I scratched my head in frustration as I tried to make a Christmas list this year. With our upcoming move to Ghana, I’ve realized that tangible gifts are a bit silly. A new sweater? What will we need sweaters for? We’re going to be living at the edge of a desert! New roller blades? There won’t be paved roads to use them on there. A new panini press? Are we really going to pay to ship a panini press all the way to Ghana? When I’m about to give up the vast majority of our worldly possessions, why buy more?
As I’ve looked for Christmas gifts, or even around the house, I’ve realized that we have a lot of “stuff.” I feel a bit nauseated not only what we have, but how much we have to get rid of in the next year. Knick-knacks, decor, furniture, electronics, books, toys, bicycles, clothing, shoes and on and on.
All these are things we cannot take with us to Africa.
Ultimately, none of us can take tangible things with us into eternity either.
How is it that the season of celebrating the Divine descent of humility has ended up a celebration of excess? Spending too much, accumulating things we do not need, trying to find the perfect gift for that someone who has everything. While Christmas certainly celebrates the greatest Gift of all, would not a more appropriate celebration be expressions of humility rather than gifts of extravagance?
In celebration of Christmas this year, I’m reflecting on the humility of Christ by asking these questions:
- Do I consider myself better than others?
- Am I joyful that all of my possessions, physical health, and vocation belong to Christ and are merely on loan to me?
- Do I feel pride when I help someone poorer, less educated, or in a lower socioeconomic status? Do I use the misfortune of others to feel better about myself?
- When I have a misunderstanding with another person, do I find it difficult to apologize for my part?
- Do I feel annoyed when I do something nice for someone else, and no one notices?
- Do I face hardship, failure, and challenges with an attitude of resistance or with submission?
- Am I able to admit to and laugh at my flaws, or do I try to hide them from others?
- Am I seeking God’s will earnestly in daily reflection in His Word, or do I find myself too busy for Scripture in order to avoid its challenges to the way I want to live my life?
- Do I meet God’s call to be generous to others with hesitancy or with joy?
- Do I care more about what others think than what God thinks, especially when He asks me to do things that others would consider foolish?
In Matthew 11: 28-30 NIV, Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
I’ve never quite understood how being humble of heart would give me rest for my soul until I began to look around at all of the things that I have to rid myself of in order to follow Jesus to Ghana. I’ve heard it in the voices of others around me as well. People say to me every week, “I could never do what you’re doing!” or “Better you than me!”
Why is it so hard for us to follow God’s leading into hard places?
I now realize that the houses, decor, furniture, and knick-knacks we possess often shackle us to our own plans for our own lives. Indeed, I see the truth of the statement that it is easier for a camel to squeeze through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God. The humility of allowing God to say, “Go,” or “Give,” or “Tell”–without having to worry about the logistics of how to make our lifestyle accommodate what He asks of us — should be liberating. When we love Jesus more than our stuff, the burden of worrying about how we will follow His call is light. Saying yes to His call becomes easy.
The most difficult part of following God’s will is exchanging what we want for what He does. And that is the heart of humility– the obedience exemplified by the Son as He said, “Not my will, but yours.”
May God bless you this Christmas with the feather-light yoke of humility, questions to challenge your heart, and the freedom to say yes to whatever He asks.