If you are just joining, welcome! I am super glad you are here! I have been talking a bit about waiting as it relates to the season of Advent. I've chronicled a bit of what God is impressing on me here, here and here.
Maybe you're like me and you're familiar with waiting. If so, you know that waiting has this weird way about it, in that at times while it feels like you are doing absolutely NOTHING AT ALL you simultaneously feel utterly exhausted. It is the strangest thing to feel stuck & restless while also feeling weary & spent. I don't think waiting is anyone's favorite. Yet, I am learning that the waiting moments-the in-between moments-seem to be some of God's favorite tools in my life. (Maybe if I had figured this out sooner, I would have spent less time of my life waiting..."Okay, God. I think I've got it. Let's move it along here." See, I still haven't come to my complete peace with waiting.)
I think one of the reasons I struggle with waiting the most is because I value comfort too highly...that and I am a recovering control-freak. I have this self-centered fear that I will become too worn out. I am a weak person by nature. I get sick easily. I have had my share of mental health struggles. I suffer from migraines if I don't eat right and get enough sleep. And speaking of sleep, I am pretty sure I require more than the average bear...no literally...more than a bear. I could easily sleep all winter.
So, a lot of my growing-up years my parents tried to make sure I did what needed to be done to keep from "wearing out". As an adult my kind husband has kind of taken over this roll. How many times in my life have I heard "Did you drink enough water today?" "Have you eaten lunch?" I know they mean well. My people are so caring. But what I am trying to say is, due to the way I am made & the entirety of my life there being voices making sure I am well taken care of, I have developed this unhealthy, self-centered fear of being stretched too thin & becoming sick or weak. I have become self-protective. I don't want to schedule too much into my days or weeks. I guard my resources a little too closely.
This is something God has been working on with me for a while. I am slowly developing new patterns of giving more of myself and allowing God to fill me back up. In times of waiting I fear becoming weary & spent. I see myself teetering with the weight of all the waiting. And I become guarded. I try to hoard my "resources" in a way that actually resembles a bear getting ready to hibernate. Lately, God has been working on me hard, as I have mentioned in previous posts. And it is exactly the opposite of comfortable. He is teaching me the true meaning of faith- that faith equals obedience. It is not a feeling. It is not just words saying I trust God. It is actually putting feet to those words and walking the unstable, sometimes treacherous path of obedience-one feeble step at a time. One way where God is
knocking me over the head tenderly nudging me toward obedience, is this area of generosity. Generosity- the exact opposite of hoarding, guarding, self-protecting.
For months now God keeps bringing this thought to my mind, "Let your generosity be evident to all. The Lord is near." I figured it was a verse that I had memorized at some point, but I couldn't remember the reference. So I did what any knowledgeable person would do and I googled it. I was kind of disappointed to find that I had remembered the verse wrong. Philippians 4:5 in the NIV says "gentleness". Why had God been bringing this verse to my mind on repeat the past few months? Was all I felt I was learning just a figment of my imagination, based on a false memory? The ESV translates the word as "reasonableness", the KJV as "moderation". Oh good grief. That seems to be the opposite of generosity. So I looked up a commentary to find the original Greek in which this was written. I found this description written for "gentleness", "reasonableness" and "moderation" found in Philippians 4:5:
"a sense of what is seemly, or equitable, as distinct from what is required by strict duty or formal law. Such distinction the world recognises when it speaks of what is enjoined, not so much by duty as by “good taste, or “right feeling,” or by “chivalrous” feeling, or the “spirit of a gentleman.” Here it denotes the general sense of what is seemly in a Christian tone of character." (Ellicott's commentary) (bold mine)
I would consider something "distinct from what is required" as going above & beyond. Of your own free will. Based on what you feel is right. I would consider this generosity. I have to admit my heart leaped a bit when I read this. And actually the fact that it is translated as "reasonableness" makes me even giddier, because as a Christ-follower who has been given so much & had so much forgiven by His generous grace, it IS only reasonable for me to be generous.
Not reasonable in the sense that I have an abundance of energy, or time, or money from which to be generous. If I add all my "resources" in these areas up in my head, it makes more sense for me to resort to my grizzly bear like tendencies and hoard. But because of who God is, because of who I am in Him, generosity is very reasonable.
For years I had remembered that verse as an almost threatening warning to obey. "the Lord is near". It kind of reminds me of how kids think of Santa Claus this time of year. "You better watch out...Santa Claus is coming to town". But recently I have been radically encouraged by the thought that this verse it meant to be a comfort. When it says "The Lord is near" it is to extinguish my fears, not fuel them. It is telling me to be obedient in the areas of being reasonable, or gentle, or generous not because God is watching so I had better get it right. But rather to be free to pour my resources out (enough so it is "evident to all") because God knows my fear of being worn out. And He wants me to know that He is near-near to fill me back up, near to comfort me in my fears, near to tap into for additional resources, near to bless me as I act in obedience. And isn't that what Christmas is about? God coming near. Emmanuel. God with us. Because of Christmas-the culmination of the Advent time of waiting, I don't have to wait for the nearness of God, or all the blessings that come with it!
And you want to know the verses that follow? You totally do. They are some of my favorites, some I have chanted as I paced the floor in anxiousness, some I have tearfully whispered in moments of weariness and brought before God pleading with Him to fulfill them in me. I hadn't known, or I had forgotten that they followed the other verse, (I like to think God saved it for just the right time). They seem to confirm what He has been whispering to me in the in-between moments.
"...do not be anxious about anything. But in everything, through prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus". Philippians 4:6-7
Did you catch that last phrase? "Guard". Holy Poop. Can I even put into words what this did for my soul? I literally burst into tears and slumped to my knees as I read this, guys. If I let my guard down and walk in obedience, God is going to take over the watch. He is going to guard in my place. Ummm...yes please. Yes, Lord. I want to lay down this weary watch, and let you take over the post. I have a feeling you will be so much better at it anyway.
I can't promise I will never again resemble a bear preparing for the great sleep. I am actually pretty assured that I will fail again and again in this area-that I will at times resort back to my own self-protective ways, especially as I grow weary in the waiting times. But I know my Lord is near. And I know He actually wants me to come to Him with my needs, my requests, with my fears in this area, as it says above in verse 6. He is waiting for me to come to him to be replenished. How can He replenish that which is not poured out? And He is waiting to be true to His word to meet my needs. How can He meet that which isn't yet a need? And He is wanting to answer my requests. How can He answer a prayer I haven't prayed? By guarding myself I have robbed God of His job. I have carried a yoke that I was never meant to carry, a burden I was not designed to bear. No wonder I am weary. I was designed to be generous-the reasonable act of a Christian. No wonder I am so dissatisfied in my stinginess. I want to stop fighting against how this all is supposed to work. I want to do it right. I want to come out of my hoarding, hibernation cave and see the light-though it blinds me, though it exposes me. I want to surrender my post, let my guard down. For real this time.
"If you take away the yoke from your midst,
the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
if you pour yourself out for the hungry
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
and your gloom be as the noonday.
And the Lord will guide you continually
and satisfy your desire in scorched places
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters do not fail." Isaiah 58:9b-11
If you have not yet entered the giveaway, you can head over here to do that! You don't want to miss out on the chance to win a Target gift card (unless of course you are devoid of all decent taste & hate Target for some reason) or the bunch of high fives I am giving to the winner (unless you a germ-a-phob, in which case I promise to wash my hands or wear gloves).