Last week I shared an image on my social media sites that really spoke to me. It's kind of silly really. It is just my dragon puppet pattern, but before all of his pieces are sewn together.
I looked at him and thought this is so much like us. We are all constant works in progress, and we are at the mercy of those we allow to help assemble us.
The thing is, we all have strings. We are constantly growing, constantly changing, and hopefully constantly learning. But God tells us to be mindful of those we allow to shape us and our lives.
Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.
There are many verses much like this sprinkled throughout Proverbs, warning us of the company we keep. We are taught to be wise and discerning when it comes to choosing our companions, and with good reason.
Those we allow to help us through all of life's changes, those we allow to aid us on this ever changing journey; they have access to our strings. They hold power in our assembly. When I create an item, such as the puppet above, I do so with great care. I want it to be beautiful and creative, and well loved by someone who appreciates its uniqueness. I want each stitch made well, each piece sewn in securely and evenly. I want to be sure it won't fall apart with one tug. I want it to be sturdy and strong for great, creative adventures. We should all have people in our corners, taking such great care of our strings.
But unlike this puppet, we as adults, have a choice as to who we allow in that corner. God has given us the wisdom needed for being discerning about our companionship.
Do you remember the story of of Pinocchio? One thing that always stood out to me, was that when his strings were removed, he made poor choices. He was given a freedom he had never known before. He didn't realize the great care with which his puppet master treated him.
We are not puppets. God did not design us to be controlled by strings. He created us with freedom in mind; the freedom to choose Him, or not; the freedom to choose wise friends, or not; the freedom to make wise choices...or not. Although we are not puppets in this way, we do have strings, and the choices we make determine how we allow those strings to be controlled. We are in need of assembly, of growth, and if we make Christ the keeper of our strings, the head of our work in progress, He will give us the wisdom to surround ourselves with those who will build us up, in Him. He will not leave us alone to try to piece things together ourselves.
This morning, I got up much earlier than the kids, as I do every Monday morning, so that I may meet with God, pray, read His word, and seek His guidance in what I should say today. I felt the entire hour was wasted. By the time the kids began coming downstairs, I had nothing of importance written down. The chaos of a Monday morning took over. The youngest wet the bed, and she has a headache and fever; symptoms of what had turned into the flu for my son last week. I rushed to get her bed cleaned, do my oldest daughter's hair, and get the older three ready to meet the bus. After they left, I made my youngest more comfortable, got her Gatorade, gave her some Tylenol, and wrapped her in blankets to watch her favorite show.
With PJ Masks on in the background, my Bible app yet again ready on my phone, and my Bible at my fingertips, I sat down again to deliver a message...a message of...what exactly? I felt like a such a fraud, sitting here trying to fake my way through a positive, encouraging message, when I haven't felt at all positive or encouraged lately. I have been absorbing a lot of sadness recently, from the repetitiveness of life's hamster wheel, to illnesses and diagnoses of aquaintances, friends, and family, to tragic deaths. I have felt the heaviness of it all deeply, and with that, a heavy silence from God. Ironically, as I sat here worrying about what I would write, and the truth of all of this occurred to me, I felt a stirring from God in the silence. Tell them that.
Really, God? I'm supposed to sit here and tell them how I have nothing to say?
And then He encouraged me with this scripture.
I do not believe that Jesus only meant that while He was physically walking the earth. He said, while I am in the world, and He is in the world. He is in us. I know He is in me, and while I have been struggling in darkness and silence, I had forgotten that. As long as that light is within us, He still walks this earth. As long as that light is within me, it cannot be silenced.
So I write today, to share with you the realness of feeling that darkness and silence surround you. I write today to remind you that the greatest light of this world lives within you. And I write today, because the devil told me I had nothing of value to share, and God called him a liar.
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.
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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