Every one of us has a pet sin. Whether you believe it or not, it's true.
Some of our pets are like mice. We tell ourselves and everyone else that they aren't there. But they follow us around, eating the food we leave out for them and leaving droppings on the counter. Others have pet sins like horses. They house them, feed them, groom them, and give them plenty of room to run. But no matter how much they dress it up and comb it's mane, it's still sin.
The crazy thing about sin is that we can so clearly see the sins of others, as it they are parading them around town on a leash. However, we continue to ignore the sin that is running circles around our own feet. Matthew 7:3 says "Why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye but don't notice the log in your own eye?" Our sins are our pets. We feel very personally about them. But God calls us to be like Jesus Christ, and that means we are to strive for a sin free temple.
Oftentimes, as Christians, God will convict our hearts about our sin and we will try to turn against it. It reminds me of a stray cat that we let hang out around our house. At first we don't really want it around, but eventually we get used to it. Maybe we even get a little attached to it. One day the cat carries in some dead creature and the stench of it makes us sick, so we run the cat off. But as the days or weeks or months pass, we start missing that cat. So we leave the back door cracked open and we set out some food, waiting for an opportunity to pet the soft fur of that old sin again. Too many times we have a soft spot for our sin. We easily forget about the stench that comes with it. There is joy in sin for a season, but the stench of death will always come back eventually.
Don't make friends with your sins. Don't let them become your pets.
Dealing with our own sin is not a game of comparison. We are all guilty. "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Romans 3:23
I think a lot of times we like to hold our sins up to the sins of others and point out that ours are lesser. But that, of course, isn't true. Sin is sin. In the eyes of our Lord and Savior, all sin is condemnable. We justify our drinking habit by pointing out that at least we don't drink as much as so-and-so. Or we downplay our promiscuity by comparing our stats to those of another. It's always that log in our own eye. I don't think God looks at us and our sins like a pie graph, considering our general goodness in the light of the whole. God works on a personal level, closely examining each heart and the content thereof.
We are each responsible for our own sin and the only accurate way for us to gauge our own heart is to hold it up the the light of the Word of God.
Have you ever wondered why we decorate evergreen trees for Christmas? This was the question skipping through my mind as I sat staring at the glowing branches of my own tree two days after Christmas, trying to soak up the magic before dismantling the whole thing.
"How absurd," I thought to myself. "I have a tree in my living room. Why?" With a little research I found that there are as many stories about the origin of the Christmas tree as there are ways to decorate it. Several center around the thought that the evergreen branches represent the eternal nature of Christ and that the shape of the tree is like an arrow pointing to Heaven. As lovely as that is, it still doesn't explain why so many of us erect eight foot tall frasier firs inside our homes every year. It makes me chuckle. Just the thought of the things we do just because it's tradition. Cutting down a real, live tree and dragging it into my living room and then covering it with lights and ornaments? I laugh a little more every time I think about it. Dragging a fake tree out of storage and fluffing its branches seems even sillier, still.
As I sat entranced by Christmas lights, my thoughts flitted like a bird from one thing to the next. Why does the season seem so fleeting, even though the Christmas holiday starts to infiltrate everything as soon as Halloween is over? Why does it simultaneously feel like too much and yet, somehow, not enough? Why is everything on the menu filled with guilt and gluten? Why do people want to pretend that Christmas is not a religious holiday?...................................Why do people want to pretend that Christmas is not a religious holiday?
Pondering on this question, I am even more baffled than I was about the tree thing. Christmas is the celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Hence the name Christ-mas. Yet some folks try like heck to eradicate Christ from Christmas. Why? You wouldn't have Christmas if it weren't for Christ. Denying that fact would be like another country adopting our celebration of July 4th and then insisting that it is politically incorrect to refer to it as Independence Day. What?!? Seriously?
Interestingly enough, I don't get angry about non-Christians celebrating Christmas. Instead, it makes me sad. They may revel in the glitz, the parties, the traditions, and the gifts, but they are missing out on the most important gift. The gift of salvation through the Son of God. And despite all the invitations they may receive through the holidays, they are refusing to open the greatest invitation. For that little baby Jesus was God's invitation to mankind to spend eternity with him, the God of the universe. Christ was sent to live a human life and die a sacrificial death in order for us to be redeemed. All we have to do is accept the invitation. God loves the people of this world so much that He didn't want to see a single one of us perish. So He invited us to come to him by sending his own son to pay for our sins. It seems a little absurd, doesn't it? That the God of everything wants a personal relationship with each of us. That the salvation of mankind would be born in a stable. Absurd, indeed. But glorious beyond our understanding. Beautiful, mysterious, miraculous. Glorious.
Now I see that tree a little differently. Maybe it really is a reflection of Christ. My heart swells and my eyes blur with tears as I take in the beauty, the glory, and the mystery of the absurd. I feel fully content as I take down my tree, piece by piece, remembering that the gift of Christ doesn't get packed away with the ornaments. No. That gift stays in my heart eternally, for I have accepted the invitation.
Praise God for the invitation of Christmas. Have you accepted it? The invitation still stands.
A few weeks ago, I managed to have painted nails for a hot minute. Nevermind that it lasted only a few short days. Let this moment be documented. Let it also go on record that I have no idea how people tend to get such stunning photos of their own nails (and clothes, and hair, and everything else) on Pinterest. Do they have personal photographers? Do you know how weird it is to take a photo of your left hand with your right hand?
When I say that life has been challenging the past few years, I mean it. Income has been increasingly scarce. Depression has been increasingly heavy. My health has been increasingly perplexing. Life has been increasingly confusing.
But I also realize that my problems are pretty shallow in comparison to the problems that others face on a daily basis. Though I am never sure where my next paycheck will come from, or even if I will have one, I have yet to go hungry. Though I research continuously to find a cure for my depression and fatigue, I am not in the hospital fighting for my life. Nor are any of my loved ones. Though I seem to never know what my next step in life should be, I am fully aware that my hope is in the Lord and He will guide me even when I don't see or hear him.
It's time to get real with you.
I am a Christian, although I hate to even proclaim that because to be a Christian is to be "like Christ", and I fall miserably short of that description. A little over a year ago, the Lord started working in my heart. That's a very nice way of putting it. It was more like the Lord smacked me on the back of the head and asked me just what on His green earth I thought I was doing. That, my friends, is called chastisement. It's God's way of keeping His children in line. And I had been ignoring it for far too long.
But when the Holy Spirit becomes so heavy inside of you that you can no longer ignore it's presence, things change. Specifically, my heart.
As a child of God I know that every good gift and every perfect gift comes from Him. Anything good that I have in my life is only because my heavenly Father has allowed me to have it. Because God loves every single one of His children, he wants to see them blessed and fulfilled. We are the ones who get in the way of our own blessings. But God sees the big picture and we don't. He sees what we really need, not what looks like it would be nice. Many times God will ask us to step out in faith and put all of our trust in Him, no holds barred, so He can show us just how good he is.
Although I had been a born again Christian since middle school, it wasn't until last fall that I finally laid everything at my Savior's feet and relinquished control. I begged to know my Father on a deeper level. I asked over and over for discernment and direction. And now I can say that I truly desire God's will for my life over my own. Why, you ask? Because pursuing my own will has only led to heartache and hopelessness. It took me all these years to finally realize that my way was the wrong way.
Fast forward to this year and my life looks very much like a demolition site.
I have no job. I'm getting by on very little. My eyes are dark and body feels frail. My mental and emotion state is desperate. Everything else in my life is in a holding pattern. No movement. No progress. To the unbeliever, this wasteland looks like misplaced faith on my part. But to those who know the Lord, this empty lot looks like the perfect construction site.
I am the embodiment of Romans 5: 3-5.
All my false hopes have been stripped away. My tribulations are building patience in me. And this patience will be the foundation for experience. And that experience will be the very thing that makes my hope real. You see, hope doesn't come from putting your trust in the things that you can touch. It's easy to believe in the things that you can see with your own eyes. It's only when you put your trust in the things that cannot be seen or touched that true hope is born. I have no hope in this broken world. Every shred of hope that I have is in the hands of the Savior who died for me on a cross two thousand years ago. And no matter how long my tribulations last, I can glorify in them knowing that God promised that my hope would not make me a fool. Hope will not make me ashamed. He promised that he will not leave me nor forsake me. He will finish the work that he started in me. This construction site will not be abandoned. He promised.
By now most of the leaves have given up the fight and let go of their branches. Although they are no longer a fiery orange, the muted blanket of tan, burgundy, and coral pink leaves looks quite beautiful under my maple tree. With multiple heat sources humming throughout the house, I cringe at the thought of the upcoming winter season. I can handle nights in the thirties and days in the fifties. It's when night and day have no distinguishable temperature difference that makes me desperate.
My mood matches the season. It always does in the fall. So many things to say and no words to say them. Thoughts and emotions and memories swirl in my head like the leaves on the ground. Then they seem to settle in my heart and get wet and heavy. There they lie, like leaves in the gutter, waiting to be dug out and dealt with. But who knows when that will happen, or even how it will happen. Sometimes I will single out one of those thoughts, emotions, or memories like a particularly intriguing yellow leaf that begs closer inspection. I'll hold it up to the light and examine its veins and spots, smile at its beauty and melancholy and then drop it back into the pile in my heart.
Things are always changing around here. Life is in constant flux. Sometimes I wish things would slow down. Sometimes I wish they would hurry up. I think too much about things that I have no control over. I busy myself with the things that I do seem to have a tiny semblance of control over. And I pray that my heart finds rest somewhere in between those two places.
This is the pensive nature of this month. My month. November.