I saw something on Facebook this morning which read: "Make God your first priority...not your last resort". Short and sweet, but quite pointed. In the King James Bible, a passage came to mind: "Seek first the kingdom of God..." At this time of year, it is easy to get caught up in the busy-ness of seeking all kinds of bargains - carried away in a shopping frenzy as you go hither and yon for this or that. In the end, you will encounter what you do each and every other year - empty packages, lots of wrapping everywhere, and all within under an hour! All those hours of finding the "right gift" or shopping for the "bargains" will have resulted in about one hour of screams of delight, moments of praise, and even some raised eyebrows at the annual package of socks! Then as quickly as the packaging was emptied of its contents, the "recipients" zero in on the "ONE" thing which they really "treasure" from their pile.
What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting,so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. (Matthew 5:32-33 MSG)
I use this passage this morning because it really captures well what I feel in my heart. The season of giving is enjoyed so much more when you are able to keep the right perspective. It is the gifts God bestow which have eternal value - all others simply pale in comparison. Yes, some need a new set of pots and pans since their old ones are scarred from repeated wear and handles are loosened to unsafe proportions. Others do indeed need the socks as their tootsies are about worn through the ones they have on today. Yet, we often lose perspective in the "giving". We think the gift WE give is meant to fulfill the desires of the hearts of the ones we find ourselves shopping for. In reality, only ONE gift really fulfills the heart - Christ and Christ alone.
My daughter braved the "Black Friday" crowds this year. We stayed home! No sense in all that messy competition for the bargains in my book. What she shared did not surprise me. Lines circling buildings, people shoving each other, women telling other women they'd have to "settle" for another color of comforter as they had already staked claim to the green one! People, get a grip here! Life is not found in the bargains!
Here's what God says:
- I am trying to get you to relax - to not be so preoccupied! Don't miss it - God is focused on getting us to a position of not being "preoccupied". Do you know what this really means? It means to be so completely engrossed in some pursuit, manner of thought, or task that you are "absorbed" by it. No wonder we cannot relax! Recently, I had to break out my trusty bottle of carpet cleaner spray and a damp rag - getting down on my knees anymore is not the easiest task. I needed to address a couple of areas where something had been "absorbed" into the fibers of the carpet. You see, I had "worked" these areas before! Yet, something was so deeply "absorbed" - worked into the fibers so as to resist the initial scrubbing. I remembered how much we "absorb" of the stuff around us, sometimes not even noticing how much of the "stuff" is being worked into the fibers of our lives. Now, chew on that one a little.
- Fussing is really a sign of unbelief. Yep, you heard me. Look at the passage again if you don't agree. Jesus said it - "People who don't know God and the way he works fuss over these things..." He had just given a lengthy explanation to the disciples about not being so caught up in what the latest style is, who should sit at the head of the table, or what you should fill your bellies with. Instead, they were to be concerned with where they placed their real treasure. "The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being." But...we know God - so stop all the fussing! Learn to relax "into" Jesus. I think of this as what it was like to be close to another, really free to just melt into their embrace and just "chill" there for a while. God's greatest delight is in our "chilling" moments in his full embrace.
- Get right focus and keep it. The passage refers to us "Steeping our lives IN God-reality, God-initiative, and God-provisions." Mom is a tea drinker. Every morning, I open the fresh tea bag from its little envelope. Placing it in the cup, I pour boiling hot water over the tiny bag. In just moments, the clear water turns a rich amber color. What is happening is the process of "steeping". The tea bag is soaking in what it is surrounded by, and in turn, the little leaves inside begin to soften, releasing the richness of their bounty. I think we are often "steeping" in the stuff which just gets soaked up and then "taints" what is released. What we surround ourselves with is most important in determining what will be released from the "steeping".
Keep perspective this year. Don't get caught up in the frenzy. Enjoy the relaxation of resting in God's embrace. You might actually find yourself getting something very "rich" from the experience. Just sayin!