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.
When I was a very little girl, around the age of 4, I absolutely loved the song, Broken Wings, by Mr. Mister. To this very day, I will tell you that this song is my all-time favorite song because of how much I loved it as a child. Also, there is something magical about the nostalgia that comes with listening to a song you once loved, and the memories attached to it.
For me, it was more than that. I have always been able to find a word from God, often within very secular songs or movies, never intending to minister, but I realized today that this must have begun at a very young age. With the vivid imagination of a child, who lived in a rural area where MTV was not a cable option, I had created an elaborate imagery in my brain, to this song, and it often played like a music video in my head as I would listen to the lyrics.
Take these broken wings
and learn to fly again
learn to live so free.
When we hear the voices sing
the book of love will open up and let us in.
Take these broken wings.
As a very small child, I could not comprehend the lost love between two adults, as this song sings of. The imagery in my head, which I still remember today, was that of a dragon. I cannot imagine that at the age of 4, my knowledge of dragons was much greater than that of love between grown ups, but that is what I saw. The other image which has never left me when hearing this song, is that of a large book, opened upon what looked like a pulpit. I don't remember thinking that it was the Bible at that age, but I do remember that as it opened, a bright light shown down on it, and the dragon flew away.
Someone with the gift of interpretation, might be able to discern what God was possibly trying to show me at a very young age. I cannot pretend to know in full. But I will tell you, that as an adult, this song still does not play out for me as the writers intended; as a tragic lost love between two people. Listening to this song and remembering the imagery from my 4 year old self, I get an overwhelming feeling of restoration.
Sometimes (often) we allow our brokenness to overtake our lives. We allow ourselves to feel defeated, and find ourselves stagnant in our spiritual lives, with broken wings, unable to take off. We cling to them, because broken or not, they are still our wings.
What if we were just to say, "Take them! Take these broken wings!" What if we sought God's healing and restoration earnestly? Throughout the Bible there are so many promises of healing and restoration! Yet we allow ourselves to stay broken, sometimes even blaming Him for our brokenness.
What if we sought Him earnestly? He promises to restore our hearts, but listen, that does not mean restoration as our worldly brains might think of it. The transition is not about perfecting our lives or our circumstances. He promises to restore our hearts. It is an inward change with an outward transformation. In doing this, our perspective will transform our circumstances. We will no longer be looking at our lives from a viewpoint of broken hopelessness. No, we will be soaring, with healing and restoration, with a completely transforming vantage point. We will see our circumstances with a life-giving hopefulness which only comes from allowing the Holy Spirit to transform our lives.
We have to learn to fly again; learn to live so free. There is freedom in the transformation of the Holy Spirit. There is freedom in God's Book of Love. Allow yourself to be transformed!
I often find bits of Christian wisdom and inspiration in some very unlikely places. Most recently, this has come from one of the most unlikely places, and one that might offend many Christians.
I recently read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.
My oldest child showed an interest in the books, and while there are many groups of Christians who are very much against them, I am not a "banning books," type of person. Though I had never read them, I had always heard either one of two things about them:
From people who have actually read them: The books are GREAT! The battle of good vs evil is clear, yet even the good is flawed, as we see them grow throughout the stories, trying to do the right things.
From people who have never read the books or seen the movies, and only knowledge of them is that it's about magic, written by an atheist author: The books are evil and in reading them, you will be welcoming evil sorcery into your home!
Ehhh, that last part might be a slight exaggeration for humor's sake.
But I digress, because this is not a book review.
I decided if my children were going to read them, so was I. I was never really against them to begin with, just hadn't really been all that interested at first. So, my oldest two children and I have completed the first book of the series, and what do you think I did?
I used it to talk to them about a relationship with Jesus. And so, I share that here, with you now, because I think it is important to spur on conversations about Christ with our children which they can understand and relate to.
**Spoiler alert, for those who are even farther behind this trend than I.**
Throughout the book, we learn of this evil doer named Voldemort, only they do not refer to him by his name, claiming that his name has power, and so they often call him, "You Know Who," as though calling his very name, gives him life.
Harry is a young boy who was born into the life of magic, a wizard by birth, with a great destiny he knows nothing about, because when Voldemort killed his parents, he was raised by his human (muggle) aunt and uncle, who wanted nothing to do with that life. What we don't know, however, is how did You Know Who, kill his parents, but not the defenseless baby that he was? Instead, Harry lived, and was left with a scar on his forehead.
Fast forward to the end of Harry's first year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, when he finally comes face to evil face with Voldemort, and once again, You Know Who cannot kill him. When he tries to touch him, he screams in agony, as the touch of Harry seemingly burns his hands. Realizing this, Harry touches his face to get away from him.
Upon the defeat of Voldemort, Harry asks Professor Dumbledore why he couldn't touch him. Dumbledore tells him, "Your mother died to save you. If there is one thing Voldemort cannot understand, it is love. He didn't realize that love as powerful as your mother's for you leaves its own mark. Not a scar, no visible sign...to have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved is gone, will give us some protection forever."
I asked my children, "What does love, as Professor Dumbledore describes it, remind you of?"
Their eyes lit up almost immediately, "Jesus!" They answered in unison. "Except He's not gone," my oldest finished.
We talked about the differences and similarities a bit.
"Whose name do you call on when you are scared?" I asked.
"Jesus!" they answered proudly.
I explained to them, because He loved us, we have been marked. We have been covered. We have been saved. And while evil may try to scare us or hurt us...or worse, it cannot touch us if we call upon His name.
This does not mean that bad things won't happen. Life happens. Bad choices, horrible circumstances which we have no control over, happen all the time. But I am not talking about bad things. No, I am talking about the face of evil.
You believe that there is one God. Good!
Even the demons believe that -- and shudder.
Whenever the impure spirits saw him, they fell down before him
and cried out, "You are the Son of God."
We have been given a power over evil, which even evil knows, yet cannot understand, and cannot defeat.
We practice faith and trust every single day of our lives. We strap ourselves into large, hollow pieces of metal, on wheels, and have faith that those painted yellow lines down the center of the road will ward off collisions. Likewise, we strap ourselves into practically futile safety belts in a giant piece of metal with wings, and fly 7 miles above the earth, with faith that our pilots know what they're doing. We eat food prepared by others, all the time, trusting that it's safe and spit-free.
We put our trust in people without knowing their whole story, all the time. Our pilots and our surgeons; people we are literally trusting with our lives, all had to start somewhere. Were you a pilot's first solo flight? Were you a surgeons first solo surgery? We don't usually have any way of knowing these things, and yet, we have faith.
In spite of warning after warning on social media, of the general untrustworthy nature of the human race, we still hope for the best every time we leave the house. We believe in the general goodness of people.
And yet, have difficulty believing in God's goodness. We struggle believing that He is who He says He is.
We accept man's testimony, bot God's testimony is greater...
~ 1 John 5:9
As many times as we say that we don't trust people, or we have no faith in mankind, our actions prove over and over again, that this just isn't true. We love, and we get hurt, and we love again. Mistakes are made, lines are crossed, collisions and crashes occur every day. Yet, we continue making plans for our futures. We keep moving, keep planning, keep believing against the uncertainty.
The spirits of this world.
We have overcome this world, because we have God. We persist, we keep moving against the mountains, against certain death, because we know we have a greater power and purpose within us, and the world cannot take that away.
I believe that even when we are struggling, even when we are hurting, full of doubts and uncertainty, our spirit knows this to be true. But if you need reminding, the book of 1 John is a great place to start.
The faith on which we operate daily, doesn't make any sense when you think of it in terms of the world.
BUT, in terms of GOD, our daily faith and persistence makes perfect sense.
Last Sunday, I had to stay home from church with our oldest daughter because she had a really horrible cough. We listened to a T.D. Jakes sermon on TV, and afterwards, she really wanted to watch Moana. We have seen this movie at least a dozen times since it first hit Netflix. While there are very obvious theological differences between the Polynesian and Christian beliefs, I have also found some really powerful teaching moments, within our own faith, to share with my children.
Last week we talked about the idea that we can just come to Jesus, as we are, and He will be there. We talked about how the church should embody this belief, welcoming with open arms, the brokenhearted, the weary, the hurting, the hungry, just as Jesus would.
Take, for example, when Moana discovers that Te Kā, the volcanic demon, is actually a heartless Te Fiti. Te Kā repeatedly attacks Maui and Moana on their journey. Fighting her, they are losing an uphill battle. Time and time again, she comes at them stronger. But then Moana notices the matching symbol on her chest, the spiral on the heart. What she does next is an inspiring lesson for our children.
She responds with grace, and instead of running in terror and fear, she welcomes Te Kā to her. She says, "let her come to me." Then, one of the most terrifying scenes ever to grace the Disney movie screen occurs, as this volcanic demon rushes across the ocean floor to Moana. It is pretty clear at first, that she is not coming in peace, but as she gets closer, something in her softens. As she realizes that she is welcomed in love, and seen for who she truly is. Moana is singing to her:
I have crossed the horizon to find you.
I know your name.
They have stolen the heart from inside you,
But this does not define you.
This is not who you are.
You know who you are.
Who you truly are.
We then watch as Moana restores the heart to Te Fiti, and full life is restored, where there once was death and darkness. The typical demise of a Disney villain is death. Here, Moana, becomes one of only two Disney princesses to defeat the villain, not with death, but with grace, restoration, and healing. It is one of the most terrifying and powerful scenes I've ever seen in a Disney movie.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;
I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.
The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.
Come, as you are, in your brokenness, in your pain, in your anger. Satan will tell you that you're no good. Satan will tell you that you don't deserve grace. He will tell you that God would never accept you as you are. He will tell you that your past defines you. He will tell you that you can never change, so why not embrace it?
It is a LIE. Our God of grace knows your name. He knows who you truly are. He loves you. He wants you. And He will restore your heart, and crush Satan and his lies, under your feet. All you have to do is come to Him.
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!