Friday, May 22, 2009

Stony Soul, Thorny Flesh

I have this person in my life (a godly woman, at that) who is always commenting on women who have had multiple children at once, or like myself, has had many children in a short time frame. Her comments are of sympathy, yet they tend to take the "what a crazy woman" and "her life will never be the same" tone. For some odd reason, it has driven me bonkers to hear her say it. It is not encouraging statements to a girl who had 3 children in 3 1/2 years! And its the fact that this person seems to think their lives are only going to get worse. How sad I often think. Even she, who should know Christ enough to know better, is still missing IT. But wait...don't I miss IT too?!. And how so often I am just like this person, which is why I think God allowed it to erk me so badly. I am a die-hard, love the Lord with all I have kinda gal, and I find myself judging others situations and thinking to myself, "man, their life will never be the same." In that same tone I have heard from this particular person...and I start to examine myself. We get so hung up on logistics, facts, finances, and demands that we take things that are meant to be blessings and we make them into thorns. We forget that the Lord is Sovereign and He is ultimately in control.

When things don't go as we like, we immediately indulge in feelings of anger, resentment and frustration over the circumstances and we miss the point. God wants us to humble ourselves under his mighty hand. He wants us to believe that His ways are better than ours. But we get caught up in our world around us and we turn our eyes away from Jesus. They keep staring at the "problem" and we forget that God has a purpose for all of it. It is so hard to see what the Lord is doing through these "thorns" when all of our focus is on the pain and hardship. Some thorns are the child who just won't obey (I have a couple of those!) and some are for a an illness or a financial hardship. But I really believe God gives us these thorns to make us who He wants us to be. Trust me, I was not planning on having 3 children so quickly, but I have already seen God grow me through the demands of having 3 so close together.

Someone once told me that the removal of small stones which encumber fields does not always increase the crop. In fact they are an advantage because they attract moisture and radiate heat. Their was once an experiment where they removed all of the stones to improve the soil and they ultimately had to bring the stones back because the soil began to function so poorly. How often do we cry out to God and ask Him to remove the stones in our life. The thorns that hurt and cause us to be weak and tired. Sometimes, they even cause us to sin, to stumble and fall. But if we turn our eyes to Christ we see that sometimes it is better that they remain. So God can use them to make us into a richer, deeper, more nutrient soil.

Is it easy? No. But I would love to know where it says in the bible that life as a Christian would be easy, comfortable and safe. It sure sounds appealing, but the beauty of who God is tells us that we could not be the fruit-bearing people He wants us to be without hardships and pruning. And isn't that our ultimate goal, anyways? The goal is the journey to becoming more like Jesus. So I will bear my thorns with the strength that God gives me and I will remember that it is to become more like Jesus that matters. Although my eyes may wonder at times to the problem or overwhelming circumstance I will eventually remember that to Him be the glory for He knows that this is what I need to be WHO He needs me to be. And I will fix my eyes on Him when I find myself thinking, "Their life will never be the same," and my tone will sound different this time. One that reflects joy and hope and not discouragement or despair.

So to the Christians who see the circumstances instead of Jesus let us remember
2 Corinthians 12:10 "For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weakness, insults (I get lots of these as a pastor's wife who breaks the mold), persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong."

Remind me of this when I am hurting, groaning with such pain it feels as if the Lord has turned His back on me. Remind me when one of my children is lost. Remind me of this when our finances remain so tight it feels as if we can't quite make it. Remind me of this when my eyes turn away from the Lord and to self. Remind me of this when I think the goal is comfort, ease and safety. Remind me of this when I see that person with difficult circumstances and think "man, their life will never be the same." Remind me that the stony soul and thorny flesh are what make me more like Jesus, and that my friend is my goal.

Until next time,


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Check it off the List

I love check lists. There is something about being able to cross off items, tasks, errands, or purchases off a list of things to do. It must be that performance based background I come from where there is a sense of accomplishment to cross off the bullets on a piece of paper. And I feel really good when I get it all done. You know the feeling, like you have conquered and completed something. I almost find myself giddy when I am on my way to the store with a list full of things to get knowing the list will be full of lines over words when I am finished. But my problem is not the list itself, it is when the list doesn't have any lines on it.

I got up on this rainy morning ready to start crossing things off my list. I have things to do and what a perfect day to do it. McKenna and Brody are at school for a couple of hours and I can't go for my usual Wednesday run with Anna Beth because of the rain, so I will get my errands done, right? Then I start thinking about the other list I need to write out BEFORE I can even leave the house. Example: Marinate the Pork Tenderloin, Unload the Dishwasher, Give Anna Beth a much needed bath, A short but "deep" quiet time, Make our lunch so we don't starve while running errands, and I guess bathing and dressing myself would be a good idea, too! Then I am frustrated at my TO DO LIST before my TO DO LIST.

And all the while God is tugging at me saying, "I am right here waiting for you. It is rainy and yucky and a good cup of coffee and your Bible will do far more for you then crossing those things off your list." But my flesh and performance gear kick in and I ignore the Holy Spirit. In fact I argue with him,"But I can't do this any other day of this week. When am I going to have the time to get all of these things done with 3 kids tagging along." So I sit down to check the quiet time part off my list and Anna Beth crawls over to me (walking is so far off my 14 month olds radar it is comical) and she wants to sit with me. Sit with me, be with me, and let me hold her.

In a way I think my 14 month old gets it far easier than I do. All she knows and understands is that I am love to her and for her. Every need is met by just being with Mommy. She is simply content and fulfilled by just being with me. In fact most of my joy comes from watching her just be her while she sits in my lap or crawls around at my feet. You see I could care less if she walks before she is 2 because then I know through my own flesh she will begin the cycle of performance and independence we all fall succumb too.

So Jesus begins to whisper in my ear "The more you work to cross those things off your list, the more things that will show up on your list. The harder you try, the more frustrated you will become." Which is exactly what happened this morning. I had a list, which produced another list, which I realized would only cause frustration and anxiety to try to "get it all done." So I sat in the Lord's lap for a minute that turned into five which turned into and hour and realized God's joy, just like my joy comes from watching me BE. Just sitting in His lap and crawling around His feet fills his heart with joy. And there is where all of my needs are met. At the feet and in the lap of the Lord. My lists only bring temporary satisfaction, never-ending frustration and failure.

So today I will just Be. I am going to listen to what the Lord is telling me. If I hadn't been obedient to the pull of the Holy Spirit I would never have seen His love for me through my precious child. I would have spent the morning crossing things off my list. Things that are temporal and not eternal. Things that would have made me even more frustrated about life. Why can't we all just BE? Something my mother would tell you I have never been good at in my whole life. So I will learn from my sweet baby what I didn't learn on my own...

2 Corinthians 4: 18 "while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal."

Until next time,