Last week, we talked about where our confidence should be placed; in man or in Jesus? This week, I'd like to elaborate more on how others can effect our own walk. Every now and then I have a conversation with someone who doesn't share my faith, about why they don't believe. Every now and then I also have a conversation with someone who does believe, but doesn't like church; their church or church people in general. And it is interesting how similar those conversations are.
More often than not the reasons come down to one simple fact. People have failed them.
Humans have a way of doing that. Church members, church volunteers, church staff, even pastors are human. They are held to a higher standard, and perhaps they should be, but they are still human. They will fail you. It's not a matter of when or if, but if you spend enough time there, it will happen. They might say or do something you don't agree with. Or they might have an opinion about something that offends you. They might even be having a bad day, and behave angrily in such a way that does not reflect God at all.
How do you respond?
Because the thing is, you don't have any control over their behavior, and no matter how much you want them to be, they are not going to be perfect. You can only control your response. Are you going to let their humanness effect your life? Are you going to allow their mistakes to lessen your faith.
It's not about them. Your faith is not about anyone else. Yes, God places people throughout our lives to help us in our journey of faith. That is certain, but because of our humanness, and free will He does not control us. He knows our decisions, but does not dictate them. So when people act out of His will, when people make mistakes, when people hurt or disappoint us, that is not God. God did not fail you because a person hurt you.
And when we allow their actions to turn us away from Jesus, we are showing Jesus that our faith lies not with Him, but with man. Our relationship with Jesus is and should always be our own. Our friends, our families, even our church should not have such a stronghold on it, that when they stumble, we do too. When one person falls, we should not all collapse like dominoes, and yet, I have seen this exact thing happen within churches, time and time again.
Put your faith in Jesus, your trust in His Word, and then, when those people fall from the pedestal you've placed them on, instead of falling with them, you could lift them back up.
Friday was the last day of school for our children. It was only a half day, and I attended the awards ceremony which took up most of the day. One of the things they do, which I love so much, is in the last hour of their final day, the teachers each take their classes up to the alter and speak a blessing over each and every one of their students. As I sat there, and I watched children crying with the sadness of moving on from their beloved teachers, and teachers choking up and wiping away tears; one particular teacher sweetly sobbing as she led her class out of the chapel for the last time, I thought, how could I have ever worried about sending our children to school?
Let me backtrack just a little. When our oldest two children were 5 and 4, I began homeschooling them. I homeschooled them until they were 8 and 7, after having our fourth child. The homeschool schedule became difficult for me to keep, and I was struggling with serious back trouble after a very large baby. I was tired and stressed, and felt as though they weren't getting the best of me. As the thought of sending them to school crept into my mind, I was then filled with such a devastating guilt, that I would often cry over this decision. When I reached out to a couple of homeschool mom friends of mine, who were doing it with more children than I, I was left more discouraged than ever. There seemed to be this general idea that we were supposed to suffer, that it was for the greater good, that it was supposed to be hard. Don't get me wrong. It is hard. If it were easy, so many more families would do it. But I was made to feel like a failure, as though my friends, with 2 or 3 more children were tougher and stronger, and pushing through, and I was just giving up on what they felt was the best option.
They did not mean to make me feel this way. Of that I am certain. I believe that they were trying to encourage me to do what I had originally felt so called to do. But what I really needed to hear was, It's OK.
It's OK to need help. It's OK to change your mind. Sometimes, it's ok to quit.
You. Are. Enough.
Life is fluid. It doesn't always flow easily. There are sometimes steep drop offs, often jagged rocks, and turbulent waters, but it keeps moving. As we move through it, sometimes we need to adapt and adjust to the changing currents.
The thing about being enough is that we have to be able to recognize when we need to make changes, when we need to ask for help. Truth?
Sometimes we aren't enough.
What I needed to wrap my brain around, in that moment, was that I wasn't quitting on my children. I wasn't quitting because it was too hard, or because I wasn't good enough or smart enough to do it. I was adapting. I was changing the plan to better suit the needs of my children. I was asking for help. I was praying. And while a few of my friends didn't understand what I needed, God did.
And so, this little school that was randomly suggested by an acquaintance in passing, this school that wasn't even on our radar to contact, suddenly became one of the greatest decisions of our lives. It is a place where our children are literally loved to tears, a place of great growth and learning, a place where our children are learning how to walk with Jesus, a place that has afforded me the opportunity to coach my son in a sport we both love, a place we can trust with our children while I now have more freedom to grow a business from home and contribute to the income of this ever growing family. But listen, it is a place we never would have thought to look...on our own.
The enemy will tell you that you're not good enough. The enemy will tell you you're a quitter. The enemy wants you to feel like a failure, and if you're trying to do all the things on your own, he will feel victorious, and you will feel defeated. Because you aren't meant, on your own, to be enough. You weren't supposed to be. You were designed to need Jesus, and what He has to offer, is more than enough.
I tell my kids this all the time, be a good listener; when the fact is, I myself, am a horrible listener. I thrive on distractions, as though I intentionally seek them. In fact, when sitting down to write this message, I picked up my phone to turn on my worship music, and 20 minutes of social media scrolling later, I set the phone down, forgetting why I had picked it up to begin with. My poor children often try to tell me something while I'm in the middle of working, blogging, crocheting or counting stitches, making my grocery list, or budget planning. There is always something. There is always a reason for me to say, Not right now.
And how often are we giving the same distracted answer to God? How often are we ignoring Him because it might be inconvenient at the time? Or maybe just something we really don't want to do?
I am really talking to myself, soooo much, right now.
When we tell our children to be good listeners, what are we really requiring of them? We don't want them to just hear the words, we want them to heed our instruction. It is a call to action.
God will make Himself very clear in our hearts. He is not always going to be a booming voice from the Heavens, but if you ask for direction, open your Bible, and open your heart to hear His whispers, He will make clear to you what you should do. In some cases, the answer is simply to wait, but often, in day to day life, when opportunities arise to serve others, we can feel the tugging on our hearts, but we are busy, we have far too much on our plates, it's inconvenient, or we just plain and simply do not want to do it.
Do more than just pray. Do more than just listen. If anyone hears my voice AND opens the door, I will come in. To be a good listener is to be willing to act when called upon.
Open the door.
My youngest, had slept long past the time she would normally wake from her nap. I went up to wake her, and as I opened the door, her sleepy eyes slowly opened. She didn't look grumpy. Nor did she look like she was quite ready to move. I walked over as she lifted her arms up to me, and I slowly lifted her into my arms. Sitting down on her sister's bed, I cradled her 3 year old body over my lap, and rocked her back and forth, asking if she enjoyed her nap.
In the stillness and quiet of the room we just sat there for a moment. With her face pressed up against my chest she calmly asked, "Mommy, what are you doing?"
"I am rocking you," I replied.
"No, you're not," she said, in a very matter of fact tone.
"I am cuddling you," I tried again.
"No," she said again with a deep sigh. "You are giving me breath so I can breathe."
If you knew my wild, strongly opinionated, and volume control challenged 3 year old, you would understand what an absolutely precious moment this was. She simply needed to recharge, and she clung to me.
What if, in our completely exhausted moments, when we don't feel like we can move, or even get out of bed, we clung to Jesus like a phone to its charger.
What if we just sat, in the stillness, like a cradled child, breathing in His presence?
If ever there was an eye opening moment for me, showing me how to be more child-like, this was it. When I become fatigued, stressed, or frustrated, I tend to busy myself even more. Even in my rest, I am browsing on the computer or on my phone, reading a book or crocheting. I fill my rest with distractions. When am I ever just still? When are any of us just still?
My 3 year old, who is almost always go-go-go, taught me a valuable lesson in stillness. When you are tired, when you need to recharge, turn off the noise, put away the distractions. Allow yourself to be held in the quiet presence of the Lord. Take a deep breath, and allow Him to breathe new life into your exhausted body.
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.
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