“I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.” John 16:33 MSG
The idea of happily waiting doesn’t resonate with many of us. Like me, some of us like lists and accomplishing and tangible results, and although I don’t like it about myself, I like time and structure. There are others who more readily relax, but I can’t think of anyone who enjoys being out of control … who receives peace in the waiting. Yet that is what faith is and it is what we are called to: trusting God and accepting His peace as we await the fulfillment of his purpose for our lives.
Like Ruth and Mary, we often experience a different reality than we had dreamed. We see our strengths, gifts and “callings” and we wonder when they will be used. Dreams are trampled, hope fades, love falters, joy disappears.
I am currently living a life that might be ideal for some, but is certainly not what I ever envisioned for myself. I live in this big city, with this little crew of kids and we home school, and I confess I worry about what others think of our craziness. The disparities between my reality and my dream of living in the suburbs of a smaller city where I have a successful career and my children are well educated in an award winning school district are extreme, but in the middle of the chaos that is my life I hear Him whisper to me about calling and waiting, His dreams for me and His love for them. I have absolutely no answers, but often I have His peace. A peace that doesn’t make any sense as I look around my cluttered play room and a dining room table littered with elementary school assignments, and legos and cheerios scattered on the living room floor. But it’s there, and He calls me to trust and rest in His peace.
Toward the end of the Christmas narrative we are briefly introduced to Anna (meaning grace), a prophetess from the tribe of Asher. This woman who was at least 84 years old and had been widowed for all but seven of her adult years, gave herself to worship and service in the temple. Considering her tribal background, it’s ironic how she finds her fulfillment in God alone. In Genesis, when Asher was born to Leah’s servant she said “Now women will call me happy!” (Gen 30:13 NCV) Like many of us, Leah worried about appearances. But where Leah thrived when others thought highly of her, Anna forsakes all that was expected of her. She lived against societal norms and truly relinquished everything for God.
I see this short account of her life, and I know that losing her husband prematurely and never remarrying could not have been her dream, but as she waited for God’s will to be revealed, she was faithful. She was at peace in His presence, and she gave thanks. Her faithfulness was rewarded by seeing the Prince of Peace face to face. Anna, undoubtedly knew that all is grace.
I have been thinking more about Anna this Christmas than ever before. This year is the first I’ll live without my grandmother Anna Jane on this earth. For years, Grandma suffered from Lewy Body Dementia, a Parkinsons-like disease that stole the vitality from her years too soon, and eventually left her unable to care for herself or communicate with the world around her. But though her life was dotted with regrets, she had lived hers to its fullest – she had loved, she had given, she had laughed, she had forgiven and been forgiven, she had praised. What a gift it was to visit her last Christmas Eve … to play worship music for her and see her try to sing along with the carols we sang. Though grandma was only able to lay in a bed the last few times I saw her, her heart and the recesses of her mind and soul that no human could reach, still remembered the grace that had been bestowed on her before she became a captive of her mortal frailty. Grandma was always at peace in His presence.
When we lose someone it hits hard. I remember wondering how I could ever live in a world where grandma wasn’t, and yet we move on. And when we’ve lost someone that truly lived and left a legacy, we are graced with a gift – the gift of their example. This Christmas, even when the world seems far from it, I’m looking for the peace that Anna knew … the peace that comforted Grandma Janie when nothing else could. The peace that will one day welcome us into the presence of the Prince of Peace.
Monday: Amos 3:7; Luke 1:42-45
Tuesday: Phillipians 4:6-8; Psalm 29:10-11
Wednesday: Proverbs 3:16-18; Luke 2:22-32
Thursday: Luke 2:33-40; 2 Thessalonians 3:16
Friday: Matthew 2:1-12; ; Romans 8:5-8
Saturday: Matthew 2:13-23; John 14:27