A well known proverb originated from the Cherokee tribe says, “Don’t judge a man until you have walked a mile in his moccasins.” Elvis recorded the song Walk a Mile in My Shoes in the 1970s. The lyrics that stand out in my memory are, “…before you abuse, criticize, and accuse walk a mile in my shoes.”
It’s a nice sentiment, however not very realistic, or even possible. Even if the size were the same, shoes conform to the foot of the wearer. So my cowboy boots, which I think are the most comfortable, would not be the most comfortable to someone else.
Actually, I prefer what Jesus told us about judging. He said, “DON’T.” There is a very good reason for that admonition; there is no way we can even know someone else’s story! I know I have said and written this before, however this has been weighing on my mind. Maybe it’s the time of year, the whole Christmas season and the emotions involved added to all the other stress issues.
For the last five years I have been ill with an antibiotic-resistant bacterial sinus infection. It became progressively worse, although it can be ‘managed,’ it’s currently not curable. There is no way for me to explain to you how it all feels. You cannot know since you are not me, just as I cannot know all that is going on in your life, because I’m not you. There is no way possible to be inside someone else’s emotions and pain, no matter what kind of pain it is.
Life has been quite different for us, especially at the holidays. Two years ago, at the beginning of December, I broke my leg. Do I hear you say, “How did you break your leg?” I was standing in the kitchen when I felt myself start to fall! The next thing I heard was a loud pop from my left leg. Three weeks later I had hardware installed in my leg. I made it home two days before Christmas.
Even worse, we were supposed to be in London with our daughter and her husband! Fortunately, Joni had bought insurance on the tickets, so our daughter and son-in-law came to see us. Too bad there is not much I remember except pain. I do remember the pain!
Why do I ramble on about this? Christmas is notorious for being a time when our emotions and pain are most raw. We are most susceptible to our pain and sense of loss. It seems all the disappointments of the year, and maybe even a lifetime, flood to the surface. So who cares, right? I do. Maybe because of my own experiences in the last 5 years I seem to identify with the feelings of loss. Because by the time we reach the 12th month of the year, a whole lot of stuff has erupted in our lives. And it is so easy to get caught up in all the stuff, forgetting why it is so important to celebrate the Birth of Jesus.
The birth of Jesus makes all the difference in all our lives no matter what we think, see or feel. Not only do we need the birth of our Savior, we need each other! It is a time we need each other the most, a time when we need God to adjust our attitudes. Mainly, it is the opportunity to see life through the eyes of Jesus, which only God can make real in us. At least, I need Him to create it in me. Without Him, it is too easy to spiral down into depression.
It is hard to write this because there are those who think that a former pastor should be above all this turmoil. Well, I’m not. I’m human with human feelings and needs. What I know is this, Jesus is working in my life constantly, especially when I feel it the least. When I committed to being in pastoral ministry I also committed to honesty, vulnerability, and transparency at all costs. It has been quite painful as others take exception to this approach. But there is no going back, and I don’t want to.
So why write all this now in the Grace in Process blog? The blog began because my wife Joni, who writes with me and edits for me, and both our grown up daughters convinced me I should try to write. My oldest daughter said I had a lot to say. Maybe, but is it worth listening to? I don’t know. I don’t know because I am dealing with depression. Honestly, it would be more amazing if I was wasn’t!
What does all this have to do with Grace in Process and Christmas? Grace is one of the most incredible gifts God has given mankind. Christmas represents the amazing gift of Jesus, the One who saves us from everything! This is a great time to really contemplate what grace looks like in your life, and how can we give the gift of grace to all those around us. The truth is, without the power of the Holy Spirit working in us, Grace is a gift we can’t give!
Great news! The Holy Spirit’s gift to us is to accomplish the creation of God’s Grace in our lives. Just ask! It really is that simple, asking God for a gift He longs to give us. At the same time it is not easy, because we get in the way! Here is a fantastic truth; God is bigger and stronger than we are, and He constantly proves this by working in our lives moment by moment.
I hope telling you some of my story brings you encouragement. I hope it gives you an opportunity to see yourself, even just a little, through God’s eyes of love, grace, mercy, compassion, intimacy, and passion. He really loves us with an intimate, passionate love we all need. So, Merry Christmas to you and those you love. May you see the love of God in ways you never have before, and may you love with a love beyond anything you thought was possible.
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