Each year, at Christmas, our family has a tradition. We celebrate Christmas in all the fun ways with a kid (Santa, Snoopy - our Elf, Christmas movies, and hot cocoa) but that is our christmas. We also celebrate CHRISTMAS by celebrating Jesus’ birthday.
Each year since 2012, we have a birthday party (cake, gifts and all) but it is slightly different than the parties we are accustomed to. We give Jesus personal gifts that we focus on all year. In addition, I also set goals for myself each year. In that past these have been much simpler, but last year I began to approach both with sincere intention.
Last year, Time with God was the priority I desperately longed to have appropriately aligned in my life. So, in 2018, my commitment to spending #timewithGod was both my goal, and my gift to Jesus for his birthday. God honored my desire & focus with His grace and conviction; but also by giving me a great love for His word and His presence.
I began 2019 with 2 goals: Read through the Bible and stay in constant bible study with others. And my gift [insert nervous sigh] – my thoughts and my words. This year my focus is to keep Him appropriately prioritized, while living my faith with those around me and to watch my mouth.
Simple enough – right? Be social and Be Kind.
Be Social. I would not consider myself as much an introvert as I once thought – but I would not tie myself to the word Social either. I fall somewhere lost between the two.
Be Kind. And my election of gift, was to work on an area I saw weakness in myself - specifically my thoughts and words in line with my patience - or lack thereof. Maybe patience will be my gift next year, but this year, it is controlling my thoughts/words while lacking patience (...or so I thought).
Both would be a challenge, but that is a goal – achievable, attainable, but it takes effort.
2019 met my goal with a big twist. January greeted many of my dear friends with tragedy, deep sadness, grief, painful illness, and loss. Seeing your friends in pain is a tough pill to swallow. Obviously, nothing compared to what they themselves are in pain over, but hard in its very own way. It is something many people avoid. Because they don’t know what to say, or how the person will react, or how to handle emotions. But these are my friends. These are people who have been like family, or in some cases are family. This is pain that you sign up for, to sit with them and endure with them. Letting them know they are not alone.
Today, I spent much of my quiet time praying – for them. For their families. For their strength. For their comfort. And in praying, I realized something: My goals, or intention of growing in these goals/gifts fell far short of how God intended to use them.
My nearsightedness missed the bigger picture completely. God had seasoned and prepared me, but even in setting these goals, I still boxed in the capacity for growth.
Keeping God appropriately prioritized, while living my faith with those around me, who are hurting, and giving God my thoughts and words.
That is a goal/gift I have much to learn.
And I pray now that God equips and uses me in the way he sees fit. I will not be strong enough; or have the words to say. I don’t know how to ease the pain; or be truly empathetic. I am far more likely to cry along-side them in my loss for words.
But - In my weakness HE IS STRONG.
And in pain - HE IS PRESENT.
My inadequacy makes me dependent. A place I need to be.
In Exodus, Moses had a physical struggle to endure - and victory depended on him holding up his arms. When raised, the Israelites prevailed against their enemy. When his arms lowered, the enemy gained back ground. God providentially had Aaron and Hur with Moses on that hill, who literally held Moses’ arms up when he became weary, allowing Israel to claim victory. (Exodus 17:12-13)
Today, it is not as prevalent to see, or should I say acknowledge, such blatant demonstrations of God’s power among us. But, they are there. Not necessarily on battlefields of swords, but in struggles we face.
In 2017, I was the one who needed my faith and hope held up. I was weary. I was failing. I was grasping at the last straws. But I had a few friends who held my “arms” up. It appears, in experiencing this, God was preparing me to be a comfort to others. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
The goal of “doing life/faith with others” looks very different that I envisioned. It was not just coffee dates and bible study. It is being present and praying through some difficult and tough times.
And giving God my words, exceeded my expectation of just kind words. It would be encouragement and truth.
My YES in December 2018 just took on a measure beyond my ability. Beyond my effort. My YES just became fully dependent on God.
In these moments, when I am not capable, #timewithGod holds a deeper importance. Prayer and meditation of the truths in scripture is vital when life requires you to hold up someone else’s arms, or faith, or hope.
I am ill-equipped, but willing - by the grace of God, to be present - whether that means running errands, cooking meals, or praying.
I do not know when or if burdens will be removed or what it will leave in it’s wake – but I do know the sweet intimacy with God that can be accessed and gained in a season of suffering. I know it so well.
Whether you are the one hurting or the one lending a supportive hand – an intimate moment with God can bring joy to the dimmest of places. Where God carries our sorrows, bears our grief, and collects our tears. (Isaiah 53:4, Ps 56:8)