Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Eve Reading

Many of us have known the feeling of sending our children to their first day of kindergarten. We have a groundswell of emotions that all take place in a short span of time. We feel anxiety – will the teacher be attentive to her runny nose? Fear – will the other children be kind or will there be a bully to push him around at recess? Apprehension – will she actually stay in her seat if I leave the room? Is she going to come running out of the room, crying after me, begging me to stay? And grief as our hearts are broken, knowing that time has passed, the toddler days are over and life will never be the same.

And so, with our stomach churning, tears brimming our eyes, and a lump in our throat, we send our sweet little children off into the world. Our emotions come because we know what waits for them. We know the teacher won’t be as attentive as we are to the runny nose, and we know that no one will be as loving and kind as we are, and we know there will be bullies on the playground, and we know that our baby is growing up and no longer needs us like he once did. 

For many of us, sending our child to kindergarten is the first time we grieve for our children, but it certainly is not the last. We grieve when they graduate elementary school and head into the awkward stage of junior high. We grieve when they move the tassel from one side to the other on Graduation Day. We grieve as we drive away from their dorm, leaving our baby behind for the world to have its way with her. We grieve as we watch our children walk down the aisle, ready to begin their new married life.

We grieve because we lose something at each rite of passage that our children experience. We lose their dependence on us as they gain their independence. We lose their presence in our home as they gain a new life with a home of their own. We grieve for innocence lost. We grieve because change comes. We want them to stay little, cuddle them in our laps, and rock them to sleep each night.

Think about all of those emotions for a second. Think of how your heart aches, literally, as you release your children to the world. Think about how fresh the wound is at each stage of letting go.

Now imagine the grief that heaven might have known when the Father released Jesus to the earth. The saints and angels had enjoyed the company of Jesus. They knew what it was to be in His glorious presence. And worst of all, heaven knew what it was that Jesus was being released to.

Heaven knew that Jesus was coming here for one sole purpose. He left the beautiful sites of heaven just to die the ugliest death.  He didn’t come here for an education, or a good job, or a social life, or to get married and have a family. He came here to die.

Heaven must have grieved painfully on that night that Jesus entered this world in a humble animal trough. He left heaven as royalty and arrived on earth in near poverty. The Father’s heart must surely have been breaking.

But despite the pain that it caused the Father, He still sent Jesus to us. He released his only child to us, to this earth. And the reason why is quite simple. He loves us. He loves me. He loves you. God loves us so deeply, with such intensity, that He sent His only son here to die so each one of us could one day enjoy the beauty of heaven for all eternity. The pain that God felt as a Father releasing Jesus to the world was immeasurably magnified compared to what we feel as we release our own children to the very same world.

As you enjoy the sights, sounds and tastes of Christmas over the next 24 hours, please remember that the night Jesus was born wasn’t exactly joyous for everyone. Heaven likely grieved its loss as the earth received its Savior. We have cause to celebrate, but our celebration comes at a great price. Take time to thank your heavenly Father for releasing Jesus to the world as the most precious gift we will ever know.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Cracked Windshield

I have a crack in my windshield. It started as a small chip sometime in late July 2012. Since that time, it has gradually spread out like a spider web in every direction until I can no longer see clearly at all.

The 'chip' was caused by my first trip to Guatemala. Upon my return my vision has grown more and more blurry. I no longer see life as I once did. And the weirdest part is that even though my windshield is cracked and my vision is blurred, I seem to be able to see more clearly than I have in all of my near-50 years!

I see now that all of this time I have been working to achieve the Great American Dream. My husband and I have worked hard to acquire a nicer house with a nicer yard in a nicer neighborhood with nicer furniture and nicer clothes and a nicer car to drive. And with every upgrade we have made in our lives I now see that we've just adjusted the handcuffs to be a little bit tighter. Every time we acquire more stuff, our burden pulls us down a little bit more.

I am becoming painfully aware of the amount of time it takes to maintain our glorious stuff. Time invested to take care of the yard so that it looks as nice as all of our neighbors.Time spent on washing the car, oil changes, maintenance, etc. Time for cleaning the house and doing laundry. Time that we spend watching a favorite show on our big screen TV or watching our most recent BluRay purchase. Countless hours spent shopping to get more stuff that we don't really need.

The Great American Dream makes me want to puke.

When my last breath is taken, not one single thing I've mentioned here is going to matter. It won't matter how nice or how big our house was. It won't matter if our lawn was the greenest and best manicured in the neighborhood. It won't matter if I wore new clothes. No one will remember if I drove a nice car and kept it clean. I won't be remembered for how many vacations I could afford. Not one person will care if my house was clean or if my furniture was modern. The amount of BluRays I own will not be listed in my obituary. I'm pretty sure my hairstyle or makeup or manicure will not matter once I'm gone.

So if none of those things matter, why do I spend so much time, effort and money on them? Why have I allowed the world to tell me what is important.

My heart is now speaking very loudly and telling me what is important. Life. My life. Other people's lives. Relationships. Ministry. Spending every allowable minute pouring into someone else's life. Making a difference for Jesus. Loving someone who feels unlovable. Teaching a skill that hasn't previously been available because of economic status.

I need a simpler life. I'm not foolish and I know it won't happen overnight. But I have a goal now. When I take my last breath, I hope to have almost zero worldly possessions. I can't take them where I'm headed anyway. I hope to have emptied myself of every ounce of love I have to give. I hope to have no balance in the checkbook and no existence of a savings account. I hope to have shared every bit of knowledge that I've been granted.  I hope that my name will long be forgotten as Jesus' name is remembered along the paths I have traveled. And as I hear myself draw in that last breath, I hope that the next thing I hear is, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

I am grateful for this cracked windshield. It has given me the clearest view I could ever hope for.