We’ve gathered together, we’ve offered our thanks, and we’ve taken our Thanksgiving naps.
Next: a flurry of activity as we prepare for Christmas. Gift buying and wrapping, parties and Secret Santa exchanges. For those grieving: loneliness. For others: joy. For others still: stress.
Before we launch into the month of December, let’s pause for a moment. Breathe in, and out, and in again. Still and listen.
I’m making a reverse New Year’s Resolution this year. Instead of committing to something starting in January, I’m making a commitment to a goal that will end in January.
Today, I would like to gently offer a reflection before we reach the end of the year. I would be honored for you to read.
In her book None Like Him, Jen Wilken writes how certain traits (being all-powerful, all-knowing, etc) can only describe God, while other traits (being loving, joyful, patient, etc.) are for us to emulate. To desire certain traits is good and holy. And to desire other traits is idolatry, to refuse to accept our limitations. When we seek the limitless power or control or knowledge meant only for God, we are seeking what will only hurt us.
“Rather than celebrate and revere His omnipotence [all-powerfulness], we seek ultimate power in our own spheres of influence. Rather than rest in the immutability [un-changing-ness] of God, we point to our own calcified sin patterns and declare ourselves unchanging and unchangeable. Like our father Adam and our mother Eve, we long for that which is intended only for God, rejecting our God-given limits and craving the limitlessness we foolishly believe we are capable of wielding and entitled to possess. Even as the redeemed, we crave the forbidden fruit of rivalry.”Jen Wilken
In the holiday season especially, we want to be limitless: we want more time, more money, more control. We chafe against the boundaries around our time: we feel the busyness of the season, the parties we want to attend, and the people we hope to see. We fret about our money: we feel shame for not buying enough gifts or expensive enough gifts. We stress over the places we cannot control: broken relationships, imperfect gatherings, and schedules that are out of whack.
In my own life, I’ve been identifying the places I am seeking limitlessness and power. I’ve been exploring the places I’ve been playing God, the places overrun by fear instead of freedom, scarcity instead of delight. You’ll find these thoughts in the margins of my journals, scribblings nestled among to-do lists and meal planning.
“What are my motives?,” I’ve been asking myself with increasing regularity.
“Why am I doing this?,” I am taking the time to question.
When I close my eyes and picture the success of an endeavor, what is my goal? Do I see myself up on a stage, accepting accolades for my work? Do I hear “well done, good and faithful servant”? Do I desire the applause of people or of God (Galatians 1:10)?
When you close your eyes and picture the holiday season, what do you imagine? Do you see perfectly orchestrated events with decorations, tinsel, and presents galore? Or do you believe that you are enough already, have enough already, and have nothing to prove? Do you rest in your limitations as a daughter or son of God?
I find myself remembering Jen Wilken’s words. We were not made for unlimited knowledge, power, popularity, or control. We were not made to play God.
And so: my goal. It’s one like many others. Wise pastors, teachers, and self-help coaches have been calling out warnings for years now, although it’s been so hard to listen.
I’m deleting social media through the end of the year, a small line in the sand against the limitless knowledge and control I crave.
The reason? Social media allows me to increase in power – omniscience – without an increase in vulnerability or intimacy.
I’ve been discipled by the accounts I follow, angered by the accounts I follow, become envious of the accounts I follow. I’ve become polarized and spun up into webs of my own circling thoughts. My brain has been re-wired around airbrushed images, edited videos, seconds in someone’s life that claim reality.
And so, I have deleted my social media through the end of the year. It is a surrender symbolizing that I am not in control. I cannot bear unlimited knowledge. I was not made for relationships without vulnerability, awareness without action. The holidays are hard enough without a thousand points of comparison, without omniscience I am not made to have.
Deleting social media might not be your next step, your right step. A next step for you could be to ask, “Where am I seeking limitless control? Where can I surrender my craving for power?” But if you do decide to join me in giving up social media for the holidays, I invite you to let us know so we can be praying for your sanctification through the fasting.
“Sanctification is the process of learning increasing dependence, not autonomy.” Jen writes. “Image-bearing means becoming fully human, not becoming divine. It means reflecting as a limited being the perfections of a limitless God.”
God became limited for us by coming as a baby. He increased dependence by being birthed and held by his mother Mary. This season, may we also become fully human: accepting our limits as a form of surrender to a holy and good God.