Have you ever had to give a loved one LESS than you would have liked to have given?
At Christmas, while others are giving name brand name clothes, high-end electronics, expensive toys, etc., you are giving out dish towels and hand made jars of hot coca mix or cake mixes? Although you had to make your choice of gifts because of your lack of means, it likely left you a bit embarrassed and ashamed. It wasn’t any FAULT of your own, but you FELT feelings of shame. Granted, I have met ‘cheapskates’, that regardless of means, we just know they chose to spend as little as humanly possible on others as it is just their nature. I know that sounds judgmental but I think we all know those people who are just plain ‘stingy’. I guess that is why we hate to give small, insignificant gifts… because of how we will be perceived by those around us, particularly by the recipient of our gifts.
As a side note but actually quite relevant to this discussion, ‘shame’ is a powerful emotion. One doesn’t even have to be guilty of anything to FEEL ashamed. Do you know how many poor souls there are in this world who have been ‘shamed’ or told (or experienced) they were insignificant? Guilty vs innocent is a matter of ‘doing wrong or doing right.’ However, what happens when a person has had their character or their actions defined (labeled) as “wrong” or “ugly” or with impure motives – labeled ‘guilty’ – but those accusers have been false and unkind and have had their own skewed motives of advancing themselves at the cost of another’s own view of themselves?
In fact, I’ll go one step further… one who innately has a low opinion of themselves will almost always, if they are being honest, redefine themselves negatively regardless of how the people in their lives try to convince them of their worth. Their own opinion of themselves isn’t based on reality but on their own ‘worse case scenario’ image of their life in their own skewed mind. (Sorry, I got off on a tangent that I am rather passionate about. I told you, I am a VERY passionate person… And I’m not necessarily talking about an ‘affectionate’ person. I’m talking about the other word: ‘passionate.’)
Back to considering my Savior, Jesus! Back to my introspection. “What is MY gift to Jesus?” What about all my gifts of service to Jesus and for Jesus’ sake (both duty and genuine adoration)? Naively as a teenager, when I committed my life to serving Jesus and committed, with my husband-to-be, to go into FULL-TIME ministry, with reckless abandon and no holds barred, I certainly expected my life to have looked differently by now (talk about rose-colored glasses)! I won’t detail what I pictured our lives to look like today, but I’m sure you can imagine some scenarios. Although I obviously didn’t dream that our lives or our gifts of service would appear as lofty as the wise-men with their gifts of “gold, frankincense and myrrh,” I certainly thought that it would feel a bit more significant than the poor drummer boy who had nothing to offer the king but his frail little self and a simple song on the simple little instrument he carried on his person.
But what if God has NEVER been impressed with MY gifts of service? What if MY road of struggling to MAKE Him and KEEP Him happy with MY life (what could possibly be wrong with trying to please HIM, right?)….
was inadvertently more about validating MY life, MY character, MY gifts, MY duty, MY single-hearted, one-way love and adoration of HIM?
***Did you notice how many times I highlighted MY???***
I think that we believers in Jesus Christ have kind of a God-complex about ourselves: we often struggle to EARN and PROVE our worthiness to God, to become more holy (aren’t we commanded to be ‘more holy’?) as if we are attempting to elevate ourselves to this higher dimension of God’s favor, to look around us and compare ourselves to others (“well, I’m definitely more holy than these people beneath me”), and we seriously think that when we get to heaven, God is going to rate us and pat us on the head and say, “wow, I’m so proud of the holiness you achieved.”
To be honest, I have become so consumed with the sovereignty of God in my life. I won’t give away topics of future posts, but my life has had its exhausting share of hardships, health issues, failed dreams, ministries that have failed to take hold and ministries that God, in HIS sovereignty has allowed to be ripped out from under us. It has been an exhausting life trying to balance the weight of all the needs of the people we have been called to be responsible for (marriage, children, family, the people in our church as well as others God put in our path to whom to minister, and the list goes on) and all the things and duties to which God called us (my husband’s full time secular job, the tent-making pastoral ministries that were always “full time” even when many might have considered them “part time,” our home’s maintenance, the projects that had to be done NOW, the responsibilities of being a member of an extended family and contributing to their needs as well, and that list is just the tip of the iceberg). I’m sure every person in the world has their own overwhelming pressures and burdens, maybe more, that weigh heavily on their lives).
Let me get to the point before I lose you all. You see? This is what I firmly believe: God, in His sovereignty gives and takes away. If you have wonderful health, He has given it. If you have poor health, He has given it. If your burden is heavy with responsibilities (IF He has indeed called you to these – but that is a topic for another day), then He has given it. If you have lost your job or are no longer in a past ministry, He has taken it. I DO believe God does discipline for OUR own good SOME-times (but those who believe that this is ALWAYS the reason should listen to that song, “you’re so vain, I bet you think this ‘song’ is about you”)!
However, most of the time, I REALLY believe
He is the divine superintendent of His own glory.
He does things (sometimes things that don’t make sense to us because of our depravity), that have its ultimate culmination in HIS glory. In fact, we may live and die and never know WHY God did or allowed things in our lifetime. But God, being outside of time, has a plan. And God will ultimately use ALL the events that he orchestrates and allows to bring HIM glory!
(And He should, by the way! He has that right! HE IS GOD!)
So, consider your ‘blessings’. Consider your sufferings. Consider your responsibilities. Consider your limitations. Is God not the author and finisher of our faith? Isn’t He the ONE Who gives all our ‘gifts’ to us in the first place? It’s like when we used to give our kids $20 to go into the dollar store so they could buy us Christmas gifts. They bought our gifts with the money we gave them.
The question then is this:
Are you ok with THAT? Are you ok with
how God has sovereignly orchestrated your life?
Are you ok with both the ‘nice’ gifts He has given you and the miseries He has allowed to come upon you (both burdens AND sufferings)? The apostle Paul said it this way:
“And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am (He is) strong.” 2 Cor. 12:9-10
“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body…… For all things are for your sakes, so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound TO THE GLORY OF GOD.” (2 Cor. 4:7-10,15)
“Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.” (Phil. 4:11)
Now, let’s journey back to the manger…..
(Close your eyes…. are you there?)
Do you see yourself in the image of the lofty wise men with their very impressive, costly gifts? Do you see yourself in the lowly curious shepherds, or in Joseph, or Mary? Or, if you are honest with yourself, do you see yourself more as that fictitious ‘little drummer boy’? You have no impressive gifts to bring your King? All you have is your person, your heart and whatever ‘song’ HE HAS GIVEN YOU RIGHT NOW with which you can RETURN TO HIM as praise?
Now…. I’ll ask you again. Are you satisfied and content with your gift to Jesus, those gifts however large or small He has entrusted to you that you are RIGHT NOW able to bring to your King? I declare, I am!!! And…. even when I forget these important principles and feel like slinking away in shame and defeat at my seeming unworthiness, I CHOOSE to return to this theoretical manger again and humbly remember the divine orchestrator of my life and I affirm again:
“I am content with my humble gift to Him!