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formative experiences

For each of us, there are particular experiences and paths that God uses to form and shape us. While in the moment those paths rarely receive the gratitude they are due, we often look back on the nearer side of grace and think about the gifts and lessons they produced. Because of the formation and refinement that a particular experience produced in us, we sometimes begin to believe that everyone should have that experience, in order to produce in that other person the same results. We forget that God is far more creative than that.

For those who fought and watched their peers die in wars (those we remembered yesterday, on Memorial Day) - their time abroad and their mandated military service was a keenly formative experience. While as Christians it is difficult to reconcile all of the themes surrounding war, freedom, patriotism, faith, and the Ten Commandments, much of the reconciliation was simplified in my mind, at least for this year, by recognizing that this is one of the ways God shaped our grandparents in self-sacrifice. And self-sacrifice they did, and self-sacrifice those serving in our military continue to do. We feel safe and we live our days free because other people gave theirs up. Freedom for one person is almost always, maybe even always, at the cost of another. That is incredibly sobering. As a generation who has never felt the tension of war, we can struggle to understand how we should think or act at the intersection of faith and patriotism. But we can understand it at this level - that war has always and will always be a source of analogy and spiritual refinement for the people of God. And that the sacrifice of others should always produce gratefulness and thanksgiving in us.

Quite differently than war, my mother-in-law recently commented that homeschooling her eight children was the path that God used to refine her, and to teach her self-sacrifice. We also realized in that conversation how it is easier to see that looking back, than it is in the moment of doing it. Her comment made me realize that where I am currently at and what I am currently doing is what God is using to refine me. Today, in this moment, each of us is having formative experiences. These are the things that God is using to teach and grow us. I am being trained in self-sacrifice with each "Mom!!!!! Mom???? Mom!!!!" that gets hollered through the house. These are formative days for me... and they are formative days for my children as well.

The present moment is valuable for my own growth and each person's present moment is valuable for their own growth. When we humbly acknowledge the varied paths that God has used to refine and shape each of us, we find ourselves breaking down generational barriers, more easily able to reconcile differences between us and our brothers and sisters in Christ, and more likely to find common ground with those around us. I think, too, we're less likely to compare, quicker to acknowledge that someone else's growth may look different than ours but the lessons are no more or less important. When we focus on the takeaway lesson itself, rather than the experience that produced it, we find that it is "the same God which worketh all in all." (I Corinthians 12:6)


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Hi, I'm Hannah.

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