Revelation 18:4: "Then I heard another voice out of heaven say: 'My people, come out of her! so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not be infected by her plagues...'"
You never realize how much a part of the world you really are until you try to come out of it.
I've learned so much about God and the Bible over the last year, and it's been an emotional journey to this point. On one hand, I've never felt closer to God than I do at this very moment. On the other, my heart is grieving over things that I feel it necessary to leave behind. Little-by-little, He is convicting me about letting go of traditions that I've loved my entire life. But, I can sense that in doing so, the blessings will far exceed any joy these traditions ever brought. It's just that "getting over the hump" is the hard part.
It all started with Halloween. It was always one of my absolute favorite times of the year. I recall asking my mom once, "do you think it's wrong for me to love Halloween so much?" It may be that was the true beginning of God's convicting of me about the holiday. When it came right down to it, though, giving up Halloween wasn't all that difficult, I guess because I've had a few years to get used to the idea, and because deep down I always knew that it glorifies all that God opposes.
Last year was the first year that I didn't pull out all my jack-o-lanterns and witches to decorate our home. While that doesn't seem like any big thing, around here, it was pretty noticeable. We moved into our house in 2003, and since then, for nine consecutive years, we threw a huge Halloween party for our kids' friends and our family, complete with campfire and hayride. It was something everyone looked forward to each year and it was always a lot of fun.
Then, the Lord began to convict me about it after probably the biggest party of them all when our church's youth group came. There had to be 20-30 kids that year, piled into the church van, and whisked off to our house to partake in the celebration of death and evil. Well, we never looked at it that way, but I can't deny that the decorations and costumes were all unmistakably Halloween-inspired.
We may have had one or two more parties after that year, but God really started showing me the err of my ways. We now only use fall decorations, and, while we may still get together with our family around this time of the year, it's very understated, and there are no costumes, jack-o-lanterns, witches, ghosts, or goblins in sight.
For the last year, some other convictions have been laid upon my heart. One regarding Easter, another, Christmas, and yet another, Sunday.
For Easter this year, we didn't do baskets for the kids - first time ever! It was actually a little freeing because I've never been a big proponent of the Easter bunny and Easter egg hunts. I went along with it because that's just what our family did. When I learned the origins of all that stuff, though, I was ready to say, "no more." We had Easter dinner with our extended family, but in our home, we held our first Passover Seder. It was a lovely experience, and one that I plan to continue in years to come. So much more meaningful than dying Easter eggs...and it was a great learning experience for my kids.
Christmas and Sundays are next, I suppose, and undoubtedly the most difficult. I'm waiting for God to lead me to the next level where these are concerned, but I have to admit, lately, my heart has already been aching for the traditions I've loved all my life surrounding Christmas. One minute, I feel excited at the prospect of learning and living out God's will, all ready for the big change. The next minute, I'm grief stricken at the loss of the beauty, warmth, and joy that Christmas has always brought to our family. Add to that the reluctance of my family to be as enthusiastic about a change as I am, and the fact that our extended family doesn't understand in the least what's going on with me. I'm sure some of them think I've gone off the deep end, joined a cult, or a combination of the two. That notion couldn't be farther from the truth.
Makes me wonder if that's what Jesus was talking about when he said: "Whoever loves his father or mother more than he loves me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than he loves me is not worthy of me. And anyone who does not take up his execution-stake and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his own life will lose it, but the person who loses his life for my sake will find it. Matthew 10:37-39.
I'll say it again in another way...you don't realize how much the ways of the world are ingrained in you until you try to live out what the Bible says as opposed to what the world has taught you to do, however well-meaning. Most people don't want to give up what's comfortable and familiar, especially when it's the widely accepted norm of the Christian culture. Is this what was meant by the words, "my people, come out of her"? I can't help but wonder.