Monday, December 23, 2013

Paying the Piper

Have you ever made a commitment in all good faith and then twinged when it came time to pay the piper?  I am in the middle of one such episode in the life our family. 

When we left America, we sold pretty much everything we owned.  It took a number of garage sales and classified ads but we reduced our "stuff" to half a room in my parents basement and 8 suitcases.  In the intervening years we have reduced even further.  As we began to face up to the reality of our 2014 move back to the States, we realized that we would be coming back with about 8 suitcases of "stuff."  That sounds like the same amount till you realize we're a family of 4 now instead of a family of 3.  

When we committed to leave America for a time, we were full of hope, enthusiasm and "empty hands."  I mean we had emptied ourselves out to make one big push.  One giant sacrifice to do one giant thing.  Except in reality it wasn't like that at all.  In fact, that big act of obedience was just the seeds of a thousand small acts of obedience.  From that one big act of obedience came the gift of a thousand small blessings and several very big ones.  As we prepare to return to America, our hands are full of blessings, including a longed for second child.

We made commitments when we left. First that every gift we had received was from God's hand and that we were prepared to offer each and every one of them back to him. Second that whatever the consequences were (for our wallets, for our health, for our families, for our lives) we were committed to the good God had for us to do. We made a down payment on those commitments with the yard sales, the airplane ride and the difficult adjustments of living in a new culture.  But the biggest price may be yet to come. It's time to pay the piper.

We are neither the first to commit to an unknown future nor the first to cringe when the time comes to trust God. What about the day that Gabriel came to Mary and told her the astonishing news that she would be the unwed mother to the Savior of the world? She made a huge commitment.

 Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word. (Luke 1:38)

That must have been a tough "yes" that she said to God that day.  Yet how much more difficult was it when she needed to pay the piper months later in Bethlehem?  I'm sure the day she agreed to bear him she didn't understand what all it would entail.  Could she possible imagine the fact that she'd be lying or squatting in a stable to bear her baby? That her son would be delivered by a man she'd yet to "know." That instead of her own warm bed, or hand-crafted cradle her baby would lie in a manger.  I bet she had no idea what it would cost her.  

I bet she had no idea how she'd be blessed either.  God, who blesses obedience mightily, sent choirs of Angels as a birth announcement.  Beats those little cards in the mail all to shreds.  He sent a star as a shower announcement and three amazing gifts suitable to the very tabernacle of God.  He gave Mary safe passage to and from Egypt, escaping the murderous intentions of Herod.  (Luke 1-2, Matthew 2)

She's not the only one though who paid the piper.  So did her son.  

Paul describes Jesus coming to earth with these words:  

Although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,  but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. (Philippians 2:6-7)

The creative Word, the Ancient of days, gave up being equal with God to be equal to us. He was first an embryo, then a fetus, and finally a squalling infant. You know, the kind of creature that drinks milk from the breast, cries at all hours of the night, and poops all over everything.  I'm not being irreverent.  This is just the beginning of what that phrase entails. "Emptied Himself" indeed. 

That was just the start of the commitment.  The intervening thirty plus years on this planet must have been laden with all the misery we suffer.  Colds and cockroaches. Pimples and putting up with siblings.  Temptations and tearing heartaches.  All that came before that lonely night in the garden.  With all his disciples sleeping, even the son of God dreaded the price he was about to pay-the cross. 

Christ Jesus was faithful. He was faithful to his commitment at this one critical juncture when all the world's fate was in his hands.  He could have given up, you know.  It must have been tempting.  He sorely did not want to go.   But have you considered that he also went to the cross in faith?  He believed that the God who declared him "beloved" at his baptism would do what had never before been done in the history of the world-vindicate him by raising him from death to life eternal. 

It's for that kind of faith I am praying today.  As we prepare to move 6 months from now, I don't know what the cost will be. Perhaps a painful job search, a difficult adjustment for children who have spent the majority of their lives abroad, or days, weeks and months of humbling poverty are in our future.  I'll admit to cringing a bit in anticipation.  Yet I have faith.  I'll trust the Father.  He has us tucked us into the palm of his hand.  
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. 

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