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Posts Tagged ‘Holy Spirit’


Many of us embrace our first perception of others’ words to us and react to our emotions that rise in that moment as if they thoroughly encapsulate the intent and essence of the other individual. In my life, cooperating with that often fuels an unnecessary and unconscious escalation of tension and misunderstanding, not to mention missing any benefit from the interaction.

But the Holy Spirit is teaching me a different way.

Beyond listening, he is reining in my pace and my self-centeredness, revealing and displacing my idol of efficiency, and showing me how to guard my heart even from my own assumptions. It’s just too easy – and gratifying to my flesh – to paint others’ words with my own shame, guilt, and unmet need, leading to inexplicable behavior on my part and wounding of the person I’m responding to. Assumptions are powerful, aggressive sirens concealing the sharp rocks of hurt like sweet fog, and the world and my flesh encourage me to just grab that initial interpretation without pausing to ask God. Waiting for truth and God’s perspective and insight to coalesce from the expression of another person just as disoriented as I; recognizing wisdom and godliness and relationship require time; letting love reign over impatience and fear; that is the way of Christ.

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It’s December.  It’s Christmastime.  The weather has changed, the final page of the calendar is open, and my thoughts center on the center of the holiday, the center of time, Jesus.

As I consider the heart of the gospel, namely a savior’s arrival, the Savior promised to all but also to you and me, my thoughts are occupied by Joseph, Mary’s husband, whom the fulfillment of God’s centuries-long awaited promise certainly placed in a disruptive, uncomfortable, even dangerous position.  Societies have expectations of their members, and Nazareth was no different.  An industrious man, making a living with his hands and skills, carrying hopes and dreams of a wife, a family, a life tends to be viewed positively by society, a contributor to the well-being of all.  He was man merely making his way in the midst of others equally poor and focused on surviving as Jewish people within the restraint and frequent oppression of a disinterested Roman government.

And then… without warning, his young wife-to-be, the gateway of his dreams, returns from a happy visit with extended family dramatically changed.  Apprehension, anxiety and joy mingling violently in her face and heart drown his thrill and anticipation of reunion.  She has already lived in an intimacy with God beyond any other woman in all creation, and it has caused her to gamble her entire being on God’s faithfulness and power; but Joseph knew nothing of her journey or her encounter with the angel or the Holy Spirit.  He only knew that this woman he was learning to love stood before him, evidence of sexual intimacy with another on display.   He was no doubt humiliated, betrayed, ashamed, angry, terrified and in despair.  The life and family he had imagined and worked toward appears now to be utterly scorned and ruined by the one to whom he pledged his heart and life and livelihood.

I can’t imagine the tumult churning in Joseph’s mind and heart.  All of his dreams were torn to pieces, and the wreckage of his life lay before him, awaiting his response.  Why?  had to be one of the questions on his lips.  Resentment, even rejection of the whole mess would be completely understandable; yet, he listened to God’s intervening voice.  Trust in these kinds of situations is so difficult and risky, yet Joseph received God’s encouragement, accepted Mary’s pregnancy as brought about by the Holy Spirit and chose to reject his fear and doubt.  He, too, risked his reputation, his living, his family’s safety and kept Mary as his wife, drinking deeply from the comfort and reassurance that God had poured into him through the angel.

I’m blown away.  I can’t pretend to understand the depths of Joseph’s warring emotions, the shock and disappointment at how his life had unfolded.  I hope so, but I don’t know whether I would have trusted God enough to embrace the insane path ahead.  And yet, in this moment, I can hear the Spirit nudging me to consider a different side.

For God’s promise to be fulfilled, a human boy had to be born to a virgin in Bethlehem, a virgin who descended from David.  But for God’s purpose to be fulfilled, that boy was also going to need to become a godly man, and it wouldn’t happen automatically.  He had to live a man’s life, and that meant:  learning masculinity, strength, kindness, generosity, courage and perseverance; discovering the gifts of laughter, humor, hard work, sleep, cold water on a hot day, a delicious meal; acquiring and honing the ability to reason, skills with his hands and discernment with his eyes, how to respond when he received what he wanted, how to respond when he was disappointed; working through what a godly man is to do with emotions of anger, sadness, disappointment, worry, grief, joy, love.  And betrayal.

I’m beginning to see it now.  It felt like a curse, like a future ruined, because his faith was in the events, the feelings of fulfillment of his own vision, the way things were expected to, supposed to happen.  But God needed a man to raise his son, and a man focused on his own designs and plans would never be able to carry the burden, the unimaginable weight of knowing he was teaching, raising, shaping the very character of God’s only son, even the promised deliverer.  God choosing Joseph for Jesus’ human father was an equal honor to that received by Mary as his mother.  One man and one woman, chosen once for all time, to participate in this culmination of God’s plan to rescue his imprisoned image-bearers.  I’m floored by the immensity of the honor of God’s choice.

God turns my gaze toward my own children, and I begin to grasp the point.  My own life has not unfolded as I planned or expected or even desired.  Fractures I didn’t want and directions I didn’t imagine crowd my history, yet he has chosen me to be their human father – to raise them, teach them how to live, how to follow him, how to respond to happiness and sadness, gifts and grief, love and pain.  I have had a couple of decades to train them and prepare them, to enjoy them and offer them myself, to introduce them to the loving father who made them through me and my wife, and to begin to teach them how to walk with him.

And in this moment, I know the day that seemed beyond distant will soon be today.  I will open the door for them to step through and begin their own story only to discover it has already begun, and that I have been playing a role a bit like Joseph’s.

Why me, Father?  I don’t really know, but it doesn’t really matter because the honor drowns my thoughts, preventing more questions.  Just grateful, I weep.

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