I Must Decrease

There is a synchronicity of events occurring this week that has had me pondering the following scripture lately.

“Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.”
Jn 3:29-30

June 23rd kicks off the celebration in the Church, of the Nativity of John the Baptist, with the feast of his vigil in the evening, and his feast day on the 24th. In the early church, the Solemnity of the birth of St. John the Baptist was greatly celebrated with feasts and traditions according to customs in different cultures around the world. He was highly revered as the pre-cursor to Christ, one who was ‘filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb’ (Lk.1:45). His birth, his life, and his death are significant in our salvation story and illustrative in any transition from the old to the new.

June 23rd also marks the day my mother went home to the Lord. One year ago, my sisters and I were keeping vigil with her as she journeyed to the end of her earthly road. Just before sunset on June 23rd, 2015, she breathed her last. For me, the timing of her passing on the eve of St. John’s Day, has been a treasured consolation through this past year of missing her. I take comfort in the ancient words of the Baptist himself, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” He spoke those words as an acknowledgment that his earthly purpose was fulfilled.

I think of my mom’s passing with the firm hope and belief that as she made her own transition, she understood that she fulfilled her God-given purpose and that her ‘Joy was complete’! In our humanness and grief, it is sometimes hard to accept as it seems she was taken from us too soon. There is so much life we are still living without her and it seems she should be here. Once again, we can look to John the Baptist and say the same, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” When he was beheaded, it was a great and terrible tragedy to those who followed him and loved him. His young life seemed dispensed with well before his time and yet what more could he have accomplished than what the Lord set before Him to do from the moment of his conception? His life and his work was fulfilled.

Thirdly, this week, we are expecting the arrival of our 10th child! I’m pondering this verse quite literally as it seems time for me to decrease! Time for newly created life to emerge and begin her own journey to fulfillment, however long, and in whatever form that might take. The time of fulfillment of this pregnancy is here. I look forward with fear and trembling, to bringing her into this world, knowing it won’t be easy or pain-free, but trusting instinctively that something of the old me will be purged and a new me will emerge. He must increase.

Seasons, fulfillment, and transitions make up the very fabric of our life of faith. To everything, there is a time and a purpose and then the old transitions to the new. Though often difficult, what a great and beautiful hope we live as a people of faith! Death leads to resurrection in Heaven. Our decreasing means that God increases. The pain of labor culminates in precious, tiny new life.

And sometimes life doesn’t go according to plan. Sometimes we battle disease or tragedies. Sometimes we lose loved ones too young or even in the womb. Sometimes suffering and death and loss comes all out of order and it is precisely then that we are called to be like the Baptist and proclaim the Savior as he did, again and again. “Behold, the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” In our suffering, we have the opportunity to become smaller and let God be big, pointing the way. In spite of sin and death and this fallen world, this valley of tears, He increases! To me, that is the most beautiful reassurance. When Mikey died, He increased in my heart and my life. When Anna died, He increased. When my mom died, He increased. Likewise, with the birth of each of our babies, He has increased. New life, though tiny and innocent, sure has a way or re-ordering priorities and teaching humility!

As my mom left us at sunset on that special date, I felt like she was leaving behind a final piece of motherly wisdom. None of us are meant to stay here forever. All of us, like the Baptist, are called to point the way to Christ in word and deed. When we continuously allow ourselves to be humble is when Christ can get to work in us. He makes all things new. He leads us from the old self into the new, so that when death comes to steal, there is nothing for it take, for our Joy is already complete!

All is fulfilled in Christ Jesus our Savior!

Advertisements

Seasons

We headed out for the holiday weekend to enjoy a few days of R&R at the beach before the grind of the school year schedule began.  I could not wait to plant myself and do NOTHING for a couple of days.   And other than the basic stuff like cooking, cleaning and laundry, that is exactly what I did for the first whole day!  I sat on the beach and napped and did nothing while the kids played.  By the second day, I was feeling a little restless.  All the reading I wanted to do suddenly held little interest.  The quiet time alone with the Lord that I had CRAVED felt fulfilled to a large degree.  The household chores that I planned to shortcut as much as possible started to feel more necessary and even urgent.  I was feeling anxious to get up and get some exercise.

I sensed in my being that my time for rest was done. (unbelievably, that only took one day!)

Here in the Northeast the change of season is upon us.  You can smell it and feel it in the air.  The nights are cooler and the greenery is perking up.  The kids are back to school and football has begun.  It’s a time of change when nature and culture seem to be in harmony.

After Christmas we will celebrate the New Year and many will make New Year’s resolutions to go along with the internal sense of change and renewal.  We will be done with one year and look forward to a fresh new start, a new season, in the next year.

In March next year, Christians will celebrate the most important day in our liturgical calendar, the Resurrection of Christ.  That season will be marked by signs, both internally and in nature, of new life.  A new season will be upon us once again.

As much as we are creatures of habit and traditions, we are also creatures meant for seasons.  Life is chock full of “deaths and resurrections” indicating that God never intended for us to be stagnant.

 Eccl 3:1-9 “There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens. A time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to uproot the plant. A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to tear down, and a time to build. A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.  A time to scatter stones, and a time to gather them; a time to embrace, and a time to be far from embraces. A time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away.  A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to be silent and a time to speak. A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.” 

And indeed He sent us his Holy Spirit to keep us moving!  We weren’t created for the mediocrity of settling for the status quo of this life.  Very often we ride along happily on cruise control and continuously strive for the ordered and pleasurable and self gratifying course. The great news is that according to God’s plans we are destined for that for all of Eternity.  The goal is that we will live in blissful harmony forever and all restlessness and yearning will be fulfilled.  It will be permanent Resurrection for all who know and Love God, but first we must navigate this beautiful Life in all it’s twists and turns, ups and downs, summers, winters, falls and springs.

As I write this there is a storm brewing outside, the wind is howling and the air is charged with a sense of ‘change’.  A big storm is coming and we just raced around to pick up the toys in the yard and bring in cushions and harvest what’s ready in the garden.  In a few minutes or a few hours it will subside as all our storms in life and at some point the sun will shine again.   Insert here a rousing rendition of Annie’s “The sun will come out tomorrow”.  Or not.  But you get the idea, “This too shall pass”.

And the question is, whether it’s a hill or a valley, how will you emerge?  The Spirit is working and moving through the storms and in the spring-times of renewal in our hearts and in our lives.  Our seasons serve as reminders or sometimes the catalyst for the change that allows us to live more fully in God’s will.

We rejoice when it’s the time for rejoicing and we mourn when it’s time for mourning, but in every time we are called to the embrace of God’s most holy desires for us.  He will work all for our good and wants us to emerge, again and again, as new creations.

And really what fun would it be if it were always the same season?  What fun would it be if we were always smoothly in control and in charge and knew exactly what we were in for?

There will be a time for that though.  It will be glorious.  It will be everlasting.

English: Resurrection of Christ

English: Resurrection of Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)