I have recently discovered Ithaca, NY and must confess that I am smitten by its natural beauty. My visits began two years ago when my daughter committed to play lacrosse at Cornell University. Several times a year we would travel to Ithaca for her to attend lacrosse camps or clinics as she pursued her passion for playing lacrosse at college. This summer my daughter entered Cornell as a college freshman and those sporadic visits have now been replaced by regular trips for my husband and me up to the shores of Cayuga Lake as her fall lacrosse season has begun in earnest.
Spend much time in Ithaca and you quickly fall in love with the beauty of the place. The advertising genius who coined the phrase “Ithaca is Gorges!” could not have spoken clearer truth. With 150 waterfalls flowing across the town, funneling water through gorges carved out by glaciers a million years ago, Ithaca truly is gorges…and gorgeous!
Like much that is beautiful, the landscape of the Finger Lakes region was not always the stunning vision that it is today. Its breathtaking beauty was forged over years of deconstruction and reconstruction. To create something as magnificent as the gorges takes years in the making.
Years of chiseling.
Years of cutting in and chipping away.
Years of forceful, constant pressure from the source that seeks to recreate what once was a solid mass of rock into something entirely new.
In the Maker’s hand, the once solid, solitary mountain has been repurposed into a channel through which water can flow.
I long to live a life that reflects the strength and beauty of a mighty gorge, yet instinctively I know that this type of strength and beauty can only be created through adversity and challenging seasons. I don’t much like adversity and challenging seasons. I have experienced enough of them to know that I prefer the peace and stability of the solid, solitary mountain.
I know the pain of being chiseled away, because type 1 diabetes has forged its way into every fiber of my family’s life and is relentless in the pressure it places on my son, every single day of his life.
I know the heartache of being cut, because concussions and surgeries and Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome have at times cut the joy and laughter and normalcy from my children’s lives.
I know the fear of being chipped away, having lived through a long season of family unemployment that chipped away at our security, our comfort and even our identity.
I don’t much like the work of being repurposed.
The work is painful. And it is scary at times when the chiseling lasts longer than we think we can hold on, and the cutting has cut so deep we think we might not survive this time.
The work of being repurposed into something stronger and more beautiful doesn’t happen overnight; it takes a long time. And it usually takes much longer than I would like.
But it is in the painful, intense pressure seasons of life that the Maker does his best work. It is in the excessively stressful seasons of life that my hardest edges get exposed and chiseled away. My fears and insecurities, my worries, my need for control, my jealousy and anger and bitterness – pressure forces them all to the surface, exposing them and leaving them unprotected.
It is only when my love for the one in need exceeds my desire for self-protection that I can say to the Maker, Come have your way.
Yielded, facedown, I release control. I release my stubborn view of what the Maker owes me. Going deeper still, I release my dreams. All that is not true strength, all that is not true beauty is laid bare and is chiseled away.
Going deeper, ever deeper, into the hard rock. The waters of life begin to trickle. Another cut, a little more pressure, going deeper still. I can feel the smoothing and polishing of my rough edges. Cool, life-giving water is flowing now, faster, mightier, filling up the newly hewn channel.
Until all that remains is what is strong and lovely in the Maker’s eyes.
I am no longer the same. I have been repurposed. In my Maker’s hands, I have become a channel through which his living water flows.