I use that word often. Most of the time, it just falls in the middle of a sentence and I glance right over it.
Immanuel. God with us.
I hear that phrase all the time, especially during the Christmas season. It’s one of those phrases I can easily get numb to, and forget how it changes everything.
This past Christmas season, Taylor and I went through an Advent study written by our church. And the point of it all was this: God is with you. He’s with us in our sin, in our suffering, in our dreams, in big things and challenges, in our ordinary everyday. Over and over again during the month of December I read those words: God is with you. And over and over, it was closely followed by a question: Do you really believe that? As in… really.
I knew the answer deep down. In my head, absolutely I believe that. I know that I know that God is with me.
My heart wasn’t there yet. That truth hadn’t permeated my soul. It wasn’t real to me.
Come Christmas Eve. The passage was Luke 2:8-10. An angel appears to a group of shepherds who were watching their sheep – just a normal, ordinary night. But the truth the angel shared – “A Savior is born this day” – busted in and changed everything. The shepherds traveled to find the Savior Jesus, worshipped him, and then went right back out to their fields… only this time they were praising God.
Wait. They went back to their normal lives? They went back to their everyday job? That’s it? That can’t be right.
I had never noticed that part of the story before, and it started to make me feel uneasy. Then I read this:
Sometimes we want so badly for God to interrupt our lives, pull us out of the mundane, and place us in the middle of the magical. But Christmas is better than that. Christmas says God came down to be with us in the mundane, and by doing that He made the mundane magical.
Aaaand welcome to my primary struggle of 2014.
As soon as I read it, it was like alarms were going off in my brain and every fiber of my body screamed in rebellion, “That can’t be true. I don’t believe that!”
A few deep breaths, and then quieter, more of a confession this time, “I don’t think I really believe that.”
But, I so want to believe. With all my heart I want to believe that it’s exponentially better to have God with me – involved, interested, helping, guiding, loving, caring – while I’m scheduling social media posts at my job, while I’m sitting in Austin traffic and battling crowds at the grocery store… than it would be for God to get me out of all those tasks so I could do something extraordinary for my own glory.
Because isn’t that the whole point? To live life with God? He’s not a prop that I use to get opportunities or get me out of circumstances that I deem not good enough. He’s not the means to attaining my agenda. He’s the beginning and end of it all. He’s my Savior, Father, Friend. He’s offering me an intimate relationship with Him, one that brings life to even the most ordinary tasks… and in my discontent and restlessness of 2014, I missed it. I missed Him.
And I am so thankful he busted in on Christmas Eve and changed everything.
A few days into January 2015, I was reading Matthew 11:28-30:
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.
Get away with me, walk with me, work with me, keep company with me. As I read, the word “with” jumped off the page. The result of being with God? I recover my life. I learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I’ll learn to live freely and lightly.
Maybe it’s just me, but that sounds 1000x better than striving, trying to measure up, anxiously working to figure out if I’m in the right spot, endlessly comparing, working to gain God’s approval… for him, instead of with him, if you will.
I am far from having this figured out. But more than anything, I want to learn to walk with God, to work with him, to be with him.
So, 2015 is the year of “with.”
Believing that God is with me in the small as much as the big.
Working with God instead of for him.
Walking with God, listening, watching how He does it, instead of running on with my own plans.
Here’s to 2015, friends.
Do you have a theme or word of the year? I’d love to hear about it!