Thursday, November 29, 2012

30th Birthday

Today is my 30th birthday, and being such a monumental milestone, has had me thinking a lot about my life.  Last night was sleepless for some reason; part of that time was spent wrestling the devil’s lies.  He always likes to point out everything that I don’t have.

Satan:  “You’ve made it to 30 and what do you have to show for it?  You don’t have the body you always dreamed of; you didn’t go to graduate school like you imagined; you had to drop out of your low-paying teaching career; you still don’t have children; you’re not famous and influential…”

Me:  “You’re right…I’m a complete loser; I’m always sick; I basically can’t do anything I set my mind to…WAIT A MINUTE!  I’ve heard those lines before!  You used that ploy with Eve in the Garden of Eden.  The one tree she couldn’t have—that’s what you capitalized on.  But what do I have?  I wasn’t born and raised in a dilapidated hut half starving like so many children in the world.  I wasn’t raised in a ghetto and given to street gangs.  I’ve never known fear for my life, fear for basic needs, not even fear for love.  My family was always there for me when I wanted to go home.  So what if I had become everything you said…
Suppose I had had the culturally modeled body, never got scoliosis, and had much more self-confidence?  I probably would have been liked by my peers, would have developed social ease and confidence, would have gone much further in my youth toward worldly progress.  I probably would have gained an interest in fashion.  I would have been engrossed in speaking the language of the world and would have been at ease among those my age.  Maybe I would have pursued a career on stage.  I always admired my voice as a girl to a vice.  Maybe I would have gone to graduate school.  I would have been rich and famous.  But where would I have found the husband I have now?  How would I have known the deep, abiding love of God shown me through the church on account of my trials?  I would have been empty, void.  Maybe I would have ended up one of those stories on a news headline: “Famous singer has everything going for her, tragically ends her life” or “Famously wealthy singer poor for love, gets another divorce.”

Paul, the great, ambitious, energetic, zealous, famous Pharisee of Pharisees said it all in Philippians 3:4-11: “If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

When I was eight years old, God put that seed of desire in my heart to know Christ.  Throughout my youth, I prayed that very verse; I prayed for the power of his resurrection, for the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, and to become like him in his death.  I prayed that I would be a window through which people would see Christ’s glory.  As a girl unaware of trial, I didn’t really know what I was praying from a physical perspective.  Now at 30, I look back and realize that those prayers meant that the Rachel of the world, that could have been, had to be demolished.  That meant that the culturally idolized body figure had to go (i.e., scoliosis).  It meant that the desire for fame and self-confidence had to go with it, with all that that implies.  It meant that my life had to be modeled after Christ—a path of suffering.  “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Isaiah 53:3).  But it also meant that in place of fame, I would be given Christ’s glorious righteousness; in place of self-confidence, I would be given His power; in place of earthly loves that end in death, I would be given agape love that ends in eternal life.  Oh what a blessing that I did not choose my own path!  I would have chosen death.  God chose life for me.  Blessed be His holy name!

The trouble with giving me His righteousness, though, is that God had to strip away my self-righteousness and expose what I really looked like in His sight—“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away” (Isaiah 64:6).  That has destroyed my self-esteem; it has exalted Christ.  It has made me weak and stripped me of all self-confidence—hence my many sickly years—but it has shown me the faithful power and love of my God to physically, emotionally, and spiritually care for me.  It has guaranteed the death of my earthly dreams for self-exaltation, but these have been replaced with greater gifts of deep and abiding love shown to me through a Christian family, church family, and my own dear and faithful husband.

Are not the gifts so much greater than what was removed?  The gifts are of eternal value!  That which was destroyed in my life is passing away!  Praise God from whom all blessings flow!  I praise Him for answering those youthful prayers—for indeed making me a window through which people can see His power and glory at work.  I pray He gives me grace to stand firm in that realization, un-swayed by the devil’s taunting.  May a life of dark providence serve as the backdrop to the glorious strands of golden tapestry that God is writing by His own hand on my life for the praise and honor of Jesus Christ!