A battle is being waged and the prize is your family. I’m going to tell you something and I hope you take it to heart.. You aren’t just being dramatic. Your marriage-your family-is actually under… More
I think it’s safe to say that everyone, to some degree, is struggling right now. We’ve unexpectedly walked into a season of uncertainty and we’ve done it together, which is incredibly ironic given the circumstances. This forced separation is perhaps the first thing in a long time to unite even the most undivided among us. We are witnessing both a revival of life and a weeping and mourning for the lives we once knew.
I’ve seen the goodness in humanity return as people begin to shift their gaze from self to others; from self serving to servant. I’ve seen large groups of people coming together to lift their voices to God, the only one who can heal our infirmities and cleanse our soul.
Families have been outside enjoying each other and dinner is mostly being eaten together at home. The void of athletics and over-packed schedules is being replaced with family game nights and conversation.
Caregivers are finding creative ways to close the gap of loneliness that their elder family members are experiencing. Nursing homes are being flooded with letters and cards and window visitors.
Churches are finding ways to worship and are finally embracing what it means to “be” the church, bringing the gospel to others no matter the cost. Teachers are navigating uncharted waters and they are doing it with limited resources and the grace that only a few people can understand.
Make no mistake, this virus has taken so much. It has also taken the lives of loved loves. It has taken the honor of a proper funeral and burial for some. It has taken celebrations and freedoms that we once took for granted. It has taken all of our resources; our essential workers and our supplies. It has taken an income for many. It has taken graduation and life experiences. It has taken school, extracurricular activities and routine. It has taken away the comfort of the familiar and thrust us into the unknown and the seriousness of it all is not lost on me.
But like everything in life, there is goodness embedded in the darkness. I’m sorry to say it out loud but this nation that I love so much has become incredibly self serving and wicked. Trivial matters were continually taking center stage and poisoning the minds and hearts of the people. Internet sensations, the media and celebrities were telling the world what to value most and it was working.
Yes, this virus has taken so much. It has taken the freedom to go-go-go at an alarming pace. It has taken the ability to pack a schedule so busy that self care and mental health are placed on a back burner. It has taken away the constant argument between parent and child over sports, achievement and ungrateful attitudes. It has taken simple pleasures of entertainment that most of us rely on; the pleasures that pass quickly before we are looking for the next trip, event or trouble to fill the void. It has taken away the mask of busyness we wear to hide our truths.
We are in uncharted waters, for sure. There have been days during this quarantine that I have struggled to keep my head above water. I’ve had to fight to keep myself from spiraling into a depression because my coping mechanism is to retreat when the weight of my load feels to heavy. I’ve been burdened with fear so paralyzing that it has kept me awake at night.
And so I have done the only thing I know to do when I get to the end of myself. I have thrown myself at the foot of the throne and asked God to give my unfaithful heart perspective and peace. For all this virus has taken, God has given back and used for the good of those who love him. He has given us the ability to create a new life out of the remnants of the old. And what a gift that is.
He has also given us the one thing that we can never get back and that is time. Time to make things right in your own heart. Time to take your talents and serve others. Time to spend with your children and spouse. Time to come to the end of yourself. Time to rise from the ashes. Time to seek and search. Time to be still.
Isn’t it just like God to give us the one thing we can never get back on our own? Take this time and quiet the chaos within yourself and you will find peace around you like you have never known.
“I denied myself nothing my eyes desired. I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in my labor, and this was the reward for all my toil. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the sun.”
Every now and then I’ll shop a little too much, I’ll be extra high maintenance and dare I say, act spoiled. It’s in these moments that my husband will gently say something like “I love you but don’t forget where you came from.” He will couple it with a bashful smile as if that’s going to make the reminder sting less. I’m always annoyed at his suggestion but it’s almost always spot on.
I’m ashamed to admit that just like my physical life, sometimes I forget where I came from in my spiritual life as well. In fact, I think we all do. Maybe that’s why there are spiritually starved people all around us while the church is simultaneously suffering as well.
From the outside looking in, it makes no sense. If the world needs Jesus now more than ever then why are so many churches struggling to stay filled and so many Christians unsuccessful in spreading the love of Jesus?
I once heard a pastor explain how to remember what a Pharisee was. A Pharisee, he said, was “fair. You see.” Simple explanation that packs a spiritual punch. A Pharisee enforced the laws of the land and at the expense of showing love and grace. When Jesus came on the scene, he showed love and grace but they were too stuck on the “rules” to be blessed. Jesus came to lead others to his Father, the one who passes out judgment, through himself and his sacrifice on the cross. Instead of being in awe and wonder, they began to inwardly despise him and hate grew in their hearts. They couldn’t get past not having the control of the law and it rotted them from the inside out, robbing them of their blessings. The Pharisees thought they were better than the others by the laws they enforced.
Many of us have forgotten where we came from when God called us out of our mess. We’ve mistaken being ‘set apart’ for ‘better than’ and it really shows. Even on my best days, I have to remind myself that when I was a sinner I loved to drink alcohol and play cards all night. I’d cuss you out in a heartbeat and not even lose sleep over it. When I became saved, I didn’t get delivered from my taste for alcohol or my sometimes untamable temper. No, I have to pick up my cross daily and follow him. It’s a choice that I make each day to die to my flesh and grab onto Jesus. I know that if I let myself slip up on reading the word and prayer, that if I let stress get the best of me I will get that urge to have a drink or run my mouth. And even though this is my truth, why do I feel afraid of judgment as I’m typing it? It’s because some of y’all have forgotten that set apart does not mean better than.
And if I feel afraid to share my truth as a woman who has been saved several years, I wonder if it’s possible that sinners aren’t confiding in us because they are already carrying the weight of their guilt and don’t want to carry judgment as well?
Maybe reaching the lost looks a lot less like shoving rules and regulations down their throat and a little more like showing grace, love and mercy. Maybe it’s telling them that the sin they are bound by once had you entangled too. Maybe it’s sharing your ugly past with them so they don’t feel alone in their journey. Maybe it’s trusting God to do the heavy lifting while we just spread the message of His redeeming love. Maybe, just maybe, If we trust God to convict hearts that are deep in sin, we won’t feel the need to judge them on his behalf.
We’ve been together almost as long as we were at home. As I look back on our story, I want you to know that I’m so glad that no matter what has come our way, we continue to choose each other. The wear and tear on our relationship has, at times, been almost to great to bear. Life has given us many chances to walk away and throw in the towel but love just wouldn’t have it. Your love has been the glue that holds our hearts together and I am so thankful for you.
When we were younger, I loved you because you made me laugh until my sides hurt. I loved you because you were adventurous and I never knew what each day would bring. I loved you because you were fiercely protective of me and I felt safer than I ever had before. I loved you because your love for me was overwhelming and all consuming. I still love you for all those reasons but I want you to know that now, all these years later, I love you for much more. So much more.
I hope that you know that even after all these years, I love you deeper because I see you. I’ve seen you trade your carefree youth for that of a man who carries the weight of a family on his shoulders. I’ve gotten to watch you become a father three times and I’ve seen your love grow beyond measure each time. I’ve seen you holding tiny babies in the wee hours of the night with such tenderness and calm that I’ve been envious of the poise you demonstrated under that kind of pressure. I’ve been there when you have walked through the house with the heaviness of your workload wearing ever-so subtly on your face still silently wondering how we would pay our bills.
I see you when you are overcome with stress and worry when our children are hurting and we don’t know how to fix it. I see you when you wrestle with our kids and make them laugh like only you can. I see you when you act like it’s no big deal to sacrifice your time, energy and own needs so that the kids and I can have what we want. I see you when you are packing your bags for work and you slip a picture the kids made you or a note I wrote you in your suitcase so you aren’t so homesick.
I see you when you lose sleep praying over your family and asking God to lead you so that you can lead us. I see you get up early every morning so that I have hot coffee ready when I get up. I see your frustration when you work is heavy, the kids are acting up and I am being too much. I see you take that frustration and pour every bit of yourself into your family to make us alright again.
I see these things, and so much more, everyday that show me what real love looks like. It isn’t in the candy, flowers or little gifts. Real love is the million ways you love us in the middle of the everyday mess.
No matter how loud I am, how difficult I can be or how frustrated you get with my sometimes selfish, stubborn ways, you continue to choose me. And I want you to know that I will always choose you. In a dozen lifetimes and through every situation, you are the one I choose. And I will choose over and over again, everyday for the rest of my life.
I wish I could look at 7 year old me and tell her that she would turn out all right. That the stinging pain of rejection, chaos and confusion that she is feeling at the moment would one day be the broken pieces God uses to give her a testimony and help her find her truth. If she could have only known then maybe she wouldn’t have spent so many years searching. Filling the numbing pain and endless void with the approval of others-even at the expense of her self worth, Continue reading “Beauty for Ashes”
I bought a pink and white quilt in college. It was one of my very first purchases that was truly my own. I carried that quilt with me through all four (okay five) years of college, it adorned my hospital bed each time I gave birth and eventually became everyone’s favorite blanket. Over the years it saw its fair share of spills, dirty diapers and everything in between. We used that blanket everyday, all day until suddenly and unexpectedly it had unraveled until it was not good for keeping you warm and cozy anymore. It actually became an unwelcome aggravation, trapping your feet in its tangles until you got frustrated and threw it down. And so it is with humans, too.
We go through the motions year after year, taking care of the people we love but in the midst of it all, we also subject ourselves to a little abuse and neglect along the way. Like any good human would do, we push through and continue to care for others the best way we know how. Until suddenly and all at once, we’ve become completely unraveled.
I have always had a unrealistic, overly optimistic view of this great wide world and all the people in it. My husband would continually tell me how naive I was. I like to think it’s one of the reasons he chose me-the light within me shined the brightest when I believed in the goodness of people. But somewhere in the last few years I’ve become completely unraveled. And it’s been messy. While running my race I’ve crossed paths with people who have completely destroyed my belief in humanity. I held tight to my family and my church and that was it. Perhaps thats why the last month had left me in such sorrow and despair.
My church, my home for over a decade, the place where I’ve brought each of my newborn babies to be prayed for, the place that I just knew I could be my messy, sometimes horrible self, it split. It was nasty and vile and I saw the absolute worst in the people whom I’ve sat shoulder to shoulder with in my church home. My prayer partners and friends left abruptly and without so much as saying goodbye. It kind of felt like an adulterous man leaving home, trading in his “wife” for a new one and then carrying on with business as usual, like his old family didn’t even matter. Although I’m sure not many people did things to hurt others on purpose, I was left with the sting of betrayal and abandonment. I reached out in hurt and confusion and was met with passive aggressive lectures and condemnation and was finally “un-friended” and blocked on social media. I’d like to tell you I prayed and recovered gracefully but I haven’t. I told my husband that I finally get why church people are the reason some folks don’t go to church. I felt like the foundation upon which I’d built my life had crumbled underneath my feet. I’ve contemplated quitting church all together and reverting back to my old ways, I’ve wanted to cuss and fuss at people, I’ve wanted to do all the bad things you can think of and then some. I felt a mourning and loss for myself because something within me had fundamentally changed. If church hurts, where do you go to get healing?
Yet in the midst of all my mess, God, being himself, was working on my behalf. He sent me some precious women who wanted my daughter and I to go to a Casting Crowns concert. I didn’t want to go. It was a school night and I get tired and cranky. But I didn’t want to disappoint anyone so I went. And right there in the middle of it, God wrecked me. Tears flowed down my weary face. The Holy Spirit gently tugged on my heart and the words of the music spoke to my soul. My healing came in the most unexpected place, in an unexpected way. God is a master weaver, have you ever noticed that? He takes unraveled, broken people and weaves their stories together. He weaves up our messiness and uses the expensive fabric. Beauty for ashes.
People are just people. They disappoint. They make choices and hurt people. Sometimes on purpose and sometimes by complete accident. And that is why we need God. He reminded me last night that we are made in his image so even when I feel disappointed by people, even when they hurt my feelings, they are still good. The goodness of people must exist because God is good. It was in this quiet revelation that God also reminded me that I have, on occasion, been on the giving end of someone’s pain. Sometimes I get a little carried away and let my mouth get the best of me. In those times I have needed others to show me grace and be quick to forgive, even if I hadn’t ask for it yet. And so now, I must do the same to those who have intentionally or unintentionally wounded my heart. People can evoke the best and worst feelings in us but feelings can be deceitful In themselves. We can either serve the God of our feelings or the God of truth but it is impossible to serve both.
I am still a complete mess most days. I do not claim to have all the answers or be the most righteous person in any room. I am a horrible sinner and I have to take up my cross daily. Sometimes hourly. But I refuse to let My unraveling be the final chapter in my story. I believe that warriors are made in the valley and that Gods love extends further than any church house. I believe that people are made in the image of our King and I believe that grace is new everyday. I am no longer bound to the idea that any one “place” is where we go to get our help. I believe that God sends us unexpected friends and takes us to unusual places to heal our wounds. And Above all else, I am thankful that perfection isn’t a requirement to get into Heaven.
Worn out from the Sunday funday activities, I laid my head down on my pillow, threw one leg half-heartedly over my husband and immediately was sound asleep. Then, ever so faintly, I heard our oldest child quietly calling out for me. I felt confused for a moment because he never needs me in the middle of the night anymore but as soon as I heard him again, I sprung out of bed and went into his room.
“My stomach hurts mama. Will you lay with me for a minute?”
I asked him if he needed some medicine and he shook his head no so I crawled in the bed with him. At 13, when he wants one of us to lay with him, he rolls over as far as he can on the other side of the bed and just wants to talk until he falls asleep. Although it’s unspoken, both of us know that with each passing day, he is crossing the threshold from child to man, needing me less and less. But on this night, the night when his stomach hurt and he wanted his mama, he rolled over next to me and gently laid his head on my shoulder. His messy hair tickled my nose but instead of turning away, I breathed it in. I imagined for a brief moment that he was that chubby toddler who always wanted “under my wing, chick” and would drop anything he was doing for a chance to sit in my lap and just be held. He seemed more settled, having me there, and my heart felt the contentment that only a mama’s can. Just as I was about to fall back asleep, my eyes popped open and I thought to myself, “what if this is the last time he snuggles you like this? What if that was the last time he calls for you in the night?!” The thought made my heart race a little and I squeezed him tight and kissed him on the forehead, determined to etch every detail of the moment into my long term memory-just in case.
And so I’ve been thinking, as my children grow older, why don’t we worry and plan for the “lasts” in life like we do the “firsts”? We talk and obsess, plan and prepare for their first words, first steps, first night sleeping in their big bed alone, first day of kindergarten. Always the firsts. And the are important. But as a mama in this season of life, I want to be just as concerned with the “lasts”. When was the moment I last held my toddler and packed him around on my hip before he became a little boy, to heavy for mama to pack around? I’m sure it happened when I wasn’t looking and was over so quickly that I didn’t give it a second thought at the time. When will my daughter need me to put up her hair in a ponytail for the last time? When will she ask me to play American Girls with her for a final mommy and me play-date before her preteen years call for her with unrelenting persistence? Will her words hit me with the importance and force of a child leaving one stage and entering the next or will I be so preoccupied with something trivial that her words come and go like the blowing of the wind?
And God forbid something happens to my husband before we’ve lived out all our dreams and are well into our golden years. Will I pick up his clothes from the floor and grumble words of disdain under my breath for the last time? Will I know to savor it and linger a little longer than normal if we should share a kiss before one of us goes on to be with the Lord, our time together ended abruptly by life and circumstance? Lord, help me to breathe in the “last” moments with my children and husband as much as I breathed in their “firsts”.
When I want to clean and gripe about the house being a mess, Lord help me to pause and just breathe it in. When I want to blow my teenager off when he asks me to watch him play video games, help me to remember that one day his desire for me to watch will become nothing more than a memory. When my baby girl needs her mama to listen to her tales from school, help me to savor her words, storing them away in case her teenage years silence the chatter. Help me Lord, to remember that my baby boy still wants to climb into his mama’s lap to get some snuggles and read a book-and that is more important than a sink full of dishes. And Lord, please help me not to forget that when my precious husband wants to take me out for the night, I should always go, even if it’s pain to find a sitter.
It hit me this week. It started with me almost puking during an exercise class because I got so winded that I couldn’t breathe. But it really hit me with what I have lovingly dubbed the “furniture fiasco’. My husband put our couch up for sale on a whim and it sold in an hour flat. That night, we had nothing to sit on to celebrate our victory lap- you know, the last part of the day when the kids are in bed and you get to sit on your couch and watch whatever you want on TV. My husband suggested we lay on the floor. I heard myself rebuke his idea with such utter disgust that I knew I had to finally acknowledge what I have been afraid of for quite some time; I am getting older. My back will hurt, I complained. I followed with, my hip will do that weird thing where it goes numb when I lay on it to long. He just laughed and teased me for being an old lady but the truth is, I am getting o-l-d-e-r. This is my last year in my thirties. I can’t think about it to much because it kind of gives me this panicky feeling. Something about knowing you have probably lived half your life already really punches me in the gut. I was talking to someone the other day and he told me that he had calculated how many days he had left on this Earth if he lived to be double his age. I was intrigued so I ran some numbers myself. If I live 39 more years, I have 14,235 more days to wake up and live. Giving it a number might seem morbid but it has helped me to put some things about growing older into perspective.
I live loud. For some people I am always to much. For others, I am never enough. I have spent the better part of my life trying to mold myself, my quirks, annoying behaviors and personality into something, someone, to make those people like me. I have always wanted so badly to fit in. In my teenage years, I was the outsider who was always trying to squeeze her way into the “in” crowd that had grown up together. In my twenties, I wanted to be accepted by all the super beautiful girls on campus that seemed to have in all together. And as an adult, I have sought out relationships, even within my own family, that I so desperately desired. The funny thing about life is that it rarely gives you what you think you want. Despite all the bending and turning I have done to make myself someone I am not, I have never been able to get away from myself. My constant anxiety and plotting to change to fit someone else’s mold has never, not even once, gotten someone to love me more.
Love me or leave me, I am who I am. When I get tickled, I laugh obnoxiously loud. I am not even the least bit funny, no matter how hard I try. Actually, I am a cheesy nerd who laughs at her own jokes. I can make a funny situation awkward in about two seconds flat. I never know what to say in small social talk and usually wind up endlessly stringing a bunch of confusing words together. I don’t have a good poker face so you never have to guess how I am feeling..my face will tell the story. I can sound like a snob in social situations because I occasionally forget my raisin’. My mind moves faster than you can imagine and sometimes it causes me to cut off others in the middle of their sentence just so I can blurt something out. I am habitually running late. I have no idea why. I love hard and wear my feelings on my sleeve. Some people see me as dramatic because I am expressive and theatrical. I am impulsive and moody. My emotions change as much as the direction of the wind. I am loyal to a fault and will be there for you, even when you don’t deserve it. I’d rather eat wings and have a Pepsi in my blue jeans than get dressed up and go to a snooty restaurant to eat food I can’t pronounce. I love a good roller coaster and I’d eat junk for every meal if my husband would let me. If you invite me to go out on a weekend, I won’t come. But if you don’t invite me, I’ll be sad and worry why you didn’t. I will helicopter the crap outta of my kids and lose sleep about things that are out of my control. I am honest and try to be kind but if I am not prayed up, I can be a little ugly. I am mess most days but no matter what, I made a promise to myself that this is the girl who is apologetically showing up from now on.
My late 30s have taught me that the people in your tribe will love you hard just the way you are. They will see your faults, your screw-ups and your awkward moments and will continue to show up, day after day. They will be there when you need them and even when you think you don’t. My tribe might not have as many people as I used to think it needed but I wouldn’t trade the people who love me with reckless abandon for a hundred people who are fair-weather family or friends. Life actually does go by in the blink of an eye and I mourn for all the time I’ve wasted worrying about the people who don’t see the value in me. In my twenties I had far fewer wrinkles and way less cellulite but I also had far less self-esteem. In my thirties, my glorious thirties, I have learned to love myself and love those who appreciate the real me. It hasn’t been easy but with approximately 14,235 more days to leave my mark on this world and live for Jesus, I don’t have time for anything less.
Being a person in today’s world is hard. Being a parent today is even harder. Being a Christian parent in today’s world is next to impossible. The facade of Christian parenting is easy to pull off; cleverly placed scriptures on your social media sites, polished children who sit quietly in the church pews and smile on Sunday mornings, blessings before dinner and bedtime all make you feel like your doing alright. But the uncomfortable truth is that if that’s all you’re doing, then it’s not alright. No, parenting children to be warriors for Christ requires so much more. It requires that we actually train up our children in the way they should go and that is an enormous task. When a soldier trains for battle, they do it day in and day out. When a soldier rises in the morning, they condition. When a soldier puts food into his/her body, they are mindful of what they consume. When a soldier trains for battle, they practice what they will do should the enemy attack. You see, training our kids to be Christians in today’s society requires that we show them how it looks with our every word, thought, action and reaction. Isolated, our family does okay with training. When thrown into school with their peers however, we are like salmon swimming upstream. I get so frustrated because I feel like we are among the last of our species, fighting against extinction. We are parents who have rules that go against the grain. We take our kid’s phone and check his messages constantly, we won’t let him have it at all hours of the night, his search bar is linked directly with mine so I can see what he searches on his phone, we question him and poke and prod until he gives us information, we check up on his friends and say no when we are uncomfortable with a situation or set of people. Are our kids perfect? Lord heavens, no. I know they aren’t. I know who their parents are and quite frankly, that scares me because I know what they were capable of. It’s exactly this reason that we constantly fight against the grain. I realize my children’s natural inclination is toward evil and not good. I know that if we want to raise children who love the Lord with all their hearts, it actually requires catching them in awkward situations at school and with peers, it requires finding out that they looked up something inappropriate on their phone. If we never intercept their bad actions or catch them just after they have been done, we are losing out on the ability to show them the overwhelming grace of God. We lose out of the instructional moments that show them how, even at our worst, God can turn a situation around. If we never acknowledge the sin in our own children, we can never show them the freedom that can be found in Christ.
I’m not trying to discredit anyone’s parenting style. Parenting really is hard and unless you beat your kids, I promise to never judge. I have given in to my kids many times even though I knew that I was spoiling them. I have bailed them out of stuff even though I knew I was doing them a disservice by bailing them out. I get it. Maybe you didn’t have much growing up and love to spoil your kids, maybe you are divorced and carry guilt about it so you give in more than you should. Maybe you fear that your kid will get bullied and made fun of if they don’t have the newest, greatest things like everyone else. But guys. Listen. We are killing each other and ruining our kids in this crazy giving-in-to-their-every-request mindset. We are taking an already exhausting job and making it so much harder by taking the path of least resistance. I see it in things my own kids say about their friends at school AND I see and hear it in the things my students at school say and do. I actually had someone argue with me the other day about constantly checking our oldest child’s phone. They said I was a “helicopter mom and needed to trust my kid.” You know what I say to that? Ha. Ha.ha.ha. Why on Earth would I trust my 13 year old kid with a cell phone with unlimited access to the world and all it’s information? Just Thursday on my way to work I saw a grown woman texting on her cell phone, slowing down the fast lane and a guy who almost killed everyone on the interstate swerving back and forth while he WATCHED A MOVIE ON HIS PHONE. And this was just on my twenty minute drive to work, with grown ups who know better. Why would I think my kid wouldn’t use it to do foolish stuff as well? I know I have been guilty of sending an ugly text or email in the heat of my anger and I bet you have done some foolish things with your phone, too. And don’t get me started on the unlimited access to inappropriate videos and pictures that my 13 year old, hormonal child can get his hands on. Some of ya’ll have forgotten what it’s like to be a teenager and it really shows.
We are better than this, guys. We are smarter than this, too. Our most important job on this Earth is not something we will do at work. It is raising our children to be the next generation of warriors for the Lord. And warriors are in constant battle with the enemy. Warriors don’t need to be spoiled, they need to be TRAINED. Let’s agree to choose the road less traveled more often than not. Let’s agree that our kids are worth it and let’s agree that if we see each other’s kids doing something that would put them in Hell, that we will tell the other without fear of offense. I believe in the next generation of warriors and I believe in US.
At my son’s Upward game last weekend the ball went rolling across the gym floor. My child and his teammate both went to get it, eager to make a play. They wound up rolling around on the floor with each other, fighting over the ball. I heard the coach shout, “Boys! What are you doing? You are on the SAME TEAM!!” Under my breath I muttered a quiet, “that’ll preach.” but didn’t think much else of it until the next day. The Lord sent those words back into my heart as I wrestled with him over some things that are going on in my life. The question from the Lord kind of caught me off guard. I wanted to shout, “Lord! I love you! Of course I am on your team!!” but somehow the words evaded me as I examined my own heart.
Over the next several days I wrestled, and I mean wrestled, with the Lord. Finally, my husband looked at me and said, “I love you but you are wrong, Christy. You aren’t supposed to wrestle with the Lord. You are supposed to surrender to the Lord and obey.” Ouch. After I got finished nursing my ego after the hard blow from my hubby, I sobbed in frustration. The truth is, I don’t allow the Lord to be the captain of my ‘team’. I crave control in every situation of my life. I spend days calculating, planning and overthinking decisions so that the risk of failure is minimal and so that I am as comfortable as possible in the process.
I know everyone could tell a sad story about their childhood so I will spare you any details but in the early years of my life, my parents divorced unexpectedly, my mother lost most of her vision soon after and we had to move in with a grandparent in a one bedroom apartment. With the divorce came a new school, new friends and a new normal. Somewhere in the process I made up my mind that I would control everything in my life so that I never felt such hurt, shame and confusion again. At first glance, I guess that might seem like a great quality to have. Most things I have set out to do, I have accomplished. But under the surface, I have spent years of my life wanting perceived control of everything and everyone and it has left me a miserable mess. I say perceived because obviously I am not powerful enough to control what happens to others and what decisions they ultimately make but it isn’t for lack of trying. It’s exhausting, almost debilitating. And it really comes to a head when I try to grow closer to the Lord. As long as things are going well in my life and the blessings flow, it is easy for me to have perceived faith. I say all the right things, I know the scriptures and I will quote them often but in reality, since things are going the way I want them to, I secretly feel in control. Like I am the captain of my own team.
Recently, a series of events have made it blatantly clear that I have zero control over what is going on in my life or the life of those I love. And boy, have I been a huge brat about it. I have been wallowing in a puddle of anger, resentment, questions and tears. Hence my “wrestling” with God. Do you know what it made me? Exhausted. All of the arguing with God, all of the questions and fear, none of it has changed his sovereign power over my life and his plan for me.
I was praying about my wayward heart this morning and I begin thinking about soldiers in battle. Soldiers in the same army are fighting a common enemy, a common cause but each side fights with all they have until the point of utter exhaustion. I think that the moment of surrender in battle has to be relieve both sides. Yes, the surrendering side might be giving over control but they are also ending the fight. The winning side is probably weary from the battle as well but relieved that the fighting will stop and everyone makes it out with their life. Yes, I know that in actual war it is much more complex than this but stay with me here. The waving of the white flag brings peace to the battle. And at some point, if you want to grow in your walk with Jesus, you have to come to a point of surrender. Waving the flag and showing Jesus that you are just to weary to fight for the areas in your life that are hindering you from advancing. I am sure Heaven’s army rejoices when they see your white flag waved high in surrender.
Maybe you are like me and have trouble giving up control and putting your trust in the Lord. Maybe you have been hurt by people or events and the wounds are so fresh that you, too, protect them deeply. Perhaps you need to surrender other things in your life that are keeping you from developing your relationship with the Lord. Ask the Lord to reveal to you what it is you need to lay down and surrender and then pray that God will give you the strength to do it. As for me, I was weary from battle and I decided to give it all to the Lord. I am thankful he loves me enough to walk with me through my hardest valleys just so I will know he is always there.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.” Philippians 4:6
Today I heard someone say, “you’ll find what you’re looking for when you finally get to the end of yourself.” She wasn’t talking to me, or to anyone I know, it was just happenstance that I heard them at all yet they’ve lingered in my mind all day. Of all the things I’ve pondered today, I can’t get away from the question that has begged my spirit for a response: what does it look like when you get to the end of yourself?
I’ve been tempted to settle for a superficial answer to appease my spirit and temporarily quiet the voice that has been nagging me all day. But somehow, at this particular time in my life, a superficial response just won’t do. I’ve decided that getting to the end of yourself looks a little like the silent sadness that can sweep over you when you’ve sacrificed bits of yourself doing the same mundane things day after day. The end of yourself is the place you find when the demands of work and home feel like a heavy weight that you just can’t escape. When the stresses and worries of uncertainty and doubt begin to turn your dark hair shades of silver that can be visibly seen by the world, when the once beautiful smile you’ve worn for so long is replaced by fine lines that show both age and experience, that’s where the end of yourself is found. When you are praying for the world and sometimes wonder “oh Lord, but who is praying for me?” Yes, the “end” of yourself is the most desperate place to be. It’s looking up and seeing yourself surrounded by mountains that seem so overwhelmingly large you know you’ll never make it to the top again on your own. The end of yourself looks just like it sounds. Maybe not the end as in actual death but something even more dangerous: a weary woman not walking in the safety, goodness and favor of the Lord.
The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that coming to the end of yourself, as excruciating as it may be, is necessary to walk in the fullness of the Lord. In a valley, surrounded on every side by immovable, impassable mountains, a woman has two choices. She can sit down in her valley, stare at the mountains and cry herself to sleep or she can kneel down in her valley, turn her gaze to the sky and raise her hands to the Heavens like a warrior going into battle! She can’t climb the mountain on her own and she isn’t strong enough to pick herself up to even take the first step BUT if she will change her focus from the mountain to the mover, suddenly escape is within reach.
Are you hearing what I am saying, friend? We let ourselves become self-sacrificial offerings to the vultures of this world. Leaving a piece of ourselves everywhere we go, we don’t leave much hope for our weary minds to rest. I am the worst for this. My internal hard drive wants to talk about worst-case scenario all the time. I don’t expect goodness to follow me, I’ve trained myself for disaster. Some people, including myself, call this being a realist. The truth is I have yet to remove the baggage I have carried for so long and step into the fullness of the Lord. I have not walked as a daughter of the King, worthy of goodness and mercy, favor and victory. No, I have allowed myself to be dictated by the circumstances I can see instead of shifting my focus to the one who can see what I cannot. It’s time that the Godly women of this world realize the goodness that the Lord has in store for them. Ladies, if you have come to the end of yourself, pick up your crown, steady your gaze on the Heavens and walk into the joy and fullness of the Lord that was bought for you on Calvary so long ago. You were a weary woman but shifting your eyes on God can make you a woman, reclaimed.
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through the fire you shall not be burned, and the flames shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your savior. Isaiah 43:1-3