I had hopes and expectations for this Christmas season. I started Christmas shopping and preparing my house way earlier than normal. My plan was to be all done with Christmas preparation by December 1st. (I know. What was I thinking? I dream big.) Well, it is December 16th, and I still have several loose ends to tie up. I am not ready. Grrrrr…
I had these lofty plans because I really wanted to have the clarity of mind and free schedule to look for opportunities to help others. I did not want to get caught up in the American-craziness that has become Christmas. I wanted to reflect on what this season is all about, and I wanted to put my actions where my heart is.
I have felt like an epic failure because it is the week before Christmas and I am still struggling to get everything done. I have been so caught up in the material preparation that I have not been able to look for ways to help others.
Then in comes the quiet voice. You have done both.
I had to ponder that one for a moment. I haven’t paused to ask God where he wants me and my family to help others, so how have I done both, God?
I have been too busy. I had a picture in my head of what it would look like to put my actions where my heart is this season. I thought maybe I would drive around with my kids all bundled up and we would stop at a driveway that needs shoveling. Maybe I would hear of a need and be able to anonymously drop something off to that person. Those were the sorts of pictures in my head. I was hoping to look off my radar for a special opportunity.
Instead, the opportunities that have presented themselves have been on my radar, and thus, they went unnoticed until God opened my eyes.
My uncle Ron is in Ann Arbor because he has a genetic mutation from something he was exposed to earlier on in life (most likely in the military). He needed a bone marrow transplant (to receive fresh stem cells in hopes of re-starting his body). My other uncle (Jim) came and made the donation. My uncle Ron needs to wear fresh clothes every day because his immune system is compromised. He is also dealing with hair loss due to the necessary chemo treatments. I had (God gave me) the idea to give him a Detroit Tigers beanie (we are all fans!) to encourage him that we are here, we love him, and we are praying for and rooting for his recovery.
My mom, who usually lives close to my house, is in Ann Arbor taking care of my uncle. She has been gone for almost 2 weeks and I have offered to take care of her house and cat while she is away. We have been dumped on with snow over the last week, so I have had to shovel her driveway several times.
These opportunities to love and serve have been no-brainers. These are things that I want(ed) to do and have not thought twice about. Without realizing it, I have done the very things I had hoped to have time carved out to do – just not the way I was expecting. I expected to help anonymously and to help someone outside my family, but that is not where the need was/is. I expected to have time to go looking for opportunities. Instead, I embraced the opportunities that presented themselves.
At the same time, I think it is good to purposefully and intentionally look for ways to help others – because it forces us to look up. We look up from our busy schedules. We look up from whatever has captured our attention and we allow ourselves to be led forth by a master other than ourselves.
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters” (Colossians 3:23).
I think I have been my master this season, instead of coming under the care of THE Master. This season, I have been driven by my ideas and plans. I may have had the right heart motivating me, but I have relied on only my strength to carry me. Unknowingly, I have accomplished what I hoped I would this season, but I have been near exhaustion in the process. I have felt overwhelmed and crazy busy. I have missed out on a piece of the joy that God graciously gives when we serve others because I have seen these “opportunities” as just one more thing I have to get done. The busyness has stolen a bit of the flavor of the season.
Looking back, I really do not think this season would have looked a whole lot different in terms of what I have put my hand to even if I had relied on God’s strength, instead of my own. The difference would have been seen in the measure of joy and peace I experienced.
Oh well, live and learn, right? Most of the time we can all agree that “wish we would’ve known then what we know now.” I am thankful that God is graciously and gently teaching me these lessons so that I can become more like Him and experience more of heaven on earth. God is faithfully working out his salvation in me.
Salvation began on earth for mankind when his Son was born (what we celebrate at Christmas) and has been unfolding ever since.
In most churches, we gather that a remarkable peace and joy are things reserved for “that day- whenever we go to Heaven.” We do not hear that we are meant to experience heaven on earth NOW.
Jesus came to earth to bring heaven to earth. He came to set up his rule and his reign on earth. We do not have to wait for heaven. We can begin tasting and experiencing the fruit of heaven here, now.
He wants un-understandable peace for all of us. He wants abundant joy for all of us. This joy and this peace that Jesus spoke of are unshakable. They are not damaged or influenced by circumstances. They weather any and every storm. But we can not find them without the Light of the World living in us and through us.
“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:3).