I used to have some rather questionable traditions for myself at Christmastime.
For one thing, each year I would buy one of the womenís magazines that advertised a "countdown to Christmas" calendar. The idea was that if I let this calendar dictate my life, I would be all ready for Christmas by December 24th. The problem was that I wouldnít think to purchase this magazine until late October. Since it was an October edition it had been on the shelves since late September and the countdown calendar had begun on October 1. I was already four weeks behind before I began!
Another dubious tradition I had, and one which has been very hard to break, is that I would ask friends if they were ready for Christmas. The reason this was a bad idea is that Iíve always had some very "with it" friends. One friend not only shopped throughout the year but she also brought those gifts home and immediately wrapped them. Even when I bought something, that was no guarantee I would keep it. Besides, my children--taking after their mother perhaps--didnít get around to thinking about what they might like to receive until at least December.
My most demanding plan never really made it into the tradition category; it never even made it out of the starting gate. That plan was that I should try to convey the true meaning of Christmas to everyone I encountered while Christmas shopping. I thought that if I would be cheerful and insert the name "Jesus" at every opportunity, I could accomplish this. Striving to do this made me so self-conscious that that whole day of shopping was full of tension. In order to calm myself down I had to listen intently to one of my pastorís sermon tapes on grace all the way home.
Are you getting a picture of my Decembers? I was trying to do what I couldnít do, be who I wasnít, and working hard to enjoy it all. But I wasnít enjoying it at all.
Into the tension of one of my Decembers, God brought Psalm 131.
"I have stilled and quieted my soul," says the psalmist, "like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me."
Now I have some experience with weaned and unweaned children. My daughter thought being unweaned was just fine, thank you. But when she was weaned, she became so pleasant. She traded in the cranky, rude, "you exist to meet my needs" attitude and became content to just sit on my lap peacefully.
"My soul is like an unweaned child," I thought as I read Psalm 131. "My soul is always ordering me around. My soul gets cranky and is rude."
I thought about a little Mary Englebreit picture frame I had seen. Entwined in its flowery border were the words "Queen of Everything."
"Thatís my soul," I thought. "It thinks itís Queen of Everything. And when things in her kingdom arenít shaping up, she is mighty hard to live with."
In contrast the psalmist said his heart was not proud--it didnít presume to be what only God is. He said his eyes were not haughty--there wasnít constant comparison with others to produce smugness or dejection. He said he didnít concern himself with great matters or things too wonderful for him--he didnít decide for himself what should consume his attention.
The more I read, the more I wanted my soul to behave like his. But how? How could my unweaned Queen of Everything soul change?
The answer came in the last verse. "O Israel, put your hope in the Lord both now and forever."
Lyrics from Handelís Messiah began to rise in my heart: "King of Kings, forever and ever. And Lord of Lords, forever and ever."
Ah-ha! The challenge was to get my Queen of Everything soul to abdicate her throne to the King of Kings.
I began to think about what the King of Kings was really like, knowing that the truth would be found in the Bible. There were the words from Handelís Messiah to help me again: "Wonderful, Counselor, Almighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6b). I also read about the characteristics of His Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22).
I knew none of these words described my Queen of Everything. There was no contest! Why would I ever choose her over Him? She was just going to have to abdicate the throne.
Now, whenever that old cranky, unsettled, demanding feeling returns, I recognize that the Queen of Everything is trying to crawl back onto the throne. But I donít have to let her. I have gotten very attached to the peace and serenity and contentment I experience when the King of Kings is in residence and has everything under control.
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