I don’t know about you, but my life is chalked full of contradictions. The older I get the more in-focus and ridiculous they seem. For example, I hate the cold, but I’ll probably never leave Iowa where it is a balmy -4 degree wind chill today. Here’s a good one: I am an introvert who lacks patience. Guess what I do for a living? I teach middle school. Yes, you read that correctly. I essentially perform all day to a room full of fidgety, farty, and hormonal pre-teens with ever-shortening attention spans. My Enneagram test (a currently trendy personality test) narrowed me down to The Perfectionist (1) and The Helper (2). It is really “fun” wanting to help everyone and trying to do so without flaw. It doesn’t end well for me a lot of the time. I can go on, and because you aren’t a captive audience, I will. I like attention, but it makes me uncomfortable.
I feel passionately about social justice, but I also DVR The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (shudder).
I confess Christ. I would confidently say that all the people who know me or even have limited knowledge of me would vouch for that fact. But they might also say that I still grumble, gossip, and on rare occasion when I am real fired up, let slip a curse word here and there.
These things just don’t jibe, and I am not proposing that I am going to quit my job or stop watching reality tv or that I am forever cured from grumbling, but in 2018 I am going for different...for better. As in most things (politics, education, my eating habits, etc.), the pendulum of life can swing too far from the mistakes of the past. When I was first saved, I saw my own sin and very quickly focused on the sins of other. Then I went past religion and law and rules, and I jumped into the deep end of grace. It freed me. I drank up grace like so much Kool-aid. And it has been so, so good. I am in love with Jesus so hard. I believe that He saved me. I believe that He is preparing a glorious place for me. I believe that because I believe His word.
And while I am so beyond blessed for this good stuff, that can’t be where it stops also because I believe His word.
This past year while I wrestled with weighty theology, philosophy, and humanity I had to admit that maybe despite grace being so necessary and crucial, it made little impact if my life didn’t look different or changed. That maybe 2018 is to be a year to recognize, return, and surrender to His holiness. Not in opposition to His Grace but because of it. For me, 2017 was a year to receive, nurture, absorb, and be hidden in God. Mouth shut, hands stilled, and ears open. This is difficult for me because I am a doer/producer. I feel better when I can create, check-off, and achieve. I spent that stillness finally reading the entire Bible and Bible commentary and listening to podcasts, sermons, and audiobooks. I ran the gamut from apologetics to marriage and parenting to my role as a woman of faith. I read of fire and boldness and also the rewards of cultivating a life of faith that is first and foremost for God alone to see.
In the past, I have struggled with doubt and fear. Doubt that He could love me as I am and fear that He isn’t as good as I was taught to believe.
If I share him deeply and profoundly with others, is He strong enough to reveal and heal and overcome all doubt and fear?
Is it safe to go all in? Could my relationships really be transformed by His truth? Could the Spirit in me really draw others with doubt and fear and shame to healing and fullness and security? The answer is simply yes. What I used to fear were incongruencies are really the trademarks for an all-encompassing Savior. A good Father. One who gives choice and discipline. Freedom and boundaries. Yes, law, but also grace upon grace. One who was born in a manger, conquered the grave, and will come again to reign in splendor and majesty. Humility tangled up with such power. One who praised children, healed lepers, and rebuked the prideful and sanctimonious. He calmed storms and He cleared out the temple with zeal for His father’s house. To my temporal, limited mind, He seems too contradictory...too hard to explain adequately...too scary to vulnerably share. But I have tasted and seen that where I falter...where my contradictions show my need for a Savoir, the intricacies of God-His loftiness (what I once saw as opposing characteristics) point to His qualification as that Savior I need for all the crazy, mixed up mess that I am. If you are a truth seeker like I am...if you really look around you...it’s impossible not to see Him. Not just in His word. But in science--His creation--biology, geology, astronomy, archeology, history--all of it--is still pointing to this Creator and Savior. I saw Him so clearly when I held each of my children for the first time and as I held my dying Papa’s hand as he opened and closed his eyes for the last time on this earth. I feel Him when I wade into the longings of my heart...the need to be loved and belong and be seen. I know His voice when I have been obedient and when I have wandered. He has spoken to me this past year...clearly, consistently, and without contradiction.
From Genesis to Revelation...from January to December this is what He gently reminded me (and you too) about Himself:
You are good, _insert your name here__ (Genesis). Because I made you (Psalm 139). And when you aren’t, I still provide a way out (from Abraham’s ram to Jesus on the cross). I want my people free (from Egypt to the free indeed of the Gospels). I am capable of miracles, and when you ask in faith, I will do the Joshua-sun-stand-still, Lazarus-raising kind of stuff. I have always and will always use the young and inadequate (David), the outcast (the woman at the well), the sinful (Paul) to show the humble and redemptive nature of My power. My love endures forever (from the Garden to the throne). My promises (peace) and inheritance (heaven) are yours through the blood of Jesus. He came once before, and He will come again.
He has given us all these beautiful reflections of His character and what once felt like isolated, scattered, and mismatched pieces have woven into the most extravagant tapestry. The richest mosaic. And I gotta say-in areas where I was once casual about my faith-I am now unabashedly not. Not afraid of deep, tough conversation Not afraid to answer for this hope I have. Not afraid to live a life that looks different. This grace...it begs righteousness out of gratitude and reckless abandon to let this good, good gift overflow and pour out making everything and everyone better and fuller and freer-restored.
So fair warning...if 2017 was quiet and stillness then 2018 has got to be speak up, pour out, go on mission. Writing the words and loving the people and living out this grace in holiness because He deserves all the things. Join me.