Sunday, November 30, 2014

Emptying Myself for Advent

I am resurrecting my personal blog because there is much percolating in my heart and this seems the best place to lay it out. I entitled this blog Recognizing Jesus years ago and at this time of my life with advent approaching, it is more fitting than ever.

Six months ago today, our world changed forever. We lost our church family, many relationships and our families income.

Today, the advent season of 2014 begins. As I sat in church this morning, God spoke to my clenched fists and closed heart.

They were not words of questioning and condemnation but whispers of warmth and welcome.
Not, "Where have you been?" but "I'm glad you are back, friend".
My heart has been far from him but his heart has continued to be in me and for me all the while.

To pick up the gifts of wonder and anticipation this Advent, I've got to lay down the crushing armload of burdens.

To open joy, I've got to lay down bitterness.
To receive healing, I got to open wounds.
To embrace loving others, I've got to let Jesus hold me.
To receive humility, I've got to release pride.
To flourish in relationships, I've got to risk vulnerability.
To accept my new family at Seed Church, I've got to share my thoughts with my former church family of Mars Hill Church.

I wrote the following words a couple weeks ago. They came flowing out of my heart in a short amount of time. For me, that's always a sign that God is moving. I have sat on them, prayed about them and received counsel on whether they should be shared publicly. I felt a wait from God despite the weight on my heart.

Today, I am free to share these words. Undoubtedly, they will be displeasing to many. They will be too late for some, too much for others, not detailed enough for some and too honest for others.

I purposely chose to use the word regret in my story rather than repent. While the theological neat-nicks may dissect my motives for and the meaning behind that, let me explain for myself.

I believe repentance to be relational. Repentance is a gift from God granted to me, a sinner. It is received by me, a sinner, and offered first to the Perfect God I ultimately sinned against and then to my offended brother or sister. It is lived out over time and not complete after 1 letter is written or one phrase uttered.

Regret is a declaration. An owning and acknowledgement of sin committed, or righteousness omitted. It can be shared generally and publicly as a means to facilitate conversation and open doors for the intimate work of repentance to be done one on one, face to face, in relationship over time. While not always possible, I believe that to be most powerful.

My hope in sharing these words is that this advent season will be marked by an emptying of myself - my sin, my hurt, my selfishness, my agenda - so a filling of peace, joy, love and true reconciliation can happen.

The miracle of Jesus is that it already has.
I'm ready to live my life in the true light and freedom of the Gospel.

And so, I offer these words as a gift to Jesus for what he has done for me, as a gift to myself as I live in grace and a gift to my brothers and sisters in Christ who have lingering hurt. May we all experience redemption and restoration as we walk in the light.

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