Friday, 11 July 2014

Cold but kind

"Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience." 
(Colossians 3:12) NLT

Ice. A small sharp word that makes your mouth form a grimace when you say it. It lay glistening outside the bedroom window, tiny stalactites dripping from the eaves and treetops. Water becomes glass in places where the frost has collected in drifts and hollows. It crackles underfoot, chokes the water pipes and locks the world in a cold grip. Winter is harsh, bitter, its face is set and its heart unyielding. We shrink against it, huddle and layer and stack, build fires and shelters as a shield. But still it is there. We may lock it out, draw out warmth from every available source, but it waits. Just outside the door, as you slip out for more firewood, it pushes past into all that glorious warmth, laughing with small sharp fangs. Biting into exposed parts, swift and deep, before it is shooed under the bed by the unexpected heat.

There is nothing gentle about winter. It draws out all our resources to survive it, stay healthy, stay "soft". I grow rigid too easily at this time of year, inside and out, with spiky edges and stiff fingers balled into fists in my pockets, rather than held out to embrace. There is beauty, there always is. A raw beauty that demands respect, an acknowledgement that seasons have their own rhythm. And to find our place in this dance, we need to find out who this music is performed to, Who determines the cycles, holds together the atoms?

"For from him and through him and for him are all things." (Romans 11:36) and: ...."all things have been created through him and for him." (Colossians 1:16b). We are tempted to think that the earth was created for mankind to enjoy and relish in. And enjoy we may! But ultimately it was not created for us, it was created to bring glory to the Creator and that is exactly what it does. Regardless of the season, it never stops.“Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures and all ocean depths, lightning and hail, snow and clouds, stormy winds that do his bidding, you mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars, wild animals and all cattle, small creatures and flying birds…” (Psalm 148: 7-10) It brings a new depth to what it means to worship. We join a magnificent choir, each second of the passing days and nights in an never ending song to our Lord and King. People that love spending time in nature, are all brought to a sense of awe at some point, at times misinterpreting it as an awe for what we see, where it is ultimately for what we cannot see, hear or touch, but sense in the Spirit and hunger to be a part of.

But coming back to my small place in this great and glorious universe, how do I keep praising in all I do, if all I feel like doing, is rolling up in a tight little ball under thick blankets and self-centeredness? When layers and layers of clothing do nothing to melt the hardness and irritation that shutters my heart. So in a moment of self-pity I cried out to Jesus: "Lord how do I do this? This day after day of nurturing and caring, while I feel like being tucked in, served soups and hearty stews, being wrapped up and read to, being encouraged and rocked and sang to. You made this day, this cold that locks me into my house and hurts my titanium-bracketed spine when I bend to pick up and clean up each day... How can I "rejoice" and do this to your glory when it takes so much effort just to stay warm?" Just then, these words flashed through my "me-focussed" mind. "Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience." (Colossians 3:12 NLT). That flowed straight through all those restrictive layers of clothing and warmed all the tired recesses of my heart.

For long I have known about putting on the armour of God. (Ephesians 6:10-18)* It is all we need to stand and battle the attacks by Satan and his forces of darkness each day. It was so sweet to learn at a recent meeting with my sisters in Jesus, that not only does our Lord provide us with the armour, He gives us the clothing to put on underneath also. Clothed with tender-hearted mercy (compassion), humility, gentleness and patience, we are sealed, protected, strengthened, and warmed. And like only a loving Father and Saviour can do, He does not stop there. Col 3:14 encircles it all with a perfect love through His precious blood: "And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity". The clothes, the coat of love, the armour. Nothing gets through. For He Stands Behind Me.

 This more than anything showed me the "character traits" of our loving and Almighty Father and God. He is compassion, kindness, gentleness, patience, bound in unconditional love. But He is also Truth (the belt), the Gospel is all about Him (shoes), He is Righteousness (breastplate), our Faith is in Him (shield), Salvation is through Him (helmet) and the Word is breathed on by Him (sword of the Spirit). Gentle and strong. Compassionate but just. Forgiving but still the Lord of judgement alone. What Jesus showed me is that with Him, the cold is not going to leave, the mundane will not be transformed into something magical, BUT clothed with Him, I CAN overcome it all. It warms me all over to think that as a mother, a housewife, at times my children's unsung hero, at times a snappy stranger, I Can Be Like Him. Being a mother calls for compassion, humility, gentleness, patience (oh yes!) and ultimately love.

For - "If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal." (1 Cor. 13:1). The heart of God is love. If I withold it, or all the virtues that can flow from a Christ-infused heart, my "tongues without love" become a mere discordant, obtrusive, unintelligible dissonance.

These, our little people, will carry into the world what we as parents reflect to them. And out there, in the cold, hard world, people need us to speak and act with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness of spirit, patience and Christ-like Love. How else will they get to know Jesus, if we don't show them what He is like? It is as hard and as easy as it sounds. Just like mothering. With this whole amazing "outfit", God makes available for us to "wear" each day all we need to overcome and thrive. We are made to worship - whatever it takes. For me it means being the best wife and mother I can be. To sing through the hard days and cold nights. To love these two precious beings placed in my daily care, not only when they are adorable, but with a consistent love that overcomes the worst tantrums or messes.

He knows me and loves me enough to know that there is really nothing else I would rather do. Even if in the flesh I long to break out of this skin and space that is my everyday world, my spirit would always long to return. For this is where I truly belong, with Him, with them, a piccolo part of a wonderful symphony. At times I can hear it, like when one of my children laugh as they crunch through a piece of ice from the frost-covered garden. Listen - the earth is performing a concert for its Creator, put on your "suit", pick up your unique instrument and join in the glorious noise!

* Blog from 17-04-2013 titled "On War and Peace" - dealing with Spiritual Warfare.

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