A Word for 2016

9 01 2016

Small

A clay jar is a made thing, imagined and crafted by its maker. He determines its capacity and purpose, and expects only that it do what it was made to do.

In Perelandra (the second book in C.S. Lewis’ amazing space trilogy), the central character, Ransom, accomplishes a magnificent feat. He travels to a world inhabited by its first man and woman, and — by speaking truth to lies and ultimately defeating a demon-possessed tempter in hand-to-hand combat — he prevents a Genesis 3-type fall and secures a curse-free existence for all future inhabitants.

Before Ransom returns to Earth, he stands before the crowned king and queen of Perelandra, and the weight of what he has just accomplished begins to sink in. What will this mean for him in the future? What kind of fame, reward, and legendary status await one who rescues a whole world from brokenness, sin, destruction, and death?

An angelic being quickly reassures him with these words:

“Be comforted, small one, in your smallness. He lays no merit on you. Receive and be glad.”

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Not only does Ransom return home without trophies and accolades, he takes with him a wound on his heel that will remain a painful reminder of his battle with evil for as long as he lives. In a very literal sense, he is conformed to the image of Christ.

He receives the better reward.

And in his smallness, he is comforted.

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I think it’s safe to say that the wedding guests in Cana never gathered around the six stone water pots and lavished them with praise. The pots weren’t set on pedestals, festooned with garlands, and worshiped for the miracle of water into wine. Most likely, those water pots continued to function as ordinary water pots and the servants who’d filled them as ordinary servants. Except for what they knew. Which changed everything.

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But there is something in me that wants more. Something entitled. Something desperately selfish.

I say I want my life to be hidden in Christ, but I’m quick to bask in the praise of men.

I say I want to be dead to self, alive to God, and content with the portion He chooses for me, but I still find myself comparing, competing, envying, and resenting.

I say I want to be small in my own eyes, but my heart betrays me. When I don’t get credit for something I did? When I’m overlooked or excluded? When he answers my prayer for humility by actual humbling me? Then I see how far I have to go before I’m satisfied in Him alone, no matter what.

 

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Before John the Baptist was born, he was set apart to be the forerunner for Christ, and he fully embraced that calling in spite of the fact it largely meant a life of seclusion and eccentricity. And when the multitudes actually listened to him and redirected their attention to Jesus, John’s disciples were indignant for his sake. But he said,

“A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.

Stunning. But then? We get this glimpse at a tiny crack in John’s armor. He hears of all the miracles Jesus is performing, while he remains imprisoned in Herod’s dungeon, hidden, set aside, seemingly forgotten. So he sends messengers to Jesus, Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”

And Jesus skips the question asked and answers the implied one.

“Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.

Jesus said this knowing that John would remain in prison, and Herod would behead him at the request of a dancing girl and her vengeful mother.

But I believe He also said it tenderly, knowing what we don’t know and seeing what we don’t see.

We don’t know what transpired between John and his Father in the moments before and after this seemingly senseless and humiliating execution. We don’t see what he saw or hear what he heard — the “well done” and “welcome home” of the One he devoted his life to serve. Every question at last answered. Every longing finally fulfilled. His joy once and for all truly complete.

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So, my word for the year is “small.” And I want to be like these little ceramic jars, made by a potter friend to be left in random places at Christmas time, each one unique, and each with a note explaining to the finder that the jar is a free gift, given because of all Jesus has given him. Given for the joy of giving joy. No credit sought, and much gladness received.

And I pray I’ll embrace this sacramental smallness not only with words, but with my life. That I will mean it when I tell God I want to be a living sacrifice — one clay vessel among His many, cleansed, set apart, ready for Him to fill and use however He chooses, whether anyone ever notices me or not.

This is my prayer — for freedom from selfish agendas, freedom from entitlement, freedom from offense, freedom to be small.

To be comforted in my smallness.

To receive and be glad.

All for Him.


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6 responses

9 01 2016
Jody Collins

I wish you could see the “me, too” smile on my face Jeanne…your words echo my own. Selfishness and jealousy sneak in and my heart goes, “Oh, Jesus, help me.”
I like your word…small is good. And beautiful like you.

12 01 2016
jeannedamoff

Thank you, dear Jody! It’s a good anchor word, isn’t it? A succinct reminder that life is not about me. A compass pointing my attention back to Him. Love you!

9 01 2016
Diana Fleenor

I’m taken back by how the words you wrote here, Jeanne, touch on the very questions I’ve been asking the Lord of late. Though I am experiencing more contentment in the isolating circumstances of illness than I did at the beginning of becoming homebound, I still have moments in which I wonder if my life is bearing fruit. I think I struggle with this because I can tend to consider fruitfulness in terms of being visible and connected with others in more typical ways. Being reminded of John’s “life of seclusion and eccentricity” has been both encouraging and convicting to my own heart. I have prayed a number of times in the past for Jesus to increase in me and for me to decrease. But like you admitted, my heart can resist to wholeheartedly embrace this (I don’t like seclusion). May the Lord forgive and change me in such a way that I truly accept the gift this truly is. Praying for you and me and all of us who will to surrender to being “small” so that Christ can become “big” in us! Thanking the Lord for this encouragement through your words today:)

12 01 2016
jeannedamoff

You mentor me in trust and contentment, Diana! I’m so glad these words spoke to your journey. Love you.

10 01 2016
Jim Moore

Jeanne, I notice that the two comments above are from women; just to let you know that your experience with men like me. We are all, though Christ, rescued sinners who, though we are made new, still need to “mortify (progressively put to death) our flesh. We have to be very careful to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Cor 10:5). The bad news is: we can’t do it! The good news is: He does it in us, when we are yielded to Him. Fifty nine years of walking (really, staggering, slipping and sometimes going backward) with the Lord has taught me that Rom 12:2 has to chronologically and functionally follow Rom 12:1–which is another way of saying what everybody here has been saying.
God Bless

12 01 2016
jeannedamoff

Thank you, Jim!

Your comments are a gift. Please know I read each one with gratitude.

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