Lies of Motherhood – You need to be perfect

The lie of perfectionism in motherhood can trap you and me. In this series we have been studying how the Gospel combats and defeats the lies that threaten to bind us or enslave us. Most of us would probably argue that we do not believe this lie, that we know we cannot be perfect mothers. There is no perfect mother we may confidently declare. We may even reject the struggle against this lie and know we cannot ever measure up to the perfect standard for motherhood.

Whatever the picture of motherhood looks like for you may be different than what it looks like to me. And while the perfect standard of motherhood may be something you say is elusive or unattainable, we still chase it and allow its measurements to find us falling woefully short.

Identify the lie

We can see our failings, point out our flaws, and roll our eyes at the ways we fall short. “I’m just unorganized, I’m very structured and rigid, I struggle with being patient, I’m not the ______________ “fill in the blank. But we believe we fall short of something. Unbidden within our hearts is the knowledge that we do not meet all the standards across the board. An elusive norm exists that is the measure of a good mother, and everything else ultimately falls short of this benchmark.

This lie captures us quickly with that new baby and then burrows underground, holding court deep in our hearts. It quietly mounts a savage attack with whispers of how you and I could be better, reminds us of everytime we miss the mark, every moment we lose our temper, every time we forget something important, every way we are just learning. You and I must be able to identify the lies being spoken in our mind and in our culture, especially the ones we believe and embrace.

Combat the Lie with the truth

The truth is this: You are a forgiven mother. Just as every other part of your identity is wrapped in Jesus Christ as a believer, so is your motherhood.

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished upon us in all wisdom and insight.

Ephesians 1:7

His lavish grace and the forgiveness of all our sin overflows. It does not merely fill but overflows with all wisdom and insight. His grace is lavish for us, without limit, unending. His forgiveness is complete.

In motherhood the hardest thing to reconcile, to lay down is when I sin against a child. I have a confession: my tongue can stir up division and wound so quickly. I have also learned that my children can hurt or offend me. Early on I believed that I was impervious to their attacks, but as my children have matured, so has their ability to wound as well. Perhaps I am harsh, rude, selfish, “over it,” whatever my attitude – I wound a little heart or speak terribly to a teenager.

Gripped with conviction, I seek to confess and repent both to my child and to God. But standing in the fullness of forgiveness is hard when the lie creeps in. “You should be better than this, you always mess up this way, you never change, this is failure.” In those moments of whispered lies that seek to compare me to a standard, I must cling to the banner of the One who says I am complete in Him.

Standing in the fullness of forgiveness is hard when the lie creeps in.

Understanding the power of the Gospel begins to set me free and will set you free from the lie of perfectionism in motherhood and every other role we have. The Gospel clearly defines you and me as lost, trapped in our sinful ways (which includes a sharp tongue), dead and hopeless. But God who is rich in mercy, because of his great love for you and for me, even when you and I were as wicked as we could possibly be with our children, made us alive with Christ. (Ephesians 2:10) You and I have been saved by grace when we place our faith in Jesus as the only way to be changed and made new, in every part of our lives, including motherhood.

He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Colossians 1:13-14

The truth becomes my message

We now live in a completely different kingdom! No more living as dead, darkness bound by our sins. In the kingdom of Christ we stand redeemed!

We now live as redeemed children of God, wholly loved and accepted. https://www.instagram.com/bethanykimsey/

Bought and paid for, lavishly loved, I am free to extend grace and mercy to my children in their own sin. Grace does NOT overlook sin, ignore it, or allow it to continue – NO – grace meets sin with the solution, Jesus Christ. Grace faces the flesh and extends living hope into the space of death. As mothers we are called to hold to His truth, extend the grace and mercy that has redeemed us, and point to Jesus for our children.

Lies of Motherhood – You are alone

One lie of motherhood is the whisper that you are alone. How we meet that lie is critical – we can turn to Christ or fill our lives with poor substitutes.

Loneliness opens a chasm with us, a quiet void that can grow pulling within itself our confidence, our joy, our peace, our contentment. We long to fill it and to feel connected. We seek to feel treasured, valued and deeply related to others. Motherhood can move this void to the forefront of our heart and mind in so many ways. The lie begins to whisper that you and I are alone in motherhood.

The lie is whispered in the quiet moments, “You are all alone in this.” It thunders in the chaotic toddler years, “No one else is living through what you are. Even your husband doesn’t experience this like you do.” Echoing off of every teenage interaction is the belief that you are the only one dealing with the rebellious or withdrawn child. You may be a single mother, wishing desperately for someone to share the load, believing that no one ever will. Unbidden, the lie creeps into your thoughts that no one really knows you, your day, and you have no true friends walking the same path or in the same stage. Perhaps the lie speaks to the fear that if anyone really knew you with your children, they wouldn’t like you so isolation is better.

So I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.

Joshua 1:5

The ultimate lie is: You are all alone. No one truly sees you or walks with you in this journey of life. And the emptiness within your soul opens. Immediately thoughts leap to ways to fill the void and soothe the aching. Find girlfriends to support, give the kids to your husband for the day that he would finally understand, or buy that wine, those shoes, that purse, whatever in the moment will dampen those feelings and fill you. Do it because you deserve it, you are rocking this motherhood life alone juggling work, baby, house, food, laundry – no one does it like you and you deserve to feel better.

But we must cling to the truth and expunge the lie. You are not alone.

Keep your life free from love of money and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you. So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper, I will not fear; what can man do to me?”

Hebrews 13:5-6

I will never leave you

In Hebrews 13, the author is referencing back to Joshua 1:5 when Moses told Joshua that God would never leave or forsake him as he entered the Promised Land. Joshua was assuming leadership of the Israelites, and the path to victory would be arduous, full of battles, unknowns, fears, and would require trust and allegiance to God alone to ensure victory. And Hebrews brings this truth into the life of the believers.

To leave in Greek means “to slacken a grip; to desert.” His grip on me, the steadying of my foot, the assuredness of His presence doesn’t slacken, never loosens, and maintains His secure grasp. You and I are held as we walk out motherhood and all other life journeys just like Christ secured Peter as they walked on the water. The waves cannot envelope the believer whose hand is gripped by the Almighty.

Never will I forsake you

To forsake means “to leave behind.” The darkest parts of my heart, the fears and ideas that lurk in me that declare that no one should see – He sees and does NOT turn away. In every other relationship here on this earth, we hide and cover some parts of our darkened hearts, knowing inherently that exposing those places may lead to rejection. The truth is no matter how well anyone loves you, he or she will never fully know you or meet your needs. But God does. Sit a moment in worship there. My feeble attempts at relationship are met with the perfect flood of relationship. He never leaves me in a position of lack, whether it is lack of peace, joy, contentment, strength, power, love. He never leaves.

The desertion we experience, however desperate or empty we feel, is not because God has withdrawn Himself from you and me. As saved, redeemed children washed in His Son’s blood and made new, we are sealed with His presence, His Holy Spirit. But in my own experience I am so capable of walking away from the truth He offers and rushing to any tangible comfort to slake the thirst for companionship. When any other person or activity usurps my walk with Him, I will absolutely feel lonely and my ears will once again begin to hear the steady drumbeat of isolation.

The Lord is my Helper; I will not fear

When I replace the lie that I am all alone with the Truth that He is on my side as my Helper, I call on Him. He answers me and sets me free. We are created with a desperate need to walk with someone, to link arms and do this really hard job in relationship. God freely offers Himself, His grace filled presence to you and me!

The open declaration that He is my Helper comes straight out of Psalm 118. I encourage you to read this beautiful passage of worship and praise to the One who loves you and me steadfastly and responds to us. Worship becomes the song of a heart tied tightly to God. Grace becomes our melody. No longer should I dance to the song of this world that encourages me to placate my fears with anything other than Christ alone. In Christ I have everything for I have Him.

He is my Helper. Today in the laundry, cooking, cleaning, He is beside me in companionship. In the fighting and whining, He stands in solidarity with me, offering strength and wisdom. In the fear and discouragement, He offers His true hope and joy where I can trust. In the clamor of a thousand voices, He offers His peace to still my heart and mind and control my tongue. He never leaves. You and I can worship and walk fully in His presence. I am not alone. You are not alone when Jesus is your Redeemer.

The Gospel Changes Everything – Part 2

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition according to the elemental spirits of the world and not according to Christ. ~Colossians 2:6-8

You can find Part 1 of this talk here. If you will bear with me for a minute, I am going to get a little nerdy with words. But I want to assure you, God wrote His book for us to delight in his words! He purposefully wrote – all scripture is God-breathed – we know this.

These words all look to be in the same tense but actually, in the Greek, they are different from each other.

Rooted – is a perfect participle and it’s passive in voice; the word means “To fix firmly” (a perfect participle demonstrates an action that happened and was completed in the past) You were rooted, tethered, anchored into God’s family by Jesus Christ blood shed for you and His resurrection power. There is a connection where there was never a connection before, intimacy instead of loneliness. Your root system is in the One who never wilts, withers, or dies.

Built up in him – present participle and passive voice; to build upon a foundation, what foundation? Jesus Christ; This is a verb showing present action, happening right now in time and ongoing, in English we use ~ing endings for these type verbs.

Established in the faith – present participle and passive voice;  to confirm, guarantee or secure – what? Securing in the faith, guaranteeing in the faith.

Please notice – the first verb is finished; the other 2 verbs are ongoing, happening right now. Now the last way I described the verbs is passive voice. In grammar, verbs can either be active or passive voice. Active voice verbs have the subject of the sentence doing the action while with passive voice verbs, the action is being applied TO the subject. All three of these verbs are passive. This is action being done TO YOU! This is the work of the Spirit in your life and mine! We do not tether, build our foundation, or guarantee our own faith. Dwell there a moment with me. These are His actions, the work of the Spirit within you and me.

And finally abounding in thanksgiving – present participle and active voice. This again is an ongoing verb and finally, we have a verb we are actually doing rather than having the action done to us! I abound in thanksgiving.

My root system changes, My faith is established and built, and my response is abundant thanksgiving.

Oh! My heart cries out just the way I think David did in 2 Sam. 7:18 – Who am I, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far?

The Gospel changes everything, It is enough.

Gratitude grounded in Christ overflows to all we do. Our hearts long more and more for the ways of the Spirit of God, we run to be more like Christ, not because there is a huge checklist and we are busy checking it – no, we run towards Christ because we know His cost, we recognize His actions, we appreciate and revere His power. Suddenly the cry of our heart mimics the leading of the Spirit to walk and please God (1 Thess. 4:1)  being transformed from one glory to another (2 Cor. 3:8) and being steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord (1 Cor 15:58) growing up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ (Eph 4:18).

Sweet reader, your identity is secured. Rest.

He is building you up little by little every day, layer by layer. Abide.

He establishes your faith, grounding you in His word as He grows you, securing you more and more in His truth. Surrender.

And let your heart begin to open in thanksgiving. Worship.

From this position of understanding, receiving, and knowing your identity and the value you hold, your perspective changes who you are as a woman, wife, mother, in your job, in your family. When I understand the tether, the anchor is Christ Jesus, when I recognize the Spirit placed within me as a seal is at work building me up and strengthening my faith, it changes everything about me. I am and you are not hopeless but hope, not without identity but known intimately and pursued, not dead but alive, not defeated but victorious!

So purity can begin to become our heartbeat, not for a list to succeed in checking, not for comparison, not for accolades, and not for safety (against fear). No! When I was asked to come and share a breakfast with you this morning, I asked what the theme or vision the leadership had for this time – purity was their word from the Lord. And honestly my initial reaction was a wrinkly nose – both the world and the church have changed the way that word sounds to me and maybe to you. The word has been robbed of its meaning: degraded by the church into self-righteous behavior modification with judgment for falling short, and downgraded or duplicated by the world so that whatever is pure for you simply equals purity – relativism without meaning.

But I want you to know Purity is yours! We pursue purity because our root system is different, our filter is Christ, and our hearts are so thankful all we can do is worship with our lives. God will teach us about purity, about righteous living through many different passages of scripture, but they are never apart from the truth of the saving grace of Jesus Christ and His commitment to you to grow you in His image.

Maybe you are the girl who believes she cannot do this thing called Christian living- there’s too much pressure and no way to win. The Gospel is enough. It changes everything

Maybe you worry more about what other people think. The Gospel is enough. It changes everything.

Maybe you worry you won’t actually be able to achieve all the things on your list at all times. The Gospel is enough. It changes everything.

Maybe you are tired of this whole thing, and you think you don’t need Him. The Gospel is enough. It changes everything.

Colossians 3:1-3 ~ If then you have been raised with Christ, (tethered) 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. (abounding in thanksgiving) For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God (identity)

Galatians 5:25 ~ If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. (built up in him & established in the faith)

**This is the text of a luncheon teaching I shared in Valdosta, Ga.

The Gospel Changes Everything – Part 1

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition according to the elemental spirits of the world and not according to Christ. ~Colossians 2:6-8

What would I tell my younger self, working out my major in college, worried about the way I looked, the way people perceived me, unsure of everything I was doing, crushed by the way it seemed life was going?

The Gospel changes everything. It is enough

What would I tell my young married self? – trying to balance a new career and a new marriage, desiring to walk in marriage well but unsteady of every step, wanting to be like Jesus to my husband yet so unclear what this looked like

 The Gospel changes everything. It is enough

What would I tell my new mother self, juggling 3 babies under the age of 3 with a husband who was working more than 120 hours a week as a surgical resident, trying to still work just a little to make ends meet, completely unsure about how to discipline little hearts, love them completely, and still pursue Jesus, exhausted at every turn by lack of sleep, lack of knowledge, and busyness.

The Gospel changes everything. It is enough

What do I want myself to remember every waking moment of each day as I parent 8 children, homeschooling, discipling hearts, encouraging anxious children, love my husband, work hard on the things God has called me to in this season of life?

The Gospel changes everything. It is enough

What do I want myself to remember as the children leave, each launching in their own way, whether they are walking with God or not, whether my heart is thrilled with who they have become or perhaps grieved, walking into a new season with my husband as the nest empties? 

The Gospel changes everything. It is enough

What would I tell the woman here who says my life hasn’t turned out the way I planned, the way I wanted, the way I dreamed it would? What would I say to the woman who says I have such deep hurts, such great chasms in my very being where I have been betrayed, wounded, made to feel less than and unwanted? What would I say to the woman who feels like she cannot measure up, cannot do what she wants to do well, aches with a desire to be different than she is but feels stuck? What would I say to the woman says, “I simply don’t care anymore. “ what would I tell the woman who is all alone, either grieving the loss of a marriage, the loss of a spouse, this loss of a child?

The Gospel changes everything. It is enough.

The Gospel is enough. He is enough. Whatever you walked into this room carrying, burdened and weighed down with worries, fears, bondage, grief, or pressure to perform. Everything about the way you live your life changes in the light of the Gospel, the good news about Jesus Christ. 

So the question becomes, what is the Gospel? Do I understand and live in light of the Gospel? How is the Gospel enough for me?

When we look at the passage, Paul says as you received Christ Jesus the Lord so walk in Him we want to understand exactly what it means to receive Christ Jesus the Lord and walk in Him. So we are going to look at the parts of the Gospel and break them apart:

Who is God

Who is man

Who is Jesus

Who am I now, and the work being done in me

Why is it so important to be on a Gospel hunt? Because all of the Word of God points to the good news of salvation and redemption. God lays out moment after moment in the Old Testament pointing to the coming Savior and illuminates His redemption in the New Testament. In the Old Testament He introduces us to Himself – His holiness, righteousness, steadfast love, and faithfulness to name a few. He gives us pictures of the “great rescue” that will come because of man’s sinfulness. In the New Testament redemption comes, Christ atones for our sin. We can be changed with His help alone. The truth of the gospel radically changes our understanding of our identity. God has issued an invitation to be His child, a new creation in Christ.

Who is God – 

God is holy, just, powerful, sovereign, maker of all things, all knowing and eternal. He is all knowing, self sufficient, and unchanging. Many more attributes comprise Him. Mankind is not any of these. Isaiah 40 – to whom will you compare me, that I should be like him? Says the Holy One. 1 Samuel 2:2 There is none holy like the Lord, there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God… for the LORD is a God of knowledge and by him actions are weighed…The Lord kills and brings to life…The Lord will judge the ends of the earth.  Ps 93 – The Lord reigns; he is robed in majesty; … Your throne is established from of old; you are from everlasting. 

1 Timothy 6:15-16 he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the KING of KINGs and LORD of LORDS, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. AMEN.  I praise you God

Who is man? 

Who are we? We are created beings, fashioned by God made in His image, designed for relationship – different than any other created being in this world. 

Colossians 1:21 says we are alienated, hostile in our minds, doing evil deeds, Colossians 1:13 living in a domain of darkness. Ephesians 2:1 says we are dead in sin, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now at work in the sons of disobedience, children of wrath, Galatians declares we are held captive and enslaved, 1 Peter 3:18 calls us unrighteous, and Romans 1-3 clearly lays out the unrighteousness and depravity of all man.  Galatians 6 calls us slaves to sin and Gal 6:23 states, The wages of sin is death, but… No one is without sin and thus all of us are separated from God and sentenced to death by Holy God.

Where is my hope? How do I please God? I don’t. I can’t. I cannot do enough, perform well enough, there is no good enough. 

Who is Jesus then?

How then is the gap between holiness and slavery/alienation bridged? God sent His son Jesus Christ as the payment for the debt of sin that traps mankind (Romans 3:21-26, Galatians 3:13-14, Ephesians 2:4-10)  Colossians 1:19-22. While this may seem basic, it is imperative to understand the important concept that God does all the work of salvation. We do nothing to earn the payment for sin that Jesus paid. We believe. We do nothing to deserve it; there is no way to merit the grace and mercy given.

Who am I in light of these 3? So what is my response? How does this change me?

 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(Titus 3:5-6). The cleansing power comes because Jesus Christ died for your sin and mine on the cross many years ago. His payment paid for all the sin debt that mars our hearts and redeemed us from the curse of sin. Colossians 2:13-15 – And you who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in Him.

Works and performance are worthless foundations, but many people carry a concept of being good or doing good as necessary for God’s forgiveness. Do you? Do you take the portions of scripture such as in Ephesians 4, Colossians 3 or 1 Thessalonians 4 that speak to our response to God’s unmerited grace (the way our life will look as we respond to the life we have been given) and place them ahead of your salvation? Do you struggle with thoughts that God may be mad at you or disappointed in you? Do you fear messing up or not walking well? Do you hear thoughts that say you aren’t good enough for God to help you or listen to your prayers? 

I want you to know today that while you were a sinner, Christ died for you (Rom. 5:8). He saved you, not because of works done by you in righteousness, but according to his own mercy (Titus 3:5). He has given Himself and all the blessings of being redeemed to you from the start – you have life abundantly (John 10:10), you have the fullness of Him (Col. 2:9-10), you have the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13), you have been given His divine power (2 Peter 1:4-5) – You are His child (Rom. 8:16), secure in His love (1 John 4:9-10), and nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:39).

The Gospel is enough

So How does it change everything?

 

the butterfly lesson

Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him! For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm. ~ Psalm 33:8-9

We are growing butterflies over here this spring. We have watched excitedly, monitoring the growth of our caterpillars, marveled at the chrysalis formations that each one did, and now are anticipating the hatching. (is that the correct terminology?) Today was the day! The first two chrysalides began to shake, little butterfly parts began to emerge, and we watched in wonder as two different butterflies sought to escape their cage.

IMG_2771

Timothy immediately wanted to “help” as the first butterfly tried to break free. Explaining the danger of helping a chrysalis break open to a three-year-old is a bit difficult, as he cannot tear his eyes away from the battle in front of him. Transfixed by the scene, he just kept asking, “Why can’t we help? What will happen that’s bad?” Finally, I hit upon an explanation that made sense to his little heart ~ the butterfly grows his muscles breaking out of his cocoon. If we step in and help him, we risk hurting its body or wings. The butterfly then will die, unable to have the strength to pump fluid into its wings and thus open and dry them. Armed with this knowledge, he could peacefully watch as, for over an hour, the little butterfly shook and wiggled, pried, and finally broke free. We marveled at the way the wings looked so shriveled, yet within a short time, they were drying out and beginning to move. God’s work, His creation, is amazing!

We had another chrysalis opening at the same time as the first, but the results were considerably different. This little butterfly’s chrysalis had somehow become entangled in some of the webbing the larvae had used before making the chrysalis. So as the butterfly tried to emerge, its feet became entangled in the string. It fought all day long to break free from the string, his wings shriveled and wilted, and the front portion of his body stayed within the chrysalis. Honestly, it was heartbreaking to everyone as we watched. Ultimately, we had 10 of our 11 butterflies break free and begin to flutter and fly around the cage, but that one struggled against the entangling strings for 2 days, unable to fully emerge.

Why do I share this story? I don’t have deep parallel truths about our Christian walk that source in this story. I just know this opened a doorway of conversation with my children in which we could discuss meaningful truths of God while we watched the complete metamorphosis. We began talking about how incredible God’s plan for butterflies really is ~ that He designed eggs to become larvae to know to grow a hard, protective covering around them as they completely change into a different creature over a few days. While the 10 butterflies we hatched were all variations of each other with slightly different colors, patterns on their wings, no other creature emerged from the chrysalides. We practiced patience waiting for their emergence, hopefully staring at the dangling shells for days. We wondered why hatching had to be such work for the butterfly, investigating why God designed this fierce battle almost at the beginning of their life as a flying insect. And we mourned our lost one, longing to step in and save it from the ultimate end. We so wanted to tear all the webbing away and cut it free, but that action would have disrupted the 3 other chrysalides that hung very close to our struggler.

When we marveled at His plan for a butterfly who will only live for a few days, we began to wonder at His plans for our lives. The commitment to the butterfly translates into an immense commitment to us. Jesus teaches this exponential truth in Matthew 6:25-34. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious. Taking a few days to dwell in the truth of God’s great plan for each of their lives was beautiful in recalibrating my eyes to see my children as well as speaking into their hearts a basic truth that the enemy wants to steal away. The truth is this: their uniqueness, their strengths, their weaknesses are all known by Him and designed by Him for His plan and for His kingdom. And His plan is for their good and for God’s glory. Do not be anxious! Instead, keep looking to Him ~ He welcomes your cries for help, He comes alongside you in victory and distress, He is the everlasting, ever in tune with you God, and He is trustworthy.

Our God is amazing! He is Creator with neverending imagination and wisdom worthy of our worship. Beckon to your children to worship with you, to marvel at Him in the midst of His beautiful creation. Delight yourself in who He is in His creation today. Worship Him for He deserves all praise!

the hagar moment

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. ~1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

Have you ever had a Hagar moment in your life? I can tend to follow the pattern of Sarai in the Old Testament. The times I feel I know the end product yet not the next step, I will often surge forward in action seeking to get to the promised end, impatient with God’s timing yet eager for the promise.

In Genesis 15, God made a covenant with Abram in which He promised that Abram’s offspring would number the stars. I can imagine Abram and Sarai, anxious to have a child and holding to this promise, talking about when and how they might get pregnant. But then we see a rush into action, an impatience in God’s timing, and the false belief that they needed to help God along with His promise of offspring. We see Sarai convincing Abram to take her servant Hagar as a substitute to allow for pregnancy in that way.  Truthfully Hagar holds a tragic place in the story in Genesis. As a servant in the household, she really had no power to make the decisions regarding her own life. Thrust into a position of motherhood, she began to own what should be hers – a position of influence and equality with Sarai as a wife.

All the manipulating only led to confusion and hurt. Sarai claimed that Hagar was treating her with contempt and sought Abram’s help. Abram then gives Sarai permission to treat her as she desires, and Sarai begins to mistreat Hagar. Fear ultimately overcame Hagar’s boldness, and while feeling rejected and betrayed, she fled into the wilderness. God, in His goodness, pursues Hagar right into the wilderness. He tends to her, gives her promises for her son Ishmael, and sends her back.

Prolonged waiting was a part of God’s plan to accomplish all He intended. God returned to Abram and made a covenant with him, changing his name to Abraham, reiterating his promise of offspring through Sarah, giving them a land of their own, and finally promising to be their God.

And this time, they wait for Him.

God wasn’t worried or concerned about how they would have a child. He was at work in His plan, His way, His timing. The problem was it did not match up to Sarai’s logic and desires.

The waiting is designed to mature us. Often the waiting seems interminable, and I can see how to move past the waiting if I only could change certain pieces. So I seek unilaterally to manipulate in order to achieve.

I war against the waiting.

And in the warring, I can introduce pain, heartache, sin, and doubt into places where God wants to be glorified. Learning to rest well in Him, trusting His timing, brings great joy and peace. When Abraham is finally told that he will have a son within the year, he laughs. But his laughter is not a laugh of unbelief or doubt. His laughter is filled with joy and laced with belief.

God’s covenant, His plan comes in an unfolding, never in a bolt of lightning. The growth pattern in a relationship with God moves us along growing our dependence upon Him, strengthening our root system in His truth and love, but He does not yank us two feet taller overnight. He is at work in you and me, deepening our faith as we lean hard into Him.

He knows the timing. He sees the end.

 

 

Before the throne

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help of time of need. ~ Hebrews 4:14-16

 

The throne room is a glorious place. Scripture over and over declares the glory that surrounds our God. The magnificence of who He is dashes all self promotion, destroys all self confidence, resulting in prostrate pronouncements of unworthiness before Him in his glory and holiness. It is the place of judgment as David discovers in Psalm 73.

Yet the author of Hebrews urges us to approach the throne with confidence so that we will receive mercy and find grace in our time of need.

The phrase with confidence or boldly in other translations means with loud exclamations, frank confidence – speaking everything, not withholding for fear of reprisal or judgment, a cheerful courage. My children are stunning examples of the boldness God encourages me to have as I approach Him. My 3 year old will come hurtling through the house, yelling my name over and over, pulling at my sleeve to come and see, knowing I will listen. He confidently, naturally assumes that whatever is important to him in the moment is therefore important to me. My older children as well have confidence that their thoughts or needs will be met with a welcoming ear. While it mildly aggravates me to be in one discussion with a child only to have him or her suddenly request something completely off topic, they do not hesitate. Out comes their need, their thought.

Their confidence stems from their identity. They belong. They have welcome, intimate relationship with me because they are mine.

I am often timid or minimalistic in my prayers, perhaps because I worry about the answer, worry that I won’t be pleasing enough for Him, worry that I should handle this one differently or desire differently. Sometimes I feel like the laundry list of requests is too much, that I should pick the top three and no more. Sometimes I wonder if He really wants to hear yet again about my heartache or discontent. I am apologetic, not worshipful, timid and concerned of His reaction to me rather than expectant and eager. When I enter the throne room with my gaze on myself, I am worshiping, but not my Savior. My prayers are not the powerful ones of a righteous woman, they are not deeply rooted in the name of Jesus, no, they are the whisperings of a self focused, self righteous performer who hopes it is enough. Clearly I have a deeply rooted misunderstanding of the Gospel that displays itself in my prayer life.

Standing in front of His throne is holy ground, but also a welcoming place because of Jesus Christ. We have the great high priest, Jesus, the Son of God, who has gone before us.  Performance isn’t needed or desired. Jesus Christ’s death on the cross for your sin and mine paid our sin debt and placated the wrath of God that separated us from relationship with God. I hold fast to my confession – nothing I have done has ever merited my welcomed position before His throne, but all that Jesus has accomplished atones for my sinful state and covers me with His righteousness. My position is now for every moment of my life securely before the throne. He determines my identity.

His throne room is a becoming place, a place where my heart and my desires are changed and made more like Him. He is well acquainted with my heart and yours. Scripture tells us that He searches our hearts and knows our minds (Jeremiah 17:10). He knows our weaknesses and temptations, yet He loves us. Committed to refining me, He works patiently and purposely, often exposing the doubts or fears as He realigns my heart in areas or grows my faith in spaces I deemed impossible. With confidence I can present my shortcomings as a mother, wrestle with my feelings of inadequacy or discontent, seek help with requests big and small, hide my wounded heart inside His tower of strength, and display any other need or worry I may have. He is interested in them all. But a curious thing happens when I hold fast to my confession, when I center my identity on Jesus who made me righteous and welcome before the throne of grace ~ I worship Him. The wreckage of my life can come spilling out and lay exposed there on the floor, but He becomes all I see. I lay down pretense and pride and begin to abide.

The grace and the mercy I desperately need for whatever I face are offered by the King of Kings. He invites us to come and pour out our hearts to Him.

 

Sovereignty in the Storm

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” ~Mark 4:35, 37-40

Sometimes I walk away from God’s sovereignty as an anchor truth because I am so overwhelmed by the waves hitting my boat. Instead I begin a panicked paddling and bailing not unlike the disciples in the boat with Jesus. I confess, I am not in a boat sailing the way I desire right now. The waves and the wind are tossing me in ways that feel incredibly savage and scary. I have been crying out for deliverance, calm, and rest for a long time, and there are days it seems like Jesus sleeps.  And I scoop, and I bail, and I slide all around my boat feeling half drowned.

While crossing the Sea of Galilee after a time of teaching and healing, the disciples and Jesus experienced a fierce storm.  On the Sea of Galilee, storms can occur suddenly as winds race in over the surrounding mountains and cold air mixes with the warmer air over the water. Jesus had almost immediately chosen to sleep in the stern of the boat as they started to sail. As the storm heightened, the disciples worked feverishly to stay afloat. Finally they sought His help. He was not panicked or worried, yet they were about to lose their minds with fear. The difference was He knew the anchor wasn’t missing, God wasn’t off duty, and there was nothing to fear. They believed they were without an anchor, without the ability to stay upright, and without hope because of the circumstances that surrounded them. Some were experienced sailors and fishermen, yet even they understood that this storm was beyond their control and beyond their skills to escape.  Did the disciples know Jesus could do something to help, or did they simply want him to join them in the panicked reacting?  Did they look over at Jesus peacefully sleeping and become enraged at his peace in the midst of chaos? They were working so hard, trying to remain afloat and alive. Did they desire that He join them in the work of survival or did they actually think He would triumph with just a word?

 The disciples had walked with Jesus a short while. They had seen miracles of healing and resurrection, they had seen His power over demons, and they had listened to truths that took all they knew in the scriptures and expanded/deepened them. They called him Master, Teacher, and Lord in the moment of need, depending on the Gospel account you read. Clearly they recognized he had some connection to God that attracted them to Him.

But they had no clue who He truly was, that He is the creator of all things, that all things hold together in Him, and that He upholds the universe by the word of his power. Everything is through Him, and it is through Him that we exist. You can see by their reactions after the wind and wave completely stopped at His command. Their fear level actually increased as they wondered who He really was, but Jesus was deepening their understanding of Himself by His display of power and glory and preparing them for their faith walk. He was more than a prophet, healer, or teacher; He was the Son of God, their Messiah and their King.

I often forget who sits with me in my boat. Often my reaction looks like the disciples, “Aren’t you going to get involved here? Aren’t you going to step in and do something about this sinking ship?!”

Jesus Christ solidly anchors my boat. He is the author and perfecter of my faith. He has called me to Himself, offering redemption and the forgiveness of all my sin through His sacrifice on the cross. My sin debt for all time is paid by Jesus alone, my future is assured with Him, and my present is governed by Him. He is before all things. All things are under his feet, and all authority has been given to Him.

So when the winds that whip in from the mountains that surround catch me off guard and the waves begin to grow as tall as buildings and crash with such fierceness across the bow of my life, He is sovereign. Only He can steady my footing in the tossing and pitching, and He will calm the storm.

I also recognize the crossing and the storm are all part of His plan for me. While it’s heartbreaking and frightening, these days are designed to deepen my faith walk and declare His power and His love. He has the complete power to settle everything with one word and allow peaceful sailing for the rest of the journey, but He may choose to allow the storm to worsen. Yet He anchors my soul. He sails with me. And He will bring me safely to the other side, to His desired haven.

He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven. Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! Let them extol him in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders. ~Psalm 107: 29-32

 

voices

For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory. ~1 Thessalonians 2:11-12

Our children hear so many voices. We all do. Most of them speak discouragement, condemnation, comparison, disillusionment, or confusion. The words swirl around, almost creating a whirlwind of murmurings and prevent sound thought and good action. 

One of the most important roles I have in my children’s growth as they move into the teen and adult years is to be a voice pointing them always back to God’s sovereign plan for their lives and urging them to trust Him with all that they are. I choose to be a steady reminder that God is at work in their lives, He is for their good and His glory, and He is faithful to complete His work. So whether that is the stress of declaring a major, the emotion of dating, or the worry of what will happen because of a job or grade, God is at work. Nothing is outside of His pursuit of you, nothing is discarded, nothing is ignored. 

With eight children to parent, often I find myself wanting a set pattern to follow or a prewritten script for what should be said, what should be done. If I’m honest, that desire may be from laziness or uncertainty, and I would really like a guarantee that if I follow certain steps, my children will become “happy, well adjusted adults.” 

But Paul discipled the young church at Thessalonica the same way I am to walk with my own children. He exhorted each one. An implication from the passage is the uniqueness of each is valued as the exhortation, the conversations began about the truth of the Gospel. I can testify that God has been faithful to me and taught me the unique truths/needs of each of my children as I have cried out to Him. He has given me insight into their hearts, their motivations, and their insecurities.

Exhortation in this passage is an invitation with intimacy implied. It is calling to one’s side to implore, encourage, or teach. The power of coming alongside is profound – actually sitting shoulder to shoulder sometimes, to have discussions. The intimacy of body language says I am sitting with you in this, I am right beside you as you walk this out not only right now in conversation but also in life. The conversations can begin, and hearts begin to open and unfold. Then Paul says he encouraged and urged. Encouragement is personal and specific to the child, direct to their heart. Again this takes time and prayer to see the needs and speak into the darkness, the lies, the discouragement with the truth of Jesus Christ.

His word is enough. It is living and active. Allow His word to be the powerful weapon in the moments of urging. Never replace His word for the mantra of the day. His word slices through whatever lies or fears encircle the hearts of our children and discerns the thoughts and intentions of their hearts. I have seen more fruit from opening His word with my child and not giving any answers than all the times I have tried to preach the truth to my children.  Instead when I spend time just asking them what is being said, seeking their thoughts on His word and allowing them to wrestle out their lives in light of Scripture without opinion or statements at all, I create space and quiet for them to hear what the Spirit says to them. Equip them to grow in discernment by asking them to make choices in light of God’s wisdom.  

When you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers. (v.13) Isn’t that our heartbeat, the desire that burns within as motivation when we invest in another? That they hear the one true Voice and know how to listen and follow Him. Paul prayed for this constantly, and we should too. May His voice drown out the cacophony in our lives, and may we walk worthy of the One who calls us out of this world and redeems us for His kingdom and His glory.

 

 

12 Bright Morning Star

I Jesus have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star. ~Revelation 22:18

There is a “star” that precedes the sun in rising in the morning sky. The planet Venus has long been called morning star because it can be seen brightly shining in the sky hours before the sunrise. Fifteen times brighter than the brightest star Sirius, Venus can even cast shadows.  I love to wake before sunrise to have some quiet time, and my chair faces the window with eastern exposure. I love watching how one tiny spot of light begins to break over the horizon. Suddenly the sky is no longer black as night but instead a glimmer of light gives way to beautiful sunrise.

We have the Bright Morning Star who lights up our darkness, our night. He rises higher than any other light and earlier than all other lights.

He comes earlier than the dawn, hope rising in the night, bursting forth light. His light qualifies us to share in the inheritance of the saints. We have been walking in darkness without Christ, a world filled with hopelessness and doubt. He rescues us from darkness and brings us into His kingdom with redemption and forgiveness of sin (Colossians 1:12-14).  For in the abject darkness of sin and death, in the hopelessness of a world lost and dying, He is the first spark of light. He catches the eye starving for light, restlessly seeking across the horizon for a glimmer of hope. We have hope for salvation and joy in our days because despite the darkness that surrounds, Jesus shines brightly. He becomes our focal point because His glory, the sun of righteousness, pushes back the hopelessness and confusion of the dark.

Triumphantly He returns for His bride. He will burst forth with a shout and a trumpet blast, and He will be the only light needed in the new Jerusalem. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever (Revelation 22:3).