The Unshrunk Cloth
Just as our failures can break us, so God allows other situations to reduce us. I know, we think of ministry in terms of wholeness and expansion, but much of what is seen outwardly is attached to the work of God inwardly. In fact, one way we expand is to be willing to shrink. What do I mean? Listen to what Jesus taught:
“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; otherwise the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear results.” —Mark 2:21
The Lord says that you cannot mend an old garment with a new patch because once the garment is washed the patch will begin to shrink. As a result, it will pull away from the garment and a worse tear occurs. I have seen it happen in many churches: someone is brought in to fix a situation, but they understand “ministry” as being an opportunity to display what they can do; they have yet to be cut to size. As a result, when they see the little hole God wants them to fill, as they reluctantly shrink, they pull away from the old garment, causing a worse tear than at first.
So, a wise seamstress will soak a new patch in hot water before sewing it onto the older garment. This gives time for the patch to shrink to the size that is needed. After it is shrunk, she then sews it permanently into the old garment.
The Lord must also shrink us before He can use us. When we come to a church or join a ministry team, we cannot help but be aware of the dozens of things we feel qualified to accomplish. In fact, we look at others and think, “I could do better than that.” If you are looking at the assignment someone else has and feel you could do better, it is because you are still, to some degree, unshrunk. God hasn’t brought you into the body to do someone else’s task; He wants you to focus upon your own, even if it is seemingly insignificant.
We argue, “But how will I advance unless someone sees my talents?” The Lord said, “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much” (Luke 16:10). We must simply do the thing God tells us and not envy others and their tasks. We seek to do some great thing for God; but God wants us to do little things as though they were great. The entire ministry does not need repair, just the hole we are called to fill. Each ministry has an exact size requirement.
How does the Lord reduce you so you can be useful? Like the seamstress, He puts you in hot water. God must shrink us from our exaggerated opinion of ourselves before He can use us in greater projects. We must simply fill the size of the need before us without envying the tasks of others. If you find yourself, for a time, in hot water, it might be because you took on tasks that were beyond the Lord’s assignment for you. He is shrinking you to the size of your calling.
The end of it all is this: the Lord takes seriously His plan for our lives. He has one goal with us: create us in the image of Christ. In His wonderful, all-powerful hands, He can use our failures, “tare-able” people, and our time in hot water to work for both our good and His glory in our lives.
Let’s pray: Lord, shrink me to the right size for the task at hand. May I cover the need without ambition to be seen. Uproot hidden jealousies within me, lest I find myself striving to take the place of others. Amen.