Monday, December 27, 2010

The Art of the Response

Everybody personally knows at least one person in their life who fits the criteria of a "control freak". If a handful of you are truly honest, you would be willing to admit that you land in that category as well.
I used to think that I didn't fit in that category, but the more years I add to my life, the more I realize how many ways that this description applies to me. It is most definitely humbling, but I believe it is that which humbles us that causes us to experience personal growth.
I love the concept of friendships/relationships. There is no more beautiful of an experience than two people who take turns giving and taking, which in turn forms a tapestry of understanding, love and endless opportunities to learn and grow as an individual. A very large part of a relationship is the concept of the response. Without the personal verbal and/or physical response of one individual to another, there would be no relationship. Having the ability to respond to our environment is one of the many ways that God continues to show us that we are living, breathing human beings. Have you ever temporarily lost your voice? It is a terrible feeling to not be able to respond verbally in a way that accurately depicts how you feel and/or think about something.
There is great freedom in responding. How you choose to respond is entirely up to you; nobody else can do it for you. Along with the freedom of personal response comes the reality that we have absolutely no control over how someone chooses to respond to us. This is an area of relationships that I trust my God is refining in me. I pay great attention to how I respond to people. I usually take time to word and articulate things exactly the way I want them to come across, and for some odd reason, I think that if I respond to someone in a certain way and with a concerted amount of effort, that their response should be equal or above what I believe to be reproach. When they don't respond in the way that I expect, I take it personally in some way, even though there was most likely no reason to feel that way.
Our relationship with Jesus Christ is no different. We can come to Him with petitions of praise, requests, frustrations and concerns, but we have no control in how God is going to choose to answer those prayers or reveal Himself to us. Our relationship with God and the response we give Him takes a very serious amount of trust and faith. The central difference between the response of God to His children and human relationships is that we can be certain that God's response to us will never harm or hurt us. We can rest assured that God's response to His children will always be exactly what we need at exactly the right time. Even when we don't understand why He is responding in the way that He is; Whether that takes the form of a response that you didn't want or expect, or what appears to be no response at all, we can take hold of the promise that not having control over His response shouldn't create anxiety, but should create peace.

A prayer that is very near and dear to my heart is the "Serenity Prayer". I'm sure many of you are familiar with the simple, yet profound prayer.

"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change
Give me the courage to change the things that I can
And the wisdom to know the difference."

It is absolutely imperative that we have a basic, solid understanding of clearly knowing what we do and do not have control over. Once we can identify these things, the need for control over everything begins to pale in comparison to the peace that can be experienced when we are responsible for what is ours, leaving the rest up to God. So whether it be something as silly as a person who brought eleven items to the "10 items or less" lane, or something as detrimental to the heart as feeling hurt by the way a loved one has responded to us, we can have that peace. God is handing this special gift to us, we just need to take it.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

"Scrooged" without Jesus

It is the day after Christmas, and at least three months since I have last written on this blog. Enough has happened in the last three months to serve as material for many different posts, but it seems as if my life has been in full speed in so many different areas; so much so, that "writer's block" has set in, however I feel that block disappearing as all the processing of this highly analytical brain takes the form of actual concepts and words. Just a quick forewarning: You may need to read this post in a couple sittings, or you may just want to stop here. It's going to be a doozy.

I have always been a "pro-holiday" type of gal. I think I get that from my mom. My mom has a way of making nearly every major holiday a special and memorable experience, and I have found myself following in her footsteps. However, I am ashamed to admit that it took me nearly the entire month of December to get into the Christmas spirit. Maybe it was stress, maybe it was the fact that I've been preparing for the blessed Christmas season for over two months for my job and when December rolled around, I was already "Christmas-ed out". Or maybe it was all the transition of moving, the changes in my job, unforeseen events that through me "off kilter" for a time and shook me up a bit. The truth is, it was a combination of all of those things.

Something that God revealed to me during my break from "real life", was how incredibly selfish I have been. I have been so wrapped up in my own world that I have not adequately sought out the needs of others, invested in my relationship with my Savior, or taken the time to diligently pray. I have been very tired, which has in part been a result of trying to rely on my own strength, rather than realizing that unless I solicit God's strength, I have none at all.
I definitely had a "Scrooge" attitude this last month. I didn't really buy any gifts, had no appreciation for Christmas decorations, got sick of all my favorite Christmas music really quickly and envied the excitement that so many people had for that big day. I kept trying to force a smile and excitement for my residents, but deep down inside, I just wanted this month to be over with.

The day that I left to go home for Christmas, I got a phone call stating the news that a hopeful living situation was not going to happen. I was upset for a couple hours, allowing myself to have a pity party on my drive home. In my search for a stable, affordable place to live, I have often felt that there hasn't been any room for me. Whether it be there are no available apartments, or the people that I lived with, it just feels like there hasn't been any room. Ironically, I realize that I've been doing the exact same to God. I haven't had a whole lot of room for Him. I have not kept my eyes fixed on Him, and have in turn made very little room for anything but myself.

On Christmas Eve during the traditional candle light service at my mom's church, I was reminded in such a humble, gentle way that Jesus came to us. It wasn't a matter of seeking Him out and looking for Him, but that He came to us in the form of a tiny, helpless babe to save us from our sinful selves. Unlike our world or the inn keeper that Mary and Joseph encountered, He always has room for us, even when we shut Him out. It is only when we let Him in that we can experience the peace that we long for; the peace that He desires us to have. I think that in the midst of the chaos and secularism of Christmas, we forget why He came. He didn't come to give us a reason to have a day off, time with our family, gorge ourselves on baked goods and sing peppy, "feel good" Christmas songs; He came to redeem us, to save us, to give us life. It's about hope, healing and restoration in a broken and depraved world.

May you hold these truths in your heart, and may the peace of knowing Jesus leave room in your hearts for Him to do far more then you ever dreamed possible.

Merry Christmas!