Saturday, December 21, 2013

Ornaments Of Grace

I’ve been reading Ann Voskamp’s 1000 Gifts, and trying to make routine this act of giving thanks in everyday moments. Tonight as I sat on the couch, my book at the edge, backlit by a shining Christmas tree and a fire, I took a mental picture and gave thanks. Then a moment later, in my ever fallen heart inclination to imagine the “better” and thus be discontent, my attention was drawn to the three gold sparkling ball ornaments, the ones that strike my daughter’s fancy, clumped too close together at the bottom border of the decorations.  This bottom border of the decorations is not the bottom of the tree, mind you. Our tree is decorated on the upper half only, to keep little hands from pulling down, breaking, and eating ornaments.

Lately I’ve caught myself calculating how many years it will be until we can safely decorate the full tree.  How many years until adding Christmas decorations doesn’t close in the space on account of the clutter of toys strewn about? Counting ‘years until’ instead of counting clumsy, chubby-handed blessings now. And there, in my moment of giving thanks, these ornaments clumped together distract me. My daughter was proud of their placement, of her part in decorating. I would have done it differently…better. I would have given balance to the tree. Here I sit fighting the temptation to walk over and do just that.

And. Then. It. Hits. Me.         How must God feel when He allows us to participate in His work? He could make it look so much better. No mistakes, ability to reach to all places, big-picture sight. And yet He lets us, his clumsy children, participate! We damage people in our sinfulness; we get caught up in making our little area look pretty at the expense of other parts; we are constantly drawn to and distracted by glitter. And yet He allows us to participate because He values us. He knows it helps develop us. He delights in our sense of accomplishment and ownership. As we participate, it becomes our work too, not because we are necessary, but because He chooses to use us to help adorn it, albeit imperfectly.  Is God anticipating the day He’ll complete His perfect work, while at the same time delighting in allowing us to participate now?

In my musing, I see the zones of my tree as levels of participation in God’s story.  At the lowest level, there is just tree. We experience for the first time, and our place is to wonder at the tree and nothing more. There are no ornaments to break down there. Just get accustomed to the marvel of the tree. At the next level, we get to participate on a small-scale, with durable ornaments that we haphazardly place in the ways that {according to our limited understanding} seem best to us. As we mature we move up the tree, more delicate pieces are entrusted to our hands, and {hopefully} we add beauty in the way God envisions, keeping in mind the full picture.

Meanwhile it’s not lost on me that I’m talking about His work {salvation} in terms of decorating a tree. No tree could be more beautiful than the one to which Christ was nailed to secure that salvation. As this mental picture has unfolded, I am parent, identifying with the heart of a parent, God revealing Himself.  Now He gently reminds me that I am really child.  His child.  I am His clumsy child who doesn’t see the full picture, who often gets distracted by glitter and does what looks good to her, and who has been known to damage in her attempts to decorate. Would I have chosen to decorate His tree of salvation the way that He did, with a King born a baby in a manger, to be crucified on a cross? Or would I also have clumped the glittery gold ball ornaments together because that was aesthetically pleasing according to my limited viewpoint?

          I am thankful that He sees the whole picture. That this is His work yet He allows me to participate, albeit imperfectly. That He will finish the work one day and it will be perfect. And that He speaks so profoundly through clumps of glittery gold ornaments hung by clumsy chubby hands. This cluster of grace, this reminder.