Did you ever think, when you were a child what fun it would be if your toys could come to life? Well, suppose you could really have brought them to life. Imagine turning a tin soldier into a real little man. It would involve turning the tin into flesh. And suppose the tin soldier did not like it. He is not interested in flesh; all he sees is that the tin is being spoilt. He thinks you are killing him. He will do everything he can to prevent you. He will not be made into a man if he can help it.
– C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
The older I get, the more and more I find myself like Lewis’s tin soldier. While I hate to admit it, I tend to expend more energy trying to protect myself from God’s good, sanctifying aims than working alongside him—or at least just letting him do his job.
My flesh fights back. My fears rise up and stand sentinel around my habits and hobbies. I’d rather stay “tinny” than have the real life he offers me. I prefer a known way to an unknown way, even if that unknown way leads to lasting life.
I keep myself busy. I play with other tin soldiers. I polish my tin. But all the while, God has such deeper offers for me. I’d rather control my tiny scene than be led by the blessed one who controls all things (1 Tim. 6:15). Nonetheless, God tenaciously pursues my heart with his offer of life that’s truly life (1 Tim. 6:19). I make his job difficult, but he has not stopped yet.
Like the tin soldier, Job thought that God was trying to kill him and was pursuing him for ill. In the raw honesty that only comes from trust, Job cries out to God, asking him to stop pursuing him, to let him alone:
“You renew your witnesses against me and increase your vexation toward me; you bring fresh troops against me. Why did you bring me out of the womb? Would that I had died before any eye had seen me and were as though I had not been, carried from the womb to the grave. Are not my days few? Then cease, and leave me alone that I may find a little cheer”.
While few of us have experienced a tenth of what Job did, many of us can relate to his desire for God to leave him alone. The scouring rush of discipline that leads to life hurts and rubs us sore. We would rather God quit his relentless pursuit of our hearts. In our flesh, we would prefer a few years of cheer.
Thankfully, God loves us for the long haul and has eternal purposes in mind. He gives us hearts of flesh and then shapes those malleable hearts into his image and likeness. He prepares us for eternal days with him. He stretches our souls to fit such an immense capacity and calling.
In Psalm 94:12–15, the psalmist captures the same concept the writer of Hebrews conveys to his discipline-wearied people in Hebrews 12:3–17.
“Blessed is the man whom you discipline, O Lord, and whom you teach out of your law, to give him rest from days of trouble, until a pit is dug for the wicked. For the Lord will not forsake his people; he will not abandon his heritage; for justice will return to the righteous and all the upright in heart will follow it”.
God’s tenacity in taking us from tin-hearted to true-hearted often hurts. But blessed (happy, whole, complete) are the ones who are trained by him and his word. When we would rather stay tin, still he trains us. Such tenacious attention is a token of his love—not proof of a lack of love. His love is lavish and long-term, even if it may leave us sore in the present.
“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it”.
Eventually, God relented on Job, but only because he would not relent on his perfect Son. Jesus’s days didn’t end in cheer but on a cross. God relentlessly pursued his people even to the point of placing his beloved Son on an instrument of shame. He did so that we might become truly alive in him—no more tin soldiers, but true sons.
If the process of becoming fully alive leaves you wishing to remain a tin soldier, trust the tenacity of his love today. He will complete what he has started (Phil. 1:6). No good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is upright (Ps. 84:11).