Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Missing Years

One of my favorite Christmas songs is Elvis Presley’s rendition of “I’ll be home for Christmas.”  The lyrics are simple and sweet:  I’ll be home for Christmas.  You can plan on me.  I’ll be home for Christmas if only in my dreams.”

For many of us, Christmas makes us want to go home.  Home might be a house or a group of people or a place in our hearts, but at Christmastime, we long to be in that place of warmth, comfort and security.  When I think of being home for Christmas, I recall my house in Ohio from my childhood.  I fondly remember sitting by the fireplace listening to music as my family watched the little twinkle lights reflect off of the bulbs on our tree.  My memories are picture perfect.

But the truth is, if I’m honest, below the surface of the joyous tree-trimming and delicious dinners and festive parties with family and friends, everything was not perfect.  I remembered this when I was eating duck on Christmas Day off of my grandmother’s china.

My parents inherited my father’s mother’s china after her death in 1998.  I loved my grandmother; my father loved my grandmother; my grandfather loved my grandmother, but she wasn’t the easiest person to love. (Maybe you also have someone in your family like that?) Grandma Eda was often critical of us, especially my mom, her daughter in law.  She had no kind words for my mother who worked so hard on behalf of all of us except she would say, “Well at least you keep the children clean.”  Grandma was tough on everyone really.  She would scoff at the waiter in the restaurant if he didn’t refill her coffee every 10 minutes.  She hated the next door neighbor and his dog.  She was the type who, when scolding you, would say, “Do as I say, not as I do.”

It’s an interested saying really.  Do as I say, not as I do.  It means that you act in a way that you don’t want other people to act. You do things you don’t want others to do.  If you ask me, Jesus would not approve of a “Do as I say, not as I do” mentality.

Just a few days ago we celebrated the birth of the baby Jesus, but the Bible doesn’t linger there long.  In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus birth story is followed almost immediately by a time when Jesus was 12 years old and learning in the temple.  And right after that he’s in the wilderness at about 30 years of age.  What happened to Jesus during all those years that aren’t recorded?  How did he mature during the “missing years” as I like to call them?

The one thing the Bible does tell us is that Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.  Jesus grew up and people and God liked him.  Growing up is a time to learn to think for ourselves and a time to become our selves in the truest sense of becoming.

It was during the missing years that Jesus developed his ideas of who God was.  He chose to call God “Papa/Abba” and to pray to God in a personal, intimate way instead of seeing God as a far off reality that he had to offer sacrifices to.  It was during the missing years that Jesus decided we should treat each other with non-judgment, acceptance, forgiveness and compassion.  And when he got older this is exactly how he treated the woman at the well and the woman caught in adultery.

It was during the missing years that Jesus became himself, that Jesus became Jesus.  I like this quote by Howard Thurman, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”   That’s a message straight from Jesus himself who came so that we might have life and have it abundantly. 

Jesus wasn’t a “Do as I say, not as I do”  kind of person.  He lead by example.  Gandhi once said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”  And Jesus was the change he wanted to see.  He wanted a world filled with love and so his law was love.  He wanted a land ruled by peace and so his gospel was peace.  He wanted to sick the sick and poor taken care of and so he took care of the sick and poor.

Every year at Christmas we not only celebrate Jesus’ birth but also Jesus’ being born again in our lives.  So this year, how can we be even more like him?  How can we be the change we wish to see in the world?

First, we must ponder this very question.  Take a moment now and trust your first intuition/thought.  Who do I want to be in this world?   And also, what do I want the world to be like because of me?  Because who you are and what you will be, is the way you will affect existence. It’s your contribution to altering reality, to changing the world.

Have you read the book, “Steal Like An Artist?”  by Austin Kleon.  The book advises: Write the book you want to write; paint the picture you want to look at; play the song you want to hear; create the home you want to live in; construct the body you want to walk in.  Live the way you want to live.

He’s telling us to be what we want to see exist in the world.

Even though I asked you who you want to be, you can’t stop there.  Don’t wait until you know who you are before you get moving/started!  There is this divide between who we are and who we want to be.  Imagine a cliff and you are standing on the edge of the cliff.  You just have to jump, jump into the abyss, into the unknown or jump to another cliff that holds promise but jump!

Because my father had a sad childhood in my grandmother’s hands, my father decided that he would create a happy home.  The home wasn’t there waiting for him, but he knew he wanted that home in the world and for his life.  So he took the leap, he became a family man, and in doing so, created a happy home for himself, my mother and us children.

In God’s eyes, we are a gift and an opportunity.  We can create beauty and heal the world by being alive as ourselves.

There’s a story called Jonathan Livingston Seagull that exemplifies this idea, and in this story, Jonathon, who is in fact a seagull, is frustrated with the meaningless materialism and conformity and limitation of seagull life. All the other gulls do is eat and balk, which is really boring to Jonathan.

Jonathan realizes that he was meant to fly.  And so he spreads his wings and spends hours learning to fly higher and faster, to do rolls and turns in the sky.  It is through his pursuit of being fully himself and following his heart that Jonathon is taken to a new level of being.  Eventually, he is befriended by other gulls, gulls he didn’t even know were out there when he began his journey, and they guide him into an existence that brings him as close to God as one can get.

Jonathon had to fly higher and faster.  Jesus had to roam and love deeper and deeper.  We have to jump off that cliff and into the life that we know we can have.  God is waiting on the other side of the void to catch us, to set us on solid grown, to be our solid ground, and to lead us into the future.  Jeremiah 29: 11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Today, I want to invite everyone to take a leap of faith so that you can be the change you wish to see in the world. Jesus has been born and the possibilities are endless. Jump off the cliff and into his arms and experience life in a new way.