Is God Holding Out On Us?

I love epic stories. The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Chronicles of Narnia, Star Wars, Harry Potter…these stories move us and our souls resonate with the reverberation of a sacred song being sung through them. Samwise Gamgee sums it up so well:

 “It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo: the ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. […] Folks in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going, because they were holding on to something.”

 Deep within each of us we know at our core that we are a part of something bigger. There is a bigger story being told.

We must recognize that scars and struggles are part of the journey. Every hero faces battles against evil forces. The reality of evil rears its ugly head. Wars rage on in the hopes that no matter the cost, good might ultimately prevail.

Arguably more important than the battles faced against external evil are the battles the epic hero faces against themselves. In every great epic, the hero faces a crisis of character; the evil that exists in himself. Frodo has to feel the weighty burden of the ring, and press on to destroy it. Peter must overcome his fear and insecurity in order to kill a wolf to save his sisters. Edmund has to be humbled and broken over his pride and selfishness. Luke has to recognize the darkness that existed in him, as it did his father. Harry has to destroy horcruxes—each one more and more difficult.

Every hero has to tackle his own dark potential in order to conquer and experience victory—-the proverbial “happy ending.”

I have been a Christ-follower for 13 years now. Over these years, I have had to come face to face with my own capacity for hatred, for bitterness, for my potential to be foolish, prideful, selfish, anxiety-ridden, fearful and more. In my struggles against myself, there is a common lie that I believe: God is holding out on me. I believe the lie that God is not all good.

It’s an ancient lie; the same one that Adam and Eve believed. Believing that God isn’t all good, that God is holding out on us, that God doesn’t actually love us. We let go when we must hold on.

When we let go of the Truth of the character of God, we cannot hold fast to the Truth of the promises of God. 

The Truth is that God is all good. His character is good. His promises are good. And He is not holding out on us. He promises that all of the trials, all of the tears, all of the pain—ALL of it—will be made right. His rule is just and righteous. And so we press on. In the name of our King, we press on and fight—bitter as it may be this side of Heaven—knowing that like Frodo, we will one day pass into the West.

Oh, friends, let us hold fast. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, and know that the struggles are worth it. It is worth it to fight for the Kingdom of Heaven. It is worth it to fight for justice, and goodness. It is worth it to stay the course, to run hard, and to love strong.

Your life is bigger than the chapter you are in. Let us press on together.

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Learning How to Die

Learning How To Die Blog ImageLately people have been asking how we are doing with the new baby. My usual response is some quirky, humorous quip about being sleepy and that it’s a good thing babies are so cute. The whole truth is that there are good days when I feel like we are getting somewhere with new routines, decent sleep, and sometimes even getting a decent dinner put together. But then there are days like today when I just want to curl up in a ball and cry right alongside of my baby.

It’s a tension, and it’s sometimes an excruciating one that points to my self-centered nature.

It’s easier to cover up my selfishness, pride, and senseless irritability when I’ve had enough sleep, routines are fairly predictable and stable, and things are overall going well. But the seismic shift of adding a newborn to the dynamic strips away my defenses and shows me what really lies beneath.

I am selfish. I want my coffee first. I want what I need first.

Recently my husband and I took a day trip to Indiana to celebrate a friend’s new marriage. My oldest stayed with grandparents, and we took the baby on his first road trip. My husband stopped to treat us to Starbucks. He ran inside to order while I stayed in the car with our (screaming) baby. I sent him a text message with a last minute change up from my “usual” beverage.

When he came back, there was a mix up in my drink. It tasted awful to me. And you would have thought that I had suffered the most severe wound. I was angry. About a cup of coffee. A $5 cup of coffee that my husband graciously wanted to treat me to.

And I pouted like a child.

I’m spoiled. And that moment was ugly, and probably wouldn’t have happened if my normal layers of control, predictability, and quality sleep were in place. But they weren’t. And aren’t. And I’m all too aware of the truth: I need my Savior to rescue me and change my heart. I can’t do it myself.

I want to do good, but I can’t. When I am at my weakest, I can’t keep up the charade. I need Jesus for all that He is. I am capable of hurting someone that I love over a silly cup of coffee. And so I, like Paul in Romans, declare, “Oh wretched man that I am! Who will save me from this body of death?”

It’s romantic to talk about “dying to self” and “laying down our lives for our friends,” but what we don’t talk about is how hard that really is. It is a painful thing to choose what someone else needs over what we personally want or need. It’s painful to choose selflessness one time; it’s excruciating as a lifestyle. Being crucified with Christ hurts.

But we must first learn to die before we can experience resurrection.

And so, in the middle of my mess of a self, in the middle of my broken nature capable of worse things than I can imagine, I’m learning how to die. I’m learning how to trust Jesus to do what only He can do: give me a new heart. Give me the courage to choose someone else over myself. Give me the strength to be faithful with what He has placed in my hands. And trust that my saving grace is found in Him alone.

Lord, Save Me From Myself.

With Us In The Crazy

God With Us In The Crazy Blog Photo

I’m adjusting to having a second child. He’s only six weeks old, so I’m still in the newborn fog part of everything. Some nights are ok, but others are rough. Last night was one of those.

I was exhausted, and frustrated, and completely freaked out that I am back to work. There are lots of chores that need to be done around the house, I have a five year old that needs my attention, and there’s exactly one of me.

In the darkness, in the depths of heavy exhaustion, I couldn’t help but know that while my plate is full at the moment, it is right where I am supposed to be. And it’s not up to me to “succeed” (whatever that means or looks like). It’s up to me to be faithful. To show up. To give it my best and my all, and to trust God to do what He will with my little self.

Recently my friend and fellow writer, Emily Meyer (she’s awesome, and you should all follower her writing at www.emilypmeyer.com), reminded me of two important facts:

1. When I can’t, Christ can. When my to-do list is overwhelming, and when I don’t have the strength or time to do it all, much less do it well, Christ can.

Our God is the God that multiplied fish and loaves for the masses. He provided one of his disciples’ tax money by having him find a coin in a fish’s mouth. He made the sun stand still to bring His people to victory. Our God provides for all of our needs, including the time and energy to accomplish what He has called us to do. Surely the God that multiplied one small boy’s lunch to feed a multitude can take my little life and use it. Our job is to hold our to-do list up to Him and ask, “What of this is from you for me to accomplish?” and then walk in obedience trusting Him to make our ordinary extraordinary.

2. If love is not my primary motivation behind each task on my to-do list, what is it worth, and why should I bother doing it?

1 Corinthians 13 tells us that if we do not have love, we are just a clanging cymbal. Emily put it so well:

“The world does not need more noise; it needs music.”

That’s powerfully beautiful, isn’t it? I don’t want to be an obnoxious cymbal standing alone making a bunch of additional noise; I want to be a part of a grand symphony playing rhythmically and strategically. I fear that more often than not I get more of a high from the little checks next to each item than I do loving the God and the people I should be doing each thing for.

So, when we’re tempted to feel overwhelmed by the many hats we all wear, when we feel afraid of our inability to do it all, when we actually CAN’T do it all, when we’re multi tasking writing a blog with a baby sleeping on our chest (ah-hem), we can trust that God is with us. Let’s start by evaluating our motives for each item, asking if love is the “why” behind the item, and then let’s walk in brave obedience, trusting God to sustain and accomplish what only He can.

These Small Hours

These Small Hours Blog Photo

For those of you wondering where I’ve been, I’m thrilled to share that my husband and I welcomed our second son, Chase Remington, on June 24. As you can imagine, our lives have been consumed with feedings, diaper changes, and nights filled with frequently interrupted sleep. Here’s to new life, and moving forward with our journey together!

Having a second child has been very different for me than having the first. It’s one thing to be told before you have children that being a mother means putting your child’s needs before your own. It’s another thing to experientially know it; to feel the tension of dying to yourself for the sake of your child is very different from hearing it from others. Going into having baby #2, I at least knew to expect discomfort and the pain of sacrificing my immediate wants for my children’s needs (my morning cup of coffee is often delayed until 10am, for instance).

But the five years between the births of my children has also taught me that infancy, the toddler years, and preschool pass by faster than I wish they did. They are exhausting years, but they are precious and so beautiful. For my oldest those infantile years are passed and he is now a “big boy” starting elementary school. I celebrate that with him, but it has also created such an acute awareness of just how short a time I have my boys at home with me.

Rob Thomas once sang, “Our lives are made in these small hours; these little moments…”. This second, and this one, and this one… make up the minutes that make up the hours that make up the days, and before we know it we’re at the end of our life. These days of no makeup, yoga pants, and spit up in my hair count. That job you’re in that you wish you were done with…it counts. Those times when we spend too much time looking at our phones or tablets (let’s admit it: most of us have to be aware of this…), that time counts too. And while God gives incredible, amazing grace, there are no do-overs. When all is said and done, what will we have to show for the time we have been given?

God desires for us to invest our time well. So in a world with so many choices, how do we choose well? I am becoming more and more aware of my great need to simply stop and ask God for the wisdom, and then for the courage and strength to obey.

At any given moment, there is a full list of to-dos to complete. You too, huh? What would life look like if we stopped and surrendered our days to the good hands of God, and simply told Him, “Yes, Lord. Whatever you have for me today, my answer is yes”? I’ve been trying to practice this more and more, and I’m finding out that sometimes my to-list has to go out the window because my little boy needs his mom to play catch in the back yard. Sometimes I have to buckle-down and get the writing done. Sometimes I have to scrub a toilet, or sweep the floors with a baby strapped to me.

And sometimes I need to just sit still and consider the goodness of God in the middle of it all.

Daily–even moment-by-moment–let’s stop and ask God what is best. At any given time we all have choices for how we invest our time. It might hurt–when the thing we want to do in the moment is not the best choice. Sometimes we must work when we want to rest. Other times we must choose to rest when the to-do list is overwhelming. Both have their place.

But God loves us like a Father, and He has given us His Holy Spirit as a great counselor. So take advantage of it! Let’s ask Him, “Lord, what would you have me choose to do with the time you’ve given me today? How about this moment right now?” And then let’s walk in obedience and let the Lord handle the rest.

At the end of our lives, we will not regret choosing obedience to the wise counsel of God. The sum of these small hours is a lifetime. Invest well.