Friday, November 13, 2015

May I Exchange This, Please?

Oh, what a pretty sweater! It is a must have in my bag. So, I go up to the counter with my gorgeous purchase and leave with a smile. I get home and begin looking at my find just a little better and do you know it has a hole in it? What I thought was perfect is not. What I thought I would love to have no longer makes me smile. How many times have we been there in that exchange line? Sometimes we have a receipt and we can make an exchange, but many times we do not and what happens then? We cannot exchange for something else, something better. We cannot get our money back. We are just stuck with a sweater with a hole in it. But, let's really think about this. Is it really as bad as it seems?

Hey, we are women, right? We can sew! Put a needle and thread in my hand and I can fix that hole. It might not look perfect. It might have just a ripple or two in the seam, but I can patch up that hole. Who needs a new one, I can make this one work just fine! But what happens later on after we wash it? Yep, that hole is no longer tiny, but now stretched and tattered. Really, haven't you been there too? You love the color, the fit and style. You don't want to throw it away. Look what you paid for it. It can be fixed right? Okay, maybe we just wear it around the house. Maybe we just where it to play outside in the snow with the kids. Put a jacket on over it, who will notice? Probably the only one who will notice is me. I know the hole is there. I know it's no longer perfect.

Isn't that like our lives? We didn't sign up to stand in the exchange line. We don't have a receipt. We want to fix what is broken, but can we really? The more we try the bigger the hole gets and now, does anyone really want us around? We want perfection and what do we get? A big hole under our arm! No one else can see the pain, but we can. We walk with it. We try to hide it. We learn to cover it up well. Just don't raise your arm! Just don't let anyone hug me or touch me and I will be okay. Please, don't let anyone ask me how I am. I am praying no one looks close enough to see the hole in my heart. I want to stand in that exchange line and fight until something or someone will help me!!

Jesus, please help me!! Can you hear me screaming? Can you hear me crying out to You? I DON'T WANT THIS AND I WANT TO EXCHANGE IT!! Have you been there to my friend? We think we know what we want. We are sure of what is perfect for us, but after we have worn it a while we now know we picked out the wrong sweater. Why do I go shopping anyway? Why is what I have still not good enough? Why am I always searching for something different? Something more? Am I not content?

Many times we can receive a gift that wasn't on our wish list. Many times we open it in total surprise. What do I do with this now? Oh my, this is not my color? This is not going to fit me! But do we exchange a gift? Do we wear it with a smile? Do we dare give it to another? Most of the time we wouldn't want anyone else to wear it either. We know it's scratchy. It's uncomfortable. It's just downright ugly!

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you."
Matthew 5:3-12

Life is choice. In our choices it is our attitude that matters most. Sometimes our gifts we receive are from plan old consequences of our actions. Sometimes we just need to wear those until they wear completely out. That way we remember not to go back in that store again. Sometimes, life sends a package we didn't expect and we find ourselves wondering why someone would send something so ugly. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Many times we don't understand how much time grandma put into knitting that sweater. We don't see Aunt Sally saving every dime to purchase the sweater she can while she does without. Once we take our eyes off our own sorry selves and begin to see the sweater we soon see the story behind each and every stitch. We see the love in the gift even it's something unexpected, something unwanted. Those unexpected and unwanted gifts are still gifts, they just carry different meanings. Sometimes you just have to put on the sweater and wear it for a bit to understand it really is the perfect fit.

We can go to the Lord with our sweater in hand. We can exchange our sorrow or joy. We can exchange our pain for laughter. We can exchange our bitterness for  forgiveness. Our anger for peace. Our meanness for kindness. Our complacency for zeal. Our gossip for love. Our rebellion for obedience. Our selfishness to selflessness. Neglect for faithfulness. Our unbelief to trust. Our failure into hope. Do you see the pattern here my friends?  We can exchange our brokenness for healing. We can exchange fear for faith. When we are dealt something we do not want, we can go to God and exchange it for His will. Might all our exchanges be for His will and not our own. We suffer so much in the sweaters we wear. We wear them with such anger and hate. We wear them with jealousy and envy. We can exchange our worldly desires for God's will. We can exchange our selfish attitudes for attitudes reflecting Christ. May we make that exchange line about Christ and not ourselves. Might we see those standing next to us and see the sweater within their hand too. What we want is not necessarily what we need. Our wants and needs to two totally different things. Sometimes we need to wear what we don't want so we can see what it is we do need.

Our heavenly Father paid the price for our red sweater. He stood there in line so that we didnt' have to. See, He has already made the exchange. His life for ours. May we begin to look at our sweater with a new hope, a new faith, and a new trust. Might we love the sweater we are wearing. Don't be so quick to trade it in. It might seem a little tight, a little lose, or maybe just something you would never pick out for yourself, but lets remember that God is the perfect shopper.

"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them."
Ephesians 2:8-10

"That you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness."
Ephesians 4:22-24

"Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you."
Ephesians 4:31-32

"Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you." Philippians 4:8-9

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