Monday, 11 November 2013

No understudy

'Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.' 
1 Corinthians 12:12

I'm familiar with this passage in the Bible.  When I was much younger we had all the jokes about who was the armpit and who was the spleen and so on, and now I'm older I'm still not too sure how far the analogy can be taken, but I take the point.

We all have different spiritual gifts. We are all unique, no-one less valuable than any other. A huge diversity of skills, personalities, abilities and talents. Together we make up the Body of Christ, with Jesus at the Head. Together, Paul says, we make up the whole. We are one through the Holy Spirit. If someone is missing, nobody else can do his job, because it is a job made for him alone. Each part needs the others to function and when we are all in concert we make a beautiful sound.

It's the 'all-working-together' thing that's the problem. We all interlock and if one cog gets jammed then sometimes the machine comes shuddering to a halt. I know well that if I have a sore thumb then I can't use the hand properly. If my knee hurts and I limp for too long, my hip starts to hurt too. If I put my back out, there's very little I can do with my day.

Quite often we bicker and squabble and and think we are more important than we are. We think we deserve more than our allocated part and try to be something else. We get resentful or critical and think that we could do a better job than someone else. Why are we never satisfied? 

I find it quite reassuring that the disciples had the same problem. They wanted to know who was the best and brightest. They wanted to know who would be sitting to the right and left of Jesus in Heaven. 

John 21:21
'Peter asked...'Lord, what about him?'Jesus answered, '...what is that to you? You must follow me.' (my emphasis)
What is it to me what someone else does? Why do I jostle for position and wonder if somehow I'm short changed? Why do I worry about what people think of me, of what I do, when I know that I am occupying the place that only I can occupy? Lord, I so want to do with my life what you would have me do. Sometimes I am full of purpose and sometimes I feel as if I'm treading water. Marking time. Vacillating.

Fibrillating. Like the heart does when it gets out of rhythm. Paramedics come crashing in and slap on two paddles and shout 'Charging!' and 'Clear!' and then whoof! the heart gets shocked back into a sinus rhythm (whatever one of those is, but I watched ER for a while). And then all is well again, but it was a close call.

Sometimes I feel as if I'm fibrillating. Immobile. Rabbit in the headlights.

But I have an important job to do because there isn't a redundant bit of the Body of Christ.
(I don't know about the appendix.  But that's probably being facetious.)

Charles Spurgeon took this idea of a collective whole to another level for me the other day. A beautiful level. An eye-opener:
'Each of God's saints is sent into the world to prove some part of the divine character.'
(Charles Spurgeon, The Daily Help devotional for iPhone, 43rd

Somehow, just by being me, here, in my little corner of the earth, day by day, I reflect something of your character. Some little tiny aspect of your personality is me. Not somebody else. How amazing is that? 

He goes on:
'In heaven we shall read the great book of the experience of all the saints, and gather from that book the whole manifestation and display of some position or other of God; a different part may belong to each of us, but when the whole shall be combined, when all the rays of evidence shall be brought, as it were, into one great sun, and shine forth with meridian splendour, we shall see in Christian experience a beautiful revelation of our God.'
Can that be possible?  That one day I might have a contribution to make in this awe-inspiring spectacle?  This is going to be an enormous canvas. I can't wait to see it. 

The other day I got a glimpse of the sheer scale of you, God; the vastness and the majesty and glory of you who holds the universe in your hand. Creator of billions of stars in billions of galaxies. If I think of all the people who have known you from the very beginning to the end of time - from Adam and Eve through to all the people who are alive today and love you the world over, beyond and into the future, all those not yet born, until the end of time  - that's a lot of people. 

And we are all unique. If Spurgeon is right (and I so hope that he is) each one of all these children of yours reflects a unique part of you. We each have a little facet completely our own. It needs a glimpse of the enormity of you in order to understand how such a thing might be true. How complex you are. How many different aspects there are to you. 

So I am intensely significant. Not only do I have a role to fulfil down here, now, in my life, but I have a part in this extravagant art project in Heaven too. I have a ray of light to add to the 'great sun' which will shine for eternity and make you smile.

So why do I wish I were someone else? I am made to be me. 
Why do I think that other people matter more than me?  You made me to be me
There's no understudy.

What is it to me what they do?  I must follow you.
'Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.'
1 Corinthians 12:27

Lord, help me to believe not in myself, but in the wisdom of you, who made me. Help me to see the honour that it is to do the job in this life that you have made me to do and not gaze about me wishing that I were an elbow instead of an ankle. Show me what to do. Give me enough light for the step I'm on and the courage to stride into the darkness, knowing that you won't let me fall. 

Give me a glimpse of that spectacular revelation that one day I'll be part of. It's going to be beautiful because it's You.

I'm working on my contribution right now.

Reposted from 2012 because I needed reminding. 

Image credit:  ashton_cogs3.JPG by doctor_bob from Used with permission.


  1. Helen, you have touched on an important topic dear to my heart. In fact, I began a draft blog post on comparison yesterday ~ but your beautiful piece here may deter me from sharing it! Our value to God and to the body of Christ is far greater than we may ever know. I love how tenderly and sensitively you have dealt with this thought. It's so true that each person's contribution counts immensely and we are all the poorer for its loss. Gaining belief, faith and courage to exercise our individual gifting is the first step toward being an active participant. Thank you so much for this inspiring and encouraging word. I love to read ALL that you write whenever I get an opportunity! You have a great gift, my friend. Blessings :) xx

    1. Joy, you must share your post! It's exactly what it's all about - we all have something different to give, and you inspire and encourage me all at once.
      Thank you so much for your kind words.

  2. You are inspiration, Joy. That is your part in the body of Christ. Sometimes, I think about the same thing: all the people on earth who were/are apart of this same body of which we both share. Sometimes, I wish my part were more significant, I want someone else's part, instead of realizing who I am is just as important. Without the grease, no part can turn smoothly. Wonderful post.

    1. Thank you so much, Shelley, and also Joy, who shared my post on her page.
      I know exactly what you mean about thinking that someone else's contribution seems more interesting, more worthwhile, more important than mine... but it's not the case. I need to remind myself all the time.
      Thanks for reading and taking the trouble to comment. It means a lot.

  3. Helen, this is so true and it's so important that we remember our uniqueness. Our personalities are so familiar that we forget to value them and treasure who we are. Thank you for your wise words and for your challenge to embrace what we CAN give :)

    1. Thank you! Absolutely. Thanks for leaving a comment.

  4. Love this. Fibrillating - yes!
    And that quote from Spurgeon stopped me in my tracks. Thank you.

    1. I am the Queen of Fibrillation.
      Thanks for reading and commenting, Tanya.

  5. Love this. Fibrillating - yes. And that Spurgeon quote stopped me in my tracks. Thank you.

  6. great reading Helen and yes we all have a part to play in revealing gods grace to others , remember Jesus when he said whoever wants to be the greatest must become the least and a servant , genuine leaders and workers serve others and don't promote themselves , the lord gave me a picture once and it was of me steering a canal barge with lots of people on board , and where do you steer it from ? from the back , just gentley guiding people in the front in the right direction.Being faithful in the small things everyday matters far more to God than anything else Holy moments as you remember Rob bell calling them. the things nobody knows about and aren't easily seen , that's where you find God grace just as much if not more than in the big things.God Bless Mark

    1. You're absolutely right, Mark. Thanks so much for reading and taking the trouble to leave such a lovely encouraging comment. It means a lot.


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