"...he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.' I will boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me." 2 Corinthians 12:9
I have undertaken a project this year, and in reflecting upon it, I was troubled by an underlying roughness, a lack of ease with my idea.
You see, I will be turning forty in the deep days of fall, not long before the year ends. Several weeks ago, as I was unpacking Christmas decorations, I came upon a Christmas letter we received in our first month of marriage. It was unlike any Christmas greeting I had ever received. You see, in our neck of the woods, a whole Christmas letter is not the custom, rather one is most likely to receive a card, often featuring a photo of one's children, or a gilded nativity scene, or a sterile snowflake wish for a happy season, with few, if any, personal words.
However, isn't life beautiful, how horizons are broadened as years are added and people are presented to us and we learn of new traditions and customs and send our greetings farther and farther away, and receive them from locations near and far? And so it was that we received several lovely paragraphs printed on festive red paper alerting us to the goings-on of a college classmate of mine and her brand-new husband. How unusual and inspiring it was to read line after line of text unabashedly proclaiming thanks for the humbling and gratifying ways the Lord was working in their lives. The faith of this couple shone through the letter with such purity that I tucked the letter away and have saved it all these many years since, reading it as a touchstone to remind myself of the Truth of Christmas.
And so, as I read that creased letter again this year as had become my custom, I was inspired to look up that classmate, for we had lost touch long ago. And, as it is in this day and age, she was easy to find. With satisfaction, I readily found a website she had begun to document a project to accomplish a list of forty things by her fortieth birthday. And each entry was replete with the grace-saturated loving-kindness and humble humor that was so notable in that Christmas letter that I've kept it for fifteen years.
I was further inspired to begin a list of my own, and my days have been focused by the specificity of that list, an encouragement to not let the days pass without seeing their possibility and being deeply grateful for the time, the skill, the health of body to accomplish the tasks set before me by the Lord.
Yet, as I began checking things off my list, I realized that I was in danger. I do not have the ability, as my long-ago friend does, of making it all about Him. I recognized the possibility that I would start making it all about me. And that frightened me and prompted some deep prayer, always begun, of course, by some frantic and disjointed prayer.
In any event, the prayer was fruitful in that it further helped me with my year's theme. So often, January shows the worst in me as I bristle when presented with the beautifully concise words selected by women I admire as they effortlessly present one simple word chosen to define the charism of their upcoming year. Oh, why can't I be like that? I'm so scattered, I love words so much! Just one? One? Can't do it. So I contemplate phrases, or sentences, or nothing at all. But this year was different, and it is because I gave it up. I thought about the problem first, and not the word.
I was reminded how important it was that I accomplish the things on my list not in my own strength, but in His. There is a risk in embarking on a project like this, and pride stands scarlet as the primary temptation - the assumption that I can do anything in my own power. So, I ask the Holy Spirit to make every attempted goal a chance to point to Him, a chance to point others to Him, a chance to recognize that every gift I have is given by Him and that every weakness I have - and the entire list and its undertaking and the attractiveness of the idea to me in the first place is a response to my weaknesses - is an invitation from Him to allow His power to come in and make good out of that which is gapingly imperfect. Sometimes this will be done gracefully, but I am sure it will more often be done clumsily, but in every case, I seek to recognize that I am His, that all I have is His, and that everything I don't have, He does. I have always loved the lyrics to the Nichole Nordeman song, Legacy. "Did I point to You enough to make a mark on things?" So, I intend to point.
And so, I am hollowed-out and humbled, yet filled with hope, as I put down my word of the year: His.