"Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it." (Matt 10:39, NIV)
As I’ve sipped my morning coffee this past week near the window, I’ve been mesmerized by the falling orange and yellow leaves. Sometimes they dance down one by one. But sometimes a gust of wind comes that causes a multitude of leaves to fall at once.
Watching this beautiful process reminds me of Jesus saying, "...whoever loses their life for my sake will find it" (Matt 10:39b, NIV).
I first started seeing this verse in a new light after I decided to let go of my identity as a musician. As a singer/songwriter in Nashville, I didn’t like who I was becoming: someone who wasn’t happy for the success of others, someone who networked more than friendshipped, and someone who was just plain tired. It came time to loosen my grip and let that identity float away.
And like the winter trees, I felt bare. Music was my main identity since my mom found out I could carry a tune, and then one day it wasn’t. But over time, letting that main source of self-worth loose opened up space for God to work and create new growth in me.
While there are moments in our lives where we choose to let things go, there are also moments when the winds of life force us to let things go.
Anyone who’s been through a dark night of the soul knows that deep heartache, devastating loss, or traumatic events can rearrange everything we know about ourselves, our relationships, and our lives. We’re forced to let go of our old way of being in the world and in the transition we can feel stuck in a perpetual frost.
And if you’ve been experiencing some chilly days as of late, rest assured that God promises new life on the other side.
For every part of yourself that you’ve had to let go, God brings forth new growth, new ways of being, and a deeper understanding of God’s loving presence.
"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." James 1:17, NIV
"Let your heart be light..." - "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"
I remember the moment vividly. A few years ago I was sitting in my pastor’s office with my church group. We went around sharing our prayer requests for the week and tears welled up in my eyes as I said, “I don’t feel joy.” As the words tumbled out of my mouth, I was stunned and saddened by the reality they held.
It felt like something was wrong with me. Everyone else seemed so happy with their life, but for months I felt trapped inside my anger and hurt. I was so emotionally fraught that I was physically ill.
It wasn’t even Halloween yet, but I knew I had to do something to spark some joy. So, my husband graciously blessed my idea to decorate early for Christmas.
As we pulled out the tree from the attic, turned on some Christmas tunes, and drank hot cocoa in Christmas mugs, I could feel some lightness seep into my heavy heart.
In a way, decorating for Christmas became a gratitude practice for me. As we adorned our living room with red and green, I found myself being grateful for the upbeat melodies of my favorite Christmas tunes, the bright colors that changed the look of my house, and the many special memories my ornaments held.
As we turn the corner toward Thanksgiving and Christmas, I’m reminded that many of us don’t feel the joy we think we’re supposed to have. Some of us are still mending wounds, nursing heartaches, or working through uncertainty about the future. And if this is where you’re at today, I totally get it.
Sometimes we need very tangible things to hold onto when our hearts are hurting. So if you’re up for it, I invite you to find your own gratitude practice this season.
Whether it’s grabbing a pumpkin spice latte to remind yourself to enjoy the changing fall colors, decorating your Christmas tree to remember precious memories, or making a list of 10 things you’re grateful for each day, there is healing in acknowledging the beauty of small things and the gifts that come from above.
When some of us think about friendship with God, it might feel like a foreign concept. We may have been taught that God is only to be feared or revered, and friendship with God just seems too casual. And while I certainly don’t advocate for making God seem lesser, I do advocate for thinking about God as friend, which naturally rearranges my thoughts on God’s proximity and intimacy with me.
In John 15:14-15 Jesus says, “You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (NIV).
One time at work, I had to bring up an issue that was funneled up to people in much higher positions than me. Though it was something that directly impacted me, those at the top decided to take matters into their own hands. They left me out of the decision making and didn’t explain why they were doing the things they were doing. They didn’t feel they had to. They were in positions of power, and I was too lowly to need to be informed. My thoughts or feelings on the issue were not a concern and I felt devalued and frustrated.
But in this passage in John, Jesus is saying that is not the case with him.
Because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, a change has occurred in our relationship with God. God is no longer a stranger with unknown ways. We know what God’s about and what God’s up to because we know what Jesus was about and what Jesus was up to. Jesus is the living image and revelation of God.
And because of this knowledge, our obedience to God isn’t a forced or blind acceptance. Our obedience is compelled through friendship because we want to be a part of what God’s up to—the redemption and restoration of the world.
And because we’re friends, our input is valued. Our relationship is meaningful. Our worth has more to do with our connection than our output. We have an in with upper management!
We have a friend in high places.
Reflect: Is it easy or hard for you to view God as a friend? Why or why not? In what ways can you cultivate your friendship with God this week?
Read: Luke 19:1-10
by Erica Smith
Nature noticer, contemplative wannabe, coffee drinker, wine taster, and novice painter.