No More Hay and Stubble


I am supposed to be writing about pride. That’s what God has been dealing with my heart about, and that’s what I had planned.

But I don’t have any pride today. Today I just have tears and need and dependency, because there isn’t another option.

That word–dependency–has a bad connotation. Usually, it’s used in conversations about addiction or abuse, and its antonym, independence, is the silver-lined goal.

But there is no independence here, on the side of this pit with sides so steep and no hand grips or footholds in sight. There is only a single rope, hanging within my reach, and I am utterly dependent on it.


Olivia had a hearing test this morning. It had to be administered under sedation, because she didn’t respond well to the last test they gave her in a booth. When the audiologist came out after the procedure, she said that she had turned her machine up as loud as she could, but Olivia’s brain did not register any sound. The paper she gave us read:   “profound hearing loss.” Not mild or moderate hearing loss as before. Not even severe. Profound.

Being a person who loves language, the nuances of the word “profound” are not lost on me. It speaks to something that is extreme or overpowering; I might use the word to describe a life-changing revelation. But today, it points not to what has been gained but to yet another thing that seems to be slipping through our fingers. First it was missed developmental milestones and clear vision. Then a normal diet and schedule. Now this.

So here I am, finally alone with God after the wearisome hospital discharge process and a long car ride home. (I made that worse by my refusal to respond with more than one word to any of Robert’s attempts to take my mind off of things.) I’ve been silently begging for a thread of hope, a light at the end of this tunnel–from the only One who can offer either.

A message from an angel would be nice. Or maybe the audible voice of God.

But now I remember the rope:  that life-saving offering, extended from heaven in the form of Jesus Christ.


I became a born again Christian as a small child and have lived with the knowledge of the saving grace of the cross for nearly my whole life. I’ve experienced its power. But there is something very different about coming to the end of yourself–knowing not just the futility of trying to make amends for your own sin but also the absolute uselessness of attempting to fix anything at all apart from Jesus.

This is not me rambling about a second salvation experience. I’m just saying that in arriving at the place where there is literally NOTHING I can do, I am keenly aware that Jesus is the only answer. You can know that in principle with out applying it to your life. You can live a whole lifetime knowing the truth and believing it, yet constantly being swayed by lies.

I guess I’m writing about pride after all. God is the only one who has the right to control. For you and me, control basically equals pride, because it means we think our way is better than His.

What about when there is no “problem” to speak of, and life becomes all about what we can build and achieve? If the things we build are branded with the name of Jesus and labeled “for the good of others,” does that make them wholly His? What good are beautiful and noble buildings if they are patterned from plans splattered with the stains of self and constructed by hands that too often rush to orchestrate instead of being faithful to obey?

Human strength can erect some pretty amazing stuff. The tower of Babel comes to mind. My own hands have assembled some fairly tall structures, simply from the sheer determination to keep placing one brick on top of another. I have tried to maneuver my way up the ladder of success and to gain the admiration of people. I’ve strived and struggled to fix problems on my own. My fingers have fluttered busily about with little thought for either the Creator’s superior design or the possibility that His plans called for a work site across the street, a few months down the road, and with a different crew.

I built something alright! I built uneccessary obstacles to God’s perfect plan for my life, probably missing divine opportunities to love others, and likely hindering His efforts to transform me into the image of His Son.

Worse, how much glory did I steal from God when I took matters into my own hands? How much greater a thing could’ve been done if I had surrendered the process totally to Jesus?

It’s like this:

 “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have—Jesus Christ. Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials—gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value.”– 1 Corinthians 3:11-13 (NLT)

Am I following God’s plan, or mine? Am I giving the orders or is He? Whose materials am I using? Yes, everything I have and am comes from God, but does my heart see it that way? Am I acting as if this is true? If my heart truly realizes that I can do nothing apart from Him, would I be jockeying for a position of prominence and control?

God builds with gold, silver, and jewels; a quick look at His plans for the tabernacle in the book of Exodus or John’s vision of heaven found in Revelation will tell you that. Precious stones and metals come from God’s storehouse. I can only work with those enduring materials if I am following His blueprint and acting as an extention of Jesus’ own body.

Sure, there are piles of sticks laying around everywhere, and I can use them to create some pretty elaborate stuff on my own! But when fire comes, I’ll be left with nothing but a pile of ash.

Then, there are times I try to build things out of a combination of both gold and straw. I start out with strong trust in God, an ear tuned to His every direction, and hands that work diligently for His glory alone. But somewhere along the way, fear prompts me to turn to myself as I listen to the arrogant voice of conceit, devising a back up plan in my search for a sure bet.

How sad that a thing with such potential for beauty–shining with pure gold and sparkling gems–could end up marred by the ugly appearance of charred wood and stubble? What right do I have to attempt God’s will in my own way? Or worse–to use God-given gifts to carry out my own will?

This “profound hearing loss” thing … I can’t fix it. And the selfish ambition that has too often crept up in my life? It’s been shoved out of the way by things that are far more critical. This has all made me realize that:

–I want to build with gold.

–When my hands go to work, I want them in the service of the Master Builder.

–I’d rather be upheld by God’s hand than by a contraption of my own making.

–I want to trust in Jesus and Him alone.

–I DON’T want to reach heaven “barely escaping through a wall of flames” with nothing but “burned up” work to show for a life that was supposed to be lived for the glory of God (vs. 15).

If my heart must pass through fire, let there be something of value left standing on the other side. This is just not possible apart from Jesus.


I repeat myself often in this blog, because there is such confusion in our world about who God is:  God did not cause profound hearing loss in Olivia. He is Healer, and He is good.

I hate profound hearing loss. I hate the enemy of my faith, who wields sickness and disease as a weapon. Even now, my mind is bombarded with thoughts about deafness being a sign of the progression of the disorder–that it only gets worse from here.

I also hate that my pride has remained intact for so long and still continues to fight for preeiminence. But I love how God can commandere a situation that Satan meant for evil and use it for my good.

Make no mistake, the God who opens blind eyes and unlocks deaf ears is still on the throne! He humbles rebel hearts, recovers missed opportunities, redeems lost time, and–if we will choose to surrender them–reclaims condemned buildings.

Pride carries with it the heavy burden of sole responsibility, but there is so much freedom in being totally at the mercy of a sovereign God. He is overflowing with mercy!

When we recognize the extended rope for what it is–the ONLY hope, found in the  death and ressurection of Jesus Christ, who made himself a substitute by taking the punishment for our sinful pride–we are lifted high, not by a self-made ladder, but by His selfless love.

5 comments on “No More Hay and Stubble

  1. Kenzie Williams

    I love reading your blog Holly it was a great addition to my devotion time tonight! It always seems to make me cry but I can’t remember a time your advice and words didnt make me cry when you were my youth leader! We miss yall and are praying for yall!


  2. Charlene Sowell

    Holly tears are rolling. Saying prayers for Olivia’s hearing and for your and Robert’s strength. I love you all, Aunt Charlene.
    P.s. You teach me so much about the Lord in each and everyone of your blogs.


  3. Every day baby girl, I just become more and more proud of you. Hang in there, God’s gonna show up big for yall, and when He does, there wont be one single person that can deny that He and He alone is Healer and Fixer of all things! Love you Holly Doll.


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