“And yet, O Lord, you are our Father.
We are the clay, and you are the potter.
We all are formed by your hand.” ~Isaiah 64:8
Nelson Mandela has long been a hero of mine. On the flight to South Africa five years ago, I read Mandela’s lengthy auto-biography, Long Walk to Freedom. The context the book provided made my speaking tour there fascinating. I recognized the street and building names as comrades and prison mates of the great man.
Recently, as I have been reading everything I can get my hands on about his redemptive life, I can’t help think of parallels with the life of Joseph. Both began as young, arrogant men with big dreams. Both suffered hardship as the result of convictions they couldn’t deny. Both spent years in the crucible of prison and both emerged with 24 carrot character and the moral authority to lead. There is one other thing they share: Joseph and Mandela chose forgiveness and reconciliation over vengeance once power was in their hands. They allowed the hardships of prison to bring out the best in them. To harness passion into self-discipline. To distill frustration into patience. To refine anger into love.
As a result, Joseph saved his nation from starvation. Mandela saved his from bloodshed. Both left a legacy of grace.
When we enter a new year we tend to do it with optimism and hope. We are going to lose weight and save money. Have a regular quiet time and work out. Eat sensibly and travel. It’s going to be better than last year.
We should set goals to accomplish noble things. But in many cases we have no control over our health or wealth. We can’t avert economic recessions or corporate restructuring any more than we can prevent a tragic accident or diagnosis. We can’t control the infidelity of a spouse or the betrayal of friends.
What we can do is allow even the huge injustices of life to make us compliant clay in the Potter’s hands. We can determine that whatever comes our way in 2014, we will humbly submit to our Father’s leadership in our lives and allow him to use all things to mould us into the likeness of Jesus for the good of our family, our church, our nation and our world. He is still in the business of restoration. He still tenaciously twists every cruel plan of the enemy into a redemptive outcome. God will never waste our pain or our tears. If we will let him, He will use them to lead us to our place of highest influence and fulfillment.
Lay your hopes and plans for 2014 at the feet of your Father. Consciously submit to his will in all your relationships and endeavours. And claim his promise: And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.
~Romans 8:28 NLT