Throwing out your mismatched socks

Daily Readings: Deuteronomy 27-28, 2 Corinthians 5, Psalm 54

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Corinthians 5:17-21 

I am sure I am not alone in the challenge that lay before me this past Sunday night. It was a monster a didn’t want to face, a personal challenge I had been putting off tackling, an ever present stress that resurfaced once or twice a week that I simply didn’t want to ever deal with…

It was our mismatched sock box.

At the point of writing this I have 3 daughters that are 9, 7 and 3 years old. Over the last nine years we have had lots of growing feet, fun patterned socks purchased, and mysterious disappearances. I need someone who lives on the conspiracy theory fringes of the Internet to prove for me definitively that this is undeniable proof that aliens exist and that they feast on socks. I frankly have no idea how else this happens!

In any case, every time we do laundry and a new sock exists without a match, into the box it goes. In theory there will be a day where we tackle this monster. Unfortunately, like most challenges we put off facing in life, the longer you put it off, the larger it grows.

Sunday I decided it was time to tackle it. After getting 100% of the laundry done, scouring the girls’ bedrooms for any strays that were tucked under dressers, lost in a corner, etc. I was confident I had 99% of the socks I would ever find ready to be matched. Then I went to battle.

By the end I had found an additional 45 matches between the five of us. Success!

And there were 91 socks left over…

What?!

First of all, how did we ever get to the point over nine years where we accumulated 91 unique socks between our entire family? Secondly, how could we possibly have lost 91 socks? Mind-boggling.

I gathered them up and finally did what I should have done a long time ago; I threw them out.

I started to think Sunday about how much less annoyance I would have experienced over the last nine years if I had been comfortable throwing away one sock a month when the pair came up missing as opposed to clinging to the lone remaining sock. Instead, every time a new sock was added to the box, I grew frustrated. I watched it grow and grow and felt like an idiot. How does this keep happening? And why am I hoarding these?

As I was lying in bed Sunday night I began to smile thinking about the fact that we tend to do that with almost everything in life as Christians.

In 2 Corinthians today, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 

Whatever struggles have existed in our lives, Jesus wants to wipe the slate clean and make us into a new creation. Whether these be self inflicted challenges and sin issues that we struggle with, or circumstances that occurred in our lives that we had no control over, Jesus wants to give us freedom. He wants to release us from the bondage. He wants us to walk out of that prison cell into freedom. He wants us to truly be a new creation and not just pay lip service to that notion. He wants us to genuinely turn these things over to him.

So much easier said than done, but worth fighting for!

I know that I personally find it hard to find that perfect balance in life when it comes to processing the things that have happened, considering why I am wired the way I am, and digging into these issues to understand myself better; and letting certain things go so that I can really embrace that the old is has gone and the new is here.

I think there is a healthy balance that can be struck.

I wish over the last nine years our sock box had a one-week limit. Throw it in the box temporarily and if the missing sock turns up over the next week as we do the rest of the laundry, great! If not, throw it out. Don’t be a slave to the thought that, “Maybe one day, the partner will return!”

I think the same general principle applies to giving things over to Christ. I believe it is critical to really process events that have happened in our lives, ask God to show us what lies we believe because of these events, what negative thought patterns arose because of them, and what habits we have formed as a result that keep us from living full lives with him. However, there are times where I think I have processed these things to death and it is just time to give it over to God and let it go.

It is time to throw out the socks. It is time to believe Jesus and trust that we really are capable of being a new creation. We don’t need to remain in bondage. We don’t need to fall into the same old habit pattern. There is freedom. The prison cell door is standing wide open. We really do have the ability to just walk out at any time if we choose to fully submit to him.

Again, easier said than done. However, I believe that one of the weapons of the enemy is telling you to hoard the socks. “Don’t let go of that event just yet. Don’t fully forgive that person for what they did. Don’t fully release yourself from the guilt and shame you feel over that decision you made and trust that the blood of Christ is enough to cover it. Plus, do you really believe you are a new creation? Save the socks. There might be a day where the other one shows up. Just tuck them away where you won’t see them all of the time.”

Unfortunately, when we refuse to turn things over to God, every time we lose another sock, we once again find ourselves confronting the entire box all over again. Every negative emotion, self destructive pattern, forgiveness we have been refusing to give, guilt, shame, frustration, anxiety, etc. comes flooding back immediately. They were just sitting there waiting in the closet waiting to remind us that, “we really aren’t a new creation”. They are sitting there telling us that we will never be enough.

Throw out the socks.

Jesus paid it all and freedom is waiting there.

If you have one more load of laundry to do in your life and you really need to dig into some issues that you have refused to deal with for the longest time, do the load. Don’t be afraid of what might come out of it. Get with a trusted friend, a counselor, a pastor, etc. and dig in. Let’s find whatever matches we can so that healing can take place and we can accept the free gift that Christ has given to us.

Then throw it away. Stop letting whatever it is control your life. You really are a new creation! Freedom has been waiting there all along. We just need to stop believing the lies that we still have a little more to fix in our lives before we can fully experience it.

Thought to ponder

What socks have I been hoarding? What laundry is there to still do in my life so that I can find some matches and then let it go?

The God of all comfort

Daily Readings: Deuteronomy 19-20, 2 Corinthians 1

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.

2 Corinthians 1:3-11

There is so much power in these 9 verses.

When we read Paul’s encouraging words to the church at Corinth, who were clearly going through some hardships at the time, the first thing that pops out to me is how powerful our stories are for encouraging others. There are few things that can give someone more strength in their current battle than a brother or sister in Christ coming alongside them and saying, “I have walked this same path you are on.”

There is power in our story.

However, something struck me towards the end of the passage this morning in a different light.

For a lot of us it takes years or even decades to get to a point where we are able to come to terms with the challenges that have occurred in our lives. Some of these are things that happened to us, and some are self-inflicted challenges. Once we are willing to share these experiences with others, we have a huge opportunity to comfort and assist people facing the same life challenges. We can relate!

This is not what struck me this morning.

Towards the end Paul says, “He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.”

Paul was not just speaking to them about the time he was imprisoned 10 years ago and telling them to hang in there because it eventually gets better. He wasn’t saying, “Listen, in a different life, I struggled with that too. I can relate!” Paul was saying that this is an ongoing battle. We are still facing the exact same challenges that you are facing today, and we will most likely continue to face them. We have full expectation that God will continue to be faithful and the fact that we are still in the midst of our struggle will be a testimony to God’s unfailing love and others can then see the manifestation of the power of their prayers as they lift us up in our battle!

Wow.

This changes the game. I know for me personally, no matter what I am struggling with during any season life, it is always helpful to have people in my life that can relate and say, “I went through that also. Here is how God helped me deal with it.”

It is even more powerful when someone is able to say, “I am right there in that battle with you…still. Today. This is a fight I am currently fighting and God is going to continue to deliver us. On him we can set our hope, together.”

There is serious power in battle partners that you go to war with against an enemy who is cunning and knows exactly how to attack each and every one of us.

Just because your battle may be lessened from where it was at it’s peak, there is still serious power in your willingness to be open about it. You don’t have to still be stuck in, what seemed like, a bottomless pit of shame and self-defeat. Friends of yours that are still early on in their particular battle are able to take extreme comfort knowing that they are not alone.

We have all struggled with any number of things, anger, jealousy, alcoholism, pornography, gluttony, pride, drug addiction, adultery, lying, or coveting; and we are still tempted in some form or fashion every day. Being able to tell a brother or sister in Christ about your still present struggles instead of talking about them in an academic, past tense way, gives so much more comfort.

That doesn’t mean you have to be losing the battle to be of comfort to another. It just means that there is power in admitting a battle still rages. When people see us as perfect, having it all together, never struggling with anything, and having conquered all of our past demons; it sets a false standard that no one can live up to and creates hopelessness. None of us can achieve perfection, which is why Christ had to come in the first place.

What do you struggle with? It doesn’t mean that you need to have lost that fight recently. Maybe you have been abiding firmly in Christ, and when those temptations have come recently, you have reminded yourself of your true identity and allowed God to strengthen you. That is fantastic!

But it doesn’t mean the temptation isn’t still there.

Maybe you are still in the midst of a battle that you have been losing more times than not in recent weeks and months. God loves you like crazy exactly where you are. He is a God of comfort and a God of compassion. He wants to rescue you each and every day if you will allow him.

As Paul wrote today, God not only desires to rescue us, but he also wants to use our past, present, and future struggles to comfort and encourage others. He wants to show others, through our unending faith in God’s rescue, the hope that exists in him.

So share your story. Not just of the past and God’s powerful redemptive work, but also be open with the present battles you are fighting today.

Our God is “the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 

Let him use you, along with your troubles, to be a source of comfort to others this week!

Thought to ponder

What are my current struggles? Am I willing to lay them out there for others so that they can comfort me and so that I can be a source of encouragement for others who then realize they are not alone as well?

Tacking on verse 25

Daily Readings – Leviticus 1-4, Psalm 31, Romans 7

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.

Romans 7:15 

I believe this simple verse is one that every Christian can relate to in a powerful way! There is an intense desire that exists within most Christians to be perfect. When we fall short, shame and self-condemnation comes flooding in.

Why can’t I kick my drug problem? Why do I still get so angry all the time with people I love? Why can’t I seem to avoid gossiping? Why am I so consumed with materialism? Why can’t I get my pride under control? When will I be free of my porn addiction? When will I stop over-eating? When will I be free of my jealousy? When will I stop caring so much about what other people think about me?

I think we all frequently feel like Paul when he cried out, “For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am!”

Unfortunately, most Christians stop our train of thought there. I know I did for the vast majority of my life. I would be doing well for a while in regards to some sin issue in my life, eventually my flesh would wage war against my mind the way Paul described, I would give in to sin once again, and I would be left thinking, “What a wretched man am I!”

I would sincerely pray to God, “Lord, this is the last time! I am done with _______. I want to live for you! I won’t do it again!”

The cycle continued.

Good for a while, sin again, hate myself, confess…good for a while, sin again, hate myself, confess…

Why wasn’t I strong enough? Why couldn’t I get it all together? What was wrong with me?

For so long I wanted to win the war against sin. I wanted to wage that war that Paul described and emerge victorious. If I could somehow put the right systems in place, have the right accountability, form the right habits, read the right books, do all the right things; surely I could conquer this. Surely my spirit could conquer my flesh!

I don’t think I am alone in this approach.

The problem for most Christians is that we never get to verse 25. We never get to the part of this cycle where Paul rejoices and declares, “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

We stop at, “What a wretched man am I!”

Shame is a powerful tool in the hands of the enemy. Satan wants nothing more than you attempting to do it alone. He would love an army of Christians who are looking for the right tactic to conquer the sin in their lives. He rejoices when he sees us broken and defeated, promising God, “This will be the last time…”

Satan trembles when God’s people instead choose to give thanks immediately in these moments. He wants no part of Christians who, immediately after falling short again, have a spirit of profound thankfulness overcome them. He is terrified of us collectively living out of our new identity in Christ and giving immediate thanks to our God who chose to deliver us while we were still broken.

Too many Christians allow sin issues in their lives to keep them on the sidelines. Too many tell themselves, “God could never use me. I need to get my stuff together first.” Too many of us do not walk through our day expecting blessings from God and asking the Holy Spirit to abide in us throughout the entire day because we do not yet feel worthy. Paul did the opposite.

Here was the greatest evangelist of all time and yet, today, we see him struggling with the same challenge we deal with. Why do I keep falling short?

The beautiful difference comes when we tack on verse 25 and choose thankfulness over shame. The beautiful difference comes when we embrace that fundamental truth that Paul understood. We are still human. We will always fall short from time to time. We can never be perfect in our own strength. The war will always rage on.

Today, when you feel those moments coming and you are tempted in some way or another, choose thankfulness. Smile quietly to yourself and acknowledge that the battle is already won. In these moments of temptation in the past, when I have chosen, “I am so sorry Lord…” it is usually followed by me trying to win the battle in my own strength and  eventually falling short. When, in these moments of temptation, I choose to smile and think of the sacrifice made on my behalf and whisper, “Thank you Jesus.” it is far easier to turn away and win that individual battle.

Jesus came in the first place because we are incapable of winning the war on our own. Today, instead of this being a source of shame, make it a source of overwhelming joy and thankfulness! Today, tack on verse 25.

Thought to ponder

What is the most prominent area of sin in my life where I have tried for too long to wage war in my own strength? Am I willing to give that over to God today and give thanks that he has already delivered me?

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