Saturday, January 1, 2011

My losses

We watched the ball drop in Times Square with a bit of bubbly in our plastic champagne glasses, ready to toast the New Year.  Beve's mom bought these glasses for us many years ago when our children were tiny, and they've made their appearance at every celebration since.  It seems a little silly now, since our 20-something kids would be less likely to break their glasses than Beve or I would, but I just can't bear to get better ones now.  So we toast the year, tipping our plastic glasses, watching confetti fall on the crowds and wondering at the garbage being left in the streets.  That, too, is a tradition.

I've still been thinking of the past year today, which isn't surprising, of course.  It's always easier to look backwards.  Recently the very short chapter of Jeremiah 45 has felt appropriate for this last year.  What God said to Baruch, He could very well be saying to me at the end of 2010.  I am indeed worn out with groaning and find no rest.  2010 was a year of pain added to sorrow for our family.  Some of this pain I wrote about, some I could not.  But the Lord promises Baruch that though He uproots what has been planted and overthrows what has been built, and even bring disaster on all people, "wherever you go, I will let you escape with your life."

That's it.  That's the sum of Jeremiah 45.  This small warning, prophecy and promise.  And maybe that's all I can say, that we've escaped this year with our lives.  That, and that we did it together, Beve and I--which is no small thing.  The deaths--Beve's sister, my mother--the illnesses, the surgeries, the care-taking responsibilities, the work, failures, setbacks, etc.  Why I'm just about ready to list such things as my II Cor 11 'credentials', ala Paul.  My losses as credentials. 

Yes, my credentials.  But also my credentials as loss...Hmm, perhaps not II Corinthians, but Philippians 3.  Listen to these words: "Whatever things were gain to me I count them as loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus, my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of of things and count it as rubbish that I may gain Him..."

What are these things?  Well, earlier in Philippians 3, Paul lists his education, his heritage, his zeal.  And I suppose we could each come up with a similar list.  Almost every employer asks us to list our strengths, after all.  What if when asked such a thing, we answered with a list of our troubles?  Our pain?  Read II Corinthians 4, 6, 11 if you want his list.  It's pretty comprehensive, and Paul understands what God does with hardship and trial, that such things really are credentials--indicators of His working.  And here in Philippians he makes it clear that such outer things don't even count.  Not ultimately.  It isn't what pain we suffer, but what God works in us through that pain--His righteousness--that makes us His.  That's the point.  And, therefore...

As the year tips from one to the next, I count all that this last year gave--the good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful--as gain which I count as loss for the sake of Christ (which sounds strange but actually makes perfect sense.  It's all useful by Him but adds up to nothing in comparison to Him).  And whatever else isn't included, I also count as loss that I may gain Him.

To gain Him, to be found in Him, and escape with my life--which is in Him--this is my aim for 2011.  Not seeking what lies behind, but pressing on to what lies ahead.

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