Last week we talked about our growth and spiritual maturity, in reference to toddlers. Today, I want to talk about teens. The truth is, our relationship with God often parellels that of children with their parents. With both, we begin as infants, relying on them for everything, trusting them with our lives. As we grow, and learn about the world around us, we begin to question them, and all that they've told us. We rebel, and often turn from their teachings in search of our own understandings. Then, as adults, we often gain a better understanding of how they raised us, and we come to appreciate their discipline and life lessons.
Many of us become stagnant and stuck in the unruly teen years in our relationship with God. I cannot even count the number of times in my life where I have played that part with God, giving Him the silent treatment because I felt like He wasn't listening, or He was never doing what I asked of Him anyway. It sounds silly and selfish when put that way, but don't we all go through that at times? We get tired of praying for the same things over and over again, to no avail. It can be infuriating, feeling like a confused teenager again, asking repeatedly for something, without an understanding as to why your parents won't allow it.
We can still find ourselves, in our rooms, shutting Him out, blaring our music, wrapped in a confusing variety of emotions because things aren't turning out the way we wanted.
But He is still there, waiting.
I found myself in just such a position this fall. I had just gotten over a case of MRSA, which was no fun at all, when my back, for about the 3rd time this year, quit on me. It is an area I have prayed for healing many times; more times than I can count. It is an injury my husband, my family, and my church have prayed for, on multiple occasions. I was sick and tired of the pain, and sick and tired of beating my head against the wall with God. I have never asked my doctor for medication, because I don't even like taking Tylenol, but this time, I was fed up.
In my moment of "I know best, and God won't do what I've asked anyway," I finally asked my doctor for something to help with the pain. I was prescribed a muscle relaxer and a pain killer I was assured was NOT a narcotic, only to get to the pharmacy, and receive all the paperwork warning me about this narcotic, and the potential risks of taking it. I didn't even pray about it. I took them anyway. At least the doctor was helping me, right?
I needn't have worried about a drug addiction. The medicine made me so sick, that it set my healing back several days. I couldn't move. I couldn't get out of bed. My husband had to work. My 3-year old was watching TV downstairs, and I couldn't even open my eyes. At this point, I finally prayed, simply, please help me get through this day.
There was a knock at the door. These days, people just don't "stop in" anymore, and especially not at 8:30 in the morning. I couldn't move, and I couldn't even open my mouth to yell to my daughter. She knew better than to open the door on her own, so she sat watching TV. My cell phone rang next to me, and I saw that it was a mom from our school, the mother of one of my son's friends, that I have been slowly getting to know. She was at the door. I answered the phone, and she knew from my voice something was very wrong. I briefly explained, and we talked Charlotte into opening the door.
This angel from God spent the day cleaning my house, and taking care of my child. Our daughters played, and their laughter and fun carried up the stairs to where I lay, and I knew we were going to be ok. But my pain didn't yet leave, and my struggle wasn't yet over. Still knocked off my feet the following day, another friend called; a church friend that at the moment, didn't know what was going on. She immediately took the afternoon off work and came to take care of my children, feeding them, and providing us all with dinner. The next night our school's principal arrived with meals and bags full of groceries provided by many of the teachers.
In my stubbornness, and eagerness to "do things myself," and in my anger and bitterness with Him, He could have shut me out, the way I was shutting Him out. He could have spitefully turned His back on me and walked away, but He didn't. He showed mercy and compassion in my time of need. I waited until I was completely out of other options before asking Him for help, and yet He came. He assembled an army around me to get me back on my feet and take care of my family in the process.
This is a lesson I have had to learn over and over again.
8Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me."
~ 2 Corinthians 12:8-9
When we think we know it all, and we know better than God, it doesn't make Him any less God. It simply prevents us from receiving the grace and the power of Christ.
Maybe God is preparing His army for you today. He's just waiting for your signal.
I did not want to write this message. I don't mean this particular message. I just mean that I didn't want to write one at all. I didn't want to be bothered. I didn't have a message in mind. I'm exhausted. I've been battling an infection for two weeks. The weather has turned miserably cold and wet, which always has an ill effect on my mood. I hate that I struggle so much, seasonally. It makes me feel weak and out of control of my own emotions. It doesn't help that I live in an area that is cold and miserable more often than not. I am bothered by my own complaining about it, because truly someone who resides in Buffalo, should come to expect the sudden and drastic season changes, but the emotions, and heaviness that I can't seem to shake until spring are more complicated than simply just deciding to be in a better mood. I truly hate feeling this way. The other day, staring out the kitchen window, I actually had tears in my eyes, watching green leaves fall from the trees. Our fall is so brief, and so fleeting, that we often don't even get to experience its full beauty. This fills me with such a sad heaviness that suddenly really small, daily tasks seem incredibly difficult.
After some whining to my husband last night, about how I just wanted to crochet, or read, or go to bed, for goodness sake, and I didn't want to have to write this message, I began to do the dishes in a rare bit of silence, as the kids were getting ready for bed. A blast from the past song began playing in my head, from when I used to homeschool our children. There was a musical part of our curriculum, which included some fun nursery rhyme jingles, as well as some children's Christian songs. I can still picture my little ones singing this with me, with their sweet hand gestures:
He's still working on me
To make me what I ought to be
It took him just a week to make the moon and stars
The sun and the earth and Jupiter and Mars
How loving and patient He must be
He's still workin' on me
There really ought to be a sign upon my heart
Don't judge me yet, there's an unfinished part
But I'll be perfect just according to His plan
Fashioned by the Master's loving hands
Sometimes the simple Sunday school songs for children surprise me the most with their depth. Listen, we are complex beings, with complex bodies, minds, and emotions. God created the moon and sun, the stars and the earth, and all its inhabitants in a single week. It was a set it and forget it moment, like when I throw dinner in the crock pot and walk away. He made it, and saw that it was good.
But with us, made in His image, He did not walk away. He created us with purpose and meaning, not to leave us to our own devices, but with the intent of walking with us, in our hearts; shaping our journey, molding our minds and our lives, if we so choose. He never promised it would be easy. Complex things never are. But He promised to be with us if we let Him.
And this simple children's ministry song, is a powerful reminder to extend grace to others as well as ourselves. Don't be so hard on yourself. No one has it all together. We're all struggling with something. Whatever it is you are going through is real, but you are not alone. The Potter is still molding His clay. Know that He is God, and you are not. Lean into Him that much harder during difficult emotions. While unfinished and under construction, instead of beating yourself up about it, learn to take rest in the Master's hands.
You're driving along at about 72 mph in a 65 mph zone. You figure, not so slow that you're getting passed frequently, or drifting below the speed limit, but not so high as to risk getting pulled over with a high fine. Right? Don't lie. You've had this same thought process.
A car flies by you going at least 85, weaving in and out of traffic. You think to yourself, "He's definitely getting pulled over," yet 5, maybe 10 minutes later, when you see the lights and hear the sirens, they're for you. If we imagine ourselves in this situation, and many of us have actually been in this situation, it is easy to know how we might react. The almost immediate reaction is that of self-righteous indignation. How dare they! There are many others driving much faster than I am!
Another example: you are selling Disney trademarked items in your Etsy shop. You receive a cease and desist letter from the Disney corporation for using their intellectual property without proper licensing. You are ordered to remove some of your most popular items from your shop or they will take legal action. You're appalled. How dare they! How can your little side business possibly effect their sales? What's worse, there are literally hundreds of other shops still selling their Disney trademarked items and getting away with it. Your reaction again, is a sort of entitled anger. After all, you made those with your own hands, right?
We do this in our every day lives all the time. When friends or family express their hurt feelings, we become angry and defensive. Well, you did this, this, and this to me. How is this any different?! When someone cuts us off in traffic, how quickly we forget the times we have done this in great haste as well.
I could go on and on, but I share these things with you, because I, myself, have experienced them, and I believe I am far from the only one. You see, anger is a defense mechanism. This is not to say that there are not truly appropriate times to feel anger with this world and the evil in it, but so often in our day to day lives, we use anger to protect ourselves from the truth. Because conviction in our own hearts, is uncomfortable.
This verse is so frequently used in reference to relationship advice, as though we should be sure to talk everything over before going to bed. I believe the advice is much deeper than that.
Anger can very easily give the devil a foothold on your life. Anger stirs up bitterness, resentment, hostility, entitlement...really, nothing good. To be angry with someone or a situation allows you to focus on everything about that person or situation which makes you angry, often drudging up things from prior incidents which are unrelated to what's happening right now. This is not from God! This is a way of hardening your own heart to grace and forgiveness. This is a way of preventing your own growth. Because, as I showed you in some of the above examples, our anger is often a retaliatory response to being caught in the wrong ourselves.
When God's Word says, "Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry," what do you take that to mean? Sure, it could mean that we should talk it out with the offending party. But outside of a marriage, how often is that possible? You may not have the chance to discuss it before going to bed. You certainly can't hunt down the guy who cut you off on the highway that morning. Not everything needs to be, or even can be settled within our human terms. Don't forget who the actual enemy is, because it is not that person who hurt you. Through prayer, with Jesus, we need to push that anger aside to make room for grace. Because where there is grace, there is no room for self-righteous indignation.
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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