“The Shepherd laughed too. “I love doing preposterous things,” he replied. “Why, I don’t know anything more exhilarating and delightful than turning weakness into strength, and fear into faith, and that which has been marred into perfection. If there is one thing more than any other which I should enjoy doing at this moment it is turning a jellyfish into a mountain goat. That is my special work,” he added with the light of great joy in his face. “Transforming things —to take Much-Afraid, for instance, and to transform her into—“ He broke off and then went on laughingly. “Well, we shall see later on what she finds herself transformed into.”
I remember the first time I read those words.
I was thirteen at the time and a friend gave me a copy of the Christian classic book, Hinds Feet on High Places. This allegorical story is about a character called, Much-Afraid, and the Good Shepherd who helps her to overcome fear and to follow Him on an adventure up into the mountains. It is based on some verses in Psalm 18.
I enjoyed this book about a preposterous Shepherd who heals and transforms, but I didn’t really think it applied to me. How could I? When I looked in the mirror I saw only a freckled, bespectacled teenager with nothing remarkable or noteworthy to mention. Just a country girl with hair that had a mind of its own and insecurities no curling iron could tame. The idea that God had preposterous plans for me never even crossed my mind.
Over the years I re-read the book and the same parts always made me cry. In particular, every time Much-Afraid would look down and remember how disfigured her feet were and how impossible the mountain paths would be.
I cried because I have lived that moment many times.
For me, it was an internal disfigurement, a lack of self-esteem that would show up at the most inopportune times. It would hit me when I was up in front of people and it was immobilizing. It didn’t matter how much I practised for the piano recital or the volleyball game or how good I was when I was alone; as soon as I stepped out in front of people I would remember my crookedness. I was ordinary at best, an under-achiever, nothing special. And it became a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy as I would crash and burn again, in public.
But what I didn’t understand at 13, I am beginning to get at 50. It is that God is not remotely limited by what he has to work with. He sees potential where we cannot. A small lunch was more than enough to transform into a buffet for thousands; a pretzel would have been sufficient.
The God that I call Father has been making something out of nothing since the beginning of time when He spoke light and time and order out of emptiness. Transforming a broken life is bread and butter to Him. It is what He does. And it is what He has been doing for me since the day I met Him.
In 2 Corinthians 5.17 is a very familiar verse. It says, ‘Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.’
The original Greek word that is translated twice as new here is Kainos. It means, ‘recently made, created, fresh‘ but it also means, ‘unprecedented, unheard of, uncommon.’
Is that preposterous enough for you?
He is taking your life, and He is taking mine, and He is making something out of nothing. It is what He does. He is turning what is marred into His masterpieces. He is the potter and we are the clay and the pots He is making are filled with treasure because they are filled with Him.
In my own life, He is taking self-doubt and turning it into powerful faith because even if I can’t, I am starting to believe that He can. He is slowly turning failure into gratefulness and humility and He is making brokenness an opportunity to need Him and to know Him better. He is taking disfigurement and making it beautiful. He is taking every line of my story, the painful and the joyous, and writing a testimony of His goodness and power.
And, as preposterous as it may sound, He is taking my life and making it extraordinary.
Because nothing God does is ordinary. Nothing He plans for our lives is predictable or commonplace. And everthing He does is good.
And in the end, despite crooked feet and a bruised soul, Jesus wants to lead us right to the very top of His will for our lives. Will we dare to follow Him?
It is good and it is all for the glory of His beautiful name.
‘It is God who arms me with strength, and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of deer, and sets me on my high places.’ Psalm 18.32-33