Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Great Reversals

One of the things that I have often pondered is how God shapes our hearts and fashions us for the work He calls us to.  Have you ever noticed that He doesn't automatically give us aptitudes and attitudes for the job?  I've learned over the years that instead He crafts our circumstances and desires to form us in just the specific ways He needs.

Ten years ago I was heartsick and heartsore, longing to be a mother.  The irony of it all was that parenthood did not interest me for so long, until one day it mattered more than anything.  And Tim and I discovered that becoming parents was not going to be an easy journey.  I was about five years into ministry at the time.  I remember entertaining the thought that perhaps God gave me a mother's heart so I would be a better minister. 

Here I am ten years and three boys later, swimming in a sea of testosterone. 

I'm not in full-time ministry for the time being.  I know this is by God's Hand.  I wonder at His plans for me, even as I learn to be joyful where He has planted me.  Plans and Plantings are not always the same thing.  Sometimes one is part of the crafting and forming for the other.  So I wonder in this time of being Planted, Crafted, and Formed:  Did God give me the heart of a minister so I would be a better mother?

Over the past few months I have wrestled with the reversals in my life.  All those years I spent in full-time ministry I struggled to bear up under the expectations of others.  But recently, in the absence of those expectations, I also discovered a deeper truth.  I had wrapped up my identity in the ministry part, failing to know or see or value myself as a child of God first, without the wrappings.  So I've been learning all kinds of valuable lessons about what it means to be me, simply me.  Without title, or vision, or purpose, or drive.  What is most important is close-by, wrapped in the intimate details of feeding, correcting, washing, and loving.  No mission statement.  No vision statement.  Just the faces of little ones who look to me to order their days with love.

I've noticed that Christmas also is wrapped in Great Reversals.  God's sense of humor is that I am deep in the study of Daniel and Revelation during this Advent season.  My heart and mind and soul are full of this picture of Jesus, Son of God, revealed in His Glory and coming to us in His Power, the consuming Fire of His BEING that we often dismiss, ignore, fail to see, or just plain deny.  It's easy to have Jesus in a manger.  Harder to see Him hang on the cross, but still it's manageable.  But oh we avoid seeing Jesus coming as the Consuming Fire, the King who Conquers darkness with Inescapeable Light.  There is absolutely nothing manageable about this King of Kings and LORD of Lords whose tongue is Sword and who reigns with an iron Sceptor.  Oh Mercy!

This is my personal study.  Then I go to lead chapel and preach the Word to preschoolers and Jesus is once again a baby, precious and sweet, and sleeping peacefully in Mary's arms.  At the same time that God fills my imagination with Jesus the King, God purposefully shows Him delicately wrapped in the swaddling clothes, cradled by a manger.  This is the King at rest on Mary's breast!  THE KING!!!!

In our world people of power only occupy places of power.  And if the place is not powerful they do not occupy it.  Powerful people, in the worldly the context, refuse to sit anywhere less than what they believe they are entitled to. 

So here is REAL POWER showing up in the manger bed, sung to by a humble peasant girl, guarded and reared by a carpenter, a day laborer.  The only truly POWERFUL MAN is born not into prestige and position, but without either, in any imaginable form we could recognize.  In fact, His beginnings are so humble, and so particular in their humility, we would totally miss them if God hadn't sent the heavenly messengers to spread the Word.

I've pondered this juxtaposition of Majesty laying in a manger.  It challenges me in a way I've never been challenged.  Because it does what nothing else can do.

It makes my own experience of particular humility--Holy.

God chose the lowest common denominator as His resting Place, so that every place and every person would know they are included in His Plan.  Every one of us.  Every place we find ourselves.  Every station of life.  Every noble and ignoble pursuit we find ourselves in is the birth-place of His Presence when we invite Him in.  Oh Sweet Jesus!  It is so hard to issue the invitation!!!!  We want Him to take us to His Glory and instead He reveals His Glory by showing us His Poverty!  We want Him to make our lives great, and instead He asks us to die again and again to self, that thing in us that covets greatness for ourselves.  He refuses to be made over in our image and continually asks us to be made over in His.

Here is what I have learned.  The sleep is much sweeter in the manger than it is in the palace.  And when we let Him lead us to that simple place of resting in His Hands we too can sleep in Heavenly Peace.  Because the KING of Kings, born in a manger bed, is the only ONE powerful enough to give us Peace that surpasses anything positions of power can give.

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