Saturday of Week 33 in Ordinary Time
1 Mac 6:1-13
…things had not turned out for him as he had planned
Do things ever really turn out exactly as we planned? This week, all our first readings are from Maccabees (the two books in the Holy Bible right before Job). The story of a faithful group, then a remnant of that group, of God’s people who persevered and left an unforgettable legacy.
In researching, I learned the history of the Maccabees and their inspiring revolt. This Maccabean victory (167-164 BC) is the origin of Hanukkah (2Mac 10:1-8). In 167 BC, the Greek oppression of the Jews became an extremely difficult time to practice their faith and many Jews began to accept and incorporate many Greek ways, including circumcision. They were walking the fine line of being a private Jew and a public Greek. Trying to fit in with the law, the culture and public lifestyle of the Greeks, and little by little losing their identity, and even their religion. The fullness of their faith, of God, moving out of the center of their life. As we talked yesterday, one degree at a time (We’ve all heard the antidote that if you put a frog in a pot of boiling water he will jump out, but if you put him in a pot of lukewarm water and slowly increase the heat, he will be boiled to death without knowing it). The Holy Land is being taken over and desecrated by those who do not know nor love God. It’s a matter of life or death, and many choose to go with the flow, stay quiet and try to fit in. Fear of prison, torment, torture and death hangs in the air. Yet a small, zealous for God, Maccabean group, faces this fear and will not bow to anyone…anything. Other than the God of Abraham, the God of Moses. They are willing to fight to the death, and they are victorious over insurmountable odds in recovering their land and Temple in 164 BC. For nearly 100 years, the Jews were once again an independent kingdom. Then in 63BC, the Holy Land and their very lives are interrupted again at the hand of the Romans. They are persecuted, and their national and religious identity is being eliminated. And this goes on until the coming of Christ.
This story of God’s people sacrificing for Him, and then sacrificing Him for themselves is never ending, is it? It’s the same over and over and over again. We look to God for all things. We listen to God and trust in His timing, His plan, even when it means we have to personally sacrifice. We walk with God. Life gets better. Life gets very good. We don’t seem to ‘need’ to rely on God quite as much and then we make our own plans, good, honest Godly plans. We ask for His blessing on our plans – even though we didn’t FIRST listen to HIS plan for us. Our plan is made and we wait on God to step in, but He seems to be slow on bringing our plans to fruition, so we do it (whatever it is) for Him. We walk a little off track from God’s way, but it’s necessary to bring our plans to fruition, they are plans God would support. After all, why continue to wait when we can make it happen on our own. And thus begins our slow stepping way from God. We walk away from God — sometimes so far we don’t even know who we are anymore. I know that sounds drastic, but it is the truth, isn’t it?
I spent over 25 years of my 32-year career seriously working toward a level of leadership that I was ‘perfect’ for. Everyone said so, and I wanted it – being in the top 1% was good, but I wanted to be in the top 20% of the Top 1%. I worked toward it week in and week out. Dreamed about it. It was the goal – it was THE PLAN. The perfect plan — God had gifted me with so much that was needed for this level — this position. About 5 years ago, I began realising that I was further from this goal than I had been 10 years ago. I didn’t understand. I was confused. I talked to everyone I could about my plan, the gifts I had that were perfect for this position. I prayed and prayed. I finally got quiet enough to hear God say, ‘stop listening to so many voices, just listen to Me.’ So I began investing daily in a longer and deeper quiet time with God. I learned so much, felt closer to God than ever before, and finally, after about three years of learning to let go of (false) control, I prayed that He would show me what He wanted for my life, instead of me telling Him the perfect plan. I prayed a simple prayer, “Lord, if this plan for my life has simply been my plan, and not Yours, I beg you to take the desire from me.” I finally asked God what His plan was. The next morning when I woke and started my quiet time, reading the bible and journaling, I realised the decades long dream was non-existent – and I felt a lightness that I couldn’t explain.
Next Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent, the beginning of the Christmas season; and for those of us in America, the Christmas – to be politically correct – the Winter Holiday Season – is big – even in the time of COVID, it can be all-consuming. Truly the ‘go big or go home‘ season that must be planned out to get it all in and get it all done. After this week’s readings, I know it is time for me to let go of any and all of my plans and sit quietly, morning after morning, so that I can hear the plan God has for me in this season of my life.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Gina Ulicny)
Prayer: Father God, we come to you with joy, knowing that your plan is the only plan that matters; that the path you have for us is the path that will bring us the most joy we can experience – even when it includes darkness and despair, detours and seeming dead-ends, hardship and sacrifice. We know that we are never alone, and we are walking a path far less treacherous and painful than the one Jesus Christ walked.
Thanksgiving: Father God, we thank you for the people and experiences You place on our path to support us, to help us, to care for us and to listen and love us as we journey to our heavenly home with You.