Sometimes, when I look at myself in moments of reflection like this, all I see is a to-do list–a long one–of problems to be fixed. Like if I can just get those things done, finish the list, I’ll be perfect. My mind will be clear and my heart will be pure. All my relationships will be perfect–especially my relationship with God. All I need to do is make sure my heart is in the right place, and keep working on the list.
Except, I’m human. So I fail. Over and over I fail, again and again until there seems no point in trying. There are times when I move forward–and it’s wonderful–but it seems for every two steps forward I take three steps back. And the list, with every failure, only grows longer, and longer, and longer…
That’s what I was thinking last night, as I worked on my resolutions for 2015. About all the things I need to do to fix myself. Not just what I listed as my actual goals, but about all the flaws in my heart. The things that I know are wrong inside.
And sometimes, with morning comes perspective. At least, in my head anyway. Internalizing it is a whole nother story, let alone acting on it. You see, I have a lot of internal problems. Well, sins. Might as well call it like it is. Things that hinder my relationship with God. I also, to be honest, have a lot of more tangible ones. And the thing is, I can’t…I can’t fix this.
I know it in my head. But somehow a big part of me still seems to think that I have to do it all. I’m on my own for this one. Yeah, God’s out there, He’s that distant Force I pray to for luck while I’m sorting all this out myself.
And I live this way.
And I am so glad that, even when I might seem so, this isn’t how it actually works.
It’s a cool think when I realize that God isn’t just a faraway, pie-in-the-sky, wish-me-luck kind of god. He’s here, he’s now, he’s real. That’s what the incarnation, which we celebrated just over a week ago, was all about, really.
And no matter what–regardless of demands, stresses, disappointments; expectations, irritations, qualifications; the shiftings of my mind, the distortion of my eyes, or the state of my heart–he is faithful, he is true, he is here, he is real, he is alive and he is active! Not only that, but he is personal. He knows my inner workings, he wove together the fabric of my being and crafted every corner of my soul, with all its curves and edges, and so he knows exactly where it is that the dust tends to gather, the rooms that go untended. He knows me, and understands me intimately–and loves me with a passion that sent him to the grave and back. The thing is, God wants the best for me. So it’s freedom, really, to surrender.
Oh, how desperately I need that reminder, every. Single. Day.
God, I give this year to you. Do with me as you see fit.
According to the Voice of the Martyrs website, Iraq had 1.5 million Christians in 2003. However, that number is now down to roughly 400,000. In the last 11 years, more than two-thirds of Iraq’s Christians fled, emigrated, or were killed. This is largely due to Islamic military groups like the Islamic State, or ISIS.
Iraq is not alone. Nearly 30 other countries worldwide are religiously “restricted,” meaning that government laws restricting religious freedom lead to Christians being harassed, imprisoned, killed, or deprived of their possessions because of their witness; Christians are also unable to receive Bibles or other Christian literature. In many other places (“hostile” nations), despite government attempts to provide protection for the Christian populations, believers are routinely harassed, beaten, and persecuted by family, friends, neighbors or political groups.
In August of this year, more than 50,000 children and adults were slaughtered in Iraq and Syria because of their faith, and families were/are fleeing from the state into the mountains with nothing. It’s like a second Holocaust. And it’s a scary thought–because it’s real. In fact, it could happen to me. My brother. My sisters. My parents. The people I love, full of vibrant life–a knock on the door and they disappear.
It’s a heavy thought, but one worth considering.
How real is my faith to me? How much am I willing to give up? How serious am I about this?
Christ said that those who lose this life will gain it. He said that the world would hate us because they hated him. He said this world is not our home.
It’s time to believe that. It’s time to start living like that.
This year I’ve realized what the word believe means. It’s not a surface thing. It’s not something you just say when it comes to mind every so often. It’s something that worms its way so much deeper than that, to the very core of who you are. It starts to dwell at the heart of your subconscious, at the root of your soul, and everything you do gets filtered through it without you even realizing it.
It’s also a choice. A choice you have to make, a choice where not choosing is still a choice. You can work to develop it, to shape it, to ingrain it, to internalize it.
And I believe it. I do. With a conviction that goes deeper than words. I am convinced of a truth that surpasses time and imagination. My God is a God who is real, who is alive, who is in control and at work. Nothing can change it, stop it, block it or twist it.
So I give myself to You. Wholly and completely. Take me, make me, shake me, break me, shape me. I am yours, now and forever. Use me, God. Make me bold for You.
P.S. If you’re interested in supporting the persecuted community, you can check out the Voice of the Martyrs website at persecution.com. You can sign up for their free monthly newsletter, send letters to prisoners and to government officials in other countries, send action packs, help get Bibles into restricted nations, donate financially, and above all, pray. Please, please pray, because prayer has the power to change the world.