If you've never had to be away from family and friends during the holiday season, know that it's probably more emotionally difficult than you imagine. My empathy for those who've gone through this has grown, now that I'm in the throes of such a time. So, you may find yourself apathetic toward this post, but for those who have endured, this one's for you.
I've become more keenly aware of the pain of separation, experienced the loneliness, felt the agony of observing others connecting and laughing with family and friends while I remain on the outside. Longing for the familial, while still certain that God's good plans for me include me being exactly where I am leads to a conflicted state of being. It really makes me question whether I do love Him more than mother or brothers, and oh how I want to be found worthy of Him (Matthew 10:37)! I'm not saying it's a sin to miss them, but I must put them as second priority as hard as that is, ESPECIALLY at this time of year. It's often felt like more than enough combating the Christmas "isms" (materialism, consumerism and the like) but adding "separation anxiety" to it is like a Supreme Court level of a trial.
And yet, in this weakened state, He pierces through the ever-growing obscurity with His light and life-giving truth that I can wear around my waist like the belt that it is. And here's the shiny solid beam: In Himself, God is complete. The Father has relationship with the Son, the Son with the Spirit, and all perfectly relate to each other. They are where the whole concept of family begins and never ends. The beautiful, tear-inducing truth is that as a part of His family, I now share in relating to Him as family. I now share the family inheritance (which is an absolutely POIGNANT truth to cling to when you're poor), I have constant access to my Father, and know what it is to be embraced by Him who lovingly wraps His arms around me. It means I am never alone, always protected by the One who is not ashamed to call me his brother (sister) (Hebrews 2:11). No one better mess with any of His kids, those who preciously belong to Him.
So, let me encourage you, friend, Christ knows exactly how you feel. He knows because He was for a time separated from His family. He understands because He was removed from His earthly family, prioritizing the ministry of His Father. HE HAD SOMETHING MORE IMPORTANT TO BE DOING. That didn't mean it wasn't hard, but it meant He kept His focus, His eternal focus, and that separation from His family was merely a temporary state. He persevered by staying connected with His Heavenly Father, Who, remember, He had always been with up until He left His throne above to come to Earth. He is well-aware of your sadness, and here are His solutions:
I pray for you, my struggling friend, because I KNOW AND FEEL what you do, and so does HE. Let us, as brothers and sisters, earnestly lift each other up before our the One who is our FAMILY, because He can actually do something about the state of our heart.
Let me know how I can pray for you.
We are all intimately familiar with this list, particularly this time of year. And I am certainly not disparaging the account, with a couple obvious exceptions (come on, did Radical by David Platt teach us nothing about number 7?). I am genuinely grateful for these things, so please do not misunderstand. Indeed, God has abundantly blessed us in so very MANY ways. Hallelujah! I just find myself wanting a better, more accurate list. And while I could count one thousand gifts from bubbles in the sink to icicles that look like daggers, I reckon thanksgiving is not about quantity. We've fallen into the trap of making it all about numbers because our old nature sure loves formulas! Is it possible that we even are greedy in having the longest list of things to be thankful about?
Sadly, that's not all. We also tend to make thanksgiving rather selfish. Aren't we first and foremost most thankful for our GIVER, not "merely" the tangible things He brings into our lives. Why do I feel like this time of year I hear less than any other time: "Thank you for YOUR HOLINESS because it means there is no one else like YOU. Thank you for YOUR SOVEREIGNTY because it means Someone is in control, someone who chose to love unconditionally, dying for me even though You didn't ever NEED me. Thank you for YOUR JUSTICE because it means you will literally TAKE OUT our enemies for Your Name's sake. Thank you for YOUR LOVINGKINDNESS and MERCY and GRACE in making a way for us to spend eternity together and not separated from each other. And Lord, thank you for YOUR GENEROSITY in sharing the Holy Spirit, YOUR CONSTANCY and STEADFAST RELIABILITY, and YOUR INFINITUDE for there is no end to what can be learned about you by finite minds. Thank you, O God, for being absolutely AWESOME and WORTHY of all my THANKSGIVING."
Can I hear that around the dinner table? Please?
So, my challenge is two-sided: Find ONE attribute of God and DIG as much to the bottom of it until the American holiday (I officially think this is what I will now call the fourth Thursday of November) arrives, and share THAT at the table. Come back and let me know how it goes. Secondly, like Anna the prophetess who instantly gave thanks to the LORD (the word is anthomologeomai, meaning acknowledging and professing IN THE PRESENCE OF) find quiet time to offer up to the God of heaven and earth, the OMNIPRESENT one, a sacrifice of praise, the fruit of lips that praise His name!
Have a QUALITY Thanksgiving, friends.
From as far back as I can remember, I have been excited by little things. When I love a product, I rave about it. When I'm happy, it's not hard to figure out. When I'm upset, yeah, watch out. If someone would say something hurtful about me or something I love, I didn't exactly process it very well, My poor mother would have to deal with it, cleaning my pouty, moody mess of a self off the floor, with her tender words: "Brittany, stop being so sensitive." She knew just what I needed to hear, or so I grasped later in life. (At the time, I rewarded her sage counsel with more pathetic tears or angry retorts. Sorry about that, Mom.) Around people I was upbeat but in retrospect, I do think I spent more time exercising those frowing muscles than the smiling ones. I don't know who is to blame but somehow I began to perceive that my exaggerated behavior was not acceptable.
Coupled with my genetic predisposition toward theatrics were many physical location changes as we moved to different parts of the country due to my Dad receiving various promotions within his company. This only served to stir my emotional pot. Thankfully, the Lord had given me grace through faith early on in life, or I may have struggled more with how to cope in the face of what often felt like my world was being decimated. He enrolled me at Emotions University, and has been schooling me on sentiments, ever training me to trust Him by yielding up my bubbling, broken, disappointed, despairing, ecstatic, fervent heart to Him.
Despite years of honing my built-in "skill", I continue to discover new facets to being dramatic. In fact, recently in dawned on me that God can totally use what I had begun to see as a weakness as the exact opposite. He created me this way. Huh. That must mean He knows things about myself that I don't. How often we are wrong about ourselves! How much we need to seek Him for His definition of who we are as we keep our eyes fixed on the Master Artist! How delightfully whimsical He is to continue to surprise us even as He humbly corrects our wrong thoughts of Him!
His process lately in my life has been unexpected. The thing is, He knows I actually LIKE it when things are unpredictable and spontaneous. One of my favorite things about God is that He creates new things, and if I want my life to be evidence of His Person, then I want Him to have permission to do what He wants in my life. You see, this move to California, this particular transition, there have been lessons I so wanted to learn, character traits I had set out ready for Him to develop. I thought I would be learning humility, contentment, gratefulness and generosity. But the person He is revealing that He is developing is actually going to be more patient, one who endures, even someone with integrity. It's not that those other things aren't happening, but adjusting my expectations to what He is actually doing is SO refreshing. He is surprising me by what He is actually capable of doing in me so that He can do things through me.
So, to make being dramatic an actual art form, we must first appreciate that He Himself is dramatic, making grand gestures of love on our behalf, wooing us to a deeper relationship with Him. Secondly, we must be reeducated, paying attention as He teaches us who He is revealing Himself to be through us. As that happens, we also start to see what kind of character He is developing us to be. I want to be a character in His story who has character not merely one playing a role.
Thank you Lord, for loving us with such flair. You love us in such big ways. I confess that sometimes I look at you through my flawed understanding of man and my warped view of you gets in the way of seeing you as the awesome, holy, amazing One who is worthy to be both feared and adored. Grant us a deeper appreciation of your creativity, and help us be patient as you show us who you have made us to be (the ways You are reflecting Your glory in us).
Brittany Van Ryn
Working out thoughts with HIM.