A quick story… when I was a little girl, my friend and I got it in our heads that we needed to save the whales. We attended a rather smallish church and not one that had a particular vision for whale-saving. We decided to make a poster and put out a jelly jar to collect the funds. After about a month we’d collected about $2.75. I confess that those funds may have been abused, and were probably used at Dairy Queen. My bad.
You’ve heard the phrase ‘the favor of God’? It’s jargon, really, but it probably refers back to Scripture. Some might call it ‘good karma’ but as Christians we believe that God is behind the good things that happen to us and we give the credit to His heart toward us instead of chance or electromagnetic airwaves. That’s mainly because we’re in this personal relationship with Him and, as His children, we watch for Him to provide for us… to open doors of opportunity, to grease the skids relationally, and generally make things go successfully. That’s our reality. We have God’s favor as His beloved kids.
There’s another climate in which we interact with God which I’m going to call permission. You’ve been there I’ll bet. You get this great idea in your head, ala saving the whales, or you decide ‘I’m going to become a yodeler.’ Beautiful. Nothing wrong with yodeling, or saving the whales incidentally. It’s just that when the idea is our own, we sometimes find ourselves in a situation where Father God nods and seems to say, ‘Go ahead. S’ok. I’ll catch you on the other side of this thing.’ Nice. It has $2.75 in a jelly jar written all over it but out of our determination we make our poster ‘Save the Whalez’ when in fact its really our own program and He’s just waiting for us to get a grip.
Last, it seems there is a place in our journey with God which is that of commission. Commission is easy to spot because a person starts the explanation of their plan with words like, “You know, I never thought in a million years I would find myself doing this BUT…” This is the place where somehow we’ve gotten a hold of an idea that originated in the heart of God, and we’re getting on board with Him. We’re bumbling our way through each step, looking to Him for help and direction. We certainly enjoy what we’re doing but we can never seem to quell the amazement that the idea didn’t first begin within our own heart. In times like these I submit to you Father’s words, ‘Ah, kiddo. I see you’ve got My heart here. Ha! I love this! I’m prepared, Girl, to move mountains as you step into the free-fall of a trusting walk with Me. Take a step. I promise I will be with you. I will provide for you, and I will give you nations.’
Nations. When we shift out of save-the-whales mode and take on the dreams that were founded in His heart, we will never lack for resources, comfort, courage, or fruit. Reader Beware: These things may not come in our timing! They may not go the way we are convinced they should, believe me. But being given over to His purposes will result in His renown, His glory being made known to throughout the earth. Whole nations are presently coming to God, coming into deep relationship with Him, and it’s a result of the obedience of ordinary people like you and me. We can truly expect Him to accomplish the purposes of His own heart.
I don’t often write from the position of vulnerability. It’s much easier to offer you answers and not questions. Today I’m struck with a question, though, and I want to think it through.
Like me, you may be living in a personal season of advent. It’s true that Christians acknowledge the Advent season, the four Sundays prior to Christmas where the coming of the Christ Child is anticipated and celebrated. There is dual meaning here because we also anticipate the return of the resurrected Christ. In either case, the Advent season is for the celebration of the coming fulfillment of a promise, and that’s what I’m driving at here.
Real people. With real questions. And real, unfulfilled promises. And waiting. My question is this:
When it comes to celebrating the advent of the Christ Child or anticipating the return of the resurrected Christ, my decision to enter into the celebration is not based on something subjective. The Christ Child has already come, and so in that sense I join the Jewish people as they waited for the Messiah … the Expected One. I don’t look within, or at my external circumstances to decide whether or not He’s really coming again. Just as the Jews knew then and they know now, that He.Is.Coming, I also know. And in spite of the hustle and bustle of the season I engage my heart in the celebration. And the waiting.
But here’s the kicker…
When I ponder my personal dreams and hopes I base the reality of their fulfillment on external evidence. I keep looking around me. I don’t see people lining up to make an offer on my house, for example. And my heart fails. I become incredibly discouraged because it doesn’t look like it’s happening at all! There’s no evidence, I moan to myself. Everything in me starts to believe I’ve made a mistake, that I’ve got the wrong idea. And, like a Border Collie on espresso I start the spin, chasing my tail round and round. Frustration! Agh! Questions! Grr! Doubts! Self-incrimination! With this I cease to celebrate the coming time when my home will be sold and I will be free to pursue other dreams.
The short answer is that it’s my old enemy, Unbelief, that keeps me from entering into the celebration. The longer, more complex answer is to choose a right response to the mess. I poke at my heart to take the first step, and I whisper softly, “Lord, You see this complexity in my heart. You see all things. How would You have me respond right now? How can I connect with You, right now?” And somehow, the process starts with my taking a bit of His unconditional acceptance. Then even though my heart is “two sizes two small” and a bit wrapped up in myself, I am able to look at the Father. And just let it be. Unfulfilled for now. A mess right now. But it had to be that way in Bethlehem too, that night.
“But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel.
His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity. …
Because at that time He will great to the ends of the earth.
This One will be our peace.” Micah 5:2, 4b-5
Certainly no one in Bethlehem was expecting the birth of a King that cold night. Why there, exactly? And why Mary? God is funny sometimes in who He chooses for what tasks. But we can trust Him. Enter into Advent season this year … the celebration of Promise fulfilled. Waiting. Believing.