This season, this Advent I have been striving to keep my focus true. It has been my goal to keep the attention not on Santa Claus and gifts but on Christ and being a blessing to others. To this end we created an Advent calendar that allowed us to count down the days until Christmas in kindnesses given instead of days until gifts received. It has been good, my children and I have been Christ in a lot of little ways to many different people who will never know it was us. We gave and acted unselfishly and we really had a lot of fun doing it.
I was gushing over the things we did yesterday to my husband and feeling rather pleased with myself when it occurred to me that I’d forgotten my “why”. This morning as I read through the book of Luke I was struck by how I had turned these simple acts of kindness into a type of idol. Yes, I was doing good things in God’s name and I was teaching my children that it is better to give, especially in an unseen way, than to receive, but I had lost the reason. My eyes had fallen from the Creator to what I was creating. I sit here, convicted this morning. It was good to do all of these things in God’s name, but I had started to see the things we were doing as more important than why we were doing them in the first place. In my hurry to teach my children about sacrificial giving, in pouring out their love to all creation I had still forgotten to turn their attention to God as we did it.
My hope had been to help them see Christ this Christmas, to not focus on what the world would tell them to see. While it is true that I have kept their gift list short, I somehow still missed what is important. I looked at all we could do and made those things a priority. I made time for the acts of kindness in my day, even when sleep was little or my people were sick. These acts became the center of my Advent. I am still more of this world than the next, and I am disappointed by that. I thought that this would be the year that I didn’t spend my attention on gift giving, on Christmas dresses, on a flawless Christmas Day. Instead of keeping myself attuned to what God wanted for me this Advent I got lost in the things I could do. I am trying to give myself grace, justifying my attitude by all of the good we have done. I must admit I am frustrated still. I wanted so much more from this season than this feeling of failing again.
Even when I don’t see my striving I clearly still am. I can not seem to find the peace in God that I so desperately crave. My mother was here recently and she asked about our search for a church. This is a sensitive topic for me. I am not against a church home but I do feel like this place where I am spiritually is where I need to be right now. The lack of a church building doesn’t lessen my relationship with God and the teaching He is doing here in the quiet mornings is greater than I have ever found in a “sacred space”. The noise of church, the activity and the need to fill all of the needs for all of the people instead of simply leading them to Christ has me disillusioned I suppose. I want God’s word more and more, I want to sit with His teachings and see how I continue to fail, but am continually held and loved. I have yet to find that at church. I’m sure there will come a time when I am led to a quiet little church full of like-minded people, but this is simply not that season for me. I am comforted by Luke 5:16; “But Jesus often withdrew to the lonely places and prayed.”.
As I was wrestling with these feelings of failure in my Advent focus, failure in not having a church home, failure in not being the one to lead my children well in their walk with the Lord, I continued in the book of Luke. Here I learn about who Jesus was and his work on this earth. The chapters I read this morning reminded me that I was doing the good in the name of the Lord and that my intentions were honorable, but I had definitely begun to think the saving of the world began with me. This idea is not my own, Ann Voskamp has an Advent devotional that told me this very thing this morning. I was seeing the acts themselves as more important than why we were doing them. It’s good to be convicted, even though it can feel harsh.
I have a few days left before Christmas. There is probably just the right amount of time for me to do the good while focusing on the Creator without losing the goal in my busyness. So while I do feel like I failed and I do know that I need to work on me more, I also know that I am loved, forgiven. I know in my very soul that all of this correcting would not have come if I hadn’t been in the right place to receive it. I probably wouldn’t have heard this message from the pulpit of a church. I likely wouldn’t have been convicted if I hadn’t committed to these quiet mornings with God. I trust that He is working with me if maybe not in the traditional way that some would prefer. The ways of the world you know…
I’ll leave y’all with this; “But to you who are listening I say: Love…” (Luke 6:27). Snippets of scripture that I’m stealing out of context. This one though, I feel stands on it’s own. I am listening Lord, I will go into this day with love. Grace is an amazing thing…to be given it, to then give it back in thanks, to give it to others. I am grateful to have been given the grace of clarity this morning, there is still time to set my Advent right. To let it be set right, after all, I am not able to save myself.