Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness
I don’t usually read a bunch of other stuff before writing here. My brain gets cluttered way too easily and I lose my focus. Not true this morning… about the reading, I mean.
I read a very encouraging Advent devotional by Walter Wangerin, Jr. – one of my all time and longtime favorite authors. He is a poet who writes narratives with such imagination and insight that you are inside the scene with the characters like slipping through a wardrobe. When you step out again – well, your heart has changed.
At his invitation I stopped and gave my heart and attention to pray for “my people” – again. I was flooded with a renewed assurance that God not only hears but He never forgets to create His very own answer. And, maybe for the first time, I didn’t pray for change in any of them. I didn’t pray they would find a church or Christian friends or live for God – nothing. I just prayed they would meet Jesus. That was enough. That has always been enough.
Then there was a tweet that led me to Jamie Ivey’s latest blog entry. She was surprised that at 37, she was still learning things about herself! (Oh sweetie…37…really? Never let yourself believe you have yourself figured out. We are forever moving targets in my experience.)
Nonetheless, one thing she discovered was her inability to stop judging and forgive a particular person’s poor choices. I don’t think it even affected her personally but she was stymied at herself because up until then – all those 37 years – she had always found it easy to forgive. She writes:
“Here’s the funny thing about all this — I have always assumed that I’m a forgiving and gracious person. But then, this situation arose and I saw first-hand how filthy and arrogant my heart truly is. My need for Jesus isn’t less, just because my sin doesn’t seem as blatant and outwardly destructive. But truthfully, my prideful heart, my constant desire for control, and my inability to trust God…these sins are just as offensive to God as that person’s sin that I was judging!
I need Jesus. They need Jesus. We all need a Savior.”
So, that brings me back to the line from today’s prayer. I need God’s grace to cast out the darkness that resides in me. At 65, one likes to imagine they are close to some arbitrary spiritual goal line. But I’m not really any longer surprised to find it to more likely be “1st and 10 on the other guy’s 20” than “1st and goal”. In fact, I have come to believe, becoming like Jesus is not linear at all. Instead of trying to meet Him at the finish line, it is more like meeting Him on the road and walking together from then on. Sometimes – actually more often than I like to admit – I start walking without him. But He doesn’t let me get too far – “Hey, wait up!”
Today ends my week considering the Advent idea of HOPE. Seems fitting to end with prayer for “my people” and me – and this is the core of it:
We all need Jesus. That’s where Hope comes from.