Weighed Down

Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad. ~ Proverbs 12:25

Anxiety – Merriam Webster defines it as a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. Biblically the word in Hebrew has heaviness, fear, sorrow, or carefulness associated with it. Until a few years ago, I would not have said that anxiety characterized my life or was a big struggle for me. Now I may have been wrong or unaware, but certainly God has been faithful to reveal what I feel is a new struggle with anxiety to me in these last few years.

Several years ago we made a move, following steps the Lord made clear to us but still painful in the leaving of friends, familiarity, comfort, and ease. Following that move I would say that our lives entered a 3 year period where anything that could go wrong did. Medical crises, difficulty with a pregnancy and new birth, upheaval with work, uncertainty with income walked hand in hand with a new city, new friends, new routine for school. We began to hurtle from one major event to another, putting out the fires or seeking to moderate the issue, and I began to feel like the ball in a pinball machine bouncing back and forth between high stress issues without any respite. My friends who know me will probably agree that I tend to be more dramatic or animated than some, but I began to retreat into a place where I watched myself handle everything without actually engaging a whole lot emotionally. In my mind racing thoughts of what’s next, what should I do to prevent that, how can I set this up to not have repercussions seesawed along with thoughts of retreat, panic, and anger. My family was “treated” to either a high task manager or emotional mine field.

Proverbs warns that anxiety weighs a man down. To weigh down in this verse means to bow down, as in worship, to stoop. Anxiety will cause me to worship at the altar of fear, worry, control/organization, self reliance or inactivity. I will bow down, and it will not be to the only One who can help me in my need.  So how do I release or walk away from anxiety?

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand. Do not be anxious about anything but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Reasonableness in Philippians 4 is gentleness. When I am anxious, often gentleness is the first thing to go. Anxious people aren’t often gentle or patient.  They are protective, grabby, impatient, and irritable. The posture of rejoicing despite the circumstances, pleading before the throne with thanksgiving, is hard. But as we look to the Word and worship Him, His peace is our guard, a military term for keeping watch and engaging all offensive and defensive actions necessary as a military sentinel would.

1 Peter 5:6-7 – Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. As much as I don’t want to see it, anxiety links up with pride. Pride is the root cause of so many symptoms of sin, and it is the base of this one as well for me. Since the garden we have been seeking to be like God, and I am no exception. My anxiety was wrapped in the complete lack of ability to control anything going on and the deep pride within me that screamed that I should be able to handle this, that I should be able to walk this out calmly, that if I could just organize better or return to some way that had worked in the past, that I could turn this around and be the savior in these circumstances. I could not control the way my life was spinning, and it was an affront to me.  There is One who has conquered all, and He desires for me to choose the good portion as he told Martha in Luke 10. Inherent in this scripture is the link that humbling myself requires giving all my anxieties to Him, acknowledging His care for me, and allowing His timing for my life. And He will exalt, at the proper time. He will carve ways out of rock, make rough places smooth, comfort your fears, heal, lead, organize, and guide.

Many times I have quoted or heard someone quote Matthew 6:34, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” And it seems like a pull up your bootstraps kind of verse, meant to exhort and make you just put all your worries down and walk well. But it’s so important to have context of what Jesus is saying when he exhorts us with this verse. Yes, this is the passage where Jesus is referencing the birds and flowers that don’t worry about their food or clothes, and he then says how much more does your Father love and care for you, the ones who are in His image. But verse 33 should be the emphasis, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” When my thinking is aligned with kingdom work, anxiety can be nailed to the cross. The ability to peel off the anxiety that envelopes is related to my pursuit of Him. He will increase my understanding of what occurred at the cross, that Jesus’ death crucified my body of sin that I would not be enslaved to it but set free from it.

I want to worship Christ, the One who has made me alive and will make me more and more in His image until the day I stand before Him. No more bowing to what I fear or what I cannot control.

 

True Refreshment

For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.” ~Philemon 7

Are the hearts of others refreshed through me? Are my children’s hearts refreshed through me or wearied, discouraged, or left feeling dry? Is there joy and comfort in my love to my husband or friends?

Do you ever feel used up, weary and dry yourself? I do. I read this passage and am convicted. When I am weary, where do I turn? I am quick to turn to activities that feed or fill up my flesh, that are easy and what I deem restful. So instead of running to the banks of the only river that satisfies, the only stream that quenches thirst and brings strength, I will turn to the dribbles of entertainment, sleep, or solitude. They will never satisfy like He does; they will never strengthen, calm, teach, or reveal truth the way He does. And as a result of sipping the drips of this world, I have nothing to pour out on my little ones or anyone else. Because I know enough Sunday school answers, I may be able to fake it awhile, but I am dry. And I know it.

But the truth of the Gospel is this: we are given the Holy Spirit who is the essence of living water, flowing in us and through us. In John 7:38-39, Jesus shows us that these Spirit driven rivers of living water are available to us as believers. Water runs with power to move things in its path and transform landscapes. It brings life because very little can grow in drought-like conditions. It soaks through hard ground and softens soil for new growth.

Acts 3:20 That times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.  Refreshment only comes through time with Him. So until I purpose to pursue the one drink that satisfies, my love will be shallow. Until I choose like Mary in Luke 10:39 to sit with Jesus and learn from His word, then I am simply operating on fumes and flesh. I have found that I need to sit at his feet early in the morning. For the last 18 years of raising babies, I have wished that I could sleep at least as long as my little ones. I have tried to place my time with Him inside of nap time or room time. I have whined about the fatigue of sleepless nights and early morning wake up calls, but for me Psalm 90:14 rings true. “Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.” I am so easily taken off course in the craziness of the toddler/teenager drama, schedules that require herculean effort, or emergencies. All of which have been known to hit before 7am. But sitting with Him before anything happens allows me to return to Him quickly when all chaos erupts. And find His love to give, His grace to extend, His wisdom to apply. And the Spirit flows through me to others. Most people are running on empty. They are tired, fearful, wounded, and desperate for peace. We hold the Gospel. We hold hope. We hold true refreshment.

On the prowl

Be sober minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. ~1 Peter 5:8-9

We are at war. We are in the spiritual battle of our lives, not with each other or our husband or children. No, we are at war with an enemy so skilled at combat, so determined to defeat, divide, or discourage us. And many days I forget this. I am offended and furious that so many women are battling, and the enemy is using the same tactics with each one of us. Peter compares our enemy to a roaring lion, so let’s study how a lion behaves and draw parallels.

The lion closely observes its prey long before it attacks. Interestingly, it hunts most often in cover of darkness where it can easily observe and stalk without threat of detection with a final burst of speed at the end. It is incredibly adept at hiding and phenomenally patient.  Lions have been observed  to return again or remain in the same spot where they have had success with a certain herd, and interestingly (or not) the herd of prey does not seem to make adjustments to prevent loss. They will circle the herd and slowly begin driving the prey in a direction with the effect of separating or isolating one or a few from the herd. Finally the straight-line roaring pounce or a paw that swats and knocks the prey off balance allows the lion to suffocate the animal.

We have an enemy who is very real. He is at work, and his chief desire is to destroy. In the life of a believer, he cannot destroy for eternity, but he can sideline. The implication in these verses is that satan as this roaring lion is functioning in a full frontal attack, coming in for the kill. That kill may be persecution like we see in many areas in the world that would push believers to compromise their faith for safety, but here where true persecution is rare, the compromising of our faith happens because of hard life circumstances, doubts, fears, mental anguish, illnesses, isolation, etc. Faith is the only lifeline, and in case you forget, faith too is Spirit given. (Gal. 5:5)

I need the power of Gospel-based community. I need the body corporately and individually pouring into me the truth of the Gospel. So that when I am slammed with doubt, fear, discouragement, or shame, the truth of Jesus’ redeeming work at the cross covers those lies with His victory.

Discipleship is essential to mature the believer as well as heal the believer. The importance of discipleship becomes apparent when we apply these hunting tactics to our enemy. He delights in separating and isolating us. He studies us and has studied mankind for centuries to really know our patterns of thinking. While he cannot read our thoughts, he watches our pattern of behavior and is keenly aware of our insecurities, doubts, and fears. So the desperate need we have to hide ourselves within the Gospel must be understood to be exactly that – a paramount need. On my own I simply cannot navigate the waters of my life. A key component in discipleship is living life in community with other believers.

We need to stop the isolation. Culturally we are isolated – behind screens, within schedules so filled there is no time to sit and share, in distance,  and in belief. We have been sidetracked with issues and left the pursuit of the gospel so that now we are distracted. Titus 3:9 warns us to “avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.” But the truth of the Gospel is this: when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4-7) I am so convicted that I don’t create enough space in my own life for engaging my friends purposefully in light of the Gospel, encouraging them in their Kingdom work here with their family and other areas of influence, and rejoicing or praying with them over the places God may be refining. I know it is hard to create that space. My calendar is always full. But there are things, good things, and then there are eternal things. And I cannot allow the fleeting things of this age to usurp the eternal.

As I have studied this truth for the last few months, God began to really convict me of my busyness. I had very little margin and very little active pursuit of other women for the sole sake of the Gospel – to encourage them, hear what God is doing, pray for them and with them, or challenge them. He began to germinate an idea of women dining together with the express purpose of encouraging one another in our personal walks with the Lord. Rarely do I get to enjoy a slow, relaxed dinner with girlfriends in which we cut to the chase of God’s activity in our lives, confessing our sins or praising His works. We are often interrupted by children or hurried by schedules, or we just don’t get past the layers of small talk about the work we do and the craziness that is life. So my daughters blessed us with a wonderful meal, slowly served so that we could talk around a beautiful candlelit table. Some women had to meet other women first, but the rules were set from the beginning. All conversation needed to center around what God is doing in your life. Purposeful from the outset, meant for encouragement, it felt a little scary, I must admit. Often God is working on the ugly in my life and so it looks ugly in the journey. But the time was beautiful, hearts were encouraged, and I will be purposefully doing this again.

We need to fight with and for each other. We have all seen the Youtube video of the Battle of Kruger – The buffalo are walking to the water and spot the lions near the water. The baby calf is attacked and rolled into the water by the lions, a crocodile tries to steal the kill, and then the amazing begins! The herd returns to protect its own. We watch rooting for the calf, desperately wanting to see the 4-5 lions defeated. The buffalo at first slowly approach as if unsure what to do for their struggling one. Then 1-2 begin to sling and chase – it’s a clear strategy – sling them off and chase them away. Finally the last 2 lions are removed as other buffalo pull the baby back into the middle of the herd. Twice the lion starts to return for the injured baby, and one large buffalo turns fearlessly back to stand and face the predator before returning to the herd.

We have many weak and weary women, struggling on the edge of either drowning by the crocodile or being consumed by the lion. And when we all stay separated, we strengthen the destruction the enemy can bring. Instead we need to function as encircling buffalo, battling with and for our weaker members, standing firm against the enemy in prayer and encouragement, and willing to be at risk, soberminded and alert. The promise at the end of this passage is amazing! God does the work, He provides the faith, He does the healing and restoration needed because of His Gospel truth that Jesus Christ in grace redeemed you. To all of us who have been the baby buffalo or who are walking with a baby buffalo right now – And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. ~1 Peter 5:10-11. 

 

target run

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

My almost 2 year old has a fascination with all things Superman and Batman. He loves to talk about his muscles and wear his pjs with either one emblazoned on them. And I absolutely delight in his cheerful talk about them whenever he spots something else that shows them. This week we were running errands, and I had planned to buy him his own superhero action figure so that he would stop taking his older brothers’. But after the second stop, he rejected the idea of climbing back into his carseat to go any further. So to distract him, I began to tell him my plan to get a Superman or Batman at the next store. Probably not good parenting, I own it. My husband calls me the master of distraction as a parenting tool. But it worked, the bucking and arching stopped, he was clicked in, and we were off. The conversation in the car went something like this, “I would love to get you something special, but you’ll have to wait until the next store.”

“Wait, mommy wait.”

“Yes, we have to wait.”

The entire way into the store the conversation vacillated between “Supman, Batman, wait, Batman,” eagerly insisting I agree with his mantra, scanning the store’s entrance ready for his blessing. Now I know where the superheroes are in this store, I wasn’t worried that they wouldn’t be there, and I was eager to give this precious boy a special gift. But I had other things to gather as well, so I knew the greater plan, the larger goal.

All through the walk to the toy section, all he could think of was “Supman” and all I could change his callings to was “wait, soon.” He would parrot back “Wait,” but almost immediately return to “Supman? Batman?” followed by my reassurances that we were heading there. His eyes remain glued on me, conversing eagerly in his little boy way.

But the moment we rolled out of clothes and into toys, his focus shifted. The intense gaze and concentration that once had been on my face willing to wait was now eyes darting, left to right, a growing desire for everything, anything! He just wanted to hold something! Our precious conversation was replaced with lunging, reaching, pointing and grunting as he saw me roll him right past so many wonderful things. We walked around an end-cap, and he spotted something he could NOT roll past – a large, rubber chicken with eyes that bug out of its head when the belly is squeezed. He grabbed it, and not only did it look ridiculous, but this “amazing” toy made a horrible, croaking, dying frog type noise, so endearing as I could just imagine having to hear that all day long! Yet at that moment longing/desire had surged in and overwhelmed his little heart and mind – this was what he wanted and wouldn’t let go of!

He was willing to forgo the promised for the immediate – how often do I do that?

How many times, Lord, is this me? Walking with You, eyes on You, walking in blessing/relationship, and then a desire springs up. The want completely shifts my focus from the riches of intimate relationship with You into a scrambling to gain the awful chicken of the moment – the easily broken, cheap, desired thing that has become what I long for, what I seek.

Nothing else costs as much as my Savior’s death for me; nothing else will remain for all eternity. Yet often I confess, abiding with Jesus, walking with Him, eyes fixed on Him is hard for me. My eyes slide to the shiny, new, exciting, popular, and then desire washes over me. There are times when I can stand beneath that wave, still rooted but now soaking, and regain my gaze on the only One who satisfies. But often that wave washes me into a current of longing that can carry me along.

God’s heart is for our very best, but sometimes His best requires my waiting. And just like Abraham I feel the need to “help” God orchestrate poorly what He can simply create with excellence. My son quickly put down the hideous chicken when presented with the action figure, for it paled in comparison even to him at his age. Often for me, my chicken takes the form of worry, doubt, or fear about the lives of one of my children – it may look shiny to the world even – a good concern over curriculum choices, goals, and outcome measures to ensure a child receives a good education for instance. But when my eyes set here and my trust is placed in these things, I have grabbed hold of a cheap unfulfilling substitute for His intention, His love and His plan for me in relation to my child.

The wave of mothering well, especially a far away college student, has swept me into a current of fear and worry. I have lost sight of my loving Father and His plan for my child’s life, that He really is the absolute best at drawing men unto Himself and deepening their walk with Him. And instead I pet the chicken of my ability to orchestrate conversations or activities to push my child to my objectives for his life. But the absolute foundational truth is God has plans for my child to grow him or her in faith and maturity, He is more committed and more in love with my child than I am, and He can be trusted to accomplish His will.

Sometimes the desire for comfort becomes the shiny toy I pursue, soaked from the desire to be unconcerned about money or finances. So I would sit in that shopping cart with my rubber chicken of ease and comfort here and miss the superman gift of knowing His faithfulness and supply, the deepening of the faith walk that brings glory to Him for eternity.

Setting my mind on His ways – Psalms 26:3 states, “For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in your faithfulness.”  I want this to be the testimony of my life.

Walking through Ephesians, 9

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. ~Ephesians 6:10-13

The armor of God – I remember as a little girl being told in church and Bible classes to say it/pray it every day before I went to school. The implication was that if I “put it on” by saying it, I would have a much better day, things would go better, I wouldn’t have the tough times against these evil spiritual forces (and who wants that?!!). In fact I still hear people talking about praying the armor on as if it is some mantra you can recite and boom, you’re covered and safe. I have heard people say they pray it over their kids for their school days as they are leaving them in car line. But I really wonder if I understand what Paul is teaching?

The first time I really studied Ephesians, the whole passage about the armor of God caught my attention. Now I may be the only one who has walked through childhood into adulthood with the idea that I could just pray the armor over myself, in recitation, and I would be safe from the scheming devil and all his terrible arrows. But sitting with you at coffee, I feel compelled to make sure that you see just a glimpse of what Paul is really talking about because you may be like me. It may just make your heart race, your spirit sing, and your mind rest to understand this is no mantra or chant to put on some dress up clothes. This is what it means to truly be a warrior for the Lord on the battlefield of this life. Paul has walked us through great theology in Ephesians as to who we were and who we are now as redeemed:

  • we were chosen, made holy and blameless, redeemed and forgiven to the praise of His glory
  • we are walking in good works prepared for us
  • identity – in Christ Jesus- brought near, reconciled, a dwelling place for the Spirit of God who is our seal for salvation
  • we are granted boldness and confident access to Him because of the faith He’s given to us
  • out of our new redeemed, forgiven, renewed selves we live out the Gospel with those around us- dependent on the Gospel – it’s not a behavior checklist – it’s a constant return to the truth of the Gospel for me in order to renew my mind and therefore live out in the details my reverence for Christ

The list could continue, but you should be the one to make the list. God will teach you much! But here at the close of Ephesians, Paul has been teaching about the importance of understanding what Christ did in love for us and responding to this Gospel with our lives and relationships. So we have just read the passages about submission and obedience/leadership.

And now he emerges into a “Finally”- Finally be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Seems a little repetitive at first glance, but surprise! it’s very purposeful. The first phrase “be strong” means to receive strength, be strengthened or increase in strength, but it is passive and internal, meaning I am not mustering up the strength, I am receiving the strength. This strength is contingent on union with the Lord, and He is empowering or imparting ability to me. And then the second phrase “and in the strength of his might” – the power of his strength or the dominion of His combative strength over external things — His ability to dominate in His strength over all things. My strengthening is from Him as well as my deepening knowledge of how strong He is. In order to walk out any of the relationships in love the way Paul has just discussed, I need to be empowered by the Holy Spirit and understand the vast power that is for me in His might.

Back in Ephesians 4:20-24, Paul says that because we learned Christ, we are renewed in the spirit of our mind and put on the new self. We enduo (in the Greek) which means to clothe ourselves in His likeness in both righteousness and holiness. Then here in Ephesians 6:10-11 I need to know the strength pouring into me because of salvation and the strength that stands behind me in God Himself, and so I enduo or clothe myself with the armor of God – the new self. The armor is the essence of what has been given to me as a believer to walk here on this earth in newness and salvation until I stand in His presence.

My life isn’t about hard things with kids, others, circumstances. My battle is with an enemy who will throw everything at me to make me forget who I am, whose I am, who strengthens me, and who is in me.

My standing and withstanding depend on whether I use that which I have been clothed in. I need to know my armor, all that I have been given, and take up these truths. I am perpetually entering, leaving, or engaging in a fierce battle.

So just like the soldier knows his armor, I need to know what I have been given – in part and in whole. Just as a soldier becomes more valiant and wiser the more he battles and trusts his armor and weaponry – so do I. The more I walk in the Gospel, the more ready I am. The more I read, know and wear Truth, the easier it becomes to recognize it and prefer it. Truth will become the belt that holds all my armor securely in place. The more I understand His righteousness imparted to me, the more my emotions are guarded from the wicked raging of this world. The more my feet are firmly rooted in the Gospel, the more sure footed I am when anything that opposes His gospel tries to topple me. My shield of faith is always protecting me – in all circumstances. The shield is not the small hand held piece of armor that we see superheroes use in movies. Paul is referencing something larger than my body, behind which I stand, fully guarded and protected. Throughout the Old Testament God call Himself my Shield, and He is the source of faith, of dependence for strength in battle. The ability of condemning, evil, or discouraging thoughts to pierce through to my mind becomes less as I understand all that was granted me with His salvation. And the sword of the Spirit – His word, my only weapon. Praying at all times again is sourced in the Holy Spirit who is our guarantee for eternity.

So my role with myself and with my kids isn’t to recite pieces of armor but to walk through what these pieces actually represent and how they are THE sustaining requirements for the battlefield of this life. We are all doing battle everyday, little ones included. So to speak words of gospel truth and remind them of the strength, power, and protection freely given to them through Jesus Christ is paramount.

As we walk out of Ephesians, I want my walk with my children to be reflective of Ephesians 6:19-20, “that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

 

 

Walking through Ephesians, 8

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. .. now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. ~Ephesians 5:1-2, 8-10

Imitation. The thought of it fills me with longing on the one hand and dread on the other.

When I see it with my children, it often delights me because for my child to imitate, they have studied, observed, internalized and then pulled back out that desirable action. My 10 year old yelled my name yesterday in such a tone of voice that my eldest son and I thought he was very hurt. We both rushed to him, expecting to see blood/tears, something. Instead there stood a grinning, eyes sparkling, proud young man holding a fly up as a trophy, “Look! I killed my first fly just like Daddy does!” And he proceeded to explain how he took every step his daddy ever does in order to kill this fly with only a flick of his hand. Gross but a somehow a manly achievement!

My almost 2 year old studies everything his daddy does to get ready in the morning. We have to now hide all of Troy’s things because he will try to act out what he has seen (dangerous with qtips and razors!) He loves to tromp through the house in Troy’s shoes and daily seeks to wear Daddy’s socks all day long. Hats are a special trophy but only Daddy’s favorite one.

I admit when I realize how much observation I am under in any given day, it is bone wearying. Someone is always asking me why I am doing something or just watching the way I do something to make sure I do it the same way I have before. I am always amazed at the “you always” and “you never” comments that are attributed to actions/things that I didn’t know I had set patterns for. But my children do, because they observe and study.

God does not possess undesirable attributes, there is nothing in Him I should avoid imitating as there is in me. And He never tires of displaying Himself, teaching me more and more deeply about His attributes. But do I study Him, experience time with Him that I know His way, His actions, His love? or do I do it my way?

In our “use it quickly, buy a lot” culture, imitation often has a cheap, inferior connotation. The object is knowingly inferior and lacking something but affordable so as to make it mass marketable. It’s easily produced. We can carry this false copying concept into Christianity with a list of behaviors that everyone would agree makes a “good Christian,” and don’t get me started on the list for a good mom. Kindness, goodness, grace giver, patience, forgiving, and then the unwritten list for motherhood. The list can be endless and paralyzing. And I think we can see this false or cheap copying of a list of behaviors for what it is – hypocritical and self promoting.

But when I look at Jesus Christ, the list falls away.

My childlike toddling after Jesus increases my understanding of His Gospel to me and will fuel my imitation of Him. But my imitation can’t be sourced by me, my abilities or temperament. As we walk as children of light, we are light in the Lord. When Paul tells me to walk as a child of light with fruit, he is not leaving all that he has presented before this passage in Ephesians. But sometimes I will read these verses and forget this. I will see an imperative sentence and immediately add it to my list of cheap, me driven imitation. But I am in Christ Jesus, with access to the Father through the Spirit, and my true imitation will be Spirit driven. It will be the Holy Spirit in me replacing my old self with His new self, day by day, little by little, a laying down of me spurred on by my growing love of Him that comes through time with Him.

When I begin to follow Him around, observe Him, watch His interactions, experience His love and forgiveness, my heart will long and yearn to be more like Him. My little man didn’t claim an original fly killing technique, yet he was thrilled to have done it just the way he had seen it done countless times before. Imitation is really a reflection of the original. And in the case of us in the world as His dearly loved children, we are to be the clear reflection of God’s love.  There is no claim of originality; imitation points to the Original.

 

 

Walking through Ephesians, 7

But that is not the way you learned Christ! –assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. ~Ephesians 4: 20-24

“Are you the one who’s done?” His sweet voice and eyes just asking me to explain why today has gone so horribly wrong, completely sideways of the direction I had wanted this morning. Why is it that now at such an early time I am imposing bedtime for all? I have to honestly look at him and confess, “Yes baby, I’m the one who’s done.” I have had my anger stoked, my annoyance pushed, my anxiety over impending events grown, and I’m stepping out of this day as mommy.

All I can think as I hear happy wrestling sounds from their room as daddy steps in to save the evening is that I never really stopped yesterday. I never stopped to quietly sit with the One who could have changed my heart, changed my attitude, helped me walk the rest of the day with Him. Oh, let me assure you, I was praying most of the day. But my prayers were selfish, whining laments, “God help me. They are so annoying to me” or “Lord, If I hear one more fuss or argument, I don’t know what I’ll do” And just so all confession is out there, I had had my quiet time that morning.

The ugliness doesn’t escape me, it screams at me. I urge humility yet walk pridefully, I encourage gentleness but act roughly both in word and action. My patience was false and a little scary for my people because it was fleeting and a mask over anger. I wanted quiet, I wanted ease, but I didn’t necessarily want truth. The truth is in Jesus. I didn’t want to engage Jesus the way the Spirit was urging me to. Scripture says we must throw off sin that entangles, and the honest truth is that for me, that is often a daily, minute to minute throwing off. It’s bad when my children are gently rebuking me for today and can point to the early moments of the day where I began to embrace the bitterness, wrath, anger and slander (Eph 4:31) They exhibited Ephesians 4:32 SO much better than I could have – they clung to Christ’s forgiveness, and with kindness and tenderheartedness, they walked this sinner clinging to my old self through the day.

So Jesus, once again the old self has to go – I need your peeling touch to yank off even the vestiges today that want to grow back as issues arise. Let me not go back to the old self – the worrying performer who expects perfection and slays with her tongue, pride seeping through every facet of her life. Like Aslan removed the dragon skin, remove my old self. The pain may be intense, but the result is peace and joy and abiding.

To be renewed in the spirit of my mind – this ongoing process of being renovated and reformed as we walk with Him. It’s not a one time event. The bottomless well of God’s grace matches up perfectly with the seemingly limitless ability I have to turn to my own way and be deceived by my former self. Jesus invites us to walk with him, clothed in His righteousness and holiness, not because we have earned these clothes but because He did. His life as the sacrifice for my sin defeated the darkness, alienation, and hardness of heart that is the life of the lost (of the Gentile in this passage.)

So I will confess to my children that I got dressed this morning in the filthy rags of my old self, deceived by self love and did not abide in Jesus, the truth giver, nor seek any renewing of my mind. But I will testify to the goodness of the Holy Spirit, who doesn’t let us rest in our sin, but who convicts and counsels that we may learn Christ more and more.  I want them to understand the deep love and grace of their Heavenly Father who takes away their sin and gives them a new self, new beautiful clothes of righteousness and holiness designed in His image.  His mercies are new every morning, He is so faithful. So I will humbly seek to make right with them what I let go so horribly wrong yesterday and invite them to learn Christ with me today.