I took everything except for my underwear off. I laid face down. I waited. This was my first Thai massage. For the next 60 minutes, I laid there at the mercy of my masseuse. At some moments, I was thrilled by the kneading and wanted more. At my sensitive knots, I was angry he was intentionally taking longer than I thought he needed. Many times my mind wandered to what I had planned for the day. Other times I focused on his elbows going deep between my ribs and feeling the full force of that sensation. I begged for it to be over. When it was finally over, I was relieved but ready to schedule my next appointment.
Unlike my massage, I rarely sign up for my sanctification. I might accidentally ask for it when I pray for patience and humility, but I rarely lay bare excited for God’s kneading of my soul. In the pits of his work, I am at His mercy. I am vulnerable to crying, exposure and unknowns. I know it’s for my good because it says so in His Word, but I want it to be over.
Sometimes, I see exactly what God is doing. He places me in a community of people that rub me the wrong way, that don’t quite fit into my rhythms and lingo. As I grow in a quickness to listen and a slowness to speak, I point my finger at God and say, I get it. You knew better. Thank you, okay! I am “being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another, “ 2 Corinthians 3:18.
Most times, I am pissed that God would leave me in a circumstance way longer than I want. I know what he’s trying to uproot. I know what he’s trying to reshape. I feel stuck and everyone around me seems to moving on. I know God is teaching me to trust Him and look to Him, not at the people. I know that He’s with me in it. But I want the dryness, the silence, the loneliness to end. I want him to move on to a sin I’m more willing to let go. I want him to move that the mirror in which I my grime.
When the masseuse settled on a knot, I felt angry, but he stayed there. I coped by focusing elsewhere. But sometimes after a good inhale, I dared to be present in his kneading. I felt the digging, the breaking, the resistance and if I kept on, the sensation of release.
It’s especially important when I want to run from what God is purifying and refining that I actually stand still and feel his hands. I get to learn my triggers. I can see my resistance to His change. I want to be sensitive to small victories that I would miss if I wasn’t paying attention. When I am unable to rejoice in a friend’s accomplishment and acknowledge my jealousy and bitterness, I could count that as a victory. I saw my sly sin. It was never just about my friend so I dig deeper. I discover my entitlement and my insecurities. I have the ongoing honest conversations with God. And the next time when I genuinely celebrate with my friend, I know God did a work.
I want God to zap humility, patience, other-centeredness into me with a quick snap. But He loves taking me on a long-suffering journey. He loves giving just enough strength so that I have to ask for more every hour. He brings me back to the same Scripture day after day, until one day His Words sink so deep I wonder how I’d missed His intention this whole time. Sanctification is not pretty. It’s painful. “See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.” Isaiah 48:10 It’s exposing. It can’t be tamed by our schedule. But it leaves us more beautiful. It remakes our mind and heart to know that Jesus has made us beautiful and we get to realize it.
Jesus trusted His Father completely. He experienced every sensation of pain and stood bare before all humanity. When His pain was finally over, He shared his relief with all of us. My prayer is that I will see sanctification as a unification with our compassionate and brave Savior.