Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Be Born in Me

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You will hold me in the end
Every moment in the middle, make my heart your Bethlehem
Be born in me

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I am not brave
I'll never be
The only thing my heart can offer is a vacancy
I'm just a girl
Nothing more
But I am willing, I am Yours


When the singer reached the refrain, "Be born in me," in church Sunday, memory's portal carried me back nearly two and a half years. On July 14, 2010, my doctor diagnosed my chest pain, extreme fatigue, and weakness as a lupus flare with possible inflammation of the membrane around the heart. He treated me with a steroid adjustment and bed rest for at least a month. My youngest nephew's first birthday was days away on the other side of the Metroplex, when we asked him about an exception so I could attend, he said, "Decisions have consequences."

The next day, I began my gratitude list over again at one and wrote this in my journal:
My best point of reference for this enforced inactivity is my friends' pregnancy bed rest, but even that is "rest so..." [as opposed to rest, period]. I don't have another life depending on my obedience or to look forward to as fruit. Perhaps You, Lord Christ, will be born in me more fully through this?
That became my prayer over the ensuing weeks. Over and over I asked, pleaded with God that Christ would be born in me more fully through this affliction.

To clarify my intent in those words, His actual historical, literal, human birth happened only once, to a real maiden who had never been intimate with a man but conceived Him by the Holy Spirit so that He was in truth "the only begotten God" (John 1:18) and also in truth Son of Man. Mary was a unique woman in the ancient Near East, and she came of age when Caesar Augustus ruled the Roman Empire.  My journaled notes and prayer did not mean to minimize or supplant in any way that historical reality.

At the same time, every Christian who has been born of God by faith in His Son is a son of God, the Scriptures teach (e.g., John 1:12-13; Romans 8:14-17; Gal. 3:26; 4:6; 1 John 3:1), and at the same time, in a poetic sense, every Christian bears the Son of God afresh in his or her flesh as the likeness of Christ in character and deed is borne out in her or him. Paul told the Romans in Romans 8:28-29 that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him, and that the good to which all things work is conformity to the image of Christ. This conformity to Christ is what I meant, in plain terms, but sometimes I understand metaphor better than plain terms.

The Spirit of Christ indwells the believer, so Christ is in us already, but His likeness may and ought also to be borne out in us as we become transformed into that likeness, from glory to glory (2 Cor. 3:18).

"Be born in me," I prayed again Sunday with the singer portraying Mary. Be born in me, Lord Jesus.

The song also carried me back to January of 2012, when the verse impressed on my heart was Psalm 81:10, "I am Yahweh your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it." All the year long, I have been ruminating on what it means to open to God and what it takes to make room for His filling, so that more and more and more I might "be being filled with the Spirit" (Eph. 5:18).

The one thing I have learned this year is that suffering, that "having what you don't want or wanting what you don't have," in Elisabeth Elliot's words, is one of God's most-used instruments in opening me up and emptying me. Suffering cleans out my old self, that "flesh" which can do very well on its own without God's help, thank you very much; evicts the idols I've built and the lies I've believed; and carves out more room for the grace and power of His Spirit to be realized in my daily experience.

The song prays,
I am not brave
I'll never be
The only thing my heart can offer is a vacancy
I'm just a girl
Nothing more
But I am willing, I am Yours.
A vacancy and willingness. That really is the only thing I can offer, and even that is a gift of grace.

Jesus was born from Mary out of suffering, too: not just the physical suffering of pregnancy  labor, and delivery in a time before epidurals and sophisticated modern obstetrics but also the emotional and social suffering of the shame and ostracism of pregnancy before marriage. Why should I expect the bearing of His likeness to be comfortable or pain-free? I shouldn't, of course, but sometimes I do.

Even so, God did not leave her in isolation. He included Elizabeth in the secret and spoke to Mary's betrothed under cover of darkness, in the hidden place of his dreams. At least those two friends supported her in the bearing of the Christ Child.

Nor does He leave me alone. Less than a month after that journal entry, He led me to start this blog and used it to give me also a support community larger than my immediate family. If Christ is being "born" and borne in me more fully through this, that reflects in no small measure His help through you kind souls.

Someday, dear crumbles, when we "know fully as we are fully known," we will see clearly what our trials have wrought and, I hope, give thanks together to the glory of God.

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure (1 John 3:2-3).

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Until that "day when our faith shall be sight," I continue to practice gratitude to our God now for His many gifts:
the faith example of His earthly mother and father::untarnished hope::the gift of thorns::grace for an unproductive, unwell week last week::increased blood pressure medicine bringing readings back to normal after several days::two more weeks in the walking boot::with breaks in a transition brace and athletic shoe::three bits of very good news from Mezzo::incipient plans for Christmas Eve with youngest sister and her family::all the candy made but two batches::my excellent toffee apprentice (You learn well, grasshopper.)::seeing friends at church Sunday::an amazingly perfect surprise gift from Amore::unexpected encouragement::waking Monday to a dusting of snow on lawn and grill cover::cold nights and better sleep::lovely visit from some of my in-laws::good Mexican food on a cool day with good company::bright red of a cardinal in bare tree branches::note from a friend::the Best Gift, not under a tree, but risen, ascended, and returning in glory. Come soon, Lord Jesus!
(still counting gifts, #8329-8349; why stop at one thousand?)

linking, very late, to Monday Multitudes and Playdates with God

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Thank you for sharing your day with me! Your presence here is a gift. *You* are a gift. Right now I am unable to reply to every comment, but please know I read and pray for each and every commenter. Grace and peace to you in Christ.