The Christmas lights don’t twinkle anymore at night. I probably won’t hear “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” again until next November unless Walmart decides to start their holiday music after Labor Day this year. The hubster took the last of the Yuletide gift bags and wrapping paper to the basement storage bin this morning. Meanwhile, I’m wondering if the last, rapidly-aging vestige of the Christmas honey-baked ham in the fridge will kill me if I indulge a final time.
Blustery, cold January has relegated December to the last page of the 2012 calendar, and I can’t quite catch a glimpse of spring no matter how hard I squint into the future.
The New Year has arrived. This is where the rubber meets the road, where the feet hit the bathroom scale, where the Richard Simmons’ videotapes come out of the forgotten reaches of the entertainment center drawers.
And this is where my new motto for 2012 comes into play: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)
I don’t mind the decrease if it means I can get my beige corduroy pants buttoned again. I actually don’t even mind the decrease in the way that John the Baptist meant it in the aforementioned Scripture.
It’s just that I’m not sure how to do it. Mathematically speaking, the equation simply reads: Add Jesus. Subtract Leslie. Or, +Jesus – Leslie = ALL JESUS.
In theory, I WANT Jesus to increase in my life and myself to decrease. In practice, it gets tricky.
“And then I realized how many stupid times a day I used the word ‘I.’ In fact, probably all I ever do is think about myself. And how lame is that when there’s, like, 7 billion other people out there on the planet and when -“ (Mia Thermopolis, “The Princess Diaries”)
Just substitute my name for Mia Thermopolis. This could be me speaking. I am also reminded of the first line of one of my favorite poems from childhood: “I had a little tea party this afternoon at 3, ‘Twas rather small–3 guests in all–just I, myself, and me.”
But I LONG to do what John the Baptist did–decrease myself that my Lord and Savior may increase. The Greek word for “decrease” here is “elattoo” (transliterated) which means just what you would think it means: “to decline in importance, to decrease in authority or popularity, to make less (in rank or influence).”
But we are groomed from infancy to want attention for ourselves. Our parents dote on us, video our every shining moment, take pictures of all stages of our cuteness. We learn in school to compete for the best grades, the top spot on the team, the supreme level of popularity. Everything in life seems to position us as the bright center of the “ME” universe where all other things and people revolve around us.
But God’s Word teaches me something totally opposite. “For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” (Luke 14:11)
“For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think. . .” (Romans 12:3)
“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness. . .” (Matt. 6:33)
This is my prayer for 2012–that I would take a backseat and let Him drive the bus. That when people look at me, they don’t see the gaudy, brassy light of Leslie but the radiant, pure light of Christ. That I won’t have to get the glory for anything. (“Hey, that was MY idea that we do that!” “I thought of that first!” “Yeah, well, she wouldn’t have done that if I hadn’t reminded her.”)
In essence, it all boils down to that beloved old hymn, “How Great Thou Art.”
“Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee, How great Thou art! How great Thou art!”
Realizing and exalting HIS greatness is the key.
We really don’t even have to think about decreasing ourselves. If we focus too much on that, we can so easily get caught up in even more focus on “me, me, me.” If we just think about increasing Him, the emphasis on ourselves will naturally decrease.
Remember the order of mathematical operations. With simple addition and subtraction, move from left to right in order. John the Baptist had the order correct: first, He must increase; then, I must decrease. The first one inevitably leads to the second.
“Then I shall bow
In humble adoration
And there proclaim,
“My God, how great Thou art!”
More of you, Jesus. More of you.
(Click on the link below to hear a version of this old hymn that will make the hair stand up on your arms!)