LAUREN LEAKEY

 
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Describe your experiences with giving and receiving gifts?

When I think back to gifts that I’ve given and received, I think of Christmas time. There were always gifts upon gifts under our tree, and if there was something I really wanted, my dad would always find a way to give it to me. Really, at any time of the year my dad was always finding a way to give me something—anything at all—and I didn’t have to earn it. When I was a little girl, sweet and well-behaved, he gave to me. When I was a rebel teenager, defiant in every way, he continued to give things to me with the same smile and the same heart. His gifts, both the tangible and intangible ones, were always free of charge.

Salvation was a gift of a different sort, however, and I often struggled to believe that it could actually be given to someone like me. I kept trying to find ways to put this gift back into God’s hands. Somehow, I took a look at it and thought, “This is the greatest gift, but it doesn’t quite fit me.” It felt like it belonged to someone else. Or if it did belong to me, maybe it was meant for a future version of myself— the person I hoped to be? I thought, “Thank you Lord, but maybe I can accept salvation later, when I get my act together.” 

Even though I didn’t think I wanted it at the time, I was in desperate need of it—of God’s forgiveness and hope and faith and love. So I took the gift back and wrote God an 'IOU,' thanking Him and promising that I would pay Him back. I tried and tried and ultimately wore myself out on religion. But I began to realize that it was simply impossible to repay something with such an immeasurable cost and that there was nothing I could do to make me feel worthy of it. This feeling pointed me to the cross, where I found that the very price I was trying to pay on my own was already paid, in full, by Jesus Christ.

As gift-givers and receivers, we know that there are two great offenses when it comes to giving to others: when the receiver refuses to accept your gift and when they try to pay you back for it. There is no greater delight than giving someone a gift and watching them enjoy it fully, and it suffocates the heart of the giver when the gift is not received as freely as it was given.

You know how a parent sits back and smiles while watching a child tear open a present, rejoice with joy at it, and enjoy it day and night? Think of how painful it would be to the parent if the child were to set the gift aside, allowing it to collect dust in a corner somewhere while he put himself to work to try to pay his parent back. As a child of God, I try to keep this in mind each day. I wake up and tear open the gift of His love with excitement, and I feel His wide-eyed smile in my heart. He simply loves that. 

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What are the tangible qualities you see come forth from your hope in Christ?

Two of the promises that God makes to us in his word immediately come to mind. The first is that in this life, it is certain that I will face trials. The second is that God will surely be with me until the very end of the age. It’s hard to imagine that there could possibly be greater hurt awaiting me in my future than what I have already experienced in my past, but God’s word shows me that the promise of trials is just as real as the promise of victory. In spite of that, I rest assured knowing that the Creator of all things is with me inescapably for all of my days to come. I don’t have to run from the reality of difficult times. I don’t have to place my hope in positive thinking because even though the bad times are verily written in the description of life, so is the promise that God will be with me every step of the way. 

There is a staying, persevering, fighting power in my soul that is completely fueled by my hope in Christ. Fear and denial do not grip me. I am gripped by the promises of God that are as present and real as the ground that I walk on. These promises wrap me tight and continually seal the holes in my faith. 

How is having hope in Christ different from having your hope in other things?

Hope in Christ is different from hope in other things, because Christ is different from other things — He is completely perfect, and other things are not. 

My own imperfections have often prevented me from being able to make good on the promises that I have made to myself and to others, and in turn, when I’ve put my hope in other things and other people, I have come to see that it was just willful deception. I was pretending that I could walk confidently across a bridge with holes in it.

Imperfection is unpredictable, and putting our hope in imperfect things only leads us to disappointment. We often find ourselves needing more hope to make up for the flaws of what we put our hope into in the first place.

Because I’m so aware of how flawed everything except for Christ is, I can’t actually have true hope in anything else but Christ. Hope in Christ is the anchor for my soul. It gives a resting place for my heart, instead of exhausting it with worry and uncertainty.

How does hope in Christ give you a confident expectation at a time where we are seemingly surrounded by darkness in the world?

When I hope in Christ it means that I also hope in His word. All the darkness around us is foreseen in God’s word, so I am not surprised by it nor am I gripped by it. The promise of evil and darkness roaming this earth is just as real as the promise of God’s love and protection. I have to be careful not to magnify the realities that scare me, and instead I choose to embrace the realities that provide peace in my soul.

The fact that people are hurting, hungry and persecuted across the world makes me so upset and angry. It breaks my heart and makes me cry, and I wish that there was something I could do to save the world. But out of the depths of these dark times, I am always reminded that the world already has a Savior who has every life intently in His hands. It’s such a relief to have hope in Christ and to know that he has the power and the willingness to do what I can’t. 

It really doesn’t matter what happens because I know that I am in the safety of Christ, who will never leave me. Even when it looks like I am completely surrounded by darkness, I won’t allow myself be fooled. The truth is that darkness is also surrounded; it’s surrounded by an infinitely more powerful Light. 

What are the ways that you share that Hope you have in Christ with others?

One way I try to share the hope that I have in Christ with others is through vulnerability and opening up about my story. I try to be transparent about the things I’ve been through in my past as well as the things I am going through in my present. This lets people know that if I can have hope in Christ, so can they! If there is hope for me, then there is hope for anyone. The other way that I do this is simply through outward expression. Even though I have tons of insecurities, I try to lead worship confidently and fearlessly, keeping at the forefront of my mind the hope I have in Christ, and reminding myself of all the amazing ways that he has come through for me every time. God lets us take part in each other’s faith journeys. I am always inspired by the hope in Christ that I see in others, and I hope that others are inspired by mine. I share my hope in Christ by making him the solution to all my problems— unashamedly pursuing Him and talking about Him no matter who is watching or listening. Hope is such a sweet gift. It means that my circumstances do not rule my spirit. It means that no matter how bleak it looks, I can know there is still much ahead for me.