Again this year my friend Debi Alexander sent a Christmas letter that struck a chord with me. She graciously allowed me to post it here.
I watch the tear roll down his face, passing by the remnants of an eternally runny nose and the dustings of powdered sugar from a donut. His look is earnest, pleading. Because I took it from him--his idol, that thing that comforts, the promise of security: his food.
No matter how much I sing, “We eat one bite at a time” and return the bowl to him after each “Chew, chew, swallow,” I have threatened his vows [his commitment not to be hungry again]. And he’s mad.
Food insecurity – it’s normal for many foster kids. But he doesn’t care about bell curves and normal. Everything in him believes that that bowl represents happiness, peace, comfort.
And I’ve removed it from him. Nothing I say at this moment will assure him that he WILL be okay, that true comfort comes from “one bite at a time,” not from cramming food in with frantic desperation.
Because even at 23 months, his lies run deep.
That tear stayed with me all day. The memory of it rolling down his face. The look of betrayal, even though I knew I was following the orders of the OT. Even though I knew each time I’d return the bowl, only a few seconds after its removal. That tear haunted me. Because it is my own.
My idols: A safe happy home, where I am in control. Harmony. Well-being. These are all good things and yet not so good that they are worthy of my worship. Worthy of the white-knuckled grasp in which I hold them. The lies that run beneath them, run just as deep as my 23-month-old friend, only mine have had 47 years to fester. Lies that somehow my worth, my identity, my value is woven between the lines of the people and the place that is my Home, my Community. That somehow if I can control all this, manage it, manipulate it, the holy grail of that accomplishment will bring me peace, comfort and happiness.
Last week, our pastor, in his last sermon as lead pastor, spoke to us of true worship, of basking in that which is REAL glory. We looked at the passage of the shepherds, sleeping on the hard ground while attending to sheep, being awakened in the darkness by the Glory of God, shining all around them: God’s glory is its own light source.
And all week, I was left to ponder the Glory, which overshadows everything else. I read the Lift the Flap Christmas story to my 2-year-olds at work, and as I lift the flap on the shepherd’s page, I whisper “and the Glory of the Lord shone around them”.
Why do I worship the things that don’t shine on their own? Why do I create idols out of that which will never really give me peace? The process of removing the bowl, ENJOYING the created, while WORSHIPPING my Creator, is as painful and heart wrenching for me as that child. The perfect family, fulfilling relationships, keeping everyone happy…these are only a few of the bowls that are constantly being taken from me as I worship them. I hear my Savior as he calls me to live in this moment, embrace the pain of the brokenness while not letting it define me, because my identify comes from him, not my idols. Seeking those things, instead of Him, only brings more brokenness.
At this time of year I’m called to let the Glory of God shine all around me (Luke 2:9). The task is often as terrifying for me as it was for the shepherds. And yet I hear the words of my Savior saying “Don’t be afraid. There’s good news here. There’s peace here.” Or maybe he’s signing it to me in his own version of “We eat one bite at a time.”
May this terrifying Glory and the peace it brings, as contrasting as those phrases might sound, be yours in the coming year as you allow Him to remove the bowl, and fill it with Himself. May we each return from this journey as the shepherds did, praising God because He is true to His promises and “things were just as they had been told” (Luke 2:20).
LeAnne Hardy has lived in six countries on four continents. Her books come out of her cross-cultural experiences and her passion to use story to convey spiritual truths in a form that will permeate lives.
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