Thursday, December 19, 2013

Christmas Cards

I wish thee no greater good than that God break in upon thy careless heart,
and shake thee out of thy false peace, and make thee lie down at the feet of Christ. 
~Richard Baxter, The Saints Everlasting Rest

I seriously considered inscribing our Christmas cards with that line this year. But then I thought otherwise. My smiling, polite genetics got the best of me and I went for a safe, happy, NIV, non-eternal verse: "Rejoice in the Lord always! I will say it again - Rejoice!" (Philippians 4:4) I made it through the picture taking this Summer, made it through the collage process this Fall, and have even started a list with the intention of really sending them out before the blessed holiday is over.

And then the kids who were brave enough to venture out into the below zero weather to trek through the snow banks to the mailbox started bringing me Christmas cards. Safe, happy, NIV, non-eternal versed Christmas tidings with pretty covers and well wishes for a happy holiday. I handled it well to start with. I made it through the first few. And then I cried. Cried because everybody else gets to send out happy cards this year. Cards with all their children smiling in goofy poses. Cards about how big Johnny has grown, and how sister got a new car and brother is getting straight A's.

While I pondered my past year, and considered what I would write for a cheery holiday letter, I thought of the many mornings waking up to fight the battle just to get out of bed, fighting for God's glory to reign, fighting to say "thank you" for my son being in Heaven with the next words from my lips being a plea for the salvation of my children who are still here; the constant weight of their eternities laying on my heart like a rock.

Or watching my daughter cry her eyes out, focusing on grieving not as those without hope, and trying to come up with the perfect answer to the barrage of people who think her greatest achievement this past year should have been getting a driver's license rather than a deeper walk with the Lord, that time spent behind a wheel would have been better spent than time behind a Bible.

And, rather than my husband getting a promotion, how I've watched him work two jobs to support a family in this hard economic time, how I've watched him battle for victory to lead us well in the midst of his own pain, how I've watched his desire for God reign over his desire for the world, how I've watched his strong hold to Scripture win over his flesh.

I could write about letting it all go, giving up our kingdom of a farm and material possessions in attempted obedience to what we hope will be a life of being poured out for God's kingdom. But somehow it seemed wrong to report those growths, as if I would be destroying the fa├žade of everybody else's joy at this time of year.

Then I remembered that God loves me. He really, really loves me. Loves me enough to "wish [me] no greater good than that [He] break in upon  [my] careless heart, and shake [me] out of [my] false peace, and make [me] lie down at the feet of Christ."

Then it struck me how sad I was. Not so much in being sad that Trent isn't here, though I miss him like crazy, but sad because in my own power I cannot change one single person, especially the ones that I love the most, to value God's glory and "break in upon [their] careless heart, and shake [them] out of [their] false peace, and make [them] lie down at the feet of Christ." Instead I watch so many professing believers walking around careless, with peace, not lying down at the feet of Christ. As Casting Crowns puts it (Spirit Wind), "Believers leading carnal lives... wonder what they're fighting for."

Along with all this, John Piper's book, The Pleasures of God, has my head swirling with his chapter on God's glory in bruising the Son on the Cross. He talks about God's delight in His own glory, and how the suffering of Jesus to take on the curse of sin in obedience to the Father was a measure of Jesus' love for God's glory. It's as if Jesus and God are battling to prove their love for each other, round and round, one-upping the other in proving it. Which all causes me to look fresh at my own suffering and how I view God in it.

If, like Jesus, the measure of my own suffering is meant to reveal God's glory and will result in God, and myself, delighting even more so in His glory, then I am right where He wants me. If suffering weighs out our truest affection, and if one of God's greatest delights is His glory, and if He allows His children to suffer to prove their greatest desire (all the while acknowledging that the ability that it would be His glory that rises to the top ultimately comes from Him), then what a joy it will be to see the measuring rod on that day that I enter God's presence and He says, "Well done good and faithful servant. You loved me this much and trusted me to portray my glory through you while you suffered this much." 

It is not the suffering that is rejoiced in, but what is accomplished by God via that suffering: the revealing of His glory that works out even our own salvation. To come to an end of ourselves just may be God's greatest mercy. To be sure, salvation only comes about by the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross, but God continues to prove it by increasing our longing for Him throughout our lives.

Which brings me back to the Christmas cards. And how much easier it would be to have five children posing, but how much greater is the work that is being done to only have four. So all that rambling to wish you this holiday season:

No greater good than that God break in upon thy careless heart,
and shake thee out of thy false peace, and make thee lie down at the feet of Christ.