(Photo taken by me on my last missions trip to Lima, Peru)
Friends–let us not waste our time lamenting wasted time. Let us allow God to revise every page of our life stories that now hold regrets.
Unworthy though we may be, we learn we must relinquish our past to the work of mercy.
Unless we do, we will forever wander through the long halls of our histories; selecting the worst of our errors and misdeeds to reread as if in endless punishment; stuck in a past that we cannot escape alone.
Do not linger long in the volume of your disappointments.
Reach “The End”.
Close the book.
We all are led through a maze of circumstances in our lives: circumstances that can hurt a tender heart in the moment.
But – when we forgive, it surprises the recipient in an amazing way – and our ability to extend said forgiveness probably surprises ourselves even more.
When we must change our plans, we brace for the worst, and then often find ourselves in the place we never thought of, but need to be in.
When we are hurt, we want to hide; grant ourselves self-pity, but when we choose “no excuses”, we grow and stretch.
So look at all of your bumps, bruises, and wrinkled plans, tender heart.
Do you resent them?
Because I think they produced grit, and yet grace.
I think they handed you maturity, and the ability to show mercy.
I think they gave you perspective.
And probably the most shocking thing of all – that you didn’t even realize they did?
By the Grace of God, they made your heart more, not less, tender.
Unpleasant surprises have a way of reversing themselves into producing creative and beautiful results within you.
It’s kind of like a wonderful form of living and ever-working art: the process of God guided growth in your tender, learning heart.
You might call it inspirational, wonderful – even beautiful.
The significance of the first week of July never fails to take my mind to her.
Have you ever noted (I’m sure you have) how nearly all things precious, joyous, and worthwhile–both spiritual and otherwise–require the rather unenjoyable task of discipline to either obtain or improve them?
Most of us already know this. But when you think about it, there is a sort of revelation of how mysterious the Ways of God are, hidden in that fact. It seems backwards and perplexing to our minds. But it is just a reminder that God’s marvelous designs are way over our head–but they still work; and they’re still marvelous.
To innately undisciplined humanity, consistently doing the things we dislike to do seems like we are winding ourselves up in very long, very heavy chains. And yet, once we have done a thing long enough, we begin to realize that we were enslaved–to our whims, passions, and fancies–and only now, through self-control, are we liberated. Chain-free.
Want to be free? Surrender.
Want to be liberated? Submit.
Want life everlasting? Die to self.
Results that abound in contentment and rare happiness are achieved through acting in such a way that seems counterproductive. Ironic. A bit of a puzzle. But effective. And just like the superior Wisdom of God.
Why so anxious over your shadow (power/influence), small tree? Its length and breadth is not as significant as the strength of what lies beneath the surface.
You will grow, given time. And strong winds will blow, as they always do. Winds of change; winds of strange doctrine; accusatory winds. Each gust will test your solidity.
The shadow of the shallow giant will quiver. Yours must remain steady.
The winds may uproot those you once admired. Your branches may rustle; but your core must never be shaken.
Drive your roots deeper.
Remain so preoccupied with the inward, silent, and unseen processes that you forget to take note of the visible.
That is all that counts — lonely, wise tree.
An old poem of mine that is still a fitting reminder for a new year.
Out of desire that its message to be taken in the way in which I intended, I will dissect it enough to hopefully make it clearer and slightly more meaningful for you.
We should never live in complete isolation; we are not meant to. We should never make important decisions or draw conclusions based on our own feelings or without receiving counsel from carefully chosen, trusted sources–and of course, your pastor.
Note the emphasis on carefully chosen.
Here lies the basis of the poem.
Do you spend so much time in the company of peers that you often turn to someone that has even less “life wisdom” than you do–for advice?
The beauty of counsel is the ability to approach someone that has already learned many of life’s lessons, in order to avoid personal mistakes. Sometimes you need to be alone in prayer and reflection to weed out the “things to keep”; the truly beneficial voices from those which are not.
Do you spend so much time in the company of your peers that your important convictions and opinions all begin to morph into a pool of collective, general agreement?
In continual fellowship, we often unknowingly bend and sway under the pressure of groupthink. Adults, not just young people, succumb. Perhaps you have like-minded friends: that’s a wonderful thing. But to be sure my personal standard is where it would normally be, I try to slip away and consider whether or not I still measure myself exclusively by the Word and opinion of God.
Do you spend so much time in the company of your peers that you begin to compare yourself to them–and lose unique passions, goals, and potential in the reach for self-promotion and meaningless affirmation?
I am perhaps one of the world’s foremost advocates of laughter and friendship. But I want to live independently and unashamedly by the principles that are of true consequence. Depth turns shallow with astounding speed if we have not paused to balance frivolity with regular intervals of quiet introspection.
Perhaps it is time we learned to slip away into “a solitary place” or “a mountain apart” to pray, to really think, and to distance ourselves, if not in body, then in spirit, from all outside voices.
We all dream our dreams; we are given to making plans. Some of them come true with an ease that delights us, and yet some become increasingly impossible. The truth in Proverbs 13:12 is likely to be proven to us more than once throughout our lives:
Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.
We are given no promise that we will ever know the reason why some dreams which seem so important, or even God-given, are eventually torn away or taken just beyond our reach. At times the waters of life are friend; at others, foe. We are incapable of controlling final outcomes; we are incapable of controlling the tide.
The dreams God wills to come true in your life will effortlessly eclipse those that didn’t.
And then there’s the fact that, sometimes, dreams take time. Often allowed to see shadows and tiny glimpses of what’s to come, we grow zealous and impatient–but if all is not crystal clear yet, it may be because your dream will mature with you.
In time to come, perhaps even when the best years of your life seem over with, and you expect it the least: God may suddenly give His assent, and that old dream you had nearly forgotten about will be realized.
Your stage of life is irrelevant: dreams have a timing of their own. Just know that if you have committed your way to God; and if your heart is still beating, He is working on your behalf. Find contentment, and keep expectancy close: