Category Archives: motherhood

The Lord is Our Lodestar

Supposedly people are leaving California by droves. I saw a Babylon Bee this week to the effect of awarding Governor Newsom the highest salesman for U-Haul trucks. I do not want to get political. I think I am largely allergic to politics. 

That being said, I felt the weight of the world this week. I felt the weight of the reality that God has led us to have our children in public schools in San Diego (if you disagree, please take it up with the Lord himself, as we get our orders for our children each year from him). Even those who are not called to raise their children in an urban, postChristian, postmodern city must grapple with the incredibly strong cultural currents that are ripping through once seemingly (though only seemingly) serene cultural seas. 

This Friday, I spoke to our youth, a motley crew of 12-15 years olds, about identity. I had to contend for things that were once commonly presumed and assumed. But I was glad for the chance to be sharpened and concise enough in my communication of biblical identity to be heard and semi-understood in fifteen minutes before fifteen year olds. 

Our identity is not the same as our identifiers. Our deepest identity is not merely the sum of our surname, our sport, our successes, and our sex. Our deepest identity is who our Creator says we are irregardless of our feelings, failures, or foibles. As his created image-bearers, we are his by birth (Genesis 1:26-27; Psalm 139; Isaiah 43:20). And those who are in Christ are twice-his. His by birth and His by rebirth (Ephesians 2:1-10; John 3: 5-8).

As those purchased at an unthinkable cost, our lives are no longer our own (Galatians 2:20-21; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

I wish I could say that I always lived in the peace and with the purpose that comes from these rock-solid realities. But, as I was teaching them, I was reminding myself. 

If I were my own, I could make decisions on my own. I could at least pretend to be in control of the circumstances around me and my children. Alas and alleluia, I am not.  

When I think about what our children are hearing and seeing, I cringe and cower in fear. I want to remove them from any trace of the evil one and lewd lies (John 8:44). But, then the Spirit leads my stirred-up spirit to truth as spoken by our Savior. 

“I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out  of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you send them me into the world, so I have sent them into the world” (John 17:14-18).

As I was praying this for our children, the Spirit opened my eyes to a new reality. When Jesus was praying this for his disciples (and us, as his future disciples), he knew exactly what this meant. He could not claim ignorance or partial knowledge of evil and its power, as He, being fully God and fully man, knew evil in its full, unalloyed strength. 

Jesus could likely see Peter hanging upside down on a cross when he prayed these words. He prayed this costly prayer knowing full well what Nero would do in the Roman colosseum. His all-knowing, all-seeing, all-pure eyes knew evil in a way that we never will, as we would be crushed and undone. Jesus prayed with one eye wide-open to evil and the other expectant of the keeping protection of His Father. 

Yet, he still prayed, “I do not ask that you  take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.” These words, spoken on behalf of his disciples, only reiterate what he had spoken directly to them:

“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both body and soul in hell.  Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs are on your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:28-31).

When fear of what my children may be hearing or seeing fills me, a greater fear must do the work of expelling it. My God sees, hears, and knows all. He knows the boundary lines allotted to my children. He knows the days they are living in. He chose their zip code. 

Far more important than these realities, he knows them. He knows their hearts as he knows the hairs on their heads. I am limited. I am fallible. I often don’t know what is best. 

But their ultimate Keeper does not grow weary and does not follow a circadian rhythm. He stands alert even when I sleep. He goes where I cannot go. He guards constantly, keeping watch over their souls (Psalm 121). He alerts me through his Spirit and his Word. He directs us both. He is our lodestar, the fixed point who steers us through cloud-shrouded days and dark nights. 

Photo by Zoltan Tasi on Unsplash

Lodestar

God is the lodestar of our lives;
He keeps our course set aright.
Above even the fiercest storm,
He guides us through the night.

The Lord, our designated Captain,
With great cost has gone ahead.
He charted a course through Hades
As the firstborn from the dead.

The Spirit, our steadying compass,
Cabins ever-so-closely within.
With Christ-exalting accuracy,
He points both to comfort and sin.

With such Triune involvement,
Even broken vessels have hope.
We’ll be guided safe to harbor
Bound by love’s threefold rope.

Irrigated Souls

Our satisfaction does not have to depend on our situation or location. Our soul’s refreshment does not follow the rule of real estate, “Location! Location! Location!” The locus of our refreshment does not depend on our proximity to an external water source, but on God’s proximity to us.

If we find ourselves on a dry lot in a draught-ridden desert, our hope need not wither with heat and exposure. Consistently through the mouthpieces of the prophets, God reminds His people that He is a master irrigator. Threaded through Isaiah 42, 43, and 44 are promises of irrigation in the desert.

When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the Lord will answer them; I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys. I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water…that they may see and know, may consider and understand together, that the hand of the Lord has done this, the Holy One of Israel has created it (Isaiah 42: 17-19 & 20).

Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. The wild beasts will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches, for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people; the people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise (Isaiah 43:19-21).

But now hear, O Jacob, my servant; Israel, whom I have chosen! Thus says the Lord who made you, who formed you from the womb and will help you; Fear not, O Jacob, my servant, Jeshurun, whom I have chosen. For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring and my blessing on your descendants (Isaiah 44:1-3).

Photo by Frankie Lopez on Unsplash

To a people whose lips were parched and who trod incredibly parched places, these promises themselves must have been like drips of refreshing water. However, we, on the other side of the cross, are the recipients of such flowing promises.

We have been given the indwelling Holy Spirit, “a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14). We have a built-in irrigation system until the day when we finally sit by the river of life in the restored city garden of the New Heavens and the New Earth.

However, I forget. You forget. We live like those deserted in desert places. We pine after different circumstances or seasons. We envy those with water-front or water-filled external lots. We pout as only a parched people can.

But we have springs of living water. We have Him who created the waters and all they contain. We are siblings of the One who said boldly, “If anyone thirst, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’.” (John 7:37-38).

Our souls are better irrigated than Augusta National golf course. We don’t need a new lot. We need a fresh look at the hidden springs we have been given.

Risk, Reward, and the Redeemer

I’ve had risk on my mind of late.

It may have been taking three middle school boys (whose prefrontal cortices are not fully developed yet) hiking on a dangerous trail that triggered such a topic. Then again, it may have been the fact that we recently switched our youngest son from a small private school to a larger public school. My risk-mindedness may also be attributed to the fact that my husband and I transitioned from a ministry we have served for decades into church planting. Likely, all of these rivulets have added to the river of risk into which I have been wading.

According to a model devised by Gerald White and his collaborator John Adams, every human has an optimal risk threshold. In order to stay within the risk threshold that feels most right to who they are and how they are wired, each person is constantly balancing three factors: risk, safety, and reward.

If their theory is true, my risk temperature is arctic. I do not like the heat of change or risk. I would much rather stay within the lines and follow my norm than try something different, especially if it causes me to feel insecure or unstable. I eat the same breakfast nearly every morning; I walk the same walking route every morning; we eat a rotation of essentially the same meals every week. I sure hope the rest of my family does not have a higher risk threshold than me. If so, my methodical nature is blunting them.

Underneath these tendencies is a deep desire to perform well and get things right. I do the same things because I know those things work. I have learned to perform well in certain lanes. As such, I tend to limit my world to those lanes where I know what to expect and what is expected of me. While I would never outright say it, I don’t feel a desperate need for the Lord when I stay in my risk threshold.

Thankfully, the Lord is constantly turning up the heat and forcing us into risk thresholds that feel terribly uncomfortable. He won’t let me settle for false-safety and insulated risk. He continually calls us to new tasks and new risks which induce healthy fear, new successes and failures, and deep dependence.

The Christian life should be marked by obedient risk which is motivated by the promise of reward. Like a catalyst that helps to lower the rate of reaction, God’s promises and presence help to get us over risk high thresholds as we seek greater reward. While heaven will be rewarding, the secret to its reward is the presence of Christ. As God told Abram, who risked all he had ever known to follow a barely-known God, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.” (Genesis 15:1; NIV).

We leave known jobs and known cities to faithfully follow God’s call on our lives only when we are convinced that the reward is greater than the risk. To get more of Him, we leave what we know and love.

My husband and I encouraged our son to risk a new school because we want him to know Christ not only in exposure but also in his own personal experience. We want him to have a record of God’s faithfulness to him. We want new risks to produce new rescue which produce new songs of praise to God.

Knowing our unconditional security in Christ and the unshakeable nature of the kingdom, we are enabled to take real risks this side of glory. For, as scary as they are, these risks will induce new rescue and new songs of praise.

Sing to the Lord a new son; sing to the Lord, all the earth! Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day! (Psalm 96:1).

If you find worship falling flat or self-reliance gaining strength, perhaps there is a risk which God is calling you to consider ? It may be as simple as initiating to someone new or seeking to share the gospel with an old friend. It may be as elaborate as a career move or a new venture. Whatever it is, let your Redeemer lead you through risk to more of Himself!

On Homecomings

Last week, our two older sons went off to camp. I imaged five quiet days of bubble baths and lattes and productive work. In reality, I found myself busy missing my boys, tidying their rooms with a maternal energy that had few other places to flow.

For the first half of the week the three of us remaining home mentioned often how much we missed them; by Wednesday, we found ourselves eagerly preparing for their homecoming on Friday. We made signs and all the things.

As right as it was for them to be gone, their absence felt so wrong. Things felt incomplete without them. The house was too quiet.

Even though they were mostly being held together by Skittles and running on fumes, our reunion was sweet. Having them back, messy and loud as they are, things were set right.

Thinking of our reunion with the boys we love so dearly made me think of the Father and His reunion with His Son. Even though it was the agreed upon plan of the Trinity before time was wound, the Son’s stepping into time surely tugged at the Trinity.

While he was on earth, Jesus kept up communion with the Father, but the communion was different than what they had from experienced from eternity. The Incarnation involved leaving and loss. It involved distance that reached its climax in the agony of the Cross. More than the unimaginable physical pain of a cruel crucifixion, the turning away of the Father wounded the Son.

While I realize it is anthropomorphic, I imagined the Father lovingly tidying the universe with excited energy, waiting for His beloved Son’s return. Our God is Trinity, so it so hard for our minds not to slip into modalism; however, I am thankful that God has given us pictures of human relationships that help us vaguely understand the nature and the heart of our Triune God.

Homecoming

Eagerly awaiting His Son’s arrival, 
He passed time straightening stars.
Though their plans were eternal,
Heaven had not yet seen the scars. 

A Son lent, a curtain rent,
A Son risen soon returns. 
A curse stayed, a debt paid,
A Father for His Son yearns. 

A wave of relief overcame him;
Searing separation was done. 
The Son would sit beside Him 
Until Heaven and earth be one.
 

The Trinity danced in delight,
Before the Spirit descended. 
Redemption was secured, 
Satan’s tyranny upended

One more reunion is coming,
A homecoming of epic scale.
Exiles will enter the eternal city 
Whose King will never fail.

For now, I am thankful that my crew is home and under one roof. But I also realize that our days together under one roof are numbered, as are our days on this spinning globe. Our deepest, most lasting home is with Him. Little homecomings this side of glory give us a tiny taste of that ultimate homecoming which will be the believer’s experience of heaven.

Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations, before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God (Psalm 90:1-2).

To Give You the World: Thoughts on my son’s fourteenth birthday

Yesterday, my oldest son turned fourteen. I swear we were just taking pictures of him at fourteen months, when his nearly-Irish-twin brother and best friend entered the world. In some ways, everything has changed since then, and in others, very little.

Just last week, his giant hands gently captured a tiny lizard to befriend. My eyes leaked as I remembered that his tiny hands used to do this frequently when he was a toddler. The size of those hands may have changed, but the spirit of the boy donning them has not changed too drastically.

I remember experiencing delight and wonder as his little personality began to emerge. I did not imagine then that the wonder continued even into their teenage years when little boys start to grow into increasingly independent young men.

Amidst the worshipful wondering, there is also a lot of quizzical wondering. Are we doing this right? Are we missing some glaring gaps in his development? What are his unique passions and proclivities? Will he find friends who will help him run the race God set out for him?

Amidst all those deeper questions, I also found myself wondering, “What in the world do you buy a fourteen year old for his birthday on a budget?” It was easier when it was wooden trains and bubbles. As I wondered about what to get for our growing son, the Lord led me on a deeper journey as I realized I wanted to give him the world.

If we had the means, I would want to take him to all the places to see and experience all the things. If it were in my power, I would want to secure for him the best education, a spot on the best sports teams, and all the other superlatives.

But to do all in my power to point him to Christ is better than the world.

“For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” (Matthew 16:26).

In fact, to have Christ is to have the One who made the world and everything in it (Acts 17:24-25). To have Him is have all things (1 Corinthians 3:21-23). To have him is to have the friend who sticks even closer than his best friend of a brother (Proverbs 18:24).

If we could barely afford the ear buds, we definitely cannot afford to give him the world. But we don’t have to do so; Christ has already paid the exorbitant price with his body on the tree (1 Peter 2:24).

To Give You the World

I want to give you the world,
I want your joy to be complete. 
I want to secure every good thing,
Wrap it and lay it at your feet. 

The bossy, glossy ads entice me
To buy into their counterfeits-
To give you all the fancy things,
To seek satisfaction in the blitz. 

But the world I want to give you
Money and effort cannot secure,
The world I want to give you
Seems like less but is far more. 

Having Him, you have the world;
Without Him, all is for naught. 
I long for you to be wrapped
In the righteousness He bought. 

We will do the birthday lunch and the cake and all the things. But the most important work is already done by Christ, my son. May you know Him as long as you have breath.

Still Yet Still Spinning

On Earth, even when we are still, we are still spinning. This reality makes me feel less strange. After a long day of mom-ing and human-ing, when my body finally collapses onto the couch, my mind still spins.

No wonder we long for an a fixed point, an unchanging reality to grab onto as if our lives depended upon it.

Every time I hit a rhythm, the song changes. When we hit a stride, the course changes. When we “figure out” one season of parenting, we enter a new one.

The only thing I learned in ballet (besides the fact that I am not at all flexible) is that when spinning, one needs a fixed focal point.Nearly forty trips around the sun, I am beginning to see that God set us spinning so we would find our fixed focal point in Him alone.

Spinning

All made things move:
The Maker alone stays:
Steadfast, unchanging,
The Ancient of Days.
 

We move through life 
On this moving sphere. 
We cling and we clutch 
To hold our lives near. 

But balance comes only
From a fixed focal point. 
Any life, apart from God,
Is completely out-of-joint.
 

Stepping into our spinning,
The focal point-made-flesh,
The time-winder in time,
The Creator in a crèche. 

Sighing under our sin,
The star-hanger hung-
Rising higher than they, 
Life from death wrung. 

Center on the crucified,
On Him set your gaze. 
Spend your spinning days
 To multiply His praise. 

If you find your life spinning or feels dizzied by circumstances, I pray you may find your focal point in Him who set our globe spinning yet knows how to still a soul. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).

Flash Forward

Everyone once in a while, I see what I can imagine to be flashes of my future life. I remember being a momma of three little fellas, looking at a momma with three teenage sons at the beach, and seeing a glimpse into what our future might look like. It happens every once in a while when I look at the college students we hang out with often. But these are my best guesses as glimpses.

Jesus had more than a glimpse of his future. He knew He would die and be raised after three days. He knew who would betray Him. He knew the pain His precious mother would experience at the foot of the cross.

As I have been reading through and meditating on the gospel of Luke lately, the person of Jesus has come alive to me in new ways. Reading through His raising up the deceased only son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7), I could not help but wonder if Jesus saw his mother’s future grief as he looked at the grieving widow.

A Mental Note to Momma

I saw a semblance of our future,
Momma, today while in Nain. 
I heard the dirge of an only son;
I saw the grieving mother’s pain. 

The town gathered around her,
But they couldn’t carry her grief.
The love that I saw in her tears
Would not easily find relief. 

I couldn’t bear to look at her,
For in looking I saw you. 
Her maternal grief pierced me,
I felt it all the way through. 

I cannot stop the pain to come,
For my death will save your life. 
But knowing a momma’s heart,
I could not ignore her strife. 

At the bier that bore her son, 
I told his cold body to arise.
Listening, he came to life,
Much to momma’s surprise. 

I rode the wave of her relief;
My soul soared with her smile. 
I saw our future joy, Momma,
Though it’ll have to wait a while. 

I cannot tell you these things,
For you wouldn’t understand. 
As such, I bear a double grief,
Knowing all He has planned. 

Your tears will be a river,
For you won’t leave my side. 
For three days in heavy grief,
In desolation you’ll reside. 

The widow of Nain may join you,
Confused mothers you’ll be. 
For I who saved her only son
Will let them hang me on a tree. 

But tears won’t have the last word-
Father’s stories in ashes don’t end. 
For in times, I myself will also arise 
All death with life to suspend. 

Modern Problems & Ancient Solutions

The first Tim Keller sermon cassettes (that’s right, cassettes) I owned belonged to a series on the Psalms called “Modern Problems & Ancient Solutions.” Yes, I realize I sound ancient myself speaking of the yellow sports tape player upon which I played those tapes. At the time, most of the words ran in one ear and out the other as I ran around my small college town; however, as the Spirit is prone to do, He steadily brings them out of storage for practical use even today, some twenty years later.

Modern Problems

While the beginning of the series title might be changed to postmodern problems or even postChristian problems, the solution needs no tweaking. I say that to remind myself and others that, while the presenting issues may have changed, the biblical solutions to those issues remain rock steady.

Lately, I have been overwhelmed by the state of our world. I barely read the news, but when I do, I literally feel a burden in my throat and my tummy. Listening to our new Burmese friends speak of what their families in Myanmar are experiencing, seeing pictures of Gaza being blown to pieces by rocket fire, watching churches rip each other to shreds over modern solutions to racism. We don’t have to go looking for these things to find them in our faces.

As a mother, I tremble as I pray for our boys who are entering their teenage years. While those years are already fraught with identity struggles, our boys are literally being assaulted with worldly “wisdom” at the deepest levels of identity and sexuality. It all feels so impossibly upside-down. I feel paralyzed by postmodern problems.

This morning, as I sat down to study Psalm 18, I heard David singing a similar tune.

The cords of death encompassed me; the torrents of destruction assailed me; the cords of Sheol entangled me; the snares of death confronted me (Psalm 18:4-5).

Listen to the imagery David uses here. Cords of death surrounding and suffocating him. Floods of destruction coming suddenly upon. Entangled by evil. In fact, the Hebrew word qadam translated “confronted me” might be translated into modern vernacular as “got all up in my face.”

David’s ancient phrases perfectly describe how I feel about our modern problems. Suffocating, sudden, and all up in our face.

Ancient Solutions

The verse immediately following David’s lament, while it sounds simple, struck me as deeply profound this morning.

In my distress, I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears (Psalm 18:6).

David’s solution to the stultifying and suffocating ancient problems which surrounded him was to cry out to God. The Ageless One who stands outside of time, readied Himself to come to the aid of His people.

He bowed the heavens and came down (Psalm 18:9)

David writes in imagery what we know as history though the Incarnation of Christ. Only, when our Christ bowed the heavens and came down, He came in gentleness and meekness. He allowed Himself to be encompassed by death. He did not need to be held by cords, as He willingly gave Himself to the ignoble death of a criminal. The flood of the consequences of our sin surrounded Him. God turned away from His cries so that He could turn to hear ours.

So we cry out to our God. When the sexual ethic shifts all around our children, we cry out to God. When people continue to turn against people, we cry out to God. When the evil within our own hearts leaves us shocked and paralyzed, we cry out to God.

And our cries fall upon open ears. And the One who enabled such cries to be heard prays for us (Hebrews 7:25).

Oh, that our Ancient Solution would be freshly brought to bear on our modern problems, beginning with a fresh reapplication to our own hearts and homes.

Mind the Gap: Leaving Gaps for God to Fill

In high school, I had the privilege of spending some time in London. Even though we saw Buckingham Palace and the changing of guards and nearly got mauled by the murder of crows in Trafalgar Square, what stuck with me most was the British recorded voice saying, “Mind the Gap!” every time we disembarked public forms of transit.

Lately, the same phrase has been running circuits in my mind as I seek to parent teenagers. After all, the teenage years are marked by gaps: age gaps and height gaps, as well as gaping needs for peer interactions and gaping needs for security, identity, and affirmation.

As it is graduation time, I keep seeing those precious side-by-side pictures. You know, the ones where a cute toddler picture is juxtaposed with a grown teenager and captioned with sappy words from sad but proud parents?! I am clearly not opposed to these modern forms of marking out, as I have often posted similar side-by-side pictures of my own crew. However, what you don’t see in all those pictures are the agonizing moments of parents stepping around, praying over, and minding the gaps.

Emotional and relational gaps between what is expected and what is real concerning friends and fun. Physical and mental gaps exposed at try-outs, losses, and moments of risk and failure. Spiritual gaps shown between what heads know and what hearts struggle to believe. The strange, suddenly-shrinking-then-suddenly growing-gap between childhood dependence and young adult independence.

The Temptation to “Mend the Gap”

It sounds so simple to “Mind the Gap.” After all, to mind gaps is merely to notice them, expect them, factor them in and readjust to them. However, when I hear the phrase, my fleshly momma heart hears it as, “Mend the Gap.”

When my children are experiencing the gaps that mark the teenage years, so often, I want to fix and fill them as quickly as humanly possible. I don’t want them to experience the confusion and loneliness of wondering where to sit at the lunch table in a huge high school. I don’t want them to be bored on a Saturday evening, feeling like there is something wrong with them or that they are missing out. I don’t want them to feel stigmatized for speaking up about their faith and not fitting into because they are standing on convictions. I don’t want them to feel like they don’t measure up physically or don’t have what it takes to be strong compared to friends who tower over them.

But God doesn’t call me to mend these gaps, at least not always. He calls me to notice them and acknowledge them, sometimes quietly and sometimes aloud in relationship with my boys. He invites me to have conversations about these gaps with my guys. He most assuredly asks me to bring them to Him in prayer.

For these are opportunities both for me and my boys to watch and wait on the Lord and eventually to wonder at His goodness, graciousness, and wisdom.

I have found myself praying Psalm 25:1-3 for my boys as they experience various gaps right now.

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul; O my God, in you I trust: let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me. Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame; they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous (Psalm 125:1-3).

It is so easy for me to want to offer up self-made, knee-jerk solutions when God is merely asking me to offer up the stories of my sons to Him as yet another fragrant offering.

When I mind the gaps, rather than seeking to mend them, I leave room for my children to wrestle and cry out the God who has sovereignly allowed such gaps. I leave room for His Spirit to do what I cannot and should not do. I leave space for disappointment and confusion that could be gifts to lead them closer to the God I so long that they will know.

When Furrows Fight Back: A Theology of Work

Complaining about work is the adult equivalent of college students complaining about mid-terms and finals. And let’s be real, we all have those days when work feels like a weight too heavy to carry and “Everybody’s working for the weekend” is our theme song.

We are wired for work. Contrary to popular belief, it is not a result of the fall. Challenges in work and struggles with identity around work were most assuredly a consequence of man’s rebellion against God’s created and careful order; however, work itself honors God and is a needed part of human flourishing.

In his pattern of the perfect world He had newly minted, God offered Adam and Eve significant freedom to do significant work on the fresh earth. There were animals to name and gardens to tame. Carl Linnaeus had nothing on them. Work was not a burden, but a particular privilege for those made uniquely in God’s image.

However, in Genesis 3, when God explained the natural consequences of rebellion against His good order, he included work in his description of the curse.

“Cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, til you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:17-19).

But its not all thorns and thistles. He who wore a crown of thorns also had hands blistered from the beautiful work of carpentry. As such, both Christ’s active and passive righteousness inform our view of work. Our work is not in vain when done Coram Dei (before the face of God). As those who have been made right with God, we are freed to work under His favor. We don’t work to secure it, we work freely because it has been secured.

One day, in the New Heavens and the New Earth, we will experience meaningful, nuanced work that fits the way we were wired by God. We will roll up our sleeves happily and without stress, without sin, without the haunting need to provide security or provision. For our Christ will be all of those things and we will see Him face to face.

Furrows 

God intended faithful furrows,
The product of purposed labor,
The contented crown of creation
Working out of His full favor. 

Pushing against His protection, 
We sought power and control. 
Collapse and consequent curse 
Thoroughly took a terrible toll. 

Now the furrows fight back 
And enemies plow our backs,
Bruised bodies, furrowed brows,
Heavy plows on tired tracks. 

But the faithful, flawless Son
Gave His body for our flaws. 
His beautiful back was furrowed
To secure redemption’s cause. 

As the beloved, we labor in hope.
We dig furrows, He brings fruit. 
We faithfully cultivate our place,
As branches fed by the root.
 

If the proverbial furrows are fighting back as you work this week, know that the work story is not over yet. If your eyes are stinging from the sweat dropping from your brow, know that one day, those eyes will behold the One who sanctifies our work with His life, death, and resurrection.

Keep your hand on the plow and your eyes on the Pioneer and Perfecter of your faith.