Posts Tagged ‘grace’

Good times can be hard to release.


When crisis is absent, relationships are in sync, my health is good and finances are balanced, I can unconsciously decide to try to preserve that moment, that state.  Knowing God is a given, no maintenance required, but those pleasures must be protected.  So, even as I move away from the Lord, ironically I still expect, even feel entitled to, the pleasure and peace I enjoyed while with him.  While the possibility of stress and fear of discordant outcomes doesn’t seem significant in his presence, once I make my move, that perspective is quickly dispersed and the pressure begins building.


The truth is, beyond being futile, gripping my present so tightly harms my future.  If I resist God’s good work to grow me up in favor of staying put, I’ve again wrenched back control from his perfect will and begun managing the elements of my life to form my vision of a good future.  From his endless affection, Father still gives wonderful gifts to me, but I tend toward dismissing their power; enjoying the benefit but ignoring the source.  I suppose that could be a decent seven-word summary of idolatry.  I’d love to say I recognize what’s happening right away and quickly turn back, but it is only when I have traveled a few miles and been sufficiently disturbed by hazards that I realize the error – the repeated error – I’ve committed.  Somewhere along the way, those gifts became my reason and purpose.  With my smiling approval, they became my gods.


As my eyes shed their fog, shame and embarrassment pang; my foolishness is distressingly familiar, and I stare, incredulous that I could again voluntarily choose blindness.  Yet even this he redeems!  As I return to him much like the wayward son in Luke 15:17-20, understanding sprouts through the soil of my repentance.  I rediscover his heart and his character as he hugs me tightly, and after a terrible, lost moment, I hug him back.  He suffocates my fear with his love.  The healing from the new wounds will take longer, I know, but I feel no doubt it will come.


After several trips through this craggy trail of godless striving I’ve begun to see his intent.  God will always allow our brash interpretations and headstrong wills to take us away from his heart into struggle and suffering and pain – not to punish us, but rather to bring repentance, restoration and peace through letting reality burn away the dross of our foolishness.  And despite apprehension of the experience, I am grateful.  And I’m awed by the agonizing, deliberate restraint of a father who can remove the suffering, but for our sake does not, because he knows it will not last forever, that we will emerge more alive than ever before.  So he suffers with his children through the inevitable shock, accusations and desperate pleading until we collapse into his arms, finally surrendered.  He never takes offense or throws up his hands in exasperation.  His grace, the beautiful, pure grace of the only complete father for his children, never runs out.

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So many of us pray for a miracle in our lives, forgetting that our lives are a miracle. Each day is a gift of mercy from God’s hand – for followers of Jesus, an opportunity to begin living our eternal life now.

We can show mercy, place our shoulder under others’ struggles and fight with them, encourage a saddened heart, point and lead them toward freedom from sin, and listen like the Holy Spirit listens: compassionately and filled with uncompromising truth.

In other words, we can be Jesus to those around us and build our heavenly wealth by loving God and people with every gift we’ve been given, letting him be in charge of their hearts and the changes in their lives. But that is often more difficult than it seems. I want some credit for my part. Even if it’s only recognition that I played some part, I desire others to see me that way.

So my self-centered sin makes more noises, making sure I know it’s still hanging on. It keeps inviting me to absorb some glory, suggesting the alternative to be a loss. Don’t be content with anonymity, it whispers. Make sure all know what you’ve accomplished! Ah, but here is where the tempter oversteps. For I have fallen flat on my face enough times to know any of my accomplishments are only so by my Father’s grace; indeed, they are his accomplishments, not because I don’t matter but because on my own, without God’s help, my sin would have contaminated the outcome.

As we prepare for the celebration of new life’s arrival with the arrival of that new life so long ago, I want to remember that every one made in the likeness of God is a miracle already, including you. After all, what is a miracle but a working of God’s hands, an expression of his heart and love in our days, something we never could attain without him? Today is the day he designs for all of us: for those who haven’t yet, to meet him; for those who have to enjoy him. Christmas Day marks the beginning of the destruction of darkness by God’s unstoppable light – all to rescue those trapped by evil who belong to him. Because to him, we are worth it.

Merry Christmas, Miracle of God!

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