Saturday, April 11, 2009

Empty Shiny Packages

What an interesting week this has been.  I am riding across the country in a car with my husband.  First, I have to thank God for the prayers on behalf of our Grandma Knowlton.  She passed this Wednesday after a faith-filled life and a treacherous year of suffering and trials.  She is missed and we are going to celebrate her homegoing.  Her absence is on our minds but it is with a heart of thanksgiving that we face this. 

I have been in the middle of Acts for a few days and it has been a great addition to my traveling, activity bag.  I was worried that I would get bored in the car, but what better thriller to open that this book.  My husband loves the twists and turns, verifying what I believed to be true about its male appeal.  This week has made me think about the passage in Acts 20, where Paul talks to the elders from Ephesus.  I have been recalling all of the people who have left a literal impression on my life.  Grandma Knowlton is just one of them.  I have been lucky enough to know astoundingly, godly people, and when they left this earth it made me wonder who could ever fill those shoes.  How could we ever complete God’s work with them gone? 

Here we see Paul.  It is the last time that he will ever see his friends in Ephesus.  He is saying goodbye and passing the torch to them, to be responsible for their own faith.  They are losing their patriarch, and gracefully, lovingly, Paul is releasing them.  Well…that is, as gracefully as Paul speaks.  In verse 26, he says, “Therefore I declare to you this day that I am not responsible for the blood of any of you”.  He had a way with words.  He wants these believers to stand on their own feet, to know the living God in the same way that He did, in the way that Paul had taught them.

In verse 17-24, Paul gives a few sentences on himself.  It is not a defense, though, because they already know who he is; they had watched his life.  What a challenge!  I can recall that only yesterday I “had a moment” in the car.  I don’t want everyone to see my life all the time.  In fact, the thought of voluntarily pooling people together to make this speech kind of makes me want to stay home.  He is telling them that he has no regrets.  He has lived his life in a way that demonstrated faithfulness.  Paul also knows that it is not over.  It is not even close.  There are imprisonments and persecutions waiting for him.  So how can he get up on more day and do this all over again?  How do you get up every day and do it again when you know that it will not lead to comfort, wealth, and immediate happiness?  Acts 20:24, “But I do not count my life of any value to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the good news of God’s grace.”  It is a heart issue.

I “had a moment” in the car because I value myself above others.  I value my comfort above others.  I worship my perceived needs and my desires.  I don’t know how to be Paul.  I don’t know how to count my life of no value.  Sometimes, I think that I do, but Christ shows me that I am still so attached to this flesh.  I wish that I took this message well, but I didn’t.  It hurt.  Often, I am like a child, completely satisfied with myself staring at the good gifts that are laid out for me on my Father’s table.  I want to crinkle the paper and feel the fluffy ribbon.  My anticipation builds.  Surely, the Father wants those things for my life.  BUT…I go ahead of Him.  I pounce at them, ending in an unattractive face dive, greedily hugging empty boxes covered in shiny paper and glittery bows.  Without Him, His gifts are nothing.  They are only gifts when they are filled with Him.

I love to watch and read of the faithful generations that went before me; it gives me hope.  They teach me that this Christian life that we have joined is constantly moving, shifting, and morphing.  If done right, the collection of life lessons and the grace of the Father sustain us more and more, or maybe face diving gets more painful the older that we get.  When I face the moments of my life, like yesterday, I pray that God will not grow weary of me.  I pray that He will, just like He did for the saints before me, continue to create me into something useful for Him.  That I will, someday, count my life as nothing and finish this course that He has set before me. 

Thank you, Father, for the lives of the saints.  Thank you for filling each valuable gift with You.  Continue to make us in your image, so that we can finish the course that you have ahead of us.  

1 comment:

  1. Great post! Loved the part about how do you get up in the morning when you know you are going to face more of the same trials. I felt so down today about my back pain. I was grouchy, impatient and depressed. I quickly started praying for God to straighten my attitude so that I could be a better example for my children. Your post helped me to see that I need to help my children see me keeping positive and looking to God for direction through this tough time.


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