We welcomed a new resident this week. Frank is an artist, he creates out of clay. Jeremiah tells us that God is that kind of artist as well. God is imagined as a potter, and we are his clay vessels. He moulds a us and forms us.
I have been fascinated with formation for years. I recall a time during my formation during my years Training at the Church Army. We were in a Bible Study led by Ernie, our Training Officer. He asked us what kind of ministry we wanted down the road. I glibly answered, “I want your job.” Answering glibly was very much my immature self’s style. Instead of being upset, he seemed really pleased that God might be calling me that way.
Seven years later I did take his job. By then he was no longer Training Officer but had become Field Secretary (Personnel Officer). It was not for another fourteen years that I had an opportunity to step into the training role as a teacher of Evangelism Studies, and a number of more years before I was named Director of Formation for Taylor College.
I was tasked with overseeing the formation of ‘missionaries for the twenty first century.’ Those were halcyon days. I felt like I was finally doing what I was designed to do. Not long after, the supply of students dried up. A Director of Formation without any one to ‘form’ is a sad being. But through the dark days that followed and the myriad of questions came a fresh understanding. Formation does not require formal classes and curriculum. If I had truly been fashioned by God for this purpose I only had to apply myself to the opportunities God brought me.
Threshold House provides a brilliant opportunity to be involved in God’s transformative work in the lives of men. I get to be a bit like Frank and be involved in formation. The men I get to work with are being transformed. Lives that were once ruined are becoming brilliant and useful. Sometimes this process is painful and painfully slow but sometimes it is otherwise. Last Friday I met T. for the first time. Steve had invited him to our drop in. He came but was not open to any ‘God talk’ after a few hours of fun and wholesome fellowship with a group of Christians, he eagerly listen to my “Word from Our Sponsor.” On Sunday he went to church and his heart was strangely warmed. I saw him again last night and he was changing before our eyes! He is going to detox this week. An anonymous Christian has provided the funds necessary for him to go to a long term treatment centre. He is excited about coming to live with us at Threshold House after treatment. Last night he asked me for a Bible which I was overjoyed to give him. He asked where he should start to read and I pointed him to the Gospels where he can encounter the ’Life Changing Saviour’.
Witnessing T.’s transformation and the more subtle discipleship of the guys of Threshold warms my old heart and keeps me getting up and going.
We started our ‘Life’s Healing Choices’ last night. I gave out journals to everyone with loads of room to write about each decision. I do this in the hope that participants do not see this as an eight week course to get through but the formation of new healthy habits and choices. It is ours to chose Jesus and his way over and over again not merely once. This repetitive practice forms character in us, the character of Christ, and it is that character that will set us on a good and useful path.
It is amusing to look back over the years and identify the fingerprints of the Potter all over my story. The potter’s wheel turns my tragedies and disappointments into the stuff dreams are made of. Too often I lose perspective and let my passing troubles loom big but God invites me to remember that I have been raised with Christ and seated with him in the Heavenlies. From that lofty perspective I can see what my time bound myopia misses, and I discover anew God is faithful!