Tuesday, December 27, 2016

On Christmas, a new year, and turning 50 ...

Some of us tend to be more, shall we say, passionate about God, and our faith, than others. Not that I think I'm anything special ... this is more from the perspective of, he who is forgiven much, loves much.

But shoot, we’re more intense about everything. Which is not only exhausting for those around us, but for ourselves as well.

Couple that with an upbringing where I learned to question and second-guess every thought and feeling, and it’s pretty much added up to a lifetime of not being sure I ever said or did the right thing, or knew whether my own opinions have any validity.

And then, the day after New Year’s, my mom passed peacefully to Heaven during her afternoon nap, leaving me without the one person whose love and prayers were a constant.

It promised to be kind of a weird year, anyway. Aging had never particularly bothered me—at 30 I felt a kind of relief at leaving the 20’s behind, and 40 didn’t faze me, either—but for some reason I’ve had a hard time with the idea of turning 50. Part of it was watching my mom’s health deteriorate so much the last few years, and finding I wasn’t as strong physically as I wanted to be, to care for her, but on my 49th birthday I was having a serious pity party, until God pointed out to me that my life really wasn’t over yet, and even suggested that the year between 49 and 50 would be my “jubilee” year. For those not familiar with Old Testament law, that was the year according to Hebrew reckoning where God commanded the freeing of slaves, the forgiveness of debts, the returning of lost property to its rightful owner—a general renewal and resetting of society. Somehow, thinking of the coming year in those terms really helped my perspective, and I was able to look forward with an attitude of expectation and not dread.

And then ... Mom’s passing.

I miss her terribly. I miss her constant prayer cover. And for weeks I struggled with wondering how many “good” years I had left, given that my own body seems to be failing as hers did. (Diabetes is a terrible thing, and one’s body doesn’t always do as well on the medications as the pharmaceutical commercials lead you to believe.)

But the Lord is gracious not to leave us in a place of crisis. As I slowly grappled with the loss I thought myself prepared for but discovered I wasn’t, and all the implications of now being for all intents and purposes the family matriarch, God met me—and fed me—in a thousand different ways. I’m still not the intercessory warrior she was, but ... I’m growing. And when my birthday came, He provided such an outpouring of good wishes (thank you, Facebook) and peace, and a reassurance that my journey is by no means done, despite the year’s losses and missed timing and misunderstandings.

But there were also things this year (and last) that the Lord seemed to be unearthing from inside me, shaking off the detritus of years and holding them out for me to face, things I thought I’d well healed from or at least buried deeply enough to not affect me again. Loves and hopes that had died, leaving me with only the whisper that I just wasn’t good enough, would never be good enough, that I would always be too much or too emotional or simply unsuitable in some other way.

I really did not appreciate those ghosts resurfacing.

But again, the Lord didn’t leave me to myself, and His tending culminated in a pair of beautiful Christmas messages, one from Christmas Eve and the other delivered by my own husband the next morning. Both highlighted how amazing it is that God stooped to be born as a human baby, not just for some nebulous “hope” but to live as one of us, to become the once-for-all atonement for the wrong we could never make right, indeed to redeem us and make us His own forever. “And to those who believed on Him, to them He gave the right to be called children of God.” We are heirs to His glory! We have the very right to claim Him as Father—even to address him as “Abba,” a tender and intimate Aramaic term that translates in our language as “Daddy.” And this is a Daddy who’s never distant, who never disappoints, who never allows hurt without purpose ... who’s always so delighted just to have us come lean on His knee and invites us to throw in His lap every little thing that upsets or weighs upon us! Which of our human parents was ever all that for us, without fail? Mine certainly never could be. My own mother tried but was so painfully human, too. I had a natural father who was smothering and predatory by turns, and an adoptive father who was loving but reserved.

I’ve often wondered if those who had close, loving relationships with their earthly parents could really appreciate the magnitude of what our Heavenly Daddy can be to us. I’m sure there’s a dimension of trust they experience that I still struggle with. But this Christmas, and facing a new year full of even more uncertainty than usual, the magnitude of this perfect Daddy love, breaking over my soul and spirit, washing me in glorious peace ... I feel the hurts of the past soothed as never before, as I realize God really has taken me from a terrible past and written me into the most beautiful Cinderella story ever imagined. That by His stripes my wounds truly are healed.

I am a princess on the way to her throne.

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