Saturday, December 22, 2012

A Little Passage Worth Reading : Advent

I was reading my Advent devotional today and came across this passage by Ruth Haley Burton.  I know its long, but I promise it is worth taking the time to read it. It really hit home for me, kind of like one of those times when you feel like God is just hitting you upside the head with some truth. Yep, this is one of those days...but in a comforting type of way.  Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

The greatest story ever told begins with a real moral dilemma: Mary was officially betrothed to Joseph and they had maintained a chaste relationship when she was found pregnant. This, of course, created a very personal dilemma for Joseph since he knew he was not the father of the baby. What’s a man to do?
When we are under pressure, who we really are comes out and this was certainly true for Joseph.

Joseph was a righteous man and righteousness is what came out when he was caught in the vice of public scandal and his own personal pain. His response to the situation came from deep inside his own character rather than being shaped by the pressure that was coming from outside forces. Even in the midst of what he perceived as a betrayal, his choices were driven by his great love and commitment to Mary’s well-being and also by his own inner conviction about how he wanted to behave in the situation.
Subjecting Mary to public scandal was not in him. What was in him was kindness and sensitivity to Mary’s situation and a desire to be good to her and to save her from additional humiliation. From his good heart, he decided to dismiss her quietly rather than claiming his right as an injured husband. If Joseph had made a different choice, no doubt Jesus would still have been born but it would have made for a very different story—one full of bitterness and human rancor. This choice alone—the choice to be good to Mary in the face of his own disappointment and personal pain—demonstrated an inner strength and a profound trustworthiness that confirmed he was the one to walk beside Mary as she opened herself so completely to God. This choice alone meant he was the one to be most intimate with the Christmas story as it unfolded. And his response of strong love eventually fashioned a home for the child that was born and the woman who birthed him.

Grace was at work in Joseph’s situation. In the midst of his grief, his inner turmoil and (probably) his sleepless nights, God sent an angel to tell him the truth about his situation, to calm his inner turmoil and to give him the wisdom to know what to do. In order to stay faithful to the walk of faith, Joseph had to wake up to spiritual reality rather than being mired in a more human perspective. He needed to have the willingness to change his approach to the situation based on his encounter with the angel and to see it in a whole new way based on the angel’s revelation.

Joseph had had a plan—to put Mary away quietly—and it was a good plan. It came from a good place inside him. But it was still only a human plan that came from looking at the situation solely from a human perspective. The walk of faith required Joseph to wake up, to see his situation from the vantage point of what God was doing and to change his approach accordingly. This kind of relinquishment can be hard—the relinquishment of a plan that we have already mapped out in our heads. For Joseph, relinquishing his own plan was necessary if he was going to respond to the spiritual reality that was unfolding in the midst of this human drama. It required inner vision that enabled him to perceive far more than the human eye can see and comprehend. It called him to rise above his own pain and confusion to belief that “all this was taking place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet.”

When we start to wake up and see more clearly what the walk of faith requires we are faced with a choice—the choice to get up and do what the Lord has commanded us to do and to subordinate every other thought and desire to the revealed will of God. Paul calls this “the obedience of faith” in the epistle reading for the week. Knowing the will of God is not enough; doing it is what matters. Here our desire to avenge ourselves, to explain ourselves, to be understood, to maintain personal comfort and security, to have our lives make sense to others or be validated by them is subordinated to the deeper desire to say yes to God and join God in what he is doing. This kind of obedience might mean that, for a time at least, we are willing to look like a fool to everyone else because God’s wisdom is the foolishness of this world. (I Corinthians 1:25)

Many of us harbor a subtle belief (or at least a hope!) that we can say yes to the walk of faith and it won’t require much of us. That we can follow God’s will and never have to appear foolish. That we can take the risk of following God and still have our security. That we can be righteous and yet take subtle vengeance on those who have betrayed us. That we can be awake to spiritual reality and still accommodate ourselves to human thinking and planning. That we can fudge on faith just a little and it won’t matter. But there is nothing in Scripture that supports this! In fact, the Scriptures clearly indicate that he who finds his life purely on the level of human survival will eventually lose it and he who loses his life at this level will surely find it.

One of the most striking things about Joseph’s story is that he was not one of the main characters in the story—his was a supporting role in the truest sense of the word—and yet his choices mattered so much! We might think that our ability to walk in faith doesn’t matter all that much. We might think we can play it safe, let others take all the risks and it won’t affect anything. But Joseph’s story tells us that nothing could be further from the truth!

Joseph’s story tells us that our willingness to take the journey of faith affects everything. It tells us that the walk of faith will require something of us, perhaps more than we thought we were capable of. But it also tells us that as we say yes to the walk of faith, we too can find our place in the greatest story ever told—the story of God’s purposes lived out in and through our simple existence. We, too, can experience God-with-us like we have never experienced him before. We, too, can recognize the coming of the Divine into our hearts and call his name Jesus.

“Sooner or later, if we follow Christ we have to risk everything in order to gain everything.  We have to gamble on the invisible and risk all that we see and taste and feel.  But we know the risk is worth it, because there is nothing more insecure than this transient world.”   Thomas Merton

xo, Kelsey Belle


1 comment:

  1. You really have a professional and nice blog, my compliments! Happy holidays girl!



Theme created by PIXELZINE