Category Archives: motherhood

Tiny Worlds of Wonder

Growing up, a vacant lot and a wooded area bookended our house.  My sisters and I would put on our hot pink fanny packs, fight to find the perfect walking stick, and set out to conquer the world.  We built shanties that we thought were mansions, created small mounds that we considered challenging BMX bike tracks and got ourselves into all sorts of muddy messes.  I distinctly remember feeling so adult when my mother let us venture to “Fletcher and Maple” an intersection that we felt like was miles away, but was in reality three streets over.

We took many great vacations, some lavish and exotic; we had more toys than we would possibly use. But when I look back on the treasured moments of our childhood, they all include the little worlds of tiny wonder we were free to create and explore, even if mom did check us religiously for ticks after each outing.

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I long for our children to have the freedom and space to be creative, to interact with nature, to learn how to explore and conquer a small corner of their world.  We aren’t an REI, camping, National Parks visiting family, and we probably never will be; however, I want to pass on to my children both a respect for and a joy from nature.

I am afraid of snakes, but I am more afraid of the effects of screen time. I don’t like the idea of parasites in creeks, but I like that risk more than the risk of raising children who don’t know how to wisely risk and explore.

Of late, I have been reading two books in tandem that have been re-opening my eyes to our need for and negligence of nature and the natural.  While Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv has been practically helping me to pass on a love of the natural world, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard has been inviting me into an adulthood awed by the little worlds around me, even here in semi-urban San Diego.

Annie beautifully writes the following:

“I am no scientiest. I explore the neighborhood. An infant who has just learned to hold his head up has a frank and forthright way of gazing about him in bewilderment. He hasn’t the faintest cllue where he is, and he aims to learn. …Some unwonted, taught pride diverts us from our original intent, which is to explore the neighborhood, view the landscape, to discover at least where it is that we have been so startling set down, if we can’t learn why.”

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Richard Louv writes along a similar vein.

“The dugout in the weeds or leaves beneath a backyard willow, the rivulet of a seasonal creek, even the ditch between a front yard and the road – all of these places are entire universes to a young child. Expeditions to the mountains or national parks often pale, in a child’s eyes, in comparison with the mysteries of the ravine at the end of the cul-de-sac. By letting our children lead us to their own special places we can rediscover the joy and wonder of nature….By expressing interest or even awe at the march of ants across these elfin forests, we send our children a message that will last for decades to come, perhaps even extend generation to generation. By returning to these simple, yet enchanted places, we see, with our child, how the seasons move and the world turns and how critter kingdoms rise and fall.”

We probably won’t go back-packing in the Tetons with our gaggle of boys, but I can first model and then teach and nurture an awe and interest in the tiny worlds of wonder right in our pavement-filled neighborhood.  During our two week spring break, we went to the movies and did other spring-breaky things. But the things that brought our children the most joy were catching shrimp and chasing crabs, tidepooling and taking care of a lame little birdie. As I have been practicing this lately, I have found my own soul soothed and sighing in relief.

The Gifts That Will Keep

Rather than teach kids wonder,
We’ve brought them to the store.
Rather than offering lasting things,
We suffocate them with more.

The free gifts are the most costly;
It’s easier to purchase the cheap.
But imagination, awe and wonder:
These are the gifts that will keep.

Free time and margins and presence,
These are the tools of the child;
But these cost us our own agendas,
So we settle for presents less wild.

 

Lasagna and Love

Twice this week I have found myself crying in the grocery store. Earlier in the week, my eyes were leaking while looking for cereal. Then yesterday, tears pooled in my eyes while perusing the pasta aisle. Supposedly when hard or strange things happen, people have a bias toward normalcy. In the midst of situations that are surprising or overwhelming, people tend to find relief in everyday tasks.Maybe that is why I found myself twice crying and processing while grocery shopping.

Dear friends and ministers of the gospel in our city are walking through the depths with Covid. Their son is my son’s age, and we adore him. The reality that a boy my son’s age should have to shoulder the weights he is bearing overwhelms me nearly to the point of paralyzation.

With that as the backdrop, the national events of the week felt like too much. My brain has processed the events that unfolded at the Capitol building, but my heart has not caught up. I saw the fear in my older boy’s eyes as we processed these events as a family.

Overcome by evil and brokenness. Helpless and powerless. Vulnerable.

Those big emotions were roiling in my soul while my cart was rolling through the grocery store. And my eyes were the release valve for the pressure that was building.

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21).

I know this verse well. It comes out of my mouth like muscle memory when my boys are in a squabble, returning tit for tat. But this morning, my soul needs to sit inside this short sentence and nestle down into these truths.

I cannot visit the hospital. Neither can my friends, even though their father and husband has been there for weeks.

Outside of my right to vote and my responsibility to be informed, I feel helpless in the current political situation.

To be honest, I want to numb myself and run away from the uncomfortable. But God has been so clear that he wants me to sit in these feelings, to wade into these puddles of fear and dependency. To wade, but also to wait on Him.

For we serve a God who is well-acquainted with brokenness (Isaiah 53: 3–4). We worship a Savior who willingly let the weight of evil crush him on the cross (Isaiah 53:5). But He rose from the dead, overwhelming the overwhelming evil with a goodness that could only come from Him.

Even if He doesn’t immediately fix them, He meets us in the places that paralyze us. And as we wade and wait, He invites us to do the next right thing.

Which brings me back to the grocery store. I don’t love cooking, and I am not particularly good at it. But I can make a decent veggie lasagna. I can pray while I boil noodles. As I layer pasta and mozzarella, I can consider the layered love that Christ has shown for a mangled humanity.

Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15).

This feels small, but the One who hung the stars told us this is how we move forward until His return. So lasagna by lasagna, letter by letter, small act by small act, we walk in His great love.

He will return. And all the suffering and confusion and helplessness will overwhelmed and swallowed up by life.

He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from the earth, for the Lord has spoken. It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation (Isaiah 25:8-9).

Until then, we make lasagna and we trust in His steadfast love.

21 Things I Know About 2021

There is nothing I absolutely know about the coming year. But, based on reasonable evidence, I can safely predict a few things. I will burn all the cookies (even slice and bake and even when I set a timer). I will vow to try new recipes but will likely revert to the faithful few that have sustained us thus far. I will drink far too much coffee and not nearly enough water. 

Rather than waste my time (and yours) speculating, I have chosen to spend my morning guiding my mind to what is absolutely true rather than guessing about what may or may not come to be. 

  1. We will suffer, but God cares enough about human suffering to share in it and to ultimately undo it (Isaiah 53:3-5).
  2. I will hurt and disappoint those I love the most, but hope in God will not be disappointed (Romans 5:3-5).
  3. We will be shocked and surprised by events outside our control, but said events have passed through the scarred hands of a loving savior before they came to be. 
  4. My boys will continue to grow (spiritually, physically, emotionally, relationally) and experience all the growing pains that come with it. But Jesus himself did the same and faithfully walked through their stages of life. As such, they have a pioneer partner in him. 
  5. Some days I will feel close to god but other days i will feel numb to his nearness. Either way, it is in Him that I live and move and have my being (Acts 17:). He is closer than close in the third person of the trinity. 
  6. Though I intend to do good, I will be bent back toward self (in curvatus en se and Romans 7). Yet my savior straightens me day by day, realigning me to His image. 
  7. During waves of shame from sins and wrongs done by me and to me), I will try to isolate myself. But the lord will draw me with cords of love and through my own desperation to the care of the body of Christ. When we walk in the light as he is in the light we have fellowship with him. 
  8. The brokenness within and without will buffet and blunt me, but Gods word will shape and sharpen me (psalm 19). 
  9. The path to life will sometimes feel like death but I will trust the facts of the creator rather than my own feelings. there is a way that seems right to man but in the end it leads to death. 
  10. Habits will shape me far more than the seemingly huge decisions I will face this year 
  11. Though the church visible will falter, the church invisible will not fail. 
  12. I will slip into seeing the world through lenses of scarcity and skepticism but those lenses do not change the super abundance of his steadfast love. 
  13. Though the church visible will falter, the church invisible will not fail (Matthew 16:18).
  14. As much as I try to maintain the illusion of control, I am not in control. But I serve the God who is the blessed Controller of all things (1Timothy 6:13-16)
  15. I will do ridiculous amounts of laundry, but even those small chores can be done as worship unto the King of Kings (1 Corinthians 10:31).  
  16. In the midst of mundane days, there will be luminous moments when kairos breaks into chronos. I will never know when to expect these moments, but I will treasure them as gifts when they do. 
  17. I will run after lesser lovers. But, like Hosea pursued Gomer, God will pursue me, even using pain to point me back to Him, my true lover (Hosea 2:6–7).
  18. I will jealously look upon your posts and feeds, but God will wrestle me back to my green pastures and hold me at my still waters (Psalm 23: 1–2).
  19. I will exhaustedly collapse into my Sabbath time with Jesus weekly. Yet, somehow, He will revive and refresh me, sending me back out into good works He has prepared for me (Exodus 20: 8–11 and Acts 3:19–21).
  20. People who know and love me will lovingly call me out on my sin. I will initially be defensive, but God will remind me that true love mixes grace with truth (John 1:17 and Galatians 6:1–5).   
  21. Amid all the changes and curves which are heading our way this next trip around the sun, Jesus Christ will be the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). 

Now, I must go burn some cookies and forget to thaw the meat for dinner. Happy New Year to you and yours!

A Declaration of Dependence

I am incredibly grateful for and deeply benefit from the Declaration of Independence penned by Thomas Jefferson; however, my soul needs to be stamped with deeper declaration daily: a declaration of dependence.

My flesh recoils against such a declaration, but my soul was sewn with its principles. I go against the grain of universe when I try to defy it, yet I wonder why I am left splintered and sore.

  • I am a dignified derivative, I was never meant to exist alone (Genesis 1:27-28). As a sentient being made in the image of a Trinitarian God, my soul craves relationship, most notably with the relational God out of whose fullness I was born. 
  • I cannot love myself or accept myself without reference to God. To do so is to love a lesser self and accept that which is unacceptable. When I love sin, I hate and hurt myself (Proverbs 8:36; Psalm 16:4; James 1:14-15). Even though sin overpromises fulfillment, it delivers only death and addiction (John 10:10). Therefore, the only way to truly love myself is to hate my sin. But I cannot do that, try as I may. I am desperately needy and sick, and I cannot earn my way out of this state (Romans 7:21-24). 
  • As prone as I am to performance, I do not trick the one who sees all things. My soul and thoughts are laid bare before him, the one to whom I must give account (Hebrews 4:12-13). Soul audits only confirm and deepen my diagnosis (Isaiah 1:2-6). 
  • I am more entrepeneurial and creative in devising ways to glorify myself and expand my own kingdom than I am in seeking to worship and glorify the only One who is worthy (Hosea 8:11-12). I am more resolute at running after lifeless idols than I am at following the One living God (Hosea 2:5; Hosea 11:2; Hosea 11:7).   
  • Yet, all these hard-to-admit realities are meant to lead me to Life. Only when I see them in all their hideousness can I find the life that is truly life (Galatians 3:24). In coming to the end of myself and my own resources, I stand at the shores of grace and find oceans of undeserved favor. 

For, the only uncreated One became dependent on my behalf (John 1). Though I hated him, he loved me  (Romans 5:6-8). Though I loved the sin that hurt me, he let himself be harmed and hung on a tree to love me (2 Corinthians 5:21;1 Peter 2:24). 

  • Now, I am able to work from my deepest identity rather than work toward it (Philippians 2:12-13). 
  • What I used to think a solid foundation for life (success, significance, comfort, approval, etc…) are exposed for the shifting sands that they are (Matthew 7:24-27). I don’t have to chase after them anymore through everyone around me and the remnant of flesh within me urge me to do so. In a world that says chase your dreams, I am invited to chase after righteousness (Matthew 6:33). 
  • I don’t have to expend myself climbing the ladder of success, because the most successful One climbed down from heaven to bring me up to him (Ephesians 4:10; Philippians 2:5-11). I don’t have to force my way, because I know that He will have his way in me (Job 42:2).
  • My own needs, though real and significant, no longer have to dictate my every action. I can entrust them to Him who delights to give me all good things (Luke 12:32; Romans 8:32). There is now space in my heart to join Christ in his sufferings and apply his sacrifices to the lives of those around me (Colossians 1:24; Philippians 1:29). 
  • In a world obsessed with power and beauty, I am free to be vulnerable and weak (2 Corinthians 12:9). In a world obsessed with prestige and honor, I can sit securely in the low seat because I know my high place in his sight (Luke 14:7-11). In a world obsessed with the big and quick, I can do little things with great love and sow to the Spirit patiently knowing that, in due season, a harvest of righteousness will be reaped (Luke 16:10; Galatians 6: 7-10).
  • I will forget this entire declaration on every day that ends in -Y. But he will not forget me (Isaiah 49:15-16; Hosea 11:8-9). He is patient with me and promises to complete what he has begun (Philippians 1:6). 

It may not be as beautiful as Jefferson’s parchment, but its truths are far more potent. While Jefferson’s declaration initiated a nation, the declarations of dependence found in God’s Word establish an unshakeable kingdom.

The Baptism of the Ordinary

His life seemed laced with a golden thread. A commander of the army of the King of Syria. A great man, held in high favor, he had experienced much victory due to his valor. Yet one dark thread threatened his peace and prosperity: he had leprosy.

Naaman likely saw this as the growing black mark on his otherwise glowing life; however, God graciously used what he thought was a harbinger of death as a doorway to life. What he thought was an obtrusive inconvenience was ultimately God’s gracious invitation.

God used his leprosy to heal of him the more dangerous pride that was deadening his soul as leprosy was deadening his nerves.

A servant girl, captured from Israel, a small and unimportant nation, another notch on the belt of the Syrian army, initiated the process that lead to his healing. That he, a captain and a wealthy man of Syria would heed advice from a female servant from Israel would have been a blow to his pride and a lowering of his position. But desperate times call for drastic measures.

With pomp and circumstance, he loads up his impressive caravan and heads to Samaria with a letter of recommendation from the King of Syria himself. How little he understood the God from whom he sought healing! Caravans and crowns, prestige and position: these meant little to him. He required humility and faith, two things that money cannot buy.

He went first to the King of Israel, with money to impress and bribe, only to be redirected to the simple, side-road house of the prophet Elisha. Much to Naaman’s chagrin, the prophet did not even greet him directly, but rather sent a message to him through a servant, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored” (2 Kings 5:10).

His pride injured and insulted, Naaman fumed, “Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” (2 Kings 5:12).

Yet again, servants spoke sense to him. They bid him humbly honor the prophet’s request. Naaman laid down his wealth, his pride, and his national sentiments. He washed himself seven times in the muddy waters of the Jordan, and he came up healed, body and soul.

Ordinary Means, Extraordinary Means

While I don’t have leprosy, my soul is sick with pride. A true product of a culture that holds power, privilege, and wealth as the highest ends, I want to be special. I want to stand above as someone set apart.

Yet, the same Lord that bid Naaman wash in a common river, bids me to be washed in the muddy waters of common life. He bids me lay down my pride and position daily as a wife and a mother. He invites me to entrust my worth and identity to him as I follow the ordinary routines of grocery shopping, laundry washing, and carpool driving. Like Naaman, the acts of service the Lord bids me to obey often offend my sensibilities. There is little shininess or flash to such common acts of household and neighborhood service. The only caravan involved here is a caravan to sporting events.

However, these small, seemingly insignificant acts of obedience are killing the pride that is killing me. They are invitations to trust that God does beautiful things through common means. They are opportunities to actively believe that, through the means of small, ordinary, common acts of faithfulness, God is doing an eternal, lasting work. He is sanctifying and shaping me into one who deeply resembles him, even in the innermost parts.

Our salvation was secured by Christ. In baptism, we have been united to him in both his death and life. However, our sanctification involves regular baptism into ordinary, common acts of faithfulness. The Holy Spirit both invites us to lay aside pride and prestige, and enables us to dunk in the dirty waters of everyday obedience. In so doing, we are being transformed from one degree of glory to another (2 Corinthians 3:18).

A Labyrinth of Lies

Being stuck in one’s house and being stuck in one’s head are not one-in-the-same; however, they do seem to travel together. Lately, while continuing to do all the tasks of life on the surface, I have simultaneously been lost in a labyrinth of lies. I realize it’s not just me. I am watching my husband and boys wrestle through their own unique labyrinths even as I do.

I am adding the role of amateur cartographer to my resume. But before I can point them to the freedom of the truth, I have to be rescued from my own labyrinth daily. It is hard to point my children to freedom when I myself am shackled by chains of self-sufficiency. It is nearly impossible to lead my children to the adequacy of Christ when lies of inadequacy paralyze me.

Jesus knew the sinister lies of his long-time enemy. He was unafraid to publicly label him the father of lies.

He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44).

After all, Jesus had seen the angel-turned enemy slink into the garden to spread his half-truths (which are full lies). He saw those lies gather power like sinister snowballs, wreaking havoc in human history.

But just as the Enemy speaks and acts out of his own nature, so, too, does our Christ. He not only spoke the truth, He was the truth. The enfleshed word of God came down to lead us out of our labyrinths.

When the liar attempted a desert-version of the temptation in Eden, Christ stood in the truth. Fully human, he was tempted in every way as we are, but the lies did not entangle him (Hebrews 4:15-16). Even until the night before His death, He watched the twelve struggle to understand and believe the truths he declared to them constantly. He knew that apart from divine empowerment, they would not stand in the truth. As such, he promised them a divine helper and live-in truth-teller in the Holy Spirit (John 14:25-16).

Our Jesus stood in the truth even when his feet were lifted off the ground and nailed unto the Cross. He alone can lead us from the custom-made labyrinths of lies that have us cornered and cowering. He speaks the truth to us through His Word enlivened by His Spirit. He levels labyrinth lies with His love.

Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling! (Psalm 43:3).

We are not enough; He is. We are not strong; He is. We are not wise; He is. We are not adequate; He is. We are not able; He is.

Your labyrinth is not mine. Nor is mine my husband’s or children’s. Even our own labyrinths shift with the cunning of their custom-builder. But the same loving leader rescues us all. He finds us, paralyzed and powerless. He lifts our eyes to him and leads us into the wide places of His freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17).

He brought me out into a broad place; he rescued me because he delighted in me (Psalm 18:19).

I don’t know what crafty lies of the coward have you and yours cowering today. Most of the time, I have a hard time identifying and naming the walls of my own entrapment. But I do know the One that does. He still levels lies with His love. He still speaks the truth that leads His people into the fullness of freedom.

Seeing Through

Soul and sight are inextricably tied together. When my soul is rested and sated with my Savior, my eyes are full of light. They scan the physical topography of my life for the spiritual realities to which they were meant to point. 

On my best days, my eyes join my soul in looking for life from the Life-Giver who stands behind and underneath the realities of my life. Interruptions to my plans for the day can be seen as course corrections from a well-intended heavenly father. My children’s meltdowns can be seen as windows into their needs rather than weights to slow me down. 

Unfortunately, the inverse is also true. When my soul grows weary, my eyes tend to follow suit. They both give up on the hard work of looking through and begin looking at. 

Angry tears were welling in my eyes in carpool line. I felt put-upon and inconvenienced by circumstances that were out of my control. If I am honest, I felt angry with God. Angry that the days had not panned out in the ways I had carefully planned. Angry that choppy relationships seemed to be adding to an already-stormy season. Angry at the failures and foibles of others that reveal my own failures and foibles. After weeks of hard conversations and weighty circumstances, I found myself looking at circumstances and people rather than looking through them.

Seeing Through

My eyes and soul, that tired pair, had lost the ability to have a farther, deeper focus. They had stopped looking underneath and through circumstances and people and had settled for looking at them. Such sight is sure to end in disappointment and frustration, for our souls are made for a focal point far beyond this globe. Souls stilled by the gospel and lives anchored into His sure promises are able to look underneath and through circumstances back to the Savior.

Underneath that moment of disobedience is a boy who desperately needs to hear the gospel is true, not just in general, but specifically for him (see 1 John 1:9)

Underneath what feel like demands are deep needs and deep fears that are begging to be directed to a devoted Savior (Proverbs 20:5)

Underneath that angry social media post is a human heart swollen with a story needing to be heard (see James 1:19)

Underneath secondary causes is a loving Savior who is committed to my wholeness and sanctification as well as theirs (see Romans 8:28). 

Underneath the destruction of my paper-thin plans, there remains the immovable purposes of a good God. 

Seen Through

God, through His Spirt, His Word, and His people, invites me to see through because I have been seen through and yet loved. 

God has seen through my sad attempts at self-sufficiency, loving me enough to expose my utter insufficiency (see John 15:4). 

God has seen through my thick, complex walls of protection and has initiated to love the little girl who hides behind them (see Isaiah 25:12). 

God has seen through my attempts to boast in human knowledge and is slowly training me to let my only boast be understanding and knowing him (see Jeremiah 9:23-24). 

God has seen through my frantic need to have illusion of control and continually beckons me to trust Him as the blessed controller of all things (see 1 Timothy 6:15).

The reality is that I need to continually be seen through so that I might see through. I wish it were a one-and-done reality; however, God has seems to prefer an ongoing, relational dynamic with His children. 

When my eyes begin to look at rather than seeing through, my soul needs a fresh check-in with the Gentle Physician. When my focus becomes shortened, I need time to refocus on the One who sees me completely yet loves me fully. This will be my reality until that glorious day when my eyes can fully see the One whom fully sees me (see 1 John 3:2 & 1 Corinthians 13:12). 

Dandelion Days

The closest thing we get to even the appearance of snow balls during San Diego winters are dandelion globes. I always smile when I see them growing, because they bring back childhood memories of playfully scattering their seeds. However, of late, I have a new reason to smile when I see them on my morning walks.

Recently, I slowly savored Elisabeth Elliot’s A Pathway Through Suffering. Each chapter began with a botanical example from Lilias Trotter. While I found them all to be challenging and beautiful, one in particular has stayed with me upon completion of the book.

“The seed vessel hopes for nothing again. It seeks only the opportunity of shedding itself; its purpose is fulfilled when the wind shakes forth the last seed, and the flower stalk is beaten low by autumn storms. It not only spends, but is ‘spent out’ at last.”

Trotter, a gifted writer and observer of nature, has painted seed dispersal in beautiful terms; yet, death to self is less poetic and more painful in actual practice.

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Lately, it has helped me to imagine my life as a field and each day its own individual dandelion globe (technically called blowballs or clocks).  The entire purpose of such a globe is to release its scores of individual seed fruits (technically called achenes). Thus, for the dandelion, losing its last threads of its self is technically winning. In dying to itself, it is fulfilling the very mission for which it so intricately exists: to scatter and shed abroad its seeds of life. Its death means the new life of countless more dandelion plants who, in time, will return the favor!

I tend to want to hold on to my time, my energy, my plan for the day, and my wishes and wants. After all, everything in my flesh agrees with everything the world and the Enemy of my soul feed me in every radio wave, internet connection and whispered lie. Hold on to your life. Protect your own. Treat your self. After all, who else will?

Yet, each day,  I am offered various experiences intended to help me die to myself that others might live.

To throw the baseball when all I want to do is text a friend. To absorb an angry email, offer the frustration up to Jesus, and to respond in gentleness and humility. To stop what I am focused on to listen to my husband process his day. To cook a meal even though I would rather read a book or take a walk.

Tiny deaths, but chances to practice dying to myself that others might receive life just the same.

For some reason, imagining another little seed parachuting off to plant life somewhere has helped me to see these tiny deaths to self as tiny victories rather than terrible inconveniences.

Death to self as one great, heroic act feels overwhelming and impossible to my self-centered soul. However, faithful daily dying to self that leads to a lifetime of self laid down for the sake of and by the power of a Savior’s love feels far more do-able to me.

Faithful daily dying leads to faithful final breath. May we let the light breezes or gale force winds of our days help us to let go of our lives, seed by seed. May we be able to confidently say with Paul, we are…

…always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. 2 Corinthians 4: 10-12. 

An Antidote for Control

Three trips to Home Depot. Two trips to Ikea. One trip to Big Lots. Over the past few days, my handy husband and I have been in all-out task mode attempting to speedily make desk spaces for our children. The obvious felt need to make conducive learning spaces for each of our boys covered a less overt deeper need in my soul: something I could control.

My desire to order and shape what feels chaotic is not in and of itself a bad thing. On the contrary, such desires to order the private and public places in which God has placed us stem from the desired end for which we were created: to image and glorify God. After all, God spoke order and structure into the unordered world created by His words. He set boundaries for the seas, telling them where to stop. He separated the light from the dark, creating the earth’s sun to rule the day and the moon the night (along with the countless other suns and moons of our galaxy and those in the countless other galaxies beyond our own).

In the Garden of Eden, the Father gave his first human creations the compliment of joining him in his ordering work. He invited them to tend to the garden and name the plants and animals of the freshly-minted world. In the gospel of Christ, our Triune God gave us the means to begin to live ordered spiritual lives that begin with right-standing with God. The Holy Spirit continues His ongoing work of integration (making whole) in a world deeply influenced by an enemy who is constantly disintegrating (pulling apart). Much to our surprise, He does this primarily through indwelling and reshaping the hearts and minds of believers in Christ. 

The desire to order our private worlds is not wrong; however, sometimes this desire becomes inordinate and idolatrous. While the desks turned out beautifully, they were not able to deliver the peace and reassurance that I was subconsciously demanding of them. Lest you think me alone in being crazy enough to think that inanimate objects of my own making could satisfy soul needs within me, the prophet Isaiah repeatedly spoke of similar trends.

The desks were more an attempt to control a world that feels increasingly out of control. On top of the pressure cooker that is pandemic living, we have friends who are losing loved ones and relational and financial stressors of our own. There are far more questions whirling around in my head and heart than there are anchored answers. With mounting fears, comes the growing need for control, as fear and control create quite a feedback loop. When we are afraid, we grasp for control. In our grasping for control, we stir up more fear.

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What the desks could not deliver, the Word of God did, offering an antidote for my need to control. While reading one of my favorite Psalms, the Spirit opened my eyes to fresh insights.

“Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God” (Psalm 31:5). 

David, who penned this psalm, often had very little control over his circumstances. Though he had been anointed to be the future king of Israel, he spent many years being hounded and harmed by the presiding and precarious King Saul. In the midst of circumstances he could not control, he committed his circumstances and his very life to the blessed controller of all things. The Hebrew word pagad, translated commit above, can also be translated to appoint, to point in charge, and to give oversight. Thus, David appointed God to be in charge of the things that he knew he could not control. Rather than grasping for control, he gave it over to the One who could far better create, sustain, and restore all things.

When we face fearful circumstances without and conundrums within, we have a similar choice: to commit or to control.

Thankfully, we have one who did this fully and completely even in the gravest circumstances that led from a cross to a grave. The One who perfectly ordered and arranged all things took on himself all that was dis-ordered about ourselves and our world. And while he suffered in doing so, he actually quotes from this Hebrew Psalm, crying out, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46).

May this week finding you seeking to commit more and control less.

Agape Agony

We all want to receive agape love but grimace when we are asked to give it.

Agape love, by nature, is unconditional and self-emptying. The other varieties of love offer more reciprocity. Storge love, which is parental love, costs much upfront but is paid in dividends later and throughout.  Eros love, which is romantic love, pays upfront and shows its costs more honestly along the way. Phileo love, which is friendship love, typically stays in the middle range of cost and benefit.

Not so agape love. It is costly and quiet. It absorbs an insane amount of costs and takes much under the chin.  It cannot flow out where it has not flowed in, and it can only flow in from One source: the wellspring of life, Jesus Christ who defined agape love.

The older I get, the more in awe of agape love I am becoming and the more it is being asked of me by my Master. It is not getting easier to give. Every time it is required of me, I find myself back at the Cross trying to receive what I am required to give.

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When someone once asked one of my writing heroes Madeline L’Engle if her faith sustained and influenced her writing, she replied that her writing influenced and sustained her faith. I find myself in the same place nearly every week, writing to remind myself of what I believe and massage it into my life and heart.

Agape Agony

Agape sounds so lovely,
But it feels like agony.
A costly, emptying love
Led its author to the tree. 

To love, to pour, to spend
To be left wanting in reply
Tests the strength of love,
Begs a source Most High.  

My attempts are alloyed,
Tainted, stained, impure.
The sacrifices I’ve made
Make me love you more

What I do in fits and starts,
You did always, all the way.
The costs tempting me to run
Are those that made you stay.

I empathize with Peter’s
“We have left all for you.”
Like you are your rewards:
Other through and through.

Loneliness as wage for love,
Less, not more security.
After decades of service,
You are our only surety.

We’ll walk the wilderness,
Trust you in a land unsown.
Our one great reward will be
To still be called your own. 

We will not begrudge you
Bruises, bumps, and storms.
Each complicating curve
Us into your image forms.

The plan that perplexes us
Before you is perfectly plain.
For you will have your bride
Without a blemish or stain. 

Then, now, and tomorrow,
Thrice worthy you will be!
We only ask continually
To have thrice more of thee!