To be honest, I’ve had dozens of blog posts in my mind over the past few months. One is half written on my iPad, and others were half-formulated thoughts and ideas that never reached my keyboard. So much for being a regular blogger.
Lost moments to ingrained habits
I wish I had no regrets as I look back over the past year. I wouldn’t be surprised if we all do. For me, it’s the realization that wasted time really does add up to a huge pit of should haves that can never be regained. For me the worst part is when I look at my excuses and rationalizations for time that can never be regained: I need a break… I’m too tired and need to relax… just one more chapter of this book…
Many excuses date back to my childhood – excuses that became habits so ingrained that I didn’t even recognize them. As I looked back at the wasted time on games, tv shows, or reading too much fiction, and then thought about some of the challenges I’ve faced the past couple of months, I finally gained insight into what I was doing. I was turning to time-wasting hollow things to avoid thinking about any of the hard things. And I realized that this has been a lifetime habit for me. I began to see the pattern going back years… the only difference was that before computers, I played solitaire (a lot) and once owned literally hundreds of books – mostly fiction of just about every genre. Now it’s computer games, Kindle, and YouTube.
But that ingrained habit of wanting to escape was something I’ve finally had to confront and confess. It has been keeping me from moving forward in some areas of my life for a very long time.
Looking back… discovering incredible grace
As I look back and think about those lost moments, I’m overwhelmed with awe that while I was wasting precious time and resources, God was not! Even more so, somehow, He continued to work in my life and through my life despite my resistance. Instead of feeling guilty for not writing 12 or 24 blog posts, I’m thankful that this past year, the Lord has broken through my resistance to writing 7 posts in 2022.
In considering all the English classes I gave in the Chinese Church, and the monthly teachings I was asked to give, again, I see the hand of my Savior mercifully guiding and helping me to study. Often, in the midst of a lesson, He would surprise me with new insights into His word. So many times, it seemed like each lesson and Bible study was aimed at me and yet afterward, so many students would come to me and thank me for challenging them. Every time someone in the Chinese Church expresses their gratitude to me, I find myself responding that from my perspective, the Chinese Church is God’s gift to me and is helping to keep my eyes on Jesus.
I’ve tried very hard to keep from thinking about my health issues, and while I’ve mentioned them in a few blog posts, I’ve been scarce on the details. I do plan to share more in another post. But not thinking about these issues did not prevent me from having surgery on November 17, nor prevent the complications that led to my being hospitalized exactly one month – to the day! I was forced to place my trust utterly in my Savior and to my surprise, had more opportunities to talk with colleagues, other patients, and friends, about my ultimate hope than I have had in years. I am in awe at how He did that.
As I began to realize just what I was doing, and how easy it was to try and escape, I finally began to look up. I thought again about my hope. What is it, really?
Here in Israel, when people discuss problems, illness, recovery, and just about anything, sooner or later, someone says, “the important thing is health.” The implication is that nothing is more important than having your health. The more I heard this, the more I realized what a lie it was, and from my gut, I couldn’t stop myself from responding, “there is one thing more important than health – that is your relationship with God – without that, health is meaningless.” And I realized as I said the words, yes, I really do believe that.
It helped when one of my roommates in the hospital asked me how I could be so not afraid of death.
I found myself sharing with her about my heavenly hope, and the sure knowledge that a day would come when there would be a new heaven and new earth where righteousness reigned, and that my current body would someday be raised up, fully healed, and be made to be like Jesus’s resurrected body. She asked how I could be so sure, and I responded simply, “because God made that promise in the Bible, and He does not lie.”
She sighed and looked up at the heavens for a moment, and then said softly, “It sounds like a wonderful dream.”
Sharing with her and with others helped me realize that perhaps part of my escapism was because I had started to hope too much for things in this life, including better health, instead of placing my hope fully on the grace that will be brought to me (and all who believe) at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:13).
My devotionals over the past few weeks have been challenging – to say the least. Several different ones have ganged up against me, pointing out that God gives us gifts and they are meant to be used, not wasted. A few nights ago, I had a very surrealistic dream. When I woke up and thought about it, I realized that God has given me many gifts and I have not been faithful in wisely administering them, particularly with regard to writing and music. The worst part was, that failure to use those gifts meant that no one was enjoying what God had given, including those whom He meant to bless through His gifts. I’ve been rereading the gospels and found the parable of the poor steward particularly convicting. I remember thinking as I reread some of Jesus’s teachings in Luke – not everything Jesus said was comforting. Some of His teachings are hard!
Someone recently challenged me to show some grace to myself. My response? how? I of all people should know better!
They asked me what I would tell someone else… and then it hit me. I was falling into another old habit from my youth… acting as though my judgment of myself took priority over God’s forgiveness for me through Jesus.
And so, in confessing my sin to Him, I must also ACCEPT His forgiveness. I have to let go of this past year (these past years really), and with Paul, forget what is behind and “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).
Our forever hope
I don’t know what you are struggling with or what regrets are haunting you. Or perhaps you are battling the doom and gloom that seems to pervade the news wondering how can we dare hope for a happy New Year?
We are all in this together. We are part of the Body of Christ, and He is our head. My hope, and yours, is not to be found in this world. It never was. It’s so easy to misplace our hope in a world that is filled with distractions, stresses, pain, sorrow, and horrors beyond imagining. Some of us have plenty and are afraid of losing it. Others have experienced loss of work, family, or health and far too many are already suffering the effects of war and persecution.
As 2022 ends, let’s join together in looking up. Our redemption is surely drawing near (Luke 21:28). May Hebrews 12:1-2 encourage us all as we embark on a new day and a new year:
Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.