Growing and maturing spiritually in Christ takes us to deep levels of knowledge, revelation, and wisdom. It's not about about fun and games, schmoozing at church, or pumping up our self-benevolence. It’s about knowing with greater depth and seriousness our true nature and purpose in this world. It's about growing good spiritual "fruit" and not falling apart and becoming miserable when we get pruned even more to make that "fruit"more abundant to experience full-measured joy: Galatians 5:22-23 "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control..."
It's true that we face challenges to achieve those new levels of growth. To be honest, there are times when I’ve thought, I don’t want to pray for more wisdom, grace, or knowledge because to attain those higher levels, I know I’ve got to go through rough periods.
But no one grows during times of ease and comfort. Let’s face it – no challenges there.
And I'm a prickly disciple. I freely admit it. I usually have to learn the hard way. I'm not like those angels on earth kinds of women - you know - the ones who seem perfect in their gentleness, humility, and everything else. No, I'm not one of them, and thanks to Jesus' love, I'm finally okay with that because we all bring different gifts to the table. B-o-r-i-n-g if we were all the same.
For the past six months, my husband and I have lived in an empty house, save for a mattress, kitchen table, four chairs, and minimal kitchen items to get us through fixing up and preparing a home for sale. We moved from a beautiful apartment in NC to here in beautiful KS...but not so much beautiful house.
I had no idea I’d still be in this empty home six months in, all our household items in storage. Never mind in the meantime my beautiful SUV was destroyed by a tornado, so I’ve been getting around, back and forth to work in my husband’s 1998 Jeep Wrangler. Don’t get me wrong. It's cool on wheels but gone are the heated seats, heated steering wheel, and, hands down, world’s best air suspension. And in all honesty, I haven’t pushed to find
another vehicle because I don’t miss the car payment.
So, on top of a new move, a new job, my mother’s health challenges, and working on this home, this empty home, it has been a challenge for me – one who loves home décor and filming beautiful home décor vignettes. Not happening in this space, save for our fun fire pit Fridays on the patio, which winter has now sorely restricted.
So, my workplace is beautifully furnished. My colleagues and friends have beautifully furnished spaces. I do not.
Six months in.
Now it’s the holiday season.
A super satisfying time of year to embellish home décor. I have nothing with which to décor on upon any décor. Did I mention an old, ugly kitchen, too, that provides no inspiration, totally negative inspiration for any kitchen creativity.
Six months in.
It started to get to me. I started to focus on what I didn’t have (chalk one up for the enemy), became rather sullen, even crabby (putting it mildly) to my husband. And for a good week, I went into a funk, especially as Thanksgiving approaches and I got nothin’ for great Thanksgiving holiday ensemble – no furniture, no matching dishes, no flatware, no beautiful serving dishes, etc. Nada. All in storage under piles of boxes.
And on top of that, I'd been working on rough edges to align myself even more with Christ, which is what we strive to do when maturing in Christ. Not always easy. Sometimes...a lot of times...downright hard.
Finally, the Lord came through...as he promises.
"You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it." John 14:14. Those things that align with God not with our earthly, selfish wants to fill that earthly, selfish side of us. Trust me, I still eyeball beautiful SUV's, but that's not going to get me to a higher spiritual level.
It was dark out, around 4:30 a.m. and cold, 19◦F out, and I’d been working my way through John on these cold, dark mornings before work. John 17 on this specific morning. What stood out to me was how we are not only justified by God, forgiven and made right with Him when we ask, but we are glorified, protected, set apart, and given His full measure of joy through Christ.
Cue a loud brake screeching, tractor-trailer deafening jake-breaking sound.
Full measure of what? Joy??
I hadn’t been feeling any “full measure” of joy. In fact, I’d been wondering if I was destined to be a woman of constant sorrow through my spiritual walk and maturing in Christ because I’d been feeling pretty miserable. And, especially, you know, seeing all these women on social media in beautiful apartments or homes, blah, blah, blah.
The revelation came boldly and beautifully. Yes, I’d experienced profound healing, rightness, and joy with Christ for many years now.
That had been in homes filled with beautiful furniture, items, and my favorite SUV in my driveway. Now, I had none of those material pleasures. And I was making only the enemy happy by focusing on what I did not have, sinking deeper and deeper into a blue despair as the holiday approached. Well, let's get this right: Holy Day. My materialistic desires juxtaposed against the approaching Holy Day. And the materialistic world is no help in that department.
And on that dark, frigid morning, Jesus revealed, Oh contrare good daughter, your home is indeed furnished, furnished with the most beautiful items with which any home could be furnished: love, compassion, a kind, supportive husband, kids who come over regularly (despite no furniture), the ability to be here for your mother to help her, to be near your brother, your only sibling. And therein exists the most true, pure forms of joy.
I experienced an immediate full measure of joy.
It wasn’t a lip-paying service to joy in Christ while surrounded and pacified with beautiful things, friends, parties, tossing out scripture quotes to make myself feel good. It was true joy in Christ for the truest blessings on this earth – love, shelter, warmth, employment to pay bills and then some, and living in a, relatively speaking, non-warring country.
Suddenly the approaching holidays took on a new light, new meaning for me, not that I didn’t appreciate these things before. Believe me, I did. But he’d stripped it bare for me, so I could really experience his joy like I’d never experienced before.
New level. New growth. More abundant fruit...after another a good pruning.
What a truly precious Holy Day gift.
You see, it doesn’t matter how much we have, how often we go to church, who we pal around with if we're miserable and have dead or dried out spirits. Those things are not of Christ. And no amount of trinkets, position, or status will provide the deep level joy He created us to experience. It must come from Him: love, kindness, focus on others not so much self, pursuing Him each day, understanding what true love, full-measure joy, peace, and kindness are – those are the true things of Christ.
The beauty is that he guides us gently each day…when we ask.
Today, I can honestly say, for now, I have the full measure of Jesus, of joy in me. John 17:3.