As a newlywed, I decorated my first Christmas with a hand-me-down tree and ornaments. While I was excited to decorate my own little place for the first time, I have to admit I had dreams of color coordinated bulbs with clear lights and beautiful ribbon to accent it all. You know, like something you would see in a magazine. But our budget matched the hand-me-downs, so that is what we went with. Over time we expanded our collection by shopping after Christmas clearance sales. However, at the same time we were expanding our decoration collection, we were expanding our family. Along with that came precious homemade ornaments and ornaments like glittery shoes, IA Hawkeye helmets, and an assortment of Disney characters. Long story short, my tree has never been that perfectly coordinated creation I dreamed of that first year of marriage. It is a mixture of those hand-me-down ornaments with sentimental value, some coordinating new bulbs, and an ever growing number of homemade and kid-themed ornaments. Now when I look at my tree, I cannot imagine it any other way than the beautiful assortment that it is.
I was reminded this Christmas season that I am so grateful that God’s expectation is not perfection and focused on outer appearances; instead He sees our hearts. Just as I have come to cherish those old hand-me-down ornaments that might have a little crack here or there, so God cherishes each of His children, embracing them imperfections and all. In fact, Romans 8:28 promises He will use all things for good. Sometimes our imperfections and struggles can feel like setbacks, but God can use them to spur on others or use us to teach them from our experiences. 2 Corinthians 4 talks about us being jars of clay, to show the world God’s glory as He works through us in ways we are not capable of all on our own.
God binds up the broken hearted, proclaims freedom for the captives, releases prisoners from darkness, comforts those who mourn, trades a crown of beauty for ashes and joy in place of mourning, He gives a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. He can do more than we could ever ask or imagine. We do not have to wait for perfection in order to be used by God or to see Him working. He can use us and loves us right now, just the way we are. And He extends that same love and grace to each patient who walks through our doors.
We see and hear about a lot of pain and brokenness here at the clinic. More than just health concerns come up during an appointment time. Whether it is childhood abuse, domestic violence, homelessness, unemployment, financial struggles, addiction or any number of other concerns, God sees each person who walks through our doors. He loves them enough to have sent His son to be born in a stable so one day He could pay the price of our sins on the cross. He loves us each that much, to have made and carried out a plan of salvation.
So in the midst of the business of the Christmas season, take a minute to reflect on the true reason we celebrate. My tree might not be magazine-worthy in looks, but the Son of God started His life in a barn. When God looks at us, He sees us through Father’s eyes-seeing past the external into our hearts and giving us hope for what is yet to come. My prayer for 2020 is that each patient who walks through our doors feels the love of God here in this place and finds hope in Jesus Christ and hope for his/her future.