Toward Wholeness Blog

Appropriation: What it means, how it works, why it matters:

Can't stop thinking? You need...appropriation


Have you ever woken in the middle of the night with your head swirling around ideas, obligations, unresolved questions, to-do lists, the previous day’s failures, possible opportunities, possible meltdowns, etc. etc?  Me too.  It happened last night around 1am, four hours into my sleep (yes–I go to bed early, with the elderly).  Suddenly I’m wide awake, and the soothing rains of the early evening are now howling storms–a metaphor for the way the winds of worry can also roar through my mind ad rattle around, seemingly endlessly.

The whole scene, though, lasted less than 15 minutes, and the secret resided not in some sort of drug, but in the not much used word: appropriation.  Here’s what you need to know:

Meaning and Origin:  1325–75; Middle English  (< Middle French ) < Late Latin  appropriātiōn- means: the act of setting apart or taking for one’s own use (stem of appropriātiō ).

It simply means that when I appropriate I’m using something as my own, taking it for my own purposes.

Application to your life:  We who are in Christ have been “blessed with every spiritual blessing” and given “all things pertaining to life and godliness.”  This means all the resources I need in order to live life well are available to me in Christ.  We are, in other words, sitting on a gold mine resources, elsewhere described as the very presence of the resurrected Jesus, dwelling in union with us.  Christ’s strength, love, mercy, wisdom, patience, hope, joy, peace–they’re all available to us because Christ resides in us.  However, we need to learn how to release these qualities so that they actually control our lives.

This is where appropriation comes in: My sleeplessness was rooted in the sense that there just aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything that I need to do.  What’s more, I’m not even sure what activities to do, and which ones to reject.  Both opportunities and obligations have been multiplying this spring, and I’ve not dealt with it well at all.  I’ve been complaining, weary, and anxious–too often.  It all came to the forefront of my brain last night, shaking me awake.

I lie awake and after a few minutes, realize that I’m awake because I’m feeling that I don’t have the strength to fulfill my obligations, nor the wisdom to sort them out.  “Ah-ha!” I say to myself, “you don’t have the wisdom or strength, but Christ does.”  Then I begin to pray a little prayer of thanksgiving, a trick I learned from Amy Carmichael, the famous missionary to India who also felt weak and foolish sometimes.  She said that we need to develop habits of appropriating Christ’s character right at our point of need.  Thus is she felt overwhelmed with sorry, she’d simply pray:  “Your joy O Lord – thank you” believe that to call upon Christ in such way would have the effect of releasing Christ’s power.  She said that the circumstances of her life were such that she was almost always appropriating some aspect of Christ’s character, and that this kept her close to Christ.

So here I go:

“Your strength O Lord,” I pray on the inhale, and “Thank you” on the exhale.  I do this several times, mindful that God has promised that he’ll give me all the resources I need to fulfill his will.  After a minute or two, I continue:

“Your wisdom O Lord,” I pray on the inhale, and “Thank you” on the exhale.  I do this several times too, realizing that indeed, we can ask for wisdom with the confidence that God will grant it.  I slowly, as I repeat this little prayer, believe that God will enable me to sort how to balance the roles of teacher/ leader/ parent/ spouse/ writer/ as each role continues to press me with more and more and more.  This lasts no more than a minute.  Then I continue:

Your strength O Lord… Thank you

Your wisdom O Lord… Thank you

Your strength

Your wisdom

The next thing I know it’s 5:30 and I’m up–rejoicing and confident that God has heard my cry, and that the rest of the week, having been given to Him, will be better, because in my need, I appropriated:  all that Christ is, for all I need to be.

Jedi mind tricks?  Not at all.  Simply genuine life in Christ.

Share you prayer, so that you can encourage someone–just respond with a comment by filling in the blank:

Your _____  O Lord… Thank You

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