Christmas in Light of the Cross, Day 23 (Beyond the Manger,Loneliness)

I am writing today from my parent's beautiful icy home near Tulsa, Oklahoma.

I am writing today from my parent’s beautiful icy home near Tulsa, Oklahoma.

 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. 2 Corinthians 1:5 NKJV

I love being with my family and friends. I love people. But you know what? I also enjoy being a lone. When I moved to Texas, 20 years ago, there was no texting or -email (that I knew of at least) and it took time to make friends. So, I would go to restaurants by myself, and bring a notepad and write hand written letters home, the kind that you mail with a stamp, to family and friends while I enjoyed my meal. However, soon I started making lots of friends in Texas, and so I had people to go dine with, and so the letter writing stopped.

Fast forward to just a few years ago, living in Tampa Florida now.  I was sitting at a stop light, looking at a nice restaurant on the corner, which for some reason reminded my of my letter writing days long ago. I decided, even though I have lots of friends I enjoy dining with here in Florida, that I kind of miss the days when I would go into a restaurant alone and write old fashioned hand written letters, so I did so!

I don’t feel lonely when I am eating by myself. I don’t feel lonely when I take a solo bike ride down the Upper Tampa Bay Trail. I don’t feel lonely when I enjoy a good book on a park bench near the beach. I know I have friends even if they are not right with me at the moment. I know they are just a call or text away. So what does make me feel lonely? When people misunderstand me. When people misjudge my motives and intentions. When that happens it does not matter how many people are around. If they don’t understand me, that makes me feel alone. Thankfully I have good friends who are very understanding. Still, I think there are moments in our lives when we at least “feel” like no one understands. That can be a very lonely feeling.

Jesus knows how that feels.

 Yet through childhood, youth, and manhood, Jesus walked alone. In His purity and His faithfulness, He trod the wine press alone, and of the people there was none with Him. He carried the awful weight of responsibility for the salvation of men. He knew that unless there was a decided change in the principles and purposes of the human race, all would be lost. This was the burden of His soul, and none could appreciate the weight that rested upon Him. Filled with intense purpose, He carried out the design of His life that He Himself should be the light of men.  -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 92 

We can ease that loneliness by joining Jesus in His cause. When we lay aside our own ambitions and join Jesus in His ambitions,  we have fellowship with Him.  In Gethsemane, Jesus longed for someone to pray with Him. Everyone was too sleepy and tired to appreciate what was going on at the moment. Jesus freely excused their weakness and human flesh, while in His humanity He longed for fellowship and someone to pray with. Some one to understand and join in His sufferings. It is not too late. We can have fellowship with Jesus today, by appreciating His sacrifice and praying with Him for the salvation of others, so that His sacrifice will not be in vain.

Just a few days before Jesus’ death, a woman anointed him with perfume. This was not just any perfume. This perfume was very expensive and potent. Back in those days, people did not shower every day, and so the perfume was made to last for days to make up for that. This perfume was especially rich and potent. Just a few days later, Jesus was hanging on the cross. When the people jeered and mocked Him, and Jesus in His humanity was tempted to think that He was alone, He pushed his feet into the cruel spikes, the heave Himself up, so He could take a breath. As He inhaled He took in the aroma of the perfume poured all over Him just a few days earlier. The aroma reminded Him, there is someone who cares and understands! It eased His  human loneliness.

So today, our prayers and gifts for the cause of Jesus are an aroma that Jesus loves to breathe, knowing His sacrifice was not in vain. He is not alone. We have fellowship in His sufferings and in His glory, and He has fellowship with us!

Glimpses of Our God; God The Law AND Understanding Giver

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart.  Psalms 119:34

God not only wants to give us His law, He also wants to give us understanding. I remember one time a friend made some muffins. She gave me some, and before I could take the first bite, her kids were already snickering. Turned out she forgot to add sugar. I could not spit the muffin out of my mouth fast enough! It tasted terrible. Psalms 19 tells us that when the law is combined with wisdom and “light to the eyes” (understanding?) that it is sweeter than honey. Without understanding the law is as bland as those muffins which had no sugar.

To me, nothing is more frustrating and hurtful than to be misunderstood. However, I am far from the only person who has had to live with their motives  misunderstood. In John 12, a woman comes to anoint the feet of Jesus. She wants to show her appreciation for His great love and sacrifice which changed her life. As she pours the perfume on his body, the snickering begins. Her motives are twisted and accusations are made. Her offering is being critiqued by a thief who had no business critiquing her. She continues her worship, doing her best to pretend he is not around. Rightfully so, because what she is doing has nothing to do with him. Its frankly none of his business. Jesus understood and that’s all that matters.

The other day some friends from out of town came to visit. They followed me in their white rental car to the beach. We came to a toll booth and I saw what I thought was their white rental car behind me. I wanted to pay the toll for them so I quickly pulled in front of the car so they could follow me through the booth. The car flashed its lights and honked its horn. That is when I realized it was not my friend’s car but a total stranger. The stranger glared at me and made a gesture insinuating that I was a total idiot to pull in front of someone like that. Never having seen my friend’s rental car before, how was I to know the difference? It was to me an easy mistake. I did not mean to intentionally pull in front of this stranger but they had no way of knowing that, and I had no way of explaining myself to them. They proceeded through the tool both and sped on their way never to be seen again. I am sure they told their friends later, about the idiot who looked right at them and pulled in front of them. That’s not the real story though. And they will never have a way of knowing that is not the real story. Once again I have to live my life being misunderstood.

I know this was a simple little incident. There are people who have had more hurtful misunderstandings than what happened to me at the toll booth. Still, it reminds me that if I have been misunderstood, that there is a very high chance that I have misunderstood others too. Sometimes we think we have all the facts we need to make a judgment when in reality we have no clue. Joseph thought he had all the facts when his fiancé Mary was with child. Thank God he was a just man, and kept his mouth shut about his speculations, because as it turned out he was wrong. Mary was not having an affair. You would have thought he had all the evidence you needed, but thank God Joseph, who was a man of justice according to Matthew 1, was also a man of understanding and compassion. Joseph was a man who honored the law and the seventh commandment, but thank God He also sought understanding, and an angel of God gave it to him, and explained the whole situation about what the Holy Spirit had done in her life. Could it be that we sometimes can misunderstand what the Holy Spirit is doing in the lives of others, and jump to unhealthy conclusions? I believe so. That is why we, like Joseph need to seek for understanding as well as the law. Having the law without understanding is like having muffins without sugar, and I guarantee  you don’t want to know what that’s like!

To study this week’s SS lesson click here.

To download the SS lesson guides to your phone click here.