Advent Week Two – Peace, The Spacious Place

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The Spacious Place pic

It is now the second week of Advent.  We have been journeying these last ten days with Ann Voskamp and learning what it means to unwrap The Greatest Gift, the gift of Jesus.

Last week we learned how in Christ we have Hope.  Hope that takes a dried up stump, and brings forth new life. 

This week is the week of Peace.   And while I am going to write about peace, I need to get something else out of the way first.  So this is going to be one of my longer posts, but if you will please hang in here with me for a little bit, I’ll try to make it worth your while. . .

I aim to be transparent.

I want you to know when you read the words I write that the woman behind them is not trying to put on a show.  I don’t want you to ever think I’m perfect or have it all together.

Just as my heart for this site is to help to break down the walls between you and God and draw you into deeper intimacy with Him, I also long to break down the walls that we as women so frequently put up.

I want to build a place of freedom and openness between you and me.

It’s so much more comfortable for all of us to keep those walls up, though, isn’t it?

To not show anyone our shame, our secret fears, or our hidden questions.  It’s so much more socially acceptable to pretend we aren’t in any pain and to conceal the chaos within. It’s not as though people really want to hear all about our junk anyway, right?

Maybe you’ve tried to confide in someone before and it was awkward.

She didn’t know what to say.  It was too deep for comfort and the conversation quickly moved to more pleasant things.

Or maybe you felt judged or misunderstood or received unhelpful advice.

Regardless of your experience, it probably taught you a few things.  Things like:

Wear a pretty, pleasant mask and people will like you. 

Don’t let anyone too close, or you will be burned. 

Vulnerability is weakness, strength is holding it together.

These are lessons that I had burned in my mind for many years.   I believed them and lived by them as perfectly as I could.  But the reality was that these beliefs were burdensome.  I felt trapped, misunderstood and afraid of who I really was.

I believed these lessons until I experienced how peace and freedom came when taking the masks off.

I realized that if I truly believed that I was accepted by God, just the way I was, than I had to let that belief change the way I interacted with others and not just the way I interacted with God.

If God saw me, dirty, messy, and broken, and didn’t want me to hide, than why should I hide with anyone else?

Well the first obvious answer, is because God is safe.  He will always love me no matter what.

Everyone else, however, is severely debatable.

Hiding behind my masks and keeping the walls up was safer.  It was even more prudent, I felt.  Why, after all, should I throw myself to a den of lions?

But then He began to stir inside me.

What if me being open about the vulnerable places in my heart could make someone else feel safe enough to do the same? 

What if God didn’t just intend for me to experience freedom with Him, but to experience freedom with others? 

What if me talking about the messy, the shameful, and the uncomfortable, and how God is daily tearing down those walls in my heart, could help tear down those same walls in another’s heart?

So that is what I did.

I started letting people in.  And I began really listening when they invited me in to their deep places.

And what resulted was beautiful.

I discovered what real friendship looked like.  I discovered how the relationships that occur from breaking down walls between people are mirrors of the intimacy that God intends for us to have with Him.

He has created us to love and be loved.  Both by Him, and by others.

Because it is only when we are loving others and letting them love us, just the way we are, that the evidence of Jesus’ heart transforming power, is made manifest for all to see.

Changed hearts result in changed lives.  And God doesn’t want us to keep our changed hearts all to ourselves.  He wants us to share them, so others can see what Jesus can do.

“He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
he drew me out of deep waters….

He brought me out into a spacious place…” – Psalm 18:16,19

A spacious place.

A place where there is no hiding.  Where there is freedom.

Where there is peace.

Which brings me back to my aim to be transparent.

I want you to know, that this is a safe place.

This is a place dedicated to be used by God to tear down walls of pride, shame, and embarrassment.  This is a place where I pray we will allow Him to lead us into the open space of freedom and authenticity.  This is a place where we will experience the peace that comes only from knowing His Son.

So in order to show you that this place is safe, I realize that I have to be the first brave one to step out of my comfort zone and share with you what has been taking place in my heart lately.  But even though I have tasted the freedom, I have still been feeling the inclination to keep my private thoughts private and use this space to focus on others and not myself.  However, I fear my words won’t have the same impact on your heart if I don’t get real with you about mine.

So here it goes.

This week, the week of Peace, has been anything but peaceful for me. 

I am a pretty intense, passionate person; and with that intensity comes the desire to do and embrace many things.  I want to live my life to the fullest.  I am a dreamer, a starter and a visionary and so I imagine all kinds of wonderful things for myself to be doing at all times.

I want to do everything and I want to do it all excellently.

I’m also a people person.  I love being in relationship and am blessed to have several amazing people in my life, especially the members of my own little family, that I feel called to pour myself into.  The problem is sometimes my over exuberance leads to burn out.  I am a limited person and cannot be all things to all people at all times.

While it may seem that I am painting my weaknesses in a somewhat admirable light, do not be fooled.  Anything done without the person of Christ is done in pride, and it is very ugly.

You see, my passionate side, could also be referred to as my perfectionist side.

So when I am unable to fulfill all of my commitments and all of my plans perfectly, I crumble.

I become incredibly hard on myself and fall into a pit of despair over my lack of ability to keep up with everything.

I become angry at my lack of strength to be super woman when I see other women seeming like they are able to do it all.

And then, when my critical nature has exhausted myself, I turn its wrath towards the ones I am the closest to.  I expect perfection from them and resent them for their short comings and for their lack of ability to fulfill the perfect idealistic picture I have created of my life.  

The build up of this cycle has led to me crashing and burning this last week.  My body told me it had reached its breaking point when I started experiencing several symptoms related to my health condition that always seems to flare up when I am under a great deal of stress.

Frustrated by my weaknesses and defeated by my failures, I fell into a pit of despair and wallowing.

Every night lately I have gone to bed with a weary heart.  My mind racing to find closure over all of the unfinished things of the day.  The only words I have had the strength to pray, have been, “Please God, give me peace.  Give me peace.”

And then it was time to light the candle –  to worship, to listen, to be still and invite Him in.

But I realized receiving the gift of His peace required surrender.  It required laying down my pride, (for that is what this all was) and coming before Him humbly.

And it was only when I relinquished that control, that need to be perfect and to have everything around me be perfect, that I finally experienced true peace.

Photo credit: annvoskamp.com
Photo credit: annvoskamp.com

I think the thing I have been learning most throughout this season of Advent, is that Christmas is all about humility.

What I consider to be worthy of God, is everything big and glorious.  When I seek God in my daily life, I often search for Him in all of the flashy lights and noise.

But God came down as a vulnerable, helpless babe, in a forgotten town, into an unworthy family.  There was nothing for Mary to boast about while she laid her baby on a bed of straw on a cold, winter night.

The King of the world, who is worthy of all praise, has offered Himself to us without expecting anything in return.  He simply wants us to receive Him.  As Ann said in the video for this week, “God is not a God of intimidation, but of intimacy.”

I loved how Ann also said in the video that peace is always an option for us.  “It is not an ethereal sentiment but our earthly reality.”

Peace, here on earth, here in our hearts, is available to us because of the person of Christ who has come down to us.

We learned about Jacob this week and how He built the ladder to God, but in Christ there are no ladders.  All the striving for perfectionism is pointless because we are completely reconciled to God!   We do not need to climb to Him, because He has come down to us.

“Every religion, every program, every self-help book is about steps you have to take.  Jesus in the only One who becomes the step – to take you.” – Ann Voskamp, The Greatest Gift

So that is why if we are to receive Him, to receive Peace, we have to surrender our pride and come with humility.

Christ and pride cannot coexist. 

Perfectionism destroys peace.

We literally can do nothing or offer Him anything to attain peace.  And we don’t have to.  Because we already possess peace when we surrender control and let Him in.

The lyrics of two old Christmas songs ring through my mind:

“I am a poor boy too, pa rum pum pum pum.

I have no gift to bring, pa rum pum pum pum.” – The Little Drummer Boy

And,

“What can I give Him, poor as I am?

If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamp;

If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;

Yet what can I give Him . . . give my heart.” – In a Bleak Midwinter

This Christmas, I am learning what it means to just receive Him. 

This Christmas, I am learning that the humble offering of my imperfect heart is enough.

And even though my default is to strive and control, I can truly say that I have received the peace that surpasses all understanding.

The Peace of His presence.

Your Turn:

Please answer the questions below in the comments and share how unwrapping the Greatest Gift is changing you this Christmas!

  • This post talked about two effects that control can have on our lives. It can build up walls between us and others, and it can build up walls between us and Christ.  What are some walls in your life that are keeping you from experiencing peace?

 

  • How does humility play a part in how intimate you are with others? Do you have true peace and freedom in your relationships?

 

  • How does humility play a part in your relationship with Christ? What are some areas of pride that you need to surrender before you can experience His peace?

If you are writing about Advent, please link up below!  The link up is active for a week so you can come back here and link up with any other Advent related posts during the week.  The only thing I ask if you link up, is that you leave a comment here and on another person’s blog!  Also, I’d be really blessed if you linked back to this post!

Last week I mentioned inviting you all to share your resources and posts on the Pinterest boards I have created for Advent!  Unfortunately, I did not get around to that, but if you include your email, (not your Pinterest profile) I will be sure to send you an invitation tonight!  I apologize I did not get to this last week!

Be sure to follow my Facebook page during the week for updates on the daily readings and other resources to enhance your worship experience this season!  I try to post there as often as I can so we can communicate together throughout the week about what we are learning!

Finally, for more information on Ann Voskamp’s “The Greatest Gift”, how to download your own free printable Jesse tree ornaments, and other books and resources, visit http://www.aholyexperience.com/thegreatestchristmas/.

2 thoughts on “Advent Week Two – Peace, The Spacious Place

  1. Oh friend, we are so similar. I am such a perfectionist and when life spins out of control, instead of relinquishing control to the One who can bring peace, I try to hang on, force my way through life, and drag others with me. I get this….I so get this. Thank you for your willingness to be open, honest and transparent about your struggles. It makes doing life on the other side of the screen with you all the more easier. Because we are both messes….and Christ adores us!

  2. Heather, I needed to read this tonight. Just came home from teaching Confirmation tonight which was anything but peaceful. Jesus is indeed the one who gives and offers peace. I need to so remember that. I’m loving Ann’s book too. It’s been a good reminder to me to truly live out this waiting season of Advent. I truly have been blessed with great friends who offer me true freedom and peace in our relationships.

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