Leading up to Christmas, I only shared with people that we weren't "doing Christmas" if they asked such questions as, "Do you have all your Christmas shopping done? or "Are you all ready for Christmas?" In those instances, I would simply say, "This is our first year not to celebrate Christmas." If someone simply said, "Merry Christmas," I would graciously respond with a simple, "Thank you." I was in constant prayer that God would guide conversations and opportunities in His timing.
Well, I THOUGHT we'd be done after yesterday had passed but today we were bombarded with one question... "What did you get for Christmas." So in turn, I responded again with, "We didn't do gifts this year."
As the questions have all left me even further happy with our decision... it has caused me to be in great thought. My mind thinks about several issues surrounding this decision a lot. And today, as I was pondering them again, I reflected on this past year, thought about the future year, and questioned whether or not I would continue to blog... or share what's going on in our life.
I had some good quiet time to think and reflect. I asked myself why I blog. I have done this many times before but had new motivation for the question again as one of the issues of our decision to skip Christmas came to light. The issue is that I don't want people to think that I am spiritually better than others. It was really brought to light that conviction and obedience can be seen as self righteousness or judgment. And that is the LAST thing I want to reflect.
I also don't want to reflect a legalistic perception. I was in an environment of legalism very early in life and I spoke boldly against it then (crazy to me now that that was in me even as a child). So I am very aware of the difference between obedience for acceptance and obedience out of love and gratitude and a desire for transformation. I have been in both boats. It even has had an affect on my thoughts on parenting (as God parents us).
The other issue is a "Look at me" attitude. I don't want people to think that I share things in our life to portray a "Look at me" kind of attitude. I searched deep in my heart at motives. And God was sweet... mercifully so. I know that in my heart, that my constant intent is to give God glory... for anything good or blessed in my life comes only from Him.
Searching my heart for motive left me with this: God is so real and so manifests Himself in a way in my life that I can not contain it! It is as simple as that. It is as big as that. It is as hopeful as that. It is as transforming as that. It is His power. It is His grace. It is His patience. It is His presence. It is His truth. It is His love. It is His GIFT. I just seek Him and strive to let Him have His way with me. And when He shows Himself to me in such a REAL way, over and over and over, I LONG for everyone to know He is that real and active. That is what motivates me... a desire to share how ALIVE God is and how intimate we can be with Him.
I am reading this amazing book that I totally recommend called, "The Beautiful Fight," by Gary Thomas. His book, "Sacred Marriage," spoke to me earlier in my life as well. I am reading the last three chapters today and they spoke to me so boldly and timely. Thomas says, "If we focus only on God's forgiveness and speak of grace only as "pardon" we will diminish the Scripture's call for actual transformation; on the other hand, if we teach transformation apart from forgiveness, we'll inevitably lead our hearers into frustration and desperation.... Some people talk about grace in such a way that they appear to view God's commands as our enemy, as if Jesus came to save us from "them" rather than from judgment and disobedience. God didn't stop commanding us when He sent Jesus; instead, He now gives us the power to obey these commands, as well as the will to surrender to them. Not only are we set free from the guilt and shame of not living up to God's laws; we are given the power to finally walk in love and as transformed people to walk in obedience." I think he puts that together beautifully. It's not an "either or"... (grace verses obedience)... it's an "and".
He also goes onto to say: "Transformation will wear us out if it becomes our duty in order to be accepted by God; but transformation is a life-giving force when it becomes God's gift." And that is what it is to me... a beautiful gift. And I want more and more and more.
There was a time in my life when I wanted to walk away from my marriage. It pains me today to even remember that time, to type the words. I am so saddened to the core at the pain I caused my husband. I am so saddened to the core at the selfishness that motivated me. I could have given you a laundry list of reasons why I wanted "out". I even tried to console my thoughts with, "Grace will cover me and I won't go to hell." But I am so so so thankful that something echoed louder in my heart... it was a desire to be obedient.
At that time, that was the ONLY reason I stayed in the marriage. Abby was our only child then and so I also rationalized that she would be ok. Being the child of a divorce... I also knew better to believe that thought (although God's grace and healing has mended those wounds as well). My prayers turned from "Make Don blah blah blah... and help him to blah blah blah" to "Lord, I am broken and I am choosing to obey you... because I love you so so much... please Lord, please help us. Change my heart. Change what I see. Change what I think. Change how I feel. Help me... I can not do this... please... help me." I was inspired to seek God in a real way.
And you know what... HE DID! I am so humbled when I think of this time. God started changing my heart, changing my thoughts towards my husband, changing my thoughts on what marriage was for ("Sacred Marriage," had a lot to do with this!) and healing our marriage. Our marriage is not perfect today. We still have our moments. We are male and female for one. And we are both imperfect for two.
But here is what God did... those years ago. He showed me that HE would be faithful to His word and He would transform me and change me... if I surrendered to Him. He could not change me as long as I was fighting Him and bent on having my way. I also have the continual reminder of the blessing of my obedience every day when I see my husband bring me coffee, or love our children, or have a tender moment with him. God has shown me that with HIM as my focus, my marriage is better, deeper, and richer than ever before. And I have to include this. I was destructive with my marriage during that time. I didn't want Don to love me anymore... that might have made it easier for me. I was not unfaithful... but I said hurtful things. And God showed me unconditional love... in the flesh...through my husband. This brings me to tears today. My husband may not meet my expectations all the time (as I do not meet his) but he loves me in a mighty way... he loves me in the flesh for God. I could have missed that. I could have missed our other children. I could have missed another opportunity to give God glory for being alive in my life. I could have missed God showing Himself to me through that time. I could have missed life with an amazing man. I would have missed so so much.
As I searched my heart today, I was shown boldly that I struggle with being harsh. I hate it. I hate I have that behavior in me. I want it gone. I also let expectations affect my behavior. I want to surrender this too. And there are many more... many more flaws and sins that I need to find, confess, and bury under the cross. I never, ever want to come across as being spiritually arrived... I do always want to come across as seeking and growing.
So do I want to share anymore... my journey... our journey... our life? Do I want to make my transforming and growing public at the possible expense of being thought of in a negative light?
I'll rewrite it from my journal entry today. "When people see transformed lives, they are given hope, encouraged, and inspired. I know I was today at church as two couples shared beautiful testimonies of what God has done and is doing in their lives. They are left with hope, encouragement, and inspiration because they see God. They see God alive, moving, and evident. I want no praise or admiration for anything good in my life. I share my life in hopes that God and Christ can be seen and one may be inspired to seek Him. My life is a testimony to, "Look... see... HE IS REAL and ALIVE!" Because if He wasn't, I'd be a mess. My life would be a mess. But I am not a mess and neither is my life. I and my life are not perfect. And my life is tainted with my flaws and sin. But it is in the hands of God, it is learning to surrender more and more, and it is desiring to reflect Him more and more. It is touched by Him, indwelled by Him, and being used by Him. It is His.
Until He tells me differently... I will continue to share it and continue to give Him praise and glory for it. It is a gift.