Saturday, March 28, 2015

a birthday wish.

If I were to blow out the twenty-six candles on a cake that was just for me on my birthday, I would make twenty-six wishes for two things to happen this year. I wouldn't ask for money, because the thing about money is that you can always get more of it. I wouldn't ask for more things, because treasures on this side of eternity don't last long. I wouldn't ask for an easier life, because the struggles I face keep me humbly surrendered to a good plan that is outside of my control. I wouldn't even ask for more time on this earth, because I am confident that the length of my life has been orchestrated perfectly. The two things I would ask for are two simple words that are used but often not understood, desired but often not acted upon, possible but often not strived for. This year, on this twenty-eighth day of March, my prayer for every person (including + especially myself) is that we would 1) put into practice the art of being intentional + committed, and 2) make it a habit.

If we search hard + long enough, it's easy to find + make excuses for why things are the way they are, but excuses are nothing more than creative (and, sometimes, not-so-creative) ways to blame someone or something else as the reason for why things are the way they are. I would go so far as to say that we have mastered this dangerous technique so well that accountability is despised and often mistaken as judgment. While I don't believe that any of us will ever be perfect on this side of eternity, I also believe that we take that truth and use it as a crutch, as a defense against our bad decisions + shameful regrets. Walking along Easy Street is just that: easy. At least for a little while, anyway.

I'm no King Solomon by any means, but I have learned a lot during these short twenty-six years. I admit that a lot of what I have learned took me a long time to learn it, and even still, most of what I have learned are things that I will keep learning for the rest of my life. My "yes" isn't always yes, my "no" isn't always no, I get angry and hold grudges, I avoid people in the grocery store or Target because I don't know what to say to them, my heart doesn't always break for the lost, I react on my emotions and blurt out hurtful words without taking time to consider the best, most honoring way to respond, my pride gets in the way of humble submission, I don't always respect my husband, I believe the lies of this world that tell me that I have to perform a certain way in order to be loved, and that's not even a fraction of my shortcomings. I make excuses for things that I do + don't do, but those excuses only leave me feeling momentarily relieved + more anxious over time.

As I reflect on how much has changed since the last time I celebrated a birthday, just one short year ago, it would be foolish of me not to notice how much has changed. Some changes have been a source of joy, others have been the source of so much sorrow, and more still have been the source of both joy + sorrow all wrapped up into one. My challenge to myself and to you is simple: be intentional, be committed, and let these two characteristics become the two things we are most known for. If you don't have a good relationship with a family member, do everything in your might to mend it. If you have a secret that has kept you in chains for too many years to count, confess it. If you don't think someone is worthy of your forgiveness, forgive them anyway. If you get tired of loving others with all your heart and never getting anything in return, keep loving them. If you are tempted to walk down a path that satisfies your flesh, rebuke every thought and take them captive. If someone you know is drowning in hopelessness, give them an encouraging word. If you see someone holding up a sign on the side of the road and immediately want to roll your eyes or simply keep driving, choose to be merciful towards them. If you have to choose between buying another "toy" and helping someone in need, remember that lives matter more than things.

Being intentional + committed doesn't mean that we let someone else deal with it, it means that we take responsibility for what we can. It means that we do something instead of waiting for "chance" or "fate" or "good luck" to dictate when we take action. It means being disciplined in our thoughts + words + deeds, and making decisions that help instead of hurt. It means letting the glory of Jesus Christ, not ourselves, be put on display so that the entire world might sing along with the psalmist in Psalm 95 as we praise the Lord together.

What does being intentional + committed have to do with Jesus, you may be asking? Well, that's because there has never been anyone else as intentional + committed as Him. He intentionally committed Himself to the cross for the glory of His Father in Heaven + the salvation of me and you. Imagine the hopeless state we would all be in if Jesus had simply changed His mind like we do, and let that image of His enduring strength + unwavering trust in God be what sets a fire to our hearts + motivates us to be intentionally committed to discerning the difference between loving the things of this world + loving the people in this world, and choosing to habitually live our lives to love + serve God by loving + serving others.

That's what I want to see happen as I enter into another year of life. That's what I want for my birthday this year.

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
-Philippians 2:1-10

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