She seemed really happy to be at the gathering and after a bit told me that she had just been reconciled to the church after 31 years of being away from it. I told her it was great that she was back in the church. She nodded enthusiastically.
Then she mentioned that her brother was a monk and added that it had been a long, hard road for him but they were so proud of where he'd finally ended up, that to them it was just like a miracle to see how the trajectory of his life had suddenly taken a 90 degree turn. I knew she was hinting at some dark days, some grief, and probably not a little heartache in regard to her brother - both for him and for their whole family. So I searched for a suitable comment - one that would indicate I understood her underlying message but one that wouldn't intrude. Quickly I settled for a platitude which nonetheless seemed to fit the bill.
"Everybody has a past."
She agreed and then added: but the past doesn't have to determine our future...
It's true: everyone has a past but the past doesn't have to dictate the rest of our days.
After nearly six decades of life, I can think back about myself, acquaintances, family, and friends and remember things that blew me away. Events, shared confidences. My own and others. We all have them -those happenings that rock us to our core; those skeletons that we don't drag out of the closet for just anyone. The longer I live, the more I am convinced that no one is immune.
No one but Jesus.
And He wants to grace my life and your life with His presence, His unmistakable warmth, and His unimaginable love. He wants to walk right into your heart and allow you to walk right into His.
But even Jesus can't (or won't) walk into a heart that is skateboarding through the season and/or find a seat at a hearth where there's not even standing room available, where the crush of things that are less-than-the-love-of-God have taken over.
We shake our heads and make caustic comments about people who push and shove and even trample others when the business doors open on Black Friday. Right now there is a winter storm watch out for our area and I've heard jokes (I hope) about people arguing and even fighting over the ubiquitous loaf of bread and jug of milk, as if starvation is one loaf of bread away for the thousands of us who trekked to the store since the storm was first heralded.
But this is what I think: we are on the verge of starving. We are so emaciated spiritually that we think a loaf of bread and a jug of wine without the Ultimate Thou will suffice. That the next bargain, the next special event, the next movie, the next holiday recipe,the next present, the next book will fill us up this time. Even though it didn't quite do the job last time.
So I guess what I'm saying to myself as well as to you is this: why not drag your past into the deepest crevice of Jesus' heart and warm your hands in front of the embers of His unspeakably tender love. Draw up a chair to His hearth and bask in His presence. Watch the smudged record of the past curl up in the heat of His purity, turn to ashes, and disintegrate until nothing is left but His pure light and a deep-down shared joy, a new secret to hold close- I am both known and loved in a way I never thought possible!
To experience Him, put the get-all-you-can-out-of-the-season skateboard in the closet, turn the cell phone with the Christmas ring-tone off, leave the holiday bargains on the shelf, turn the made-for-Christmas movies off -for just an hour or two (or an evening) - and let the One who made Christmas make this Christmas for you by giving you the gift of His presence.
I mean, isn't that really what we're all searching for?
"Long before He laid earth's foundations, He had us (you) in mind, had settled on us (you) as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us (you) into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us (you) to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son." Ephesians 1:4-6 The Message.