Without Christmas Day
Without Christmas day, there’d be no Christmas lights
There wouldn’t be trips, dedicated to the sights
There’d be no rush to buy, your gifts the day before
There’d be no Christmas songs, no carollers at your door
You wouldn’t see a Christmas tree, decked out from floor to ceiling
There wouldn’t be a nativity, or wise men humbly kneeling
There’d be no heaps of gifts, no kids with dreamy eyes
You wouldn’t hear of Santa Claus, or the sleigh he always flies
Things sure would be different, without Christmas day
Mary and Joseph would be normal, no scandal to get in the way
The shepherds would keep on sleeping, the wise men keep on searching
Peter would’ve stayed the course, and ended his life fishing
Without Christmas day, no joy or peace on earth
Every man would still be searching, for anything of worth
The veil of separation, would still be inches thick
A bit of a bigger deal, than not having old St. Nick!
With all the bustle and rush, there’s one thing to remember
The reason for our joy, in this last month of December
Is the Saviour King Jesus, who came as a child
Small, humble, vulnerable, tender and mild
His birth paved the way, for the greatest of gifts
To save a race lost at sea, hopeless, adrift
Always remember, why we celebrate this way...
Good Friday doesn’t come, without Christmas Day
Merry Christmas Everyone!
Waiting on God
“Lead me in Your truth and teach me,
For You are the God of my salvation;
On You I wait all the day”
“Let integrity and uprightness preserve me,
For I wait for You”
“Wait on the Lord,
And keep His way,
And He shall exalt you to inherit the land”
“Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
And the young men shall utterly fall,
But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.”
(Psalm 25:5, 25:21, 37:34, and Isaiah 40:30-31, for those interested)
The Bible talks, like, a lot about waiting on God. So I try. And I realized recently that it it’s been frustrating me for awhile.
Generally, my attempts at “waiting on God” go something like this:
- Me: “Ok Jesus… I’m worried about this, and that, and the other thing, and I really want You to work in this person over here, or help with this relationship here. So I’m just gonna wait on You. Help me to hear what You want to say about these things. Come down and fix all my stuff, ok?”
- God: “… *silence*…”
- Me: “Come on, Jesus. I’m doing my part, aren’t I? Can you maybe just fix this one thing over here? How about that one?”
- God: “… *silence*…”
Now, I am an extrovert. I love relationships. I love people.
But I have always had logic, analytical, productivity-focused slant to me. I recall a time shortly after I started working my first job (around age 16) when I gave my mom a complete formula to figure out which days I was likely to be a couple minutes later out of the door to be picked up, to minimize time spent waiting for both of us. She responded to my monologue with a blank stare and a question of “Am I supposed to remember all of that?”
Given that, when I spend my precious time waiting on God, only to leave with an unchanged list of questions and worries at the end of it, I start to get frustrated. What’s the point of waiting on God if nothing gets accomplished, right?
So I was driving home from work last Friday when God decided to just come hang out in the car with me. I’ve had times like this with God before, but it’s always so good; it just feels like there’s no effort to sense His presence, no pressure to work hard to focus on Him; just a relaxed time hanging out with my Jesus.
In the midst of this time, I had a thought:
“This is it! Now’s my chance to get all of my stuff figured out! Quick, take out the list!”
To which I felt God respond with something like:
And in that moment, I realized something.
I have somehow got it into my head that waiting on God should result on some dramatic climax. Some moment in time when God speaks clearly, and succinctly, and all of my worries and cares get resolved in one swift moment of divine power. Waiting on God is worthwhile when something gets done. And that’s why I’ve been frustrated with what I perceived to be the futile exercise of waiting on God.
But I was reminded again in that moment that sometimes, the pinnacle of a time spent waiting on God is just His presence. Nothing less. Nothing more. That’s the climax. Sometimes, that’s the goal. Sometimes, God knows that all we need in that moment is His presence, even if we’re still clamouring for solutions to circumstances.
As I’m writing this blog, breaking down my thoughts, it seems silly. Of course we shouldn’t come to God with lists! We shouldn’t focus on things over our relationship with God!
But man, it doesn’t take much to fall into that.
I think a part of the problem is that when I start to pray, or get focused on Jesus, I expect to drive. I expect the experience to go how I want. I expect God to somehow cater to my goals and expectations for the next few minutes.
The God who made me, who knows me better than myself, and who is eternally and perfectly good, or my clumsy-Christian self… Yeah, maybe instead I should let Him lead the conversation. That might be a good idea.
And you know what else I’ve come to realize?
When I have a time to just sit and hang out in God’s presence, the change that happens inside of me is usually better than any change that could’ve happened in my circumstances. My laundry-list of issues generally doesn’t get any shorter throughout a time spent with God, but man, I worry a whole lot less about the line items afterwards.
So yeah. I’m trying to get better at this whole “waiting on God” business. Sometimes He’ll speak. Sometimes He won’t. But if I let Him drive the conversation, I can trust that the end result will be the best possible. Sometimes, waiting on God is resting, waiting, being quiet, and… That’s it. But that might be the most productive moment of my week.
On God’s Opinion and Inferiority
That feeling that someone around you is better, more liked, or further ahead in God. That feeling that you are less than someone else. That constant reminder that, no matter how good you are at something, there’s someone around you that’s better.
It’s something I personally fought with quite a bit in my later teens, but I finally overcame it, and became more comfortable and confident in who God created me to be. I had left that monumental enemy behind me.
Until about two weeks ago.
Yeah, it was a bit weird.
So, let’s set up some background:
I grew up with 6 siblings. They were, and still are, all awesome. This is a good thing.
However, the downside growing up next to such amazing people is that you find yourself comparing yourself to them. It wasn't only my family members, mind you, but they were definitely part of the equation.
I think there are cases where comparing yourself to other people is a good thing, if it’s done with the right goal. For example, if I want to challenge my drumming skills, I can compare myself to great drummers and see what things they do that I don’t, and where I can improve.
Outside of this use case, however, comparing yourself to other people is an incredibly dangerous thing to do. satan will always try to either pull you too far up, where you think everyone around you is worse than you, and so you wind up feeling smug and prideful in your superiority, or he will pull you down, into an endless loop of feeling less than other people.
It is in this second category that I found myself during my late teens, and again about two weeks ago.
Again, it was strange, because I felt like I had conquered this whole thing years ago, and suddenly it was back in my thoughts. I was back to being tempted with these cycles of downward thoughts.
At the present moment, I feel that I have overcome it (again?), but I learnt a couple things during this latest bout that I think could benefit other people, so here we go:
Firstly, let’s use an example of me comparing myself to my brother Ryan, and satan convincing me that I’m inferior to him. In reality, satan tells me, it would be better if I was a Ryan clone. After all, he’s doing amazing things at our church, encourages the heck out of everyone, and is a fantastic leader (all things that are actually true). I will never be a Ryan clone, and therefore, satan tells me, I am eternally inferior.
However, if I believe this lie that a clone of Ryan would be better than me, I am actually stating that God made a mistake, and that I have a better idea of what this world needs than God does.
God could’ve created a Ryan clone. He could’ve created someone with the same intelligence, the same giftings, the same personality; an exact replica. Instead, God chose to create me. I may not fully understand all the reasons, but I’m pretty sure God has a better idea of which humans need to exist than I do. If I truly trust God, I also need to trust that it is better that I am breathing air than that there is a duplicate of my brother.
That’s the first thing I learned. That if the all-knowing, all-powerful, all-present God of the universe chose to create me instead of someone else, then there’s probably a good reason for it.
I think the turning point in this latest sega with inferiority was when I made the conscious decision to stop caring what satan thinks about me, and instead only care about God’s opinion.
And that led me to my second piece of learning:
God’s opinion isn’t really opinion at all. It’s fact.
Now, maybe that seems obvious, but it sure hit me in a fresh way.
Lots of people are willing to give out opinions. People are opinionated about sports, music, and elections in other countries. (Sorry America. Seriously).
And I have some fantastic people in my life that I know have a good opinion of me. And it feels really good to hear those opinions of me, and what I’m doing, to be validated in some way. I think that’s absolutely healthy.
But I think a trick that satan will try to use on people is to convince them that people are saying things just to be nice. “They don’t really mean that; they just don’t want to hurt your feelings.”
There may be times when that’s true about humans. We really do have a tendency to avoid saying things that might hurt people, for better or worse. Hopefully you have some people in your life that you trust to tell you both the good and the bad, so that when they say the good, you can trust it.
But all of that is besides the point when we talk about God’s opinion, because it’s not really opinion. It’s reality.
What God says about me is pure, unadulterated truth. And the crazy part is, it’s truth even if I disagree with it.
When God says I am loved, and have destiny, and am exactly who He needs me to be, that is the reality. Whether or not I believe it doesn’t determine whether or not it’s true.
This means that when God tells me these things, I can shut down that voice that tells me He’s just being nice. That He’s just saying it because He doesn’t want to hurt my feelings.
God’s words defines truth. If God said it, that’s truth, regardless of how you feel about it. When God tells you what He thinks about you, it’s not just some ploy to make you feel warm and fuzzy inside. He’s just describing the reality, whether or not we believe it.
I think that blew my mind a little bit. God’s opinion of me is more accurate than my own.
God created me and you on purpose, intentionally, even though he could’ve made a replica of that person you think is so much better than you. I think He’s pretty good at knowing which people to create, and He decided to make you.
And when He tells you what He thinks of you, take it to the bank, because God’s opinion of you is more the truth than your own.
Let down by God
I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s entirely possible to be let down by God.
Now, this has been a bit of a revelation for me. I have actually told people that one of the lessons I’ve learnt is that, while people may (and probably, eventually will) let you down, God never will.
I no longer believe that that statement is always true.
It’s actually fairly easy to be let down by God; all it takes is a faulty understanding of who He is.
Let’s take an extreme example.
Let’s say you believed that God always answered your prayers, and He always answered them with a “yes.”
So you ask God to make your favourite sports team win. You believe it. You are confident, because God always answers prayer. And He always answers yes. You have Faith, and you are stirred up, and excited, because, by golly, this is happening! Your team is going to win tonight, because you asked God, and God is gonna make this happen!
And then your team loses. Bummer. You have now, officially, been let down by God.
Now, obviously, this is a trite example. I doubt there are very many people who truly believe that God answers any prayer we ask him. If there are, and they are sports fans, they will likely stop believing that shortly.
But I actually think this concept is incredibly important, because otherwise, when we pray for something that doesn’t happen, we can easily become upset and frustrated at a God we thought we understood.
To bring out a personal example, I got a minor injury two months or so ago. It really wasn’t that bad, but I was annoyed because, if I’m honest, it was going to hinder my volleyball playing at our annual cottage vacation. And that’s totally important.
Anyways, in my frustration, I started praying for healing. Well that’s good. We should ask God for healing.
But, for some reason, I got it my head that God needed to answer my prayer, and heal me, soon. I think my existing frustration with the injury itself caused me to have a false expectation of the way God would respond to my prayer. I somehow got the mindset that God had some sort of obligation to answer my prayer in the way I wanted.
As a result, I found myself growing increasingly frustrated at God for not healing me quickly. And that frustration formed a wall between God and me. I felt let down by God. I still tried to pray and everything, but it turns out it’s rather hard to do when you have a beef with God.
And God, in His patience and graciousness, just let me be mad at Him. He didn’t come thundering down from heaven shouting “Who are you to question me?” Not that He would’ve been wrong to do that; He was just merciful enough to spare me.
I finally came to a point of perspective, where I took a step back, and realized that I was allowing my frustration with God, this fact that I felt let down, to affect my relationship with Him, and decided it wasn’t worth it. Despite still not understanding, I decided to embrace God through my confusion. To love the healer before having received my healing.
I still don’t totally understand the way healing works, but I do understand enough to know that God doesn’t always answer your prayer in the way you want, or even expect. Having that understanding will, I hope, prevent future let-down’s with God.
As a side note, this process also helped me realize that, if I let some disappointment or frustration with God hinder my relationship with Him, I am perfectly modelling what conditional love looks like. I actually let my disappointment reduce my act of loving God, because I felt in some way that He wasn’t living up to His end of the bargain. That is exactly what conditional love is.
Thank God He doesn’t do that with us, because I’m pretty sure, if He wasn’t all-knowing, the way we do things would cause Him to shake His head in disbelief sometimes.
Anyways, let me wrap this up in a few thoughts:
God will never contradict His nature to fulfill your expectations of Him.
God is God. He is constant, never-changing, unending.
Regardless of how hard you believe in something, in some aspect of God, if it is against His nature, you are going to be let down. God will not contradict who He is just because You don’t understand the way He works.
However, I do want to emphasize that God will not, cannot let you down if you do have a clear understanding of who He is. The fact that He is ever-loving, ever-present, that He has a destiny and a plan in mind for every human, and that He is always, always ready to catch me when I screw up and fall is something I know I can rely on. God is absolutely, perfectly Faithful to His nature. That is something I will never let go of.
All this convinces me that I want to — need to — understand God better. I want to know the ways He works. Yes, to prevent being let down by faulty expectations, but also because, I believe, the more I understand God, the better I can be used by Him.
I want to know Him better and better. Every day of my life, I want to know Him more.
Terrifying, overwhelming brokenness
I feel like this goes in waves. There are seasons of my life where I feel like I’m doing pretty good, and I’m happy with where I’m at.
And there are times when God pulls back the veil, and lets me see a little bit more of my true self.
Man, I’m broken.
I’m broken in the way I interact with unsaved people. Pretty sure Jesus would be doing it differently.
I’m broken in the way I evaluate people. I’m broken in the way I compare them to each other. I’m broken in the way I compare them to myself, and how it seems I am constantly searching for ways in which I can justify feeling superior.
My priorities seem to be perpetually fluctuating between properly aligned and messed up.
I’m broken in my insecurities, and my needs and desires. I’m broken in what drives some of my decisions and thought patterns.
Thank God He doesn’t let me see the true depth of my depravity all at once. He’s so good at breaking up chunks of our brokenness, and feeding them to us one by one to work on.
But man, sometimes it still feels terrifying, and overwhelming. Because there isn’t any real hope for change, ever.
Not without God.
I look at some aspects of my life, and just think: “Man. I’ve been like that for a long time. That’s not changing. I think I’m just gonna have to learn to live with that.”
But then God reminds me who He is.
He’s the same one who created me, and saw the beginning and the end of me. He fought one on one with death, and won. He’s seen all of my shortcomings from the beginning of time, and He also can see the end of His working on me, what I’m supposed to look like at the end of all this. He knows the path that I’m supposed to walk in, and how the steps are supposed to be ordered.
He’s able. He’s strong. And He’s willing to dive headlong into my messes, equipped with a pair of work gloves and a shovel. And I’m realizing recently that He also believes in me. He believes that, with His help, I can overcome the things that are broken in me.
See, realizing my own shortcomings makes me feel bad.
And I really don’t believe that God is interested in making us feel bad just for the heck of it.
Given those facts, I think the only reason He would ever reveal my brokenness is because He knows that I can overcome it. If God is truly good, I think He would only ever shows us our darkness if He knew that we could eventually replace it with light.
You know, it’s funny. I’m just thinking… I think we often react to a revelation of our failings either by trying to hide them from God, or trying to hide ourselves from God.
For example, you suddenly realize that you are prideful in an area of your life, and you react by trying to ignore that shortcoming, and put on a face with God, or neglect your prayer time all together.
Or maybe you acknowledge it, but you approach God with fear and trembling, frustrated at yourself and apologetic to God for not doing better. I think this is the path I usually take.
It’s almost like we’re afraid at how God will react, now that we have this sin on us. Granted, this sin has been present for awhile, but I think once we realize, we have a tendency to be afraid that God might treat us differently.
Now, I absolutely believe we should take our sin seriously, and be apologetic, but I think any fear of God’s reaction is just silly.
I can just picture God sitting back and chuckling: “Um, the only reason you even realized that you had that issue was because I told you! You really think your sins scare me?”
God’s been around for awhile. He’s got a pretty good track record of taking brutally broken people and setting them up to accomplish amazing things.
The Bible is chock-full of them. From the insecure Moses, to the adulterer David, to the murderer Paul, God’s been pretty good at taking messed up people and turning them into ridiculously powerful builders of His Kingdom.
God’s been doing it for 6,000 years to the worst of the worst.
I’m pretty sure He can handle my brokenness.