Little Warrior has been seeing Santas everywhere, so we have been talking about Saint Nicholas a lot recently. Several of my new blogging friends have written about him as well. He is on my mind.
Nicholas, an amazing and godly man, was a 4th century priest in the area that is now Turkey. A new-to-me and interesting historical tidbit is that he attended the Council of Nicea, forever remembered by it's oft recited creed, the Nicene Creed. But this generous man with a servant's heart is better known as the real person behind the idea of Santa. You have likely heard one version or another of his secret giving to the poor in his community.
We have not really "done Santa" in our family. We talk more about Jesus' birthday, although Santa comes up; we do live in America. When I have a little one who wants to know about all the Santas he sees in the store, we talk about St. Nicholas. We celebrate St. Nicholas Day (Dec. 6) most years, with an emphasis on serving the poor. Some day I'll write about what we do, but today I am thinking about something else.
What I keep thinking about this year is not that Nicholas gave, but that he gave in secret. Because, and you'll see now how navel gazing I can be, it continues to bother me that I am doing this joy challenge publicly. This is not how we usually give, when financial it has usually been in secret, and being public makes me feel uncomfortable.
There's a battle in my mind between this scripture...
“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." Matthew 6:1-4...and this one...
"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds" Hebrews 10:24The Matthew scripture sits more comfortably with me. I feel much better when our giving is in secret. In fact, in many ways, I feel more comfortable just being quiet and hidden in general. Yet the Hebrews scripture keeps coming to mind unbidden.
"...consider how we may spur one another on..."When I first started writing this blog, I tried to just write whatever God laid on my heart that day. I knew I had to write, knew it was just part of how He made me, and I wanted a way to grow myself in self-discipline by trying to write daily. I knew that He wanted me to write about how one little girl could be radically changed by her big God. I understood that all I had to offer was my story. His story, really.
I kind of fell into the joy challenge; it came to mind, I thought "Hmm, that would be good for me, that would grow me!" I started, and then I committed. It has been such a blessing.
Blogging about it was fun at first. But I started to feel like the Pharisee on the corner, "Look at what I did, yay me!" It's not how I felt (I feel woefully inadequate - so much need, and I keep giving everyone chocolate). But it seemed like that was how it came across.
At the beginning, I thought it would be fun to see if other people wanted to do it too. But I felt shy about it, and never really asked seriously, or challenged. So here I am, months into it, and I wonder, "Lord, have I sinned against you?" I have been an awkward mix of shy and bold and it is just uncomfortable.
I wonder if God likes it that I am uncomfortable? Likes to stretch me to do things I feel shy about, likes it when my discomfort about talking about those things makes me ponder His word more deeply. Yes. Probably.
I don't know that I will sort this all out, really, ever. I do know that I have been blessed by doing this challenge. And I hope ever so much that you will find the blessing hidden in giving and giving. I do want to spur you on; I am greatly encouraged by those who spur me on.
My sweet daughter and I spent a long time talking about my dilemma a few days ago. It was a blessing to turn over the scriptures with her and look at the joy sprinkling challenge and the blogging and ponder it all. In the end her pure heart helped me to see through my own fog. She reminded me that God looks at our hearts. And she told me that my sprinkling her has made her think about sprinkling others. She encouraged me, my little girl, earnestly and after careful thought.
So I have to lay it at the cross. I have to give Him my sprinkles, my service, my very self, as a broken and flawed offering, yet what I have to give. And I thank you, my friends, for loving this broken girl.
Not one thing I can do, not even a sprinkle a day for the rest of my life, or memorizing the entire bible, or being able to say exactly the right words at exactly the right time to exactly the right person... none of it, nothing, redeems me... but Jesus.
Nothing I can do will make Him love me any more, or make me a better person than anyone else. I am a sinner, redeemed by a loving and gracious God.
And so on I will blog. I will write about these last days of sprinkling, days that I am finding all the more challenging because of the busy-ness of homeschooling life just after a vacation and during Advent. I have not felt on top of my sprinkles, I even, laughably, have argued with myself over what "counts". Does it count if I do it every year? What am I going to do now that I am off schedule? <sigh> Yes indeed, we humans are prone to legalism.
So I am trying my best. Which of course is never enough. But praise God, that thanks be to Jesus, it doesn't have to be.
Because He is enough.
And that is no secret.