By Wendy Gustafson
I got Amazon cards for Christmas. Although there are about a million things you can buy at Amazon with a gift card, I usually turn my Amazon cards into books. There are a lot of books to choose from at Amazon, but once the choice is made and I've settled on the precise title, there is one more decision to make: new vs. used.
Lots of people think new is better. You get to be the first to open the clean new cover, turn the pages, place the bookmark. There is something bright and shiny about a new book. Used is cheaper but may come with a beat-up cover and pages with turned down corners. You might learn something from someone else's notes in the margins, borrowed thoughts from a stranger. It is up to you to decide which is better: new vs. used.
When I was a new Christian, everything was about me and Jesus getting to know each other. Everything good was possible and seemed within reach. My heart glowed in the sunshine. I was close to Jesus, close to the Light. I wanted everyone to feel what I felt. It was: "You can look at me and be changed by Jesus." I carried Him with me everywhere and bubbled with the Spirit. Life was like opening a clean new book cover.
And then, in the nitty-grittiness of life, the shine began to wear off and it was getting hard to carry the euphoria into the next day. All those niggling little things about everyday life began to crowd out that newness. I began to think I had lost the glow, the spark, the prize—the essence of that magic moment when I first knew Jesus.
Being a new Christian is a wonderful thing. It is a starting place, or sometimes a re-starting place, for the rest of your life. It is to be cherished and nurtured, but soon it becomes a time for a new thought: the new understanding that this whole business of being a Christian is not so much about making you new as it is about making you used.
I, as the new Christian, become a used Christian when I present myself to the Lord Jesus, just as I am, ready, willing, and prepared to be enabled, and say, "Use me." Oddly, it is the bad things in my life that are preparing me to be a Christian used by God to bring others to the love of Christ.
I found that without my trying and failing to fix it myself—without those troubled times that brought on the realization that God would help me—without my experiencing those things within my own soul and body, I am not useful as a Christ carrier. I need to hurt sometimes so that I can identify hurting in others, and help where I can. Sometimes it is a tiny little thing I can do for them—speak a greeting, hold a door, text that I am thinking of them, send a card, call, listen, receive their gift to me with grace and thanksgiving, pray.
It is in these tiny obediencies that God’s work gets done, a soul is rescued; a new life is tended to and thrives.
Sometimes, in the grace of the Holy Spirit, I become aware of the outcome of my having been used. Knowing that outcome gives me so much joy, and tightens my connection with Jesus. The wonder of it strengthens my faith and sharpens my eye to be prepared for, and to be looking for, my next opportunity to be used.
While I’m busy looking for those chances to be used by God, I lack the brain space to worry about all the things in my world and my life that seem to be going badly out of control. I become shortsighted. I see what is close to me in my circle of influence. I see the right here and the right now, I see how a little act on my part will enable a big change in me and the ones God touches because I let Him use me.
At the end of the day, I can look back and say, “Boy, I got used"—and match my thanksgivings to that.