Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Full Life In The Empty Places

I've been reading the same three passages most days this December... Matthew 1, Matthew 25:31-46, and Isaiah 58.

What is that God really wants from us in this life? What real meaningful gifts could I possibly give to the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords on His birthday? 

I've asked myself these questions over and over again throughout these days and weeks. And the truth is, I learn slowly, very slowly in fact. And there's not a whole lot I can think to do about it, except to continue to work it all out on the quiet pages of this place...

These words out of the mouth of Isaiah... They keep ringing in my ears. I think about them when I'm going to sleep and when I'm washing the dishes and when I just might be believing the enemy and his tricky tricky words...

"Shout! A full-throated shout! Hold nothing back—a trumpet-blast shout!
Tell my people what's wrong with their lives,    face my family Jacob with their sins!They're busy, busy, busy at worship,    and love studying all about me.To all appearances they're a nation of right-living people—    law-abiding, God-honoring.They ask me, 'What's the right thing to do?'    and love having me on their side.But they also complain,    'Why do we fast and you don't look our way?    Why do we humble ourselves and you don't even notice?'  Well, here's why:
   "The bottom line on your 'fast days' is profit.
   You drive your employees much too hard.You fast, but at the same time you bicker and fight.   You fast, but you swing a mean fist.The kind of fasting you do   won't get your prayers off the ground.Do you think this is the kind of fast day I'm after:   a day to show off humility?To put on a pious long face   and parade around solemnly in black?Do you call that fasting,   a fast day that I, God, would like?
 This is the kind of fast day I'm after:
   to break the chains of injustice,   get rid of exploitation in the workplace,   free the oppressed,   cancel debts.What I'm interested in seeing you do is:   sharing your food with the hungry,   inviting the homeless poor into your homes,   putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad,   being available to your own families.Do this and the lights will turn on,   and your lives will turn around at once.Your righteousness will pave your way.   The God of glory will secure your passage.Then when you pray, God will answer.   You'll call out for help and I'll say, 'Here I am.'

 If you get rid of unfair practices, 
   quit blaming victims,    quit gossiping about other people's sins,If you are generous with the hungry    and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out,Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness,    your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.I will always show you where to go.    I'll give you a full life in the emptiest of places—    firm muscles, strong bones.You'll be like a well-watered garden,    a gurgling spring that never runs dry.You'll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew,    rebuild the foundations from out of your past.You'll be known as those who can fix anything,    restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate,    make the community livable again. 13-14"If you watch your step on the Sabbath   and don't use my holy day for personal advantage,If you treat the Sabbath as a day of joy,   God's holy day as a celebration,If you honor it by refusing 'business as usual,'    making money, running here and there—Then you'll be free to enjoy God!   Oh, I'll make you ride high and soar above it all.I'll make you feast on the inheritance of your ancestor Jacob."   Yes! God says so!" (Isaiah 58)

I've read these words and gone through a long series of emotions. I tend to over analyze things, think way to hard upon the simple. I fall into the guilt of what I'm not doing instead resting in the promise that He is constantly at work in me, molding me into the daughter that He wants me to be for His glory. 

And the more that I press into him, the most vulnerable honest truth is, that I have been finding my heart in doubt... doubt that He really is who He says He is... 

And sometimes, I even wonder if giving my heart and my life over to this God, whom I've never seen with my naked eyes, whom I have an absurd amount of trouble understanding with my feeble human brain, is mere foolishness?

I'm a housewife and a Mama to many small children and I live in the sticks outside of a mile high city, and despite myself and all the details that I don't understand, He's taken my heart this Christmas season and He's opened my eyes to the needs of the world, of His people, and turned my heart towards the things that break His. And as I see the hungry and  hurting, I am swept over by those annoying feelings of inadequacy.

And the truth is, I am inadequate. 

But isn't that the point?

He is able, more than able, to do MUCH more than I could ever think upon or imagine.

If I wanna live the fullest life, wanna give a gift worthy of my King, I can give the gift of resting in His promises. 

And  I can take the needs that He's opened my eyes to and be obedient to what He's impressed upon my heart to do. 

Because isn't obedience in and of itself success?

I begin to doubt when I lack understanding. I don't know the details of how He might use  this short life of mine to bring glory to His name. I don't understand how I can be of any use to Him whatsoever. I'm a housewife who live in the sticks. I won't be on my way to Africa anytime soon. I won't be cuddling Aids babies in any orphanages or sharing my passion for purity in any public schools this year. But I have read His word, over and over and over again. And this is what I do know... 

If I share my food with the hungry, (could that simply be giving the neighbor who's soul hungry some cookies splattered in the love of Jesus?)
   If I invite the unlovable in, and LOVE on them,    If I put clothes on the shivering (Could I maybe clean out my closet, or pick an angel off the tree at church and buy a new shirt for a little one who's lost everything tangible in a tornado?)
and am available to my own family... (Maybe just hold the kids a bit closer, speak into them some words of affirmation? Maybe I could remind the Cowboy how much I cherish him with a notecard on the front seat of his car?)

Then His light in me will be able to glow in the darkness. Then, even in the empty places, because everyone's got empty places, He will bring the fullest life. 

He's good like that. 

I don't get it always. 

My lame words can hardly capture the joy of it all. 

It's Christmas time... 

It's the most amazing miracle come true closest to home, right here in our very hearts. 

He didn't call us to save the world. What a relief! Instead, He sent His Son to do that. 

That's Christmas! His Son come down to do the very things that we simply cannot do apart from Him

More gifts to give this season to the King of Kings?? How about faith? How about believing whole-heartedly in the things that I cannot see, knowing even through the doubting days that this heart would be absolutely nothing without Him?

He gives the fullest life, even in these sometimes empty places...