive, calling for some major shifts in our thinking and doing. But we were all in at this point, so BRING IT ON!
Now, I am by no means suggesting that Jesus has completed His mining project on us. I figure, Claude and I will continue to be shaken, shifted, dunked, and scraped until we breathe our last breath. But in the meantime, we are done wasting time carrying buckets of sand. Claude and I want to hold fast to and give away the brilliant, beautiful, and costly mined gems. In short, Jesus has wrecked our comfortable “Christianity."
Hmm, I just remembered something else about my childhood adventures of gem mining. Actually, mining the gem was just the first part of the process. After we took our treasures home, before they could be displayed or worn as a piece of jewelry, they had to be polished and cut. Uh oh! No matter...we're not going back.