This week, we taught our little two-year-olds about King Nebuchadnezzar. Well, we left out some parts. Such as him eating grass like an ox and growing claws like eagles. That seemed a bit much for the two’s. But Skillet got the full story and his absolute favorite part was the eating grass.
I got paper crowns from the Dollar Store for the story and then promptly forgot them during class. I’d hidden them so little hands wouldn’t find them but I kinda hid them from myself too. Which makes me feel strangely old. Anyway, I gave them to Saffron and Skillet to make during the afternoon. Skillet taught Saffron about King Nebuchadnezzar, emphasis on the grass eating, while I cooked. They colored crowns and talked about how God’s love never changes.
Some days, I could just eat them up with a spoon.
As I was thinking about King Nebuchadnezzar (whom shall heretofore be King Neb), I thought about the king he was before he fell in love with God. He stood there on top of the roof of his amazing palace, looking around Babylon, and praising the works of his own hands, “by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty.”
And God looked at him and said NOPE.
He’d reached His maximum capacity of Neb stroking his own ego.
God sent him away. Away from people, from his throne, away from eating at a table like a human to the wilderness. King Neb got sent to the wilderness (which I’m imagining was forest-like) for seven years to think about just who’s mighty power built Babylon and for whose glory and majesty it stood.
And after King Neb learned his lesson, got his facts straight, decided to repent and recognize God as the Most High, God returned King Neb to his throne and he “became even greater than before.”
A King before God. An even greater King after God.
The Spiritual Infomercial for Before and After…
Maybe I’m the only one, I mean, it’s highly likely this is just me, but I think of following Jesus and dying to self and being a new creation, I tend to think in terms of a total transformation.
Like one of those infomercials with the before picture on the left and the after on the right.
(SPOILER ALERT: a spray tan, contouring makeup and STANDING UP STRAIGHT work miracles for those mostly phony before and after pictures.)
(Also, my Grandmother would want me to tell you sucking in your stomach does wonders, too.)
Our new life in Christ is a transformation. Completely. Hopeless to hopeful. Purposeless to purposeful. Death to life.
But are there things we take with us from the before to the after?
King Neb had some leadership skills, learning how to rule people and build a kingdom that would last generations. He took all that with him after God called him to Himself and, as God’s servant, became even better at the same exact job. The purpose changed, the person King Neb thanked every day certainly changed, and I am positive the people around him noticed a difference but, y’all, he was a king before and a king after.
God didn’t send him away forever. He didn’t banish him to live in a hut in Africa. He brought him through a really hard, eye-opening valley of complete repentance and transformation and returned him to the exact spot he’d taken him from seven years before.
Saul took his zealousness and his training and his study habits through to his new life. As a respected religious leader, a Pharisee, Saul worshiped the law and strict adherence to an impossible standard. He was feared by those who knew the freedom from those laws he loved and he pursued them relentlessly. Before Jesus called him but on the other side of that Damascus road, Saul was a diligent student, a passionate follower and a person others wanted to be suppressed.
And then Jesus called him on the road to Damascus, and unlike King Neb, his conversion lasts minutes. He needed a few days rest, a baptism, and a meeting with a previously persecuted Ananias for scale removal (how weird does that sound?) and then he was on his way. He met with the disciples and then Paul returned as a religious leader, highly esteemed and feared by those opposed to his cause.
God used the skills and talents He gave to these men for His glory.
Both the Before and After, Together…
When Saul met Jesus, when Ananias blessed him, when the scales fell from his eyes, Paul got up, got himself baptized, ate, rested and then spent several days with the disciples. Then? Oh, then IMMEDIATELY began preaching about Jesus. Immediately.
King Neb says, “At the SAME TIME that my sanity was restored, my honor and splendor were returned to me…” At the same time, y’all. Once he accepted God, once he acknowledged him as the Most High, as the creator of all and the author of all authority, King Neb’s reputation and his position were given back to him.
As zealous and passionate Saul had been in persecuting Jesus followers, Paul was even more so in his mission of preaching others about Jesus. As wonderful and successful as King Neb was as the Babylonian king, he was even more so once he saw his position as the chance to “praise and exalt and glorify the King of Heaven.”
But do we believe the same is true for us? Do we believe we can be CEO’s and PTA presidents and non-profit entrepreneurs and jewelry designers and marketing specialists and personal trainers and politicians and nurses and accountants and lobbyists and engineers and interior decorators and still be working for the glory of God? We are people who do and do well. Living lives right out there in the open. Big lives doing big things.
We know God calls us to that, right? We realize God’s word tells us that whatever we do should be done for God’s glory and not for the attention of humans but we’re not entirely sure we can do that when what we are really talented at being is a speaker? Or a singer? Or a writer?
Or working for God’s praise is fairly easy because He’s the only one who sees us anyway, right? We are single mothers working two jobs just to stay afloat. We are an entry-level position at a big corporation no one even realizes is there. We are maids and waitresses and grad school students living off coffee and Taco Bell. We are high school drama club members, we are the third clarinet in the marching band, we are infertile women whose arms ache with the emptiness. We are introverts in an extroverted church culture. We are small and unseen.
Or maybe we’ve got hobbies and passions we think are not holy at all? Like being pop culture experts or running half marathons or doing YouTube makeup tutorials or traveling all over the world or, maybe like me, shopping?
Friends, what if we stopped believing the lie that who we are is too much for God? Too much for holy work. Stopped thinking God doesn’t see us at all and instead, we believed He is as the scriptures say, The God Who Sees Me? Put an end to believing the things we love, the things we are good at, the things we feel might be frivolous are not valuable to the Kingdom?
What if we just stopped believing God made a mistake with who we are?
And we stopped trying to hide that thing. Stopped trying to suppress it. Stopped trying to somehow change a part of who we are because we were told somewhere somehow it is NOT HOLY.
Instead, what if we offered those exact things to God and asked, how do You want to use this, Lord?
What if we believed we just might be a King Neb or a Saul who can have a life-changing, eternity-altering, literal come to Jesus meeting with our Father Creator and on the other side, in the after, we get to do those exact things we loved doing before? Only now, after meeting God, now we are working for Him, seeking to share the Gospel, believing we were created just as we are to take the Light of Christ to the people right next to us?
Then and Now, a Shopper…
I think about my sweet friend, all those years ago, unable to think of anything to say about my identity other than I shopped, and I feel God tap me on my shoulder.
(clears throat) “Robin, shopping?”
And I picture my sensory-sensitive miracle daughter on a date with her daddy. Wearing her thrift store dress, which I know is softer than brand new, a little more stretched out to give her that extra space from her skin and her dress. I know the exact brand of dress to buy and I do every time I see it.
I look at the top of my closet and see the box where I have Saffron’s Christmas present hidden. She asked for something super expensive, no way we could afford it brand new, so I started searching for a second-hand one several weeks ago because I know, specific requests take time to find. But I found it! For less than a quarter of the price if we were to purchase new.
Soft, second-hand dresses, barely used toys for next to nothing, meal planning for tight grocery spending, protecting our extra to gratefully give…all shopping. All of that takes an enormous amount of time. Time I never had when I was working and scrolling the roller ball of my Blackberry. Instead, all those years of shopping, copious spending trying to fill a hole in my soul only God could fill, all part of a plan.
God took something in me, something He placed purposefully in me, a genuine enjoyment of something most would consider incredibly frivolous and has enabled our family to live abundantly and generously on a super tight budget. It has kept my daughter’s sensory issues as under control as heavenly possible. It has kept Santa presents, specific Santa presents at that, next to the fireplace every year.
My silly, over-indulgent, pain-shielding hobby before Jesus called me in my closet. Now my necessary, sensory-vital, grateful generous living enabling skill my family relies on.
And friends, if God can do that with SHOPPING?
Just imagine what He’s waiting to do with your gift. With that part of who you are you are keeping from Him because it’s not good enough.
Give it to Him.
Your grateful offering to the Creator who knit you together wonderfully and intentionally.
Then put on your own crown, daughter of the King of Kings, and Watch.God.Work.