For the eyes of the LORD roam to and fro over all the earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose hearts are fully devoted to Him. 2 Chronicles 16:9
In the continuum of life, there are ties that bind us to past and present and to future. My family of origin is a family that relishes ties and celebrates traditions, especially when it comes to the celebration of major holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter). And when my husband and I were establishing our own family, we found that we tended to imitate the pattern that had been laid out before us by our parents and our grandparents before them. It was our “default” setting, and for the longest time neither of us ever thoughtfully considered whether we needed to alter our celebrations in any way, even when the job of hosting was passed along to us.
However, as I have aged and my family has grown, I learned and am still learning that what worked well in the past just might no longer work today. Ever so gently and so faithfully, the Lord has been giving me the courage to let go of the past that shaped me and be open to embracing new traditions, to make new memories, although it is not always what I really want to have happen. And if I am to be totally honest, my husband and I have both really struggled to let go of our some of our “cast in stone” traditions. Neither of us realized how entrenched we were in having things “just so” until we were confronted with the reality of changing everything up.
When I listen to the prodding of the Holy Spirit, I know that this is the right and good thing – to let go of what I have held on to so tightly, even if it no longer makes good sense and it is more my tight-fisted idea of what I think family celebrations should look like or even how a family should be when they are together than what scripture teaches me about the beauty and variety of God’s family. As I was pondering all of this one day, the Lord ever so gently led me to that verse in 2 Timothy 3:5 about turning away from those who cling to the form of godliness but deny the power of it. Slowly I began to see that I was clinging to tradition and forgetting what the original purpose of that established traditional gathering was: to bring family and people together to celebrate the goodness of God and to glorify and thank Him.
I do not know how it is with you, but when the Lord desires me to see something in a different way, it usually takes me a while. I have a lot of “but what about this or that” moments in my quiet time with the Lord that usually equate to me defending the status quo. Ultimately, the Lord is so patient with me, and he tenderly and lovingly leads me to a place of surrender. Surrender for me is that place when I finally open my heart and clenched hands and lay everything before Him and just wait (sometimes for a long time) for Him to show me the way, His way.
So what does the reality of this look like in my life and maybe yours? Our Thanksgiving celebration is on the Friday after Thanksgiving and this year it will be a decidedly “untraditional” meal of pasta. I do not even like the taste of turkey, but boy was that one hard to let go of! And if we want to see my large family at Christmas, we have had to move our celebration to Christmas Eve, and understand that some family members might have to work, some might have to travel, and some might have other side of the family plans. However, in God’s mercy, it turns out that I love Christmas Eve celebrations so much more than I ever dreamed, and I have learned to be genuinely thankful for whichever folks end up around the table. In my times with the Lord, I find he is still encouraging me to let go of so much that used to define my life and hold everything that falls into my hands very loosely.
I will not deny that this continues to be hard for me. This season in which we live has brought much change to so many lives and so many are experiencing different hardships than what they have ever faced before. But with all of my heart, I believe that the Lord is powerfully working on behalf of those whose hearts are committed to him. In 2 Chronicles 16:9 we are reminded that His eyes roam to and fro over all the earth on behalf of those whom He has perfected and is perfecting in love.
He sees this 67 year-old-woman in a suburb of a large city learning to let go of old traditions and be open to the new. He sees me daily struggling to surrender my personal agenda to him. And He sees you. So wherever you are and whatever you are struggling to let go of, the best news is that now and always He is tenderly leading and He is rejoicing over us with love!