Have you ever noticed that we rely on ourselves for far too much? When we want to change something about ourselves; our diet, our attitude, our habits, we tend to think that we need to do it ourselves. I have even heard some people say that they wanted to know more about Jesus, but felt they had to clean up their lives first.
Religion might work this way, but a relationship with Christ, does not. What I mean by that is that tradition and rules of religion may make you feel unwelcome as you are. Some churches may have rules in place, spoken or unspoken, which make you feel like you can't step foot in their doors until you've cleaned yourself up.
I will often tell myself that I cannot do something, wear something, or go somewhere, until I have lost the weight I need to lose. I will punish myself, withhold fun and rewarding things from myself, for not meeting the self-inflicted requirements, and I believe I can punish my way to my goals. Only this line of thinking never works, because I start off, already feeling defeated. Defeat hangs on my shoulders, because I am already punishing myself for not being where I'd like to be.
That is not Jesus. This is not the life or the journey he has for us. Unyeilding rules, regulations, and traditions, do not represent a rewarding relationship with Jesus. Why do we punish ourselves? He wants to make us new, but we resist His love and acceptance, in exchange for doing it ourselves. It's as though we cannot accept the reward, if we've accepted help along the way.
Do you love Jesus? Do you recognize that He is your Savior?
Then let Him SAVE you. He is there for you. You were not meant to travel this journey alone. You were not designed to change yourself, by yourself. You do not need to face your faults, your bad habits, or your addictions alone. Jesus does not expect you to clean yourself up before greeting Him. He knows every part of you, every flaw, every fault, every mistake, and He loves you anyway. He just wants you to recognize this, because standing on that truth will change your perspective, and take the weight of your own shoulders.
You are made new, in Him, and that is enough.
I am a creature of habit. So much so that I've found dieting to be most successful for me if I plan to eat nearly the same things every single day. As a stay at home mom of 4, I have always lived or died by routine. When all of my children were home, and we were homeschooling, routine was simple, and I said "no" to things outside of that routine all the time. Disrupting nap made everything about my day more difficult. Throwing off just one day's schedule, often had a ripple effect on my entire week.
Interestingly, however, while these small, seemingly insignifcant changes could greatly disturb my psyche, I could very easily roll with the punches when it came to large, life changes. They came with their difficulties, of course, but ultimately I knew that God was guiding us, I was talking to Him daily about these changes and challenges, and trusting Him for peace and wisdom throughout. We have dealt with job loss several times, big moves, new homes, new churches, new friends. All of these things I handled with more grace and peace than I tend to handle every day nuances. Why is that?
We have a tendency to exclude Jesus from the daily tasks, cut Him out of the menial, the tedious, and the monotonous. I say we because I feel I am not alone in this, but we essentially exclude Him from our daily lives, only calling upon Him when we feel we truly require His help. The rest we feel we can handle on our own. This is no big deal, right? I got this. How is that working out for you?
Because it has not been all that stellar for me. I have been frazzled, unorganized, struggling with diet, chores, plans, and memory. I cannot even tell you the number of times I have had to apologize to my children's teachers for lack of preparation on my part, or completely forgetting an event or a paper that needed returning. My children are no longer under my own schedule. With three of four children in school now, we often have obligations outside of my routine. We cannot always avoid disrupting the nap of our youngest. And I have not handled these adjustments at all the way I would have hoped.
But, this is HOPE!
Good news guys! The God of the big is still God of the little. The God of our major life changes is also the God of our daily tasks. The very same God who gives us peace during the job change, or family move, can give us peace during a missed nap, or scheduling conflict. If Jesus helps us through the major stress of life, what makes us think He can't also help us through the daily stresses? Is it that we don't give Him the opportunity? Or that we don't think He would care? Either way, we're wrong. Our God is the same yesterday, today and forever. He cares the same. He never leaves. Don't exclude Him from the mundane. Don't act like you only need Him for the big stuff.
I tend to see things differently than most people. I have an inquisitive mind which often asks, "What happened that the camera is not showing?" Or, "What made this person react the way that they did?" People who do not know me or cannot understand me, often accuse me of making excuses for people, or actively searching for ways to excuse bad behavior.
But much like parenting, I don't have to excuse bad behavior to try to get to the root of the problem. Often, knowing exactly what it is we are up against, instead of making assumptions based on only part of a story, can tell us exactly how we should respond, and anger is almost never the correct response.
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.
Not only do we often assume the incorrect response, but it is aslo a misguided reaction. The person you are angry with, is not the enemy.
The person you are angry with is not the enemy.
As with most scripture, God helps me relate, by reminding me of my own parenting experiences. My almost 4 year old daughter and I have been having kind of a rough year. We have been at odds over almost everything. She doesn't want to go potty when I tell her to, or eat when I tell her to, or...pretty much do anything when I tell her to. She has been fighting for control. And while this has been incredibly difficult and exhausting for me, I wanted to see the whole picture, even, or especially, that which she was unable to fully articulate herself. I have tried changing my own tactics. I have tried remaining calm and peaceful in the face of her screaming. I have tried different incentives, and different disciplines, I have lost my patience on multiple occasions, and I have prayed. Throughout all of my observations, God has shown me parts of what my little girl is struggling with.
She lost her playmate this year in her big brother. For all the previous years of her life, she was never without a sibling. When she was born, I was homeschooling, and all four kids were home. Then, for the first two years that the older two kids were in school, she still had one brother here. They didn't always need me. I was able to do dishes and laundry, and tidy up without too much concern. But now he too is in school, and she is lonely, and I am still responsible for the same dishes, and the same laundry, and the same, or often bigger, messes.
When I began to realize some of what her defiance was about, and recognize the pain she hasn't been able to express, I started setting aside more quality time for her, games, reading, trips together to the library, or even the store; anything that makes her feel like we're in this together. Sometimes, instead of using the TV to entertain her while I clean, I will even sit and snuggle with her during her shows. Sure, the house is a mess, and we tend to live in a perpetual state wearing clothes straight out of the dryer, but there's a little more peace, but not because my daughter changed, necessarily, but because God changed me.
When we don't truly know what we are fighting against, Satan can more easily provoke us to anger about all the wrong things, make us doubt ourselves, or those around us, and stir up constant conflict in areas where there could be resolution.
I became insecure about my parenting, I became angry with a defiant child, I lost my patience over things I did not fully understand.
Meanwhile, my child was fighting for control in a world that has been changing around her, and struggling with emotions she could not fully understand.
Is life perfect now that I have figured this out? No. Sometimes I still lose myself in my anger, in rushed moments of chaos, but the realization is eye-opening. When I take the time to remember what it is I am truly fighting, or what it is she is really struggling with, it doesn't always change her behavior, but God reminds me of how to love her through it.
God knows our battles, He knows our enemy, and it is not the people we are at odds with. It is not the people we argue with or the people we disagree with. It is not the people at all. Satan uses these people, these disagreements to stir up conflict in our own hearts.
Knowing your true enemy does not always change the behavior of the person you are struggling with, but rather changes your response to them. Allow God to change your heart. The enemy seeks to stir up distrust and hate and bitterness, but God's truth will bring peace.
Are you a planner? Do you have an organized journal or calendar for planning? Do you make lists of the things you need to get done, day to day, week to week, month to month? Do you plan out quarterly or yearly goals?
I am a wanna-be planner. I pretend to be more organized than I actually am. I buy planners at the beginning of every year, and I start writing things down. But I inevitably become side-tracked, or plans continually change, and I lose track of my plans and my lists. Of course there are missteps, and there is often confusion. If I don't add things to the calendar or my lists, they are easily forgotten. But what I have learned is that God still orders my steps. Life doesn't stop because I have failed to write it down. The problem lies in my failure to consult with God about my plans.
Our human bains often visualize our plans, lists, steps, in a particular order. It might be a mountain, but generally it's still a straight line. And in our humanness, we often think our daily plans are too mundane for God. These are not the things He concerns Himself with. These are just unimportant details of our lives that need to happen. So often, we believe our plans have failed, when they do not go according to our own plans; when instead of a neat straight line, there are zigs and zags, and even drop offs where we lost the plan entirely.
Here's the thing about climbing mountains; it is almost never done in a straight line. You can map out a perfectly good plan in your own head, which seems efficient, and time saving, but some of that path might be dangerous. There may be patches of fog where visibility is poor. There may be areas of loose gravel, where it is difficult to maintain your footing. There may even be times when you have to wait out a storm before continuing on.
And while all you can see at the moment, is the base of the mountain in front of you, and in your head, a straight line up makes the most sense, God can see the whole mountain. He can see the fog. He can see the areas of danger.
Include God in your planning. Take comfort in the zigs and the zags, knowing that your Creator has mapped out the safest, most efficient path, whether you can see that in your humanness or not. Have faith.
As a wife, mom of 4, and business owner, finding time to spend in the Word, can be difficult, so I get it! Come join me each Monday for a simple message of hope, faith, and encouragement amidst some honest mommy moments.
Want the Monday Message sent to your inbox each week? Sign up here!