Friday, September 6, 2013

Faithful Friday: Celebrate It All

Recently during one of my {many} restless moments, I found myself sifting through a box of images  and words cut from various magazines.  As I dug for inspiration I stumbled across some very challenging words:
Celebrate it all

In that moment I felt the full force of conviction in these words.  Here before me, three little words of challenge that dared to cut through my self-pity and ambivalence with a dramatic emphasis on "all."  The message wasn't simply to celebrate choice events.  No.  It challenged me to celebrate everything, the summation of God's work in my life, the triumphs and the tears- and it made me think:

What would it look like to celebrate it all?

My first thought was of celebration as a rejoicing and from that- thanksgiving.  How beautiful a life wherein one constantly finds things for which to give thanks, to foster an attitude of gratitude!  Not just praising the desirable, but the unforeseen and troubling.  This reminded me of Job, how in his testing as each of his blessings were taken away he praised God for what he still had until all that he had was God.  This righteous man once rich in blessings of wealth and relations is stripped of everything and lastly his health, finally overwrought by his unprovoked losses he becomes despondent.  In the depths of Job's despair we come to passage 38:1 "Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm."  God speaks and His presence is known and we learn of the greatness and might of God and His limitlessness.  We learn how God made the earth and set its limits, swaddled the newborn ocean in a blanket of clouds and ordered the dawning of the day.  The poetry of it all leaves me breathless as I remember the greatness of the Lord and my small place within His creation.

Thanksgiving in everything would be good work on its own.  Rejoicing in all things would be a fine interpretation of this challenge.  A woman who gives thanks in good and difficult times is a woman I would like to be, but let's look deeper to other meanings of celebrate.  

Webster's first definition of celebrate is: to perform (a sacrament or solemn ceremony) publicly and with appropriate rites.  This too is appropriate.  Sacraments are all encompassing of life- from baptism to death, and they recognize the bittersweet mysteries of life and death.  In baptism there is sweetness of new life, often literally as a newborn, but also spiritually as a newly born Christian, and in the latter there is the bitterness of dying to oneself and departing from the former comforts of one's sinful ways.  Then again at one's death there is the obvious bitterness of leaving family and friends and even coveted possessions or unchecked bucket-list items behind.  Yet as Christians we can embrace the sweetness of knowing this earthly life in a broken world was just temporary and our true business begins in our reunion with the Lord.  This then begs the question:

How do we celebrate it all with sacramental spirit?

Honestly, I'm not entirely sure, but I think the big clues are "publicly" and "with appropriate rites."  

Publicly doesn't mean depressing or provokingly vague facebook/social media announcements that draw pity and unproductive attention, but rather may simply mean telling friends and loved ones.  Truthfully, I struggle with this when it comes to bad news because I get self-conscious about "dumping" my unsorted mess in front of unsuspecting friends.  But here's the thing I need to remember, relationships are a gift to bless us in good times and protect us in bad.  In my fear of my emotional mess exploding in my relationships, I risk implosion by unexpressed mess.  

We are made relational creatures, so "publicly" sharing our triumphs and trials make sense so that we can get support when we need it and rouse a chorus of praise for times of jubilation.  I believe this is where "with appropriate rites" factors into the celebration- use good judgement.  We may ask ourselves: Am I celebrating or gloating?  Am I using my good news to build up or tear down by making others feel lesser or jealous?  Likewise am I wallowing or celebrating?  Am I wanting company or help in my misery?  Ultimately asking, are my actions {rites} appropriate to the situation?

It's a heavy lesson, a big challenge to set one's heart right without denying pain, repressing it until it festers into anger and resentment.  I'm still learning and the best part is- I'm neither the first nor the only one to face this {or any} lesson.  What's more there are millennia of theologians and texts to help, not to mention living guides.  And perhaps the best cure for my navel gazing, self-pity, or conceit is to remember how small I am in the greatness of God's creation, yet how loved, by revisiting the stories of people who came to the end of themselves and found God.

So I challenge you to read Job 38-39.  Read the various translations and maybe you'll share Job's reaction in chapter 40:3-5.  See that God is strong enough to handle your questions and your anger; rejoice with the angels at how lovingly He created the world, and find peace.

I'd love to know what other stories put you in awe of the Lord?  Which ones have made the largest impact on your life- the stories you turn to time and time again?

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