I’m sitting in the soft glow of my Christmas tree. The lights look like creamy buttons scattered on canvas. Outside, the sun has dipped below the horizon, leaving a slash of orange where Earth meets sky.
I sit with pen in hand, writing a longhand list of graces. My pen makes a catalog of the obvious good in my life.
Yeah, I write the good. But I write down the not-so-good, too. I list painful parts as graces, not hindrances, because of trust. I am actively trusting that God redeems all things. Maybe I’ll have to wait all the way until heaven to know how it all turned out.
But I write them all down anyway — good, bad and ugly. I choose to trust God anyway.
I trust Him with all that I am, because I believe He is all who He says He is.
He hasn’t done all that I wanted, but He has done all that is right. And that is enough for me.
Sitting here, by button-light, I feel a peace, somewhere deep inside of me, a peace that I don’t always have. But I have that peace today, and so I pen the word “peace” at the bottom of a grace list, like an anchor. I write it in big letters.
I feel, perhaps, a bit like Mary, treasuring it all up in my heart.
I’ve spent the better part of a year challenging all of us — as the great Prophet Elsa would say — to “let it go, let it go.” I’ve spread my whole self out on this carpet time and again, flat out on my face, praying that we’d all know we are preapproved. I’ve never been more passionate about any work I’ve ever done, in all my life. I had no expectations of what “success” might look like. I had no sales goals, no slick marketing campaign, no fifteen-point plan, and sometimes, I had no clue.
But God — those are two words that change everything. Always. But God.
We’re all a mess without Jesus, … without the but God. I’m thinking about that this Christmas.
Tell me about your “But God.”
Mary had one. She had a “but God.”
Behold her, in the button light.
She was a poor teenage girl. But God sent an angel to her, telling her not to freak out. Yeah, she was a virgin, but God was asking her to follow through.
Imagine the gossip in Nazareth. Imagine what Mary’s family might have been thinking.
If I were Mary, and an angel showed up in my teenage life, I would have said, “can I have a few days to pray about this?” I would have counted the costs. I would have immediately asked myself, “What are people going to think?”
It would have been totally understandable if Mary would have tried to talk her way out of it. Here was a woman who was getting ready to lead a normal life, with the man she loved.
But she risked it all. She risked her reputation. She risked the approval of her friends. She risked being ostracized by her family. She risked losing the man she loved. She risked her own dreams and plans.
But Mary knew she was PreApproved.
She knew she had the approval, love and protection of God.
Mary knew that she didn’t need the approval of people.
Mary lived for an Audience of One. She didn’t ask for a few days to think about it. She didn’t run away from God’s call on her life.
Instead of counting the costs, Mary said this: “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.”
And God is asking the same of us. Will we be the Lord’s servant? Or will we chase after the approval of people?
Mary’s “yes” changed history. Because she believed in the “but God.”
Later, Mary’s son would grow up to model what it means to live only for the approval of His Father.
Jesus went to the cross for each of us, arms spread wide.
By the soft glow of my tree, I imagine Jesus upon the cross, whispering over us: “Preapproved… Preapproved … Preapproved!”
So many of us are walking through our lives thinking to ourselves: “I’ve got something to prove.”
But God is saying, ‘You’ve got nothing to prove.’”
He is saying, “You want approval? How about you take a good long look at the cross today. If you want to know how much you’re worth, gaze upon the nail-scarred hands of your Savior.”
In the biggest act of validation over your life, the child who came at Christmas grew up to die for you.
And here in my living room, where lights gleam like buttons in air,
I keep on counting every grace,
every preapproved proof,
every “But God” —
all of them buttons that fasten truth to my soul.
I needed to know it. Maybe you did, too.
Amazon.com can still ship in time for Christmas. Included below are a few of my favorites from 2014, with special attention on Liz Curtis Higgs’ Women of Christmas book, referenced above, and Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts, which beautifully makes a case for cataloging all graces, even the hardest ones.
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