Christmas 2010: Possibility. From the most familiar version of the Christmas story found in the gospels, Luke 2, there is this recorded announcement by angels to shepherds in verses 13 and 14 (NIV):
With the advent of God into the world he created in the person of his son, Jesus, God anticipates the life, death, burial and resurrection of the Christ (the Messiah, the anointed one) – in short, what I will refer to as the finished work of Jesus Christ – and announces the fact that he is at peace with man (and, through man, all of creation), that his favor and good-will extend to all of us.
Because Jesus was born, lived, died, and rose, the possibility for entering into real, vital, personal relationship with God exists. A relationship of parent-child; God as father, me as his son.
Before Jesus, a covenant based in law, with its commands, requirements, obligations, impossible demands, doomed to fail from the beginning, ruled, resulting in a religious system based on performance and resulting only in condemnation and failure.
The advent of Jesus and all that followed abolished performance-based religion and law forever (the NIV in Hebrews uses the accurate rendering “once and for all” when it speaks about this), and made possible true relationship with God, not based on performance or some kind of rule-keeping tally, but simply based on trust.
God's object from the very beginning has been relationship with us. And God's motivation, character, goal has been love. Nothing else.
Sadly, this good news has been co-opted into a religion based on performance and rule-keeping that shackles many people who want relationship, and alienates many others who might otherwise seek it out.
So, here is the message of Christmas, distilled into just a few statements that I would say is the good news – the gospel:
- God's desire is not to get you to behave in a certain way, to “live right”, to do certain things and not others; God's desire is to make you whole in your heart (where your life is centered and out of which all else, good and bad proceeds), and out of that wholeness to live eternally in relationship with you as your father;
- There is nothing between you and God at this moment – no sin, no failure, no action, word or attitude – there is nothing between you and God except your ignorance or unbelief of that fact. All that stands between you and relationship with God is your trust in that fact – that God really is at peace with you and loves you – no strings attached – and desires nothing from you but relationship to him.
If you want to read another approach to this idea, you can read my blog entry, “ Stop Trying to Please God”.
Matters of the Heart: Possibility. Now, I will get personal; this part is mostly, for me, more of a journal entry than part of a blog entry. But feel free to peek over my shoulder. I hope you will – you know, I enjoy your company on these little visits.
This blog began as the result of my return to faith, my return to relationship with God, after years of anger, denial, mistrust, hurt, wounding, and wandering. A return to possibility.
From last December until about April, I went through a process of healing in my heart (coming into more wholeness of heart, to cast it in terms I used in the section about Christmas). I was reconnected to many things that I thought were dead, gone, lost forever. I was put back in touch with possibility.
You can read about this journey, if you are interested, in what I call The Vision Cycle , outlining a dream and vision for ministry as I conceived of it earlier this year.
Sometime in May, and continuing until very recently, I've gone through a time of feeling growing disconnection from those things, or my idea of those things and how they were supposed to work themselves out. When I felt the reconnection to possibility, to dreams and ideas I thought had perished from my heart forever, I began to try to figure things out, schedule how things were supposed to happen, to help God work this out.
Of course, it didn't happen like I thought it would. It didn't look like God was moving at all the way I thought he would – and should.
Then, over a period of several months, most of this year, something else occurred that took me by surprise and touched an area of my heart which I also thought was long dead, gone, lost, and – for my part – willingly left behind as something I didn't want or need, something that only complicated all the other possibility that God had opened my heart to earlier this year.
For most of my life, I desired relationship. In my earliest journal, from 1976, when I was only 11 years old, the most common topic is just that: my desire for relationship, for a wife, for marriage. At the time, that desire focused itself on a 9-year-old friend of my sister's. The earliest book I wrote about reading in those days (even though I read much more, as I always have) was a book about dating and marriage.
Even after I became committed to ministry as the focus and priority of my life at age 14, I envisioned that eventually that ministry would have as one component a relationship out of which that ministry would proceed.
When I married Charlotte, I thought that was the relationship I had been longing for; and, indeed, in many ways for most of our marriage, it was exactly that. I loved completely and deeply, with abandon; in short, as I have written elsewhere, “in those ten years, I loved for a lifetime.”
When that relationship ended, the hurt, wounding, and grief was just as complete and deep, just as with abandon, as our love had been. Part of my heart died, and I thought it was beyond reviving.
Well, over the course of much of this year, through some innocent circumstances, and without my even suspecting it, my heart has been touched, revived to possibility, in this area. Maybe I could love again; maybe I want to love again.
After years of denying it, of proclaiming to those who voiced their thought, especially that they were praying for me about this, that “the last thing I need or want is a relationship. Never again. Not for me. Save those prayers – you're wasting your time,” I find myself open to this possibility.
Of course, there is a context for this opening of my heart to possibility. Suddenly, quickly, and totally surprisingly to me, it wasn't just a general, ephemeral idea, but it was the possibility of relationship with a particular person, whom I knew only casually through other circumstances which had resulted in some level of friendship.
So, as things happen, I decided (after much debate and discussion with myself, God and others – mostly Terry, my great friend and confidante in things great and small) to see if this wonderful woman would be interested in going out, to explore possibility, to get to know one another better in that context.
As it happened, I did go on a date, much to my surprise and delight, something I thought I'd never even desire to do again.
Also, as it happened, while we remain friends, it was clear that she was not in the same place as me with the idea of possibility where I was concerned. In short, she said very nicely and gently, that even if she were interested in that possibility (for serious relationship), it would not be me that she would be interested in. Say that however you want, but the result is the same: I am not her type, I'm not a person she is or could be attracted to.
So, just as before when I felt reconnected to possibility in areas of ministry and purpose, so now I am reconnected to possibility as to relationship only to be firmly disconnected from my idea of how that possibility might work itself out in fact.
And, on this Christmas day, 2010, here I sit: my heart open to possibility of things that I thought were long dead, gone, vanished, never to return, but feeling very disconnected from my idea of how those things would unfold in my life, choices and circumstances.
I sit on the cusp of possibility, but with no idea how those things are to work themselves out in my heart. I am clueless. And I hate that.
But, that is exactly where God wants me. God's priority in my life (and in yours, my dear reader) isn't whether I'm in ministry or driving a truck; in a relationship or single; his priority is, as it always has been and always will be, bringing me into wholeness of heart out of which I can relate to him in the fullness he desires for all his children.
And, to be quite honest with you, for me and for you, God cares little (relative to other things) exactly what circumstances that wholeness takes place in. He does place desires in our hearts, and I believe he does have purposes and plans for us; but those are secondary to his primary goal of reaching my heart, your heart, and bringing us more fully into relationship with himself.
So, what am I to do with this desire for ministry, and now, this surprising desire for relationship? I do not know. And, when my heart is open to God's love and influence, I do not care.
In those moments, I only want to be in this place where God has me, this place of possibility, this place of becoming whole in heart, of coming more fully into relationship with him. In this place of possibility, if I allow this work of healing toward wholeness proceed, the rest of it will work itself out, and I will have the wisdom I need at the time I need it.
My prayer for this coming year is that I would keep my heart in this place of possibility, of openness to God and whatever he has for me, no matter what that is. And, that's my prayer for you, too.
Cast Away. In this context, I will mention that, as I do every year near Christmas, I recently watched one of my favorite movies, Cast Away, again. Toward the end of the movie, Tom Hanks talks about this idea of possibility in the context of what has happened to his character in the movie.
I link to this Youtube video which contains that monologue: Cast Away.
“ You never know what the tide will bring in.”
Until next time . . . live in possibility . . .