These days have been filled with deep unveilings, unveilings of deep-rooted selfish tendencies, distorted frames of reference, judgmental attitudes, deep-seated fears, and the overall ugliness of depravity. If we are all honest, these days are universal, and I think they are what we spend the vast majority of our lives trying to avoid. We don’t want our true nature to be exposed. We don’t want people to find out who we really are behind closed doors and in the deep recesses of our secret mind. So, we set out to ensure it is never exposed, and we tell ourselves, “I’m not so bad,” until we actually start to believe it.
The trouble is, this process of self-assuaging is a sugar-coated trap. It’s like trying to ignore a cancerous tumor by saying, “as long as I feel fine, I’m not really sick,” all the while the tumor is silently growing and sucking the life from your vital organs. The more frightening part of the whole thing is how slowly the tumor can grow, so you actually may have time to truly convince yourself that you aren’t sick and you’re not so bad off after all. We are incredibly talented at this process, and we are very able to surround ourselves with people who will agree with us and validate our denial.
So what can I do? I’m terrified to face the reality of my diagnosis. I want to find another way to escape it. I can’t really be the person who is afraid God isn’t good or who judges other people or who is simply dissatisfied with my lot in life. Right? Surely if I think positively and take care of others and keep my life in order I will make it through somehow. Right?
The cold, hard, black and white answer is, No.
Crushed under the weight of this “No,” I picked up my Bible desperate for a word of reversal, something that would rebut its oppressive verdict. I found the dichotomous answer in Isaiah 43:1:
“But now, in spite of past judgments for [your] sins, thus says the Lord, He Who created you, O Jacob, and He Who formed you, O Israel: Fear not, for I have redeemed you, ransomed you by paying a price, instead of leaving you captives.”
Here was my answer. God recognized my hopeless situation and did something about it. He loved me so much that He punished His own Son so that I wouldn’t have to be a captive to my depraved, secret self. He even chose an example to reinforce it.
In this verse in Isaiah, He references Jacob and Israel, but Jacob and Israel are actually the same person, nominally distinguished by different stages of his life. God created Jacob, but He formed him into Israel. Jacob was like us, a prisoner of genetic tendencies, striving to make sure his life turned out in his favor by never letting other people get the better of him.
Then, he met God.
He wrestled with Him.
But, so did Jacob.
Jacob acknowledged God for Who He was, and he was transformed by that acknowledgment. He was renamed Israel. He had a new understanding of life subject to the One who instituted life itself.
But, what about the deep-rooted, habitual tendencies of Jacob that had governed his entire frame of reference towards life prior to recognizing the authority of God over it? The recognition of his redemption by God only took a single decision, but realigning his frame of reference would be a formative process.
So here I am. Here we are. Here are all the saints down through history. Moses endured this process. King David endured this process. The apostle Paul endured this process. Amy Carmichael, Charles Spurgeon, Billy Graham. The list goes on.
God didn’t redeem us so that we would be left captive to our oppressive, secret natures, but so that we would be free from them. He created me to be formed into the whole person He lovingly designed me to be. But, it means I have to face the music. I have to admit that I have a problem, a deep, ravenous, incurable, life-sucking problem, that can only be dealt with if I acknowledge that it’s there.
So, these unveiling days have to come; these days I’d much rather avoid, rather sweep under the rug, or run away and hide from. But, I’m in good company. I can humbly be counted among those we usually consider “The Greats,” who also had to acknowledge that they weren’t great at all. They too had to meekly say, Lord, You have created me. Now, form me.