What if this short message could absolutely deliver what you really want this Christmas?
Do you know what that is?
What do you really want?
In fact, I think just doing that–just saying no to the destructive demands constantly drawing our attention away–that may be the way to the peace and joy we’re really looking for.
So how? How do we block out the myriad distractions, and open our inner eyes to see better what we really want?
This is what I want most this year. And after the incredible challenges and distractions we faced in 2016, I’m willing to bet this is actually what most of us really want for Christmas.
To get it, we may need to quit ignoring the truth. The truth our deeper selves know.
Last year, when Charlotte came home from a class Christmas party with her gingerbread house, she said a younger boy had teased and “pretended to attack” the girls the whole time. And her anxiety over that, of being a target of aggression, even the kind that doesn’t actually entail assault, it felt all too familiar.
I remembered I’ve been a target of bullies too.
I wanted to call the cops on this cretinous demon child.
Who does he think he is? Who are his parents? Are they complete jerks?
As a kid, survival sometimes means hiding from the destructive demands of bullies, to live and create and seek beauty another day. As I’ve grown, I’ve learned there are many of us who face this, the quiet ones, the melancholies and creatives, the “deep rollers.” I began to teach Charlotte about boundaries and defending her space, even as I started practicing more myself.
But I believe all of us need to learn to say no to distracting demands.
The message in church had been on the necessity of making room. Of taking responsibility for making room in our hearts for Jesus. As John the Baptist instructed followers, I was convicted to repent of the destruction and distraction I’d allowed others to bring on what I knew was my sacred space. Their demands had long forced out and prevented me hearing the call, and my deeper need.
John’s repentance wasn’t for doing more for God, but remembering our duty to honor him by making room, getting away, and listening for that “voice in the wilderness.” In our distraction today, we’ve filled up our wilderness with all sorts of things we consider our obligations. We, like they, are “missing the mark,” the very definition of sin.
But for the Baptist, getting away from all that distracted from God was “making room” for Christ. This was getting right by Him. This was repentance.
Maybe it’s just me, but I always thought repenting meant being sorry for who I was–a weak, self-centered boy preferring peace and quiet to the real work of loving God and others. And that’s often true. But it’s not sinful to need space to recharge and get away to hear God within. And this year, it might finally make a sort of spiritual sense, at least for me:
Repentance is not merely confessing your sin. Repentance is also making a change to make room for God.
I think this is true whether we’re innies or extraverts or doers or thinkers–or anything in between. It’s only the way I’ve found to embrace the freedom to be me and recognize the primary place of God in my life that provides permission to get away and make space.
It’s been a very freeing idea to pursue this year. Why had it taken me so long not to feel deficient for needing peace and quiet?
You can get so used to feeling weak, so constantly feeling like a broken person, unable to withstand the “normal” busyness and noise of our modern culture. But if you had not just a right, but a duty to act against it, to defend your heart and make space to worship and be changed by God alone, it could free you up to better understand this deep love we all need.
It’s been a radically different view of repentance for me. And it’s still growing in me this year as I come to Christmas once again. I believe that longing for a solitary, one-on-one experience with God is built into the human heart.
I believe this longing for a solitary, one-on-one experience with God is built into the human heart. It’s the comfort and acceptance and permission we all want most, this and every Christmas.
This desire for that kind of unity, just such a singular commitment, this is the oppositional way, the deeper desire his true followers share.
Isn’t this how love might “abound in more and more knowledge and depth of insight?”
And maybe it’s only from this protected space that we can learn to meet the needs of our needy world with any real love to share. Filled up by that primary relationship, we may become recharged and reformed by Him.
That’s what I’m looking for this Christmas.
Safe, embraced and known.
Will you renounce all else and make room in your heart for him this season, to receive the greater gift of a deeper love?
“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best….“
– Philippians 1:9-10a
For the higher purpose, this season and throughout the coming year,