Two Hands: Grief and Gratitude in the Christian LifeA Renewed SpiritualityNurturing Hope: Christian Pastoral Care in the Twenty-First CenturyThe Power of ListeningJoy Together: Spiritual Practices for Your CongregationSabbath Keeping FastingPrayers of the Old TestamentPrayers of the New TestamentSabbathFriendingA Garden of Living Water: Stories of Self-Discovery and Spiritual GrowthDeath in Dunedin: A NovelDead Sea: A NovelDeadly Murmurs: A NovelPersonality Type in CongregationsBeating Burnout in CongregationsReaching Out in a Networked WorldEmbracing MidlifeAdvent DevotionalDraw Near: Lenten Devotional by Lynne Baab, illustrated by Dave Baab

Receptivity and Offering: Welcoming God's transformation in 2022

Lynne Baab • Friday December 31 2021

Receptivity and Offering: Welcoming God's transformation in 2022

I first read the prophet Malachi in my early 20s. When I got to chapter 3, I was stunned by the parallels with some of the events of Jesus’ ministry: John the Baptist prepares the way for Jesus, and Jesus enters the Temple and drives out the money-changers and the people selling animals.

The first two verses of Malachi 2 seem to foretell those events: “See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?” (Malachi 3:1, 2). In my early Christian life, seeing prophecies fulfilled gave me a sense of confidence in my faith.

These days I am more interested in the next sentence in Malachi 3: “For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness” (verses 2 and 3).

For any of you who love Handel’s Messiah, you will be familiar with these words. (If you’d like to read the translation used in the Messiah, see below.) As I listened to the Messiah a couple of weeks ago, I found myself pondering what exactly it looks like for Jesus to be like a refiner and purifier of silver in my life today, so that I can “offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.”

I can look back on many ways that God has been like a refiner and purifier for me. Marriage at 23 was super fun at first. Then gradually mixed in with the fun was the growing awareness that my way of looking at the world wasn’t the only way, that lovely people (such as my husband) have different and equally valid perspectives. Marriage (after some resistance on my part) enlarged my ability to offer to God my willingness to slow down and honor the people around me.

Then parenting, then serving churches in various volunteer roles, then studying theology – all of those life stages blurred by depression. Then freedom from depression, serving the church in an ordained, paid position. Writing and teaching. God has used so many of the patterns and events of my life to refine and purify me. I can remember specific moments of refining that were very painful, as I had to face parts of myself that I didn’t (and still don’t) like. Some of the refining was more gradual and even peaceful. In return, I have offered God my gifts and abilities and love in ways that are increasingly modeled after Jesus.

But oh how far I still have to go to “offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.” When I was a young Christian, I used to hear older Christians say that the closer you get to Jesus, the more aware you are of your shortcomings. These days, I am so aware of my heart’s tendency to wander into selfish paths. I hope that indicates I’m getting closer to Jesus.

As we enter 2022, I want to offer to God my willingness to participate in Jesus’ purifying and refining work in me, through the Holy Spirit’s power, guidance, and healing. I want to rejoice in the purification and refining I can see in the past, and I want to celebrate the fruit that has come from it. I want to welcome more purifying and refining without self-criticism and beating myself up. I want to offer to God my awareness of my sin and limitations, while also receiving forgiveness and the joy of walking with Jesus. I want to offer to God the good fruit that comes from the Holy Spirit's work in me.

Perhaps you would like to do the same.

My longing is summarized in a verse of an old hymn entitled “I am not skilled to understand”:

And oh, that He fulfilled may see
The travail of His soul in me,
And with his work contented be,
As I with my dear Savior!
—Dora Greenwell, English poet, 1821-1882

(Next week: the good versus the perfect. Illustration by Dave Baab: mural in Dunedin, New Zealand by Fintan Magee, "Chasing the Long White Cloud." I love getting new subscribers. Sign up below to receive and email when I post on this blog.)

Last month I gave a seminar at my church on holding grief and gratitude in two hands. The video recording is here.

Some previous posts related to receptivity and offering:

Malachi 3:1-3 in the translation used in the Messiah: “The Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His temple, even the messenger of the Covenant, whom you delight in; behold, He shall come, saith the Lord of hosts. But who may abide the day of His coming, and who shall stand when He appeareth? For He is like a refiner's fire. And He shall purify the sons of Levi, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness."



Next post »« Previous post

Comments