Have you ever been in a season of life where you really understood the phrase “hard pressed on every side” that Paul used in 2 Corinthians? Those words have sharply defined my life over the past several months. I’ve been like a grape in a wine press. Work, finances, health, family… it was all just… hard.
Here’s what Paul said,
2 Corinthians 4:7-9 New International Version (NIV)
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
It’s clear from this passage of scripture that God knows our human existence can sometimes be hard. Now, let’s be honest. Occasionally, hard life situations are the result of choices that we’ve made, and there’s a natural consequence. But sometimes, we heard God say, “Go.” So we went. And then… it’s harder than we thought it was going to be. Have you ever experienced this?
During this recent “very hard” season, I heard myself saying, “I am only plankton in this ocean.” Plankton was the smallest, weakest, most insignificant thing I could think of. The third time I realized I had said it, I thought, “What am I saying about myself?” Because I know that my words have power. What I agree with, gains authority in my life. Had I just agreed with a lie?
So I did what anyone would do. I googled it. My friend, Google, (via http://www.Dictionary.com) told me this:
Plankton is the aggregate of passively floating, drifting, or somewhat motile organisms occurring in a body of water, primarily comprising microscopic algae and protozoa.
Okay. Yep. That was what I felt like. Microscopic. Only somewhat motile.
But the pictures….. wow. The pictures that came up…. I’d never heard of bioluminescent plankton.
Bioluminescence is used to evade predators and acts as a defense mechanism in dinoflagellates. They produce light when they are disturbed or under pressure. (www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/bioluminescence)
My search also revealed that the group of chemicals involved in making plankton glow are called luciferins. Which means “bringing the light.”
Bio – life
Lumin – light
Right away, I thought of the passage of scripture in John 1. Jesus is light. Jesus is life.
John 1:1-5, 9-13 The Message version puts it this way:
Life-Light blazed out of the darkness;
the darkness couldn’t put it out.
The Life-Light was the real thing:
Every person entering Life
he brings into Light.
But whoever did want him,
who believed he was who he claimed
and would do what he said,
He made to be their true selves,
their child-of-God selves.
A few days later, someone at work said, “God must think a lot of you to put you in this position.”
I (somewhat jokingly) replied, “God must not remember who I am.”
Immediately, the Spirit of God spoke to my heart. “Oh, I know who you are. The question is, Do you know who I AM?”
Umm. Wow. I had to think about that. Do I know who God is? Do I believe that He is who He claims to be? Do I believe that He will do what He promises in His word? Or, had I – in all of the chaos of the current moments – forgotten this essential truth?
Messiah – Jesus Christ – came so that I could be restored to a right relationship with God. He came so that I – merely by accepting this incredible gift – could become my child-of-God self. I want that. So… my answer is… Yes. I do believe that Jesus is who He says He is. And… I want to be who Jesus says I am. For me to be able to reflect Messiah – the Glory of God – I have to KNOW who He is.
The first thing I was taught as a child in church was that God is love. That sounds nice. But, I’m not sure I really understand the unchanging, unrelenting ferocity that God loves us with. And that He pours out to us the moment we say yes to Messiah. When we say yes to Messiah, we begin to reflect His nature.
1 Corinthians 13 defines this God-inspired love. And reminds me that God’s very nature is love.
I’m not sure I was doing a great job of reflecting God’s nature. But, I want to. I want to understand who God is, and I know that only then can I understand who I am.
God used the tiniest sea creature, plankton, to guide me into a deeper understanding of Who He is.
Here are a few facts about plankton:
- Plankton doesn’t sink.
- Plankton floats on the waves.
- Plankton nourishes others. In fact, all other living things in the ocean depend on the oxygen that plankton releases.
- 80 % of the earth’s oxygen is produced by plankton.
- When large groups of plankton form together, it changes the composition of the ocean.
I began to put 1 Corinthians 13 from the Message version together with the attributes of plankton.
Plankton doesn’t sink. My Child-of-God self – Plankton – trusts God. Always. Never looks back, but keeps going to the end. This is not done in my own strength, and not from “performance.” But instead, is accomplished by floating on God’s love. Trusting God. Trusting that God loves me.
Plankton floats on the waves. My Child-of-God self is still, and KNOWS God. My Child-of-God self is buoyed by God’s love even in the midst of giant waves and violent storms. God is love. God is good. God is bigger than any problem in my life. Bigger than any political issues. Bigger than hurricanes. Bigger than famine. God is bigger.
Plankton nourishes others. My Child-of-God self cares more for others than for itself, doesn’t want what it doesn’t have, isn’t always me first, doesn’t fly off the handle, puts up with anything.
Plankton sticks together. My Child-of-God self takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, bears one another’s burdens, encourages others, is patient, kind and dependable. I was reminded of a scene in the movie of Apollo 13, where astronaut Jim Lovell describes being guided safely back home in the Sea of Japan by the glow of bioluminescent plankton. One plankton alone couldn’t have done that. But a group, bonded together in unity? The life-light of those microscopic plankton changed a completely dark ocean into a beacon of hope.
Suddenly…. The pressure was off. I was freed from the “what ifs” and the “you’re not enough” thoughts that had been bombarding me. As I pondered the attributes of plankton, I realized that God’s love for me is not dependent on my own efforts. His loving-kindness towards me is absolute. Simply because I said yes to His gift of Jesus as my Life-Light and accepted His access into the arms of a loving God.
There will be other storms. And I will always be very small in this giant ocean of life. But I am not insignificant. I am loved by the Great I AM.
I choose to be like plankton, to float on top the crested waves, secure in the love of my Heavenly Father. I am still learning how to be who Jesus says I am. Loved, and able to love. Accepted, and accepting of others. Courageous, and able to encourage others. This is my true self, my Child-of-God self. This is plankton.