We are fully into the preparations for the Christmas season by now, most of us at least having begun the sometimes daunting tasks of making lists, checking them twice, and figuring out how to fit in the social events, school plays, and pageants at church. Some will search for the just the right "ugly sweater" to wear to that one social event you are looking forward to above all the rest, while others will sequester themselves into the peace and solitude of just listening to some carols with a loved one snuggled up in cozy lounge wear and sipping on hot cocoa. Regardless of "how" we are preparing for the next few weeks, it is important to keep in mind the reason for the celebration - the Light that shines into our hearts and brings us from a place of death into thriving life!
I am the light that shines through the cosmos; if you walk with Me, you will thrive in the nourishing light that gives life and will not know darkness. (John 8:12 VOICE)
In medical terms, "failure to thrive" describes a patient who exhibits poor nutrition, is kind of frail and failing fast. The patient's own body is almost consuming itself because the person might have stopped eating well, isn't interested in living any longer, or has a disease which actually is attacking their bodies. In a spiritual sense, "failure to thrive" is a condition of the mind, body, and spirit which is consumed by self-directed and self-satisfying actions. The resulting "decline" in condition is evident in the way we speak, what we focus upon as important in life, and how we treat others. There are lots of ways we fail to thrive, but none is more evident in our actions than that of failing to thrive in a spiritual sense. When the spirit is rightly "innervated" or "energized", we see a totally different response to life.
In an emotional sense, the failure to thrive may be evident in emotions which are all over the board, ranging from elation one moment to the depths of depression the next. In the sense of the mind, wasting occurs when a mind is not challenged, has a lack of blood supply caused by various sources, or because there is a "flawed" input of what goes into it which becomes the "fodder" for thought. In the sense of our bodies, failing to thrive has many different courses, but in essence we could say our bodies are not at their peak and we are reaping the outcome of either a lack of exercise, improper eating habits, or the results of putting harmful stuff into it. All of these create their own significant impact - yet none is as significant as that of failing to thrive in the realm of our spirit.
The spirit is the place of connection with God's grace. Grace isn't understood in our minds, nor is it embraced by our bodies, and although it impacts our emotions, it isn't received by our emotions. Grace is received in the realm of our spirit - God's entering into our lives in the fullness of his indwelling presence - then encompassing each and every area of our lives with his unmerited and unending grace. Grace brings light where only darkness dwelt - into the places unreached by human hand, or "fix-able" by human effort. It gives the ability to unmask hidden hurts and bind up broken hearts. In the giving of light into our lives, there is the restoration of life - for light is necessary for life to be at its best.
Most importantly, as pointed out in our passage, the light of God which invades our spirit keeps us from knowing the depths of darkness living in our own effort, or by our own self-directed plans take us into. If we examine this passage carefully, we will begin to understand the effects of God's presence within - as it is there light begins to dawn, fully illuminating all areas of our life which fell into darkness as a result of our spirit being without his energizing presence. Think of it this way - when a house falls into darkness because the power supply is cut off, you know there is more to the space than you can immediately perceive. As soon as the power is restored, you see clearly again what had fallen into the darkness.
Darkness isn't dispelled when lives are shut off to the light - the only way for darkness to flee is for light to fully invade the space. The "place" of thriving is not buried deep in our own selfish pursuits, but in the opening up of one's spirit to welcome in the light. Then, you will no longer fail to thrive, but will move into a place where you will begin to thrive as you were created to live. Thriving is really just another term to describe "flourishing" or developing at a vigorous pace. I think the greatest gift we can receive this season is the gift of grace - for that I am eternally grateful and will forever relish the joy of "flourishing" in the fullness of his light. How about you? Just askin!