Perhaps this is an unconventional confession for a church-going, Jesus-loving, pastor’s wife, but it’s a true statement all the same: Some days, I just want to throw in the towel and live for myself. Sometimes, I grow weary of the surrender.
Case in point: in exactly three weeks, I will be flying out to a remote region of Africa for a medical missions trip. We’ll be bringing life-saving medicine and the life-giving message of Christ to people who desperately need it. And yet. Shortly after opening my eyes yesterday morning, one of the first sentiments that escaped from my lips was, “Why did I even say yes?”
You see, my friends, here’s the deal. Leaving the country, the kids, the husband, and the (very new) job for ten days- at the height of the holiday season, no less- is beginning to feel increasingly CA-RA-ZY to me. The unknowns feel overwhelming. And my flesh cries out, “Oh, God. This is way too hard.”
If my flesh is good at one thing, it’s precisely this- doing things MY way. And, if you’re wondering, my way is efficient and smooth and logical. It’s easy and tidy. Void of hardship or sacrifice.
However, it’s Christmas time. And every Christmas card I read and every carol that I hear reminds me that Jesus did not exactly share in this way of thinking.
While I long for comfort, Jesus was born in a barn.
While I cling to my strength and ability, God came to earth as a helpless baby boy.
While I strive for control, Jesus surrendered Himself to the cross.
While my sights are often cast inward, Jesus lived- and died- for everyone else.
Jesus’ life was anything but my idealistic fantasy of a neat and tidy, smooth and easy life. Every iota of His existence modeled humility and sacrificial love.
You guys, it has been quite the year. It’s been a year replete with “I don’t wanna”s followed by “fine, God. I’m scared, but I’ll go.” It’s been a year of speaking when I preferred to stay silent and of going when I preferred to stay. It’s been a year of saying “no” when a “no” seemed outlandish and saying “yes” when I just wanted to quit. Submission and open hands and, even more than any of that, a year of digging deep, so deep, into the character of God. Desperately leaning into His strength and sufficiency when I had none of my own to offer.
But isn’t that what it’s always about?
Just yesterday- after my brief and admittedly melodramatic meltdown over my pre-Christmas, pre-Africa to-do list- I overheard the words of Joy to the World ringing out through my iPhone. “Let every heart prepare Him room,” it sang. And those words- they’ve been bouncing around in my head ever since.
Prepare Him room.
Sounds pretty benign, right? Or not. Because when we truly begin to see God for who He says He is and for all He’s come to do, we start to understand this phrase to mean something a whole heck of a lot more radical.
We prepare Him room, understanding that this God of whom we speak doesn’t just want a chunk of space in our hearts and lives. He wants all. of. it. All of us. We’re talking complete and total surrender. An open-handed proclamation of, “Hey God, I’m yours.”
Prepare Him room, but be forewarned. He’s bound to jack a few things up in our lives. Because this God who humbled Himself to human flesh born in a barn isn’t particularly concerned with our comfort. Safety isn’t the highest priority for the Great King who obeyed until He hung on a cross. Worldly success is of little import to the One who flipped everything on its head when he taught that “the first will be last, and the last first.” (Mark 10:31)
Prepare Him room because THIS. This is the One who came.
The One who is anything but safe and tame. Who may get all up in your business and who may completely mess with your notion of comfort and stability.
The One who is not just some meek and mild Sunday-morning-only Jesus. The One who is strong and mighty. The One who is a good, good Father, yes. But the One who is also a Warrior King.
This is the One.
So, as we prepare Him room, let us sing with a deeply-rooted conviction that He does indeed rule the world with truth and grace. May our eyes be opened wide to the glories of his righteousness and wonders of his love, and may our surrender flow from that space. From a first-hand knowledge of who He is.
We prepare Him room, knowing that the Immanuel has already come. That He’s here. In the hard and the joyous and the stressful and smooth. In the extraordinary and in the mundane. He is here and will continue to be. And man, if that’s not something worth celebrating.
Yes, the Lord has come. The Savior reigns indeed. So, go. Prepare Him room. Clear out and make space for Him to move, work, break down, restore, keep, send, and be.
But things might just be about to get real and get real fast. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
I know from experience.
And you know what else I know from experience? He’s so worth it.