We may have packed up our Christmas tree yesterday but I’m still thinking about ornaments.
1- The word ornament is really weird to spell… At least for my 4th grader. Elanor had it as a December vocabulary word so I’ve seen all the incorrect phonetic spelling variations…
2- Iris was so good with not touching our ornaments. But at 21 months old the temptation to grab one off the tree would hit and she just couldn’t be stopped.
3- My friend Jess had ornaments that had me really perplexed. Clear ornaments with something inside, for a while I thought it was supposed to be a fish… but they were fishing lures.
Now here’s where we get to the point. When I finally asked her about the ornaments and she explained what they were and how she came to own them… she then said this:
“The ornaments are so dusty on the inside. I can clean them on the outside but can’t make them look nice. Aren’t we all dusty on the inside?”
And that my friends is what I’ve really been thinking about, these dusty ornaments. Go ahead and clean them on the outside all you want but they’re still dusty on the inside… and aren’t we all?
The coming of the New Year is one of those times that many people feel a new beginning. Kind of like everything is starting again and the chance exists for us to put everything as it should be. For some that is out with the old, being glad for the ending of (another) bad year. For others it is the hope of a fresh start.
I’m sure you’ve heard people talk about the statics of failed resolutions… here’s one that says 80% fail by February… here’s another that says only 8% succeed. This isn’t a post to tell you it’s futile to make a resolution… but instead, to think on why they don’t succeed. Why do we so often fail at making life changes on New Year’s and any other time?
Sure, some of it is that we make unrealistic goals. We don’t get the right support. We’re easily discouraged. We haven’t committed. (Psychology Today has a good list of 8 reasons resolutions fail, you could read here.)
What I’m really wondering is can this dusty ornament situation teach us something useful here?
Many ornaments are not transparent. The outside is all we can see, the inside could look as dirty as could be and we’d never know it because the exterior was shiny and picture perfect.
How many times do we compare ourselves to others when all we can see is their outside?
Looking closely at the ornament, you can tell that its dirty… and yet, no matter how much you clean the outside the dirt still remains… because it isn’t the outside of the ornament that needs to be cleaned.
Sometimes we can recognize that there is a problem, know we need to address it but we are looking to make changes in all the wrong places.
There is a big problem with cleaning this ornament: how are you supposed to clean the inside of an ornament? Ornaments are fragile. If you try taking the ornament apart to clean the inside doesn’t it seem likely that it may break or never go back together?
We can be afraid of the work needed to make changes because we’re concerned we might break in the process.
So… what are we to do then?
Friends on Facebook have shared two things as we’ve moved into a new year that have offered me some clarity as I think through this:
While they are focusing on two very different thoughts, it comes down to something very similar:
matters of the heart and mind… dust on the inside
It is easy for us to compare our dust with the shiny exterior of others… am I right?!
It is tempting to want to make superficial changes when what most needs our attention lies deep within… that’s for sure!
It is hard, painful and sometimes dangerous work to get to the root of the problem and we’d rather stick with what is easy even if it isn’t sufficient… and that makes me sad.
Sad… well sad because God offers us something more.
John 10:10 says that Jesus tell us, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
Paul makes it clear in Philippians 4:12-13 that abundant living is found not just in external prosperity, “ I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
And it isn’t even in our personal strength that we find fulfillment as we see oh so clearly in 2 Corinthians 12, “8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
So what do we do with our dusty insides? How do we ever “clean” that? 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” But what about when you don’t feel it? What about when the dust is still hanging around?
There are three sections of scripture that I’ve needed to hide in my heart so that in those moments of struggle with the dust inside I’m grounded in truth to guard my heart.
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!
1 John 3:1
This verse is key for me… because it tells me who I am. Ephesians 2 makes it clear that the grace of God was a gift we could not earn but the love of God lavishes us beyond imagining that through faith in Christ, we are God’s children! I am His child.
36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Why this one? Because it reminds me that what God wants of me (more than any of the commandments that I could obey to try and make Him happy) is for me to love God with all that I am. Everything else I do should stem from loving God and loving others.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
And these verses… they remind me that to follow God is to daily (hourly… minute by minute) give my life to Him and allow God to transform me from the inside out. To let God be at work in my dust.
P.S.- I hope that this was of encouragement for you. If you are facing struggles that has this new year looking bleak or if you have dust that is gathering inside I would be so happy to pray for you! Write to me in the comments or use the contact page to send me a message!