A Gift, Not a Right

I’m sitting in my bedroom right now. I have an armchair in the corner of the room. Lots of windows. It’s evening and the light is coming in at a perfect slant. It’s the time of day when everything glows. The walls in my room are painted a peachy-apricot color that is designed to pick up the sunlight and reflect back the color of warmth and coziness and life. I love my bedroom. My husband remodeled it for my 40th birthday. It is a haven in my not-so-remodeled house. 

Today is a sort of home-coming to my room. Our summer-long houseguests just departed yesterday. We gave up our bedroom for them and have been camping out in our kids’ bedrooms all summer. I am finally back in my own space. 

This summer has been an enlightening experience. 

Perhaps the biggest lesson I’ve learned is just how entitled and privileged I am. It has been disconcerting to not have my own private space. In fact, it has been pretty irritating. In fact, at times it felt like I was going to go crazy. One night I was lying in bed. Silently steaming. Here I was, lying on a mattress on the floor in my boy’s bedroom. Kids sleeping all around me. I felt suffocated from the lack of privacy. And then, I had a thought, which I think was from the Holy Spirit…What about all the families living in refugee camps right now? And then, after a bit more thought…What about almost all the other countries in the world? I would say that parents having their own bedroom is something that only happens in the wealthiest percentage of the world. Everyone else shares whatever space they have. Having my own private space for me and my husband is in fact, not a human right. It’s a privilege. A byproduct of living in a wealthy country and making enough money to live in a big house. 

It’s kind of humbling to realize that the things I consider basic rights, basic human comforts, are actually just a cultural thing. In our culture we have an expectation that a married couple will have their own space, their own bedroom. We are used to this set up. It feels healthy. It feels right. And when we don’t get it, everything feels really wrong. 

I am currently reading a book called Extravagant Grace by Barbara Duguid. It is an amazing book about the Christian walk, basically a modern day interpretation of the writings of John Newton (of Amazing Grace fame). There is a quote that really struck me. It is speaking of John Newton and says:

“He also believed that the richest fruit of God’s work in our hearts would be evidenced by increasing humility and dependance on Christ for everything rather than in a ‘victorious Christian life.’”

Think about that for a minute. The evidence of our growing in maturity in our walk with God is not that we become more perfect and amazing, but rather that we become more humble and more reliant on God. 

Part of our becoming humble is coming face to face with our sin, uncovering it layer by layer. And as we uncover it, we bring it to God and lean on his power to repent and turn away. 

This summer I had a mirror held up to my face. Wow. I really become unpleasant when my creature comforts are taken away. 

I have this image in my mind of what my life should look like. I would hope that I would pattern that image off of what the Bible says my life should look like, but instead I’ve patterned it off of what my culture tells me is expected. Expectation: I should always have enough money to get everything I need and at least a handful of extra things I just want. Expectation: I should live in good health. Expectation: I should have my own space and my own stuff and strong boundaries to keep people out of that space and that stuff. Expectation: My life should be worry free with no hardships or trials. 

No wonder the Christian walk can be so difficult for us Americans. Jesus said to take up your cross and follow him. He said, in this world we would have trouble, but to take heart because he has overcome the world. The stories of the early apostles and the early church are not about people living comfortable easy lives. But, they are about people living in complete dependance on God and trusting that the end reward is worth all the suffering here on earth. And of course, the most amazing part is, Jesus also said he would never leave us or forsake us. As we go through hardships and troubles here on earth, he is with us the entire time. 

And for me, part of my walk is seeing that what I see as hardship, really isn’t. I actually have some pretty spoiled ideas about what my life should look like. And I say, I’m sorry Lord. I’m actually really selfish. And God is gracious. He gave me back my room. But now I can see it a little better for what it is…A gift. Not a right. And my pleasure is a bit richer and I try harder to keep this gift in an open palm, ready to share, ready to release  it whenever I’m called to.

(Though I’m secretly hoping I won’t be called to do so again for a really long time.) 

Oh the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus

Quite a while ago I had a vivid dream. The kind you wake up and think, that was important, I need to remember that, I need to think about that…

In the dream I was in a big castle whose King was in residence. There were all kinds of people in the castle, lord and ladies, courtiers, servants of all kinds. It was actually pretty crowded. I was a servant. I had never actually met the King face to face, but would see him in the distance occasionally. I also heard what everybody had to say about the King and I was in awe and a bit afraid of the King. One day, for some reason I ended up serving in the dining hall and somehow I managed to trip and spill what I was carrying all over the King who had been standing in a group of people. I was terrified. Face down on the floor begging forgiveness. The King was not angry at all and reached down to me gently to help me up and with a puzzled look on his face said, “What have they told you about me child?”

That was it.

So, it’s not too hard a dream to interpret. I would say I was the servant and the King was Jesus. My knowledge of him was as a harsh taskmaster when in reality he was kind and gentle and forgiving.

I am not sure why my initial impressions of Jesus were of a harsh, unapproachable person. I think a lot of it was the Christian culture I grew up in. Christianity seemed to be about learning the rules and following them. Christians don’t listen to that kind of music. Christians don’t watch those movies. Christians don’t go to those places. Christians don’t wear those kinds of clothes. I remember hearing the phrase “Jesus doesn’t like it when you: have a bad attitude, aren’t thankful, say mean things, talk that way…” Yes Jesus loves you, as one song says, but you also better watch out, better not cry, better not pout, Jesus Christ is coming…Oh wait, was that Santa?

My adult life has been all about learning about Jesus as a God of compassion and grace and mercy and forgiveness and love. It’s been a long difficult journey and I think I have come so far and then some behavior or thought pattern shows me that I still have a long way to go to understand God’s love for me and walk in it.

Today someone at church asked if they could pray for me after the service as I had been on their mind all week. After the service I went up to get prayed for and they prayed for me, spoke words of encouragement and wisdom, direction. It was an amazing blessing. The one phrase they spoke over me that hasn’t left me all afternoon has been, “You are much beloved.”

What does that mean? Perhaps that God is for me not against me. That I’m not trying to earn his favor. That I am not alone. That God is someone I want to be with.

Here’s the hard part. God’s loving me has nothing to do with how awesome I am and everything to do with how Awesome he is. That is the hardest thing for me to wrap my head around, that He is that Good, that Kind, that Compassionate, that He can extend his love to me, an everyday human who is tangled up in sin and selfishness. I feel unworthy and so thankful. And joyful and wondering and hopeful and excited. And just a little bit scared. Do I dare believe that it’s true? I have heard this message before, but somehow, every time it’s brand new, once again. God Loves Me.

For those of you reading this…It’s true for you too. He loves you. Oh that you could know this for yourself. That is my heart’s desire for you.

This is one of my favorite hymns. May it’s words bless you.

O THE DEEP, DEEP LOVE OF JESUS

TEXT:
Samuel Trevor Francis
MUSIC:
Folk Tune

1. O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
Vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean
In its fullness over me!
Underneath me, all around me,
Is the current of Thy love
Leading onward, leading homeward
To Thy glorious rest above!

2. O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
Spread His praise from shore to shore!
How He loveth, ever loveth,
Changeth never, nevermore!
How He watches o’er His loved ones,
Died to call them all His own;
How for them He intercedeth,
Watcheth o’er them from the throne!

3. O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
Love of every love the best!
’Tis an ocean vast of blessing,
’Tis a haven sweet of rest!
O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
’Tis a heaven of heavens to me;
And it lifts me up to glory,
For it lifts me up to Thee!

Public Domain