Eyes on the prize, baby

Sometimes God gives us extraordinary gifts. I mean, He’s already offered eternal salvation and reconciliation with Him, but even beyond that, he blesses us in unexpected and undeserved ways.

Much as I find it hard to grasp, I really do believe that God delights in our enjoyment of life. He rejoices when we receive a gift from him with eagerness and praise and thanks. He smiles on our joyfulness. Our temporary happiness, however, is not His end goal. It pleases Him, sure, but he never intended for His gifts to be either our source of joy, or our consuming focus.

As I was thanking God for one of His gifts in my life, I sensed both his smile over my happiness, but also His gentle adjure: Eyes on the prize, baby, eyes on the prize.

God wants us to enjoy the gifts we receive in this life, but never at the expense of our focus on the ultimate prize. Nothing He can give me now, can compare to the gift of Himself. One day I will step through the gates of death, and be united with Him, my ultimate prize. Any gift I receive here, is only as valuable as the extent to which it points my eyes towards the greater prize.

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Things I’ve learned from killing consumerism #11 – Reclaiming the joy of shopping

Fashion, Freedom

My birthday is at the end of the year, and as I’ve found things I liked this year, I’ve kept them in mind as possible birthday presents.

It’s been like being a kid again, in those days when the anticipation of getting something would drag out for months, either until I saved enough money, or until my birthday came.

Today I bought some things for my parents to give me for my birthday. I’d had my eye on them for about 4 months, so I knew I really wanted them, and then today I discovered there was a sale at the store.

It had been so long since I’d first seen these items, that I knew they could be sold out and they were no longer listed online.

I actually prayed on the way. I prayed that if God wanted me to have them they would be there, and that if not, I would be content in that.

It was all there. And all 60% off.

For the first time this year, I bought something for myself (though I won’t actually ‘receive’ it til December.)

I couldn’t believe how it felt. No buyers remorse. No guilt. No feelings of excess. Just a real joy that I haven’t felt since I was a kid, after having saved for something for months.

My going without has returned to me a more pure form of shopping joy.

 

The Precious Gift of Having Suffered

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The other week, I had a chance to talk to a group of students about of my journey with Chronic Fatigue. I talked about the darkness, the grief and the sometimes overwhelming feelings of despair, but I also talked about the hope and joy I have found through my relationship with Jesus.

At the end of the lesson, I was surprised when one of the students stayed behind.

“I just wanted to talk to you” he said, “because you’ve been through the same thing that I’m going through now.”

He then went on to tell me about what was going on in his life. Indirectly, he was dealing with issues of death and divorce, sexual abuse, neglect, overwork and worry. His circumstances were overwhelming, and poles apart from anything I had ever experienced.

I couldn’t understand why he was talking to me as though I’d been there too. Suddenly I realized: for perhaps the first time, an adult had opened up about being in dark places and finding a way through. My comparatively small affliction had given me credibility in a world of suffering and pain.

My illness has tattooed into me the exclusive pass code to a world where hurting people need hope. People come to me, and listen to me, because they see in me someone who has been there and survived. It is a privileged position to be in.

May God grant me the grace to see the blessings of suffering shine more brightly than the pain.