By Rev. Deb Dysert
In my Connection Group at MCC Detroit, we’re studying a book that has been on the best-seller list for quite some time, “The Shack” by William Paul Young. It’s a thought-provoking look at what we believe about who and what God is in our lives. The story involves a man named Mack who’s struggled with finding an intimate, trusting relationship with God. One of the life events that puts a barrier between he and God is the murder of his five-year-old daughter in a shack. Several years after the event, Mack is invited to meet God in the shack, and in Young’s book we find out the conversations he has with God during that weekend.
Mack is in the shack with God, and he keeps looking for the stain on the floor, where his daughter lost her life. Here he is, standing in the presence of God, and he has the opportunity to ask God anything he wants; he can tell God whatever he wants, he can simply sit and chat with God. But Mack keeps looking for the stain on the floor. During our group discussion at MCC, someone made a comment that stuck with me:
“We all spend so much time looking at the stains in our life, and instead of the beauty of the universe around us.”
It hit me right in the gut. I like to think I am walking a really good walk. I try to follow God to the best of my ability. I really do. But I am so guilty of looking at the stains – instead of the beauty.
We all have so many things that stain our lives. I know I do. I have had stains caused from my own choices and stains caused by the choices of others. I have had stains caused by circumstances and stains caused by my sins. We all have stains. The question is, what do we do with them? Where do we focus our attention?
Mack was so focused on the spot on the floor where the stain was. It seemed so obvious to us as we talked about the book that he needed to pick up his head and look at the wonder of God around him, but he kept looking back, looking at the pain. Don’t we do that? Don’t we ignore the things in our lives that are good and bring us hope, as we keep our focus on the stains? We keep reliving the stains. We hold onto the stains. What has to happen for us to let go of the stains?
Ultimately, we have a choice of what we do with the stains in our lives. We can keep looking back at them, or we can transform them, or we can let them transform us. I know that I have learned from every stain in my life. In fact, I think God needs me to have stains, so that I can choose to rise above them and learn to rely on God in new ways. I am the me that I am now because of the stains in my life.
A few Sunday’s ago one of the guys at church came to worship in the most beautiful orange-colored shirt. I noticed it and marveled at how handsome he always dresses. Later that week, someone told me the story of that shirt. It seems it was originally a white shirt that got a stain. It was a perfectly good shirt, but the stain ruined it. So, this fellow decided to capitalize on the stain. He went out and bought some dye to match the color of the stain. He dyed the shirt, and it became this beautiful shirt of orange hues. He turned the stain into something wonderful and received many compliments, turning a few heads in the process.
Imagine what we might do with the stains in our lives if we stopped looking at – or for – them and started looking at the possibilities God has for us. How we might turn them into something that works for us instead of against us. I think it’s all a matter of how we look at the stains. I am committed to changing my focus on where I concentrate my attention. Let’s move forward through this summer with Pride in who we are, stains and all.