Sunday, December 14, 2014

Christmas and CI

It's a few weeks before Christmas, and I'm pondering.

I'm a big fan of Calvin Miller's - the Singer Trilogy and his other, weightier Christian treatises.  In The Singer there are several poignant lines that, as a calligrapher who treasures a tight turn of a phrase, struck me deeply and got grafted into my notebook of quotes for just that reason.  One of his lines in the Nativity portion is "every cradle hangs above an open grave."

Every person has an expiration date already settled, and when that date arrives, he will stand before his Maker, whether he believes there is one or not.

For those of us with CI (chronic illness) that is striking.  CI often feels as tho it's a fatal thing.  It lasts sooooo long, and takes so much away.  At this time of year especially, it steals our energy and robs us of outings and get togethers, shopping and decorating.

But (I love that word) it can only steal what we allow it to steal.  Many of the things we want to do are not necessary things.  It cannot steal our joy.  It cannot steal our relationship with the King of kings.  It cannot steal our giving of love, or our support of others when they are feeling unsure, afraid, or alone.

Jesus learned obedience by the things He suffered.

The Word tells us this, to show us that Jesus knows what we are going thru, what it feels like to suffer in ways we will never have to endure. 

He knows.

I find great comfort in that.

He knows what it feels like to grow up poor in material things, but rich in family.  He knows what it means to walk alone when others walk in pairs.  He knows what it means to feel helpless watching someone we love die - how He must have ached to watch Joseph pass away, when He had all the power there is at His fingertips, and His Father said, "No."

I read something tonight that mentioned there is a big difference between submission to suffering in Jesus and submission to suffering period .  Submitting to suffering alone carries with it a bitterness, an aftertaste, if you will, that lingers in all of our words and attitudes.  Submission to Jesus means we know that His hand was the One Who allowed this.

Joni Earickson Tada described suffering as "He uses what He hates to accomplish the things He loves."

Submission always means we soften our stiff necks; we bow them and bend our knees.

It's not fun.

But our modern world has forgotten what the early Christians knew well - that suffering has a reason, has merit, has the ability to teach in a way nothing else can, simply because it is His inescapable choice for us. When He chooses to allow something uncontrollable in our lives, it is always for our benefit.

Because the simple truth is, nothing in our lives, not a single second, is under our control.  We have no control over our next breath, whether one hair turns white or gray, or whether we wake up in the morning. 

What we do have control over is how we wake up in the morning.

We can praise Him for another day to love in His Name. We can  be obedient to the best of our ability.  And we can praise Him for all the gifts in our lives. 

We can choose whether to be grateful or grumpy.

And in this Season of the Father's wholehearted giving of His only Son - knowing that He would not be received, that He would be stripped naked in front of the whole world, that He would taste spittle, be scourged, have His beard pulled out and His head crushed with thorns - and then after all that, He would be nailed to a cross made of the wood He Himself had created - I think I can manage some praise, some gratitude, some bowed neck and bended knee.

Because He did it for me.

And my paltry bit of chronic illness, carried with as much grace as I can manage each day, is what I do for Him.

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