Day 22 of 31 Things to Teach Your Kids: Teach them that God is in control.
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She was the kind of girl who always said the wrong thing. She tried to claw her way into the popular crowd, in her de-clawed, shy kitten sort of way. It was high school in the early nineties, and we were all just doing the best we could with the very little that we knew about being teenagers. It felt like none of us really had a clue as to what kind of reaction we would get when we opened our mouths to speak, and we continually tested out all of the different ways to be, a petri dish of social experimentation in small town America.
I was no different. Predictably labeled the “goody two-shoes” of the school, I don’t remember being particularly kind or thoughtful. She was new to our school, and when the popular crowd rejected her she turned to me, and I invited her to come to some sort of youth group event with my church. I don’t remember where we went or what else happened that night, but I remember feeling like I was being mean to her. Somehow she was just such an easy target. She kept saying things that were ridiculous. I kept setting her straight. In the back of a dark church van I, the oldest leader of the youth group, sat with a crowd gathered round me while I ungraciously showed everyone all of the ways that a Christian shouldn’t be.
And then, somewhere along the way, on a long Texas road, her expression changed, and she asked me in all sincerity how to become a Christian. Imagine how my heart stopped for a moment while I realized that after my poor treatment of this girl all night long, I was the last person who should be trying to share the gospel with her. I had misrepresented Christ and refused to see this girl through spiritual eyes, and so I stumbled through a weak explanation of how Jesus changes us. I sat there in front of her, changed, knowing that I had acted all night like I never met Jesus before in my life.
And I was crushed.
I was a high schooler. I had so much to learn about Christianity. And even though I don’t remember much about my high school years, this was one of those rare moments when God was dealing with me so closely and so clearly that it cut me all the way to my immature little soul. I loved Him so. Yet, I was only beginning the sometimes painful process of being refined and sanctified by my gracious God. And in His goodness He has never let me forget the way I felt that night in a church van, as the passing interstate lights played across the face of a girl who was turning to me, of all people, for gospel truth.
I hope I have grown since then. But, I often find myself wondering if the woman from the insurance company who has put me on hold (again) could turn to me for the gospel. Am I treating her in a way that wouldn’t make me blush with shame if she asked me about my Jesus? When the fast food restaurant gets half of the order wrong and I am already running late, am I reacting in a way that would make me feel good about proclaiming that I am a child of God? After all of these long years of being molded and changed and taught by the Holy Spirit, I still have a hard time seeing those around me through spiritual eyes. I still fail to remember that they are souls, not just representatives of a company. Not just school teachers. Not just mamas or mechanics or police officers. Not just kids on the playground who aren’t treating one of my babies right. Not just awkward high school girls who always seem to say the wrong thing. Souls, one and all.
Paul said that we need to preach the word, being prepared in season and out of season. Part of that preparation is simply seeing the people around us. Really seeing them as needy sinners like ourselves. How else can we “reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching”? The simple answer is that we can’t. Not effectively. Not if we are seeing people as nothing more than characters to be dealt with. But if we open our eyes to the spiritual needs around us, it will change the way we treat everyone that we come into contact with. And then we will really be prepared to talk about the gospel at any time.
I don’t know what happened to the girl from the back of the van that night so many years ago. I pray that Jesus rescued her. I’m thankful I can see her face in my mind today, a reminder of how much I still have to learn, twenty-something years later. I’m not ashamed of the gospel, but will I be ashamed of myself when a gospel moment arises?
Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction. 2 Timothy 4:2
On Sunday we ate breakfast together, a family of faith chatting in the fellowship hall, eating donuts and breakfast tacos. We hugged. We laughed. We talked about the week that had passed and the one that was beginning. When our bellies were full we moved to rooms all over the church; Sunday school rooms that have heard the gospel proclaimed again and again through the decades. Emerald was in the basement, newly painted with cheerful art on the walls. It’s where several women from our church hid from a devastating tornado that hit our small town in 1951. They stayed there and were safe, sheltered by this building that has stood like a beacon on Main Street since 1916.
Chad and I walked upstairs with our friends to sit in a circle of chairs, looking each other fully in the face while we turned to scripture and heard the words of Christ. Chad taught from John chapter 21. Impulsive Peter had just jumped out of the boat to swim to his Savior because he couldn’t wait for the rowing and the docking and the rigmarole. There he stood, dripping next to the fire where Jesus was cooking breakfast, and he heard from the Lord’s mouth a hard truth: …when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go. Peter understood what these words meant-he would glorify Christ with a martyr’s death.
Follow me. A simple directive from the Lord of Lords.
Follow me anyway. No matter what. We sat there in our nice clothes in our comfortable classroom, and we bowed heads together and tried to imagine what it could mean to follow Jesus no matter what. We stood up and men slapped each other on the back and women hugged and winked and walked downstairs to gather our children to us.
In the sanctuary I sat in my usual place on the front row with a long line of kids beside me. The future of our church. They sit together and sing together and draw together and learn the ancient words of scripture together.
We settled in and Chad began preaching. I looked down the row to all of the sweet faces, kids who are so loved and cherished by this family of believers. I wondered what their futures would look like. What is it going to be like for them, answering Christ’s simple, glorious, difficult call: Follow me.
I heard a noise coming from the hallway. A fussy baby with his frazzled mama, maybe. But, as my mind sometimes does, I imagined something much more sinister. I considered what I would do to protect these precious little ones if someone busted through the door of the church in this moment. I realized I would only be able to shield Sawyer and his friend, the two children closest to me. I banished the thought quickly with a whispered prayer and refocused my attention on the words of life pouring out of my husband as he preached the gospel.
Less than an hour later as I prepared lunch for my little family, I read about the terrors of the church shooting in Sutherland Springs. I was shocked to imagine that at the very moment I was wondering about the noise in the hallway during worship, an unthinkable horror was happening just down the road in that little Texas church.
Sanctuary. A place of refuge and safety.
As Peter stood there with Jesus, taking in the somber truth that He had just heard, he turned to see John closeby. He pointed to him, his friend, the disciple whom Jesus loved, and asked, What about him? And Jesus answered in the way that only God in the flesh can: If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.
I pictured a little group of ladies a half a century ago, huddled together in the basement of our church, listening to the train-like roar of an F4 tornado, sheltering one another from the broken glass. Within these walls, we are safe, they must have told each other as the storm raged overhead. How they must have prayed. How they must have wondered if the whole place would come tumbling down on top of them in that moment. God held up the building, and the women walked out into an alien landscape, where many of their neighbors didn’t fare so well.
The truth is that there is no way of knowing where the storm will devastate and where it will blow on by.
Chances are good that when mothers and fathers and grandparents and children met at First Baptist Sutherland Springs on Sunday, they hugged. They laughed. Men slapped each other on the back and women winked and gathered children close. They probably didn’t say so, but they all felt it was true: Outside of this place the world is crazy. We come into the sanctuary and take a deep breath. Within these walls, we are safe. They had no way of knowing that a storm was coming.
Following Jesus is a different kind of safe.
It is safety that cannot be stripped away by any weapon or any disaster. It is a safety that gives us freedom to follow Jesus, really follow Him, no matter what, because we know that He holds us in His hand. It is a safety that doesn’t mind if we ask why because the answer is always the same: He knows. It is a safety that keeps us fearlessly relying on His plans and His ways and His goodness. It is a safety that will bring us back to our churches, back to our family of faith, back to our way of living and dying well.
It is a safety that led Peter to keep going, to keep preaching, to keep following Jesus right to that martyr’s death that Jesus talked about. And, as Peter’s body died, never at any time was he unsafe.
Nor were any of our brothers and sisters in Sutherland Springs, Texas, on Sunday morning.
Jesus holds us tight through every storm.
I pray that the little ones on the front row beside me will understand that following Jesus isn’t the brave thing to do. It isn’t just for the courageous or the brilliant or the wise. Following Jesus is the safest thing. He is that good. His ways are that tender. No one and nothing can ever snatch us out of His powerful hand.
No matter what.
They found her today, drifting there in the middle of the chaos of flood and hurricane, clinging to her mother’s lifeless body. She is only three. She has probably learned all kinds of words and phrases and ideas in the past year of her life. I remember when Emerald was three, and she handed me her cup. Here ya go, precious lady! she said, and I giggled and watched her big blue eyes and promised myself I would never forget it–such a grown up thing to come out of that tiny, heart-shaped three year old mouth.
I wonder where the little girl in the flood will find the vocabulary to express what she has been through today. I wonder where she will find the heart to survive the tragedy of watching her only mama, that precious lady, drown before her eyes. Her mother was trying to save her. And she did. The dear little girl was rescued from the swirling, teeming water by nameless men–heroes who keep going back into the turmoil of a world washed away by Hurricane Harvey.
So many stories are emerging from the wreckage of south Texas. But, this is the one that wrecks me. One tiny girl, clinging to the body that brought her into this world, holding tight to the mama who gave of herself in every possible way. Plucked from the choppy water. Kept by God. Sheltered by her sweet mother and a multitude of angels.
I’ve read of another mother who sheltered her baby in the water. She made a basket of reeds and placed her chubby son inside, shoving him out into the unknown, just grasping at the chance to save his life. He, too, was kept by God and guarded by angels until he was plucked from the treacherous waters of the Nile river.
Maybe one day someone will tell the little rescued Texan about baby Moses. Maybe eventually, when she begins to wrestle with the truth that God’s ways are higher than ours, when she wonders with heartbreak what hurricanes have to do with the glory of God, when she looks toward Heaven and cries out to her maker, Why?–maybe the church will be there with answers from God’s word. Maybe she will find a local body of believers who will take her in, who will nurture her with the good and true words of the Bible. Maybe she will find comfort in the greatness of a God who always has a plan, who wastes no storm, no heartache, no tragedy.
We need churches who will be there for her and for millions like her. Churches who refuse to bow at the altars that this world erects. Churches who unapologetically proclaim that God is sovereign and He is trustworthy–yes, even here, in rushing flood waters in Beaumont, Texas, in August of 2017. He is good, even here, in the death of one heroic mother and in the life of her cherished three year old daughter. He is powerful, even here, when the why is easy to ask and hard to answer. One thing we know for sure: He is righteous.
The God who directs the wind and the waves does what He will. But, we must never forget, when we look at this sweet three year old miracle, that the God of the hurricane is also the God of the rescue. His ways are high. His purposes are good. And, His church should always be a light on a hill for those who wonder why. I pray that my church will be that. I pray that yours will, too. And, I pray that this sweet baby will one day run into the arms of a church that will teach her the truth that God had a good purpose in all of it.
The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the
winds and the waves obey him!” Matthew 8:27
The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, and He knows those who take refuge in Him.
God designed sex within marriage to be a sacred, pleasurable, and spiritual act. We don’t often stop and think about how amazing it really is that God invented sex and gave it such potential to build a physical and spiritual union between two people in the safety and devotion of a Christian marriage. Sex is an amazing gift, a chance to be bonded in body, mind and spirit. One flesh. Yet everywhere I turn Christian people seem to be struggling with sex.
It seems that we have taken what should be a true blessing in our marriages and have turned it into a chore. Women are constantly joking about trying to get out of having sex with their husbands. Husbands are constantly joking about how they don’t get enough sex. And, somewhere in the middle of all of the casual talk about it, are two people, naked and vulnerable in the quiet of their own bedroom, struggling to figure out how to connect spiritually while they make love.
We live in a world that is unbelievably sexual. Every commercial, television show, book, and magazine is putting sexual images and ideas into our minds every day. Porn culture has warped our idea of what sex is. It isn’t a union of two bodies and souls, but a chance to get what we want. Slowly the notion has crept into our minds that we need satisfaction by whatever means necessary, even in Christian marriage. So, we come to the sacred place where we should be experiencing a spiritual union with our spouse, and we bring along years’ worth of images and fantasies that have nothing to do with them. And, instead of being completely present in this beautiful moment, instead of wholly giving ourselves to our spouse, we retreat and call up these images, and the spiritual union is weakened at best, and completely severed at worst.
No wonder Christian marriages are having sex problems.
Pornography is a huge part of the problem. But, maybe you don’t watch porn. You have seen plenty of movies, read plenty of books, created plenty of fantasies in your mind that don’t involve your spouse. The truth is that unless we are diligent about it, we will all allow our minds to wander to scenes that we have viewed or imagined, even when we are in the middle of trying to make love to our spouse. We may not even realize what we’re doing, inviting other people into this holy moment. Letting outside ideas and images crowd in on the beautiful act of giving ourselves to one another. How can we expect to achieve a soul-to-soul union with our husband or wife when we are escaping to some love scene or pornographic image? Before long we forget how to really be present in this divine moment, this spiritual experience of loving the person right in front of us, in the ways that only we can. We have to keep ourselves anchored to each other during sex, and the only way to do that is to banish outside images from our minds. Not only that, but we have to be careful to keep from bringing brand new images into our minds, by guarding what we see and hear and read.
I know many of you are thinking that this is not a big deal, or that it is impossible to have sex without calling up images and ideas that have aroused you in the past. But, if it were an impossibility, why would Paul advise us to take every thought captive to obey Christ? (2 Corinthians 10:5) If it is no big deal, then why did he tell us to think about what is noble, right, pure, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy? (Philippians 4:8) Why would Jesus tell us that anyone who looks at a woman (or man) to lust after her (or him) has already committed adultery in their heart? (Matthew 5:28)
The truth is that when we allow images of other people into our minds when we are having sex with our spouse, we are sinning, and our sex life will never achieve the spiritual depth and emotional closeness that God designed it for. There is a better way to have sex in Christian marriage. And, it isn’t just okay sex. It is life-giving, soul-stirring, and it connects you to your spouse in ways you didn’t even realize were possible. Kick everyone else out of your head. This moment is for the two of you alone, body to body, soul to soul. Anything else will lead to a lifetime of sexual emptiness, physical connection with no spiritual bond. And, despite what this world tells you, that will never be truly satisfying.
From the day your children are born, you begin the letting go.
You, who miraculously sheltered them inside of your own body for nine months, suddenly must hand your tightly swaddled wonders over to visitors, to grandparents, to doctors and nurses. Your heart feels like it could shatter just to look into a tiny face that is at once so foreign and so familiar.
You live difficult and long and exhausting nights, sitting alone in the dark with a restless squirmer in your arms, wondering how it could be that you are a mama, that you are the one who is supposed to figure this out, that you have been entrusted with the awesome, terrifying task of training this child in the way she should go. In one long, draining night you drift between wanting to shove the baby in her father’s arms and wanting to cling to her desperately, willing yourself to remember exactly how little she feels laid there on your shoulder in the peaceful, lonely silence of three in the morning.
You are so tired.
And then children grow. With every new milestone you are forced to let go just a little bit more. Crawlers become walkers who become runners, and crying drop offs turn into casual waves goodbye. Soon you are standing at a kindergarten door, watching your child’s eyes, wide with excitement, and you see he is convinced that his life is finally beginning.
More and more, you are driven to your knees, finding yourself begging the God of the Universe to stay close, to hold your children in His perfect hands, to hover when you can’t. You learn how weak you really are. How anxious. How much is out of your control. You learn to trust Jesus more. You learn to wrestle with the what ifs, and you ask again and again for the gift of more faith, praying that if in the end all you really have is Jesus, that will be enough.
Meanwhile, every day they come home. Every day they grow more and learn more and become more of who they were created to be. And, you just keep white knuckling every new step along the path to their growing up. Somehow, every move shows you more about God’s love and care. Each inch forward helps you relax your grip on your children and tighten your grip on your Savior.
And, maybe that is the real gift of motherhood. In all of the letting go, there is the desperate need to hold on. To cling to Christ and admit that He is the only unchanging thing. The only constant. In a life of never-ending change, in a life of unspeakable joy and inevitable heartbreak, in a life that is as much wrapped up in your children as it is yourself, you are pushed toward the admission that all of it is really about Jesus. And that’s how you let go when you have to. That’s how you allow your children to be who they are. That’s how you survive every phase and every exhaustion and every worry.
From the day your children are born, you begin letting go. And you learn to hold on. Jesus never moves, never changes, never disappoints. These are the things you learn when you’re a mother.
I remember reading about Felix Manz when I was in college. I read about how he was taken out to a freezing river in the middle of a bitter Zurich winter, how he was tied up and thrown into the frigid waters, the “third baptism,” they called it, for the Anabaptist who had dared to teach adult baptism. Like most Christian young people, I was fascinated by the stories of the martyrs and spent quite a bit of time reading the dramatic accounts of their steadfast faith, even to the point of death. I suppose when you are a young, spoiled American Christian, it can help put things into perspective for you to read about what Christians through history have endured. And, today, to see what kind of persecution is so rampant all around the world. It will cause you to sit up a little straighter. To consider how easily that you are distracted and led astray. It will cause you to wonder what you would really do if it were you. You, kneeling on a beach someplace, about to be beheaded for believing with all your heart that Jesus is real, that the Bible is true, that real truth is worth dying for.
Yet, it wasn’t Felix Manz’s death that intrigued me so much. It was a different part of the story that has caused his last day to stay firmly planted in my mind for all these years. While Felix was being led through the streets of Zurich to his certain death, his mother was nearby, watching the nightmare unfold. And, all the while, the crowd that had gathered could hear her crying out to her precious son, encouraging him to stand firm, to remain true to Christ is this hour of such great temptation. There she stood, I imagine, in horrible agony as she watched them tie his arms to the stick they had jammed up behind his knees, singing out all the while for him to go into his cold, watery grave with complete trust in Jesus. And, then she watched as they tipped him into the water, disappeared from her life forever. I wonder how many scenes of his childhood pulsed through her mind at that moment? Yet, she never wavered. She knew, as she had taught her dear son, that a man is no fool who gives what he cannot keep in order to gain what he cannot lose.*
It takes an all-consuming faith to produce Christians like Felix Manz and his mother. It takes a singular focus. It takes soul-encompassing commitment to living a life that sings out the refrain every day: This is all that matters. This is all that matters. Unless we beg God to transform us into people who are passionately driven to glorify Him in every move, then I fear that we are not becoming and are not producing in our children the kind of Christians who would stand for Christ to the difficult end of a persecuted life.
Lately I have felt such a sense of urgency. Why are Christians continuing to treat this faith as if it is a poorly producing side business in the middle of a hugely prosperous life? Why are Christians abandoning their church families so their kids can play baseball on Sundays? Why are Christians refusing to teach their children the hard truths of Scripture, and why are they reluctant to learn them themselves? Why are Christians satisfied with a faith that only vaguely informs their decisions, that only mildly affects their thinking, that only produces warm feelings and never heart-crushing, soul-wrenching grief over their sin?
It’s probably because many who claim to be Christians actually aren’t. When real persecution comes, those people will fall away quickly. Their half-hearted attempts to live as Christians will turn into no attempt at all, and they will no longer identify with the Bride of Christ.
But, the rest of us. We must think about where the trajectory of our current faith life will lead us and our children. Are we giving ourselves over completely to the God who saves, saying with our every breath that He is all, that He is worthy of our life and our death and anything else in between? Are we beginning now to build a faith within our family that will truly be able to withstand harsh and terrible and cruel and unreasonable persecution, should it come knocking at our door? Are we teaching our children how to live for Christ and how it is an honor and a joy to suffer with Him, even to die for the glory of His name? If we should ever be called to sacrifice our lives for this Truth that we know, will our hearts and souls and minds be prepared, because of an all-consuming, life-long obsession with Jesus Christ, to die for His sake? To cheer our children on to stand firm if they are called to lay down their precious bodies that we love?
I fear that most of us are so far removed from that type of faith that we hardly even understand what it would look like.
Our children are facing a different world than we have known. Their faith is going to have to be real and alive and immune to the mesmerizing but useless distractions of this world. Our children are going to need a faith that devours their entire lives, that dominates every thought, that changes the way they see and hear and understand everything around them. We simply cannot continue to categorize our lives, badly arranging our priorities around things that don’t last. If we keep sending the message that this faith is just part of our lives and not the only thing that matters, then our children will continue to believe us.
They will settle for a version of Christianity that will not stand. That will not speak. That will not mean much more to their lives than a basic hope of being rescued from Hell. And, when persecution comes, it will be a faith that doesn’t lead them into obedience and courage and self-sacrifice, but rebellion and fear and self-preservation. And, the truth is that such a faith offers little hope of salvation. Is it possible that we are leading our children into a counterfeit faith?
We love our comfort too much. Our entertainment. Our popularity. We prioritize happiness over Godliness. We see no joy in suffering. We see no reason to deny ourselves. And, we are thrilled if we make it to worship twice a month.
It will show. When persecution comes. It will show.
Now is the time to decide that this faith is all or nothing. This is how we lead our children into holiness, into steadfastness, into perseverance. We live it now so that we can live it on the day that persecution comes. We live it now so that one day when we are long gone, if our children are called to lay down their lives for this great and glorious faith, they will still hear our voices crying out: Stand firm. Remain true to Christ, even in this hour of great temptation.
Last night at church, we hosted Hilarious Hair Night in our children’s ministry. I am the one who plans our theme nights, and I’m pretty sure I love them more than anyone. I love getting dressed up in a silly costume or wearing my clothes inside out or going to church in my pjs and a robe. I just think it’s fun. And, there’s nothing I love more than when I find fun people who will dress up crazy with me.
I have made it one of my goals in life to teach my kids not to be too cool for anything. In fact, last night at church I gave all of the kids a big speech about it, because I truly feel that if you think you’re too cool for things, you’re going to miss out on loads of fun. Be the one who isn’t afraid to do funny motions with songs in church. Be the one who knows that the key to a really good costume is not being afraid to look unattractive in it. Be the one who is always game to do the silly stuff, because the truth is that in the end the ones who aren’t too cool to be silly are the people that everyone gravitates toward. They are fun and happy and having a good time. Everyone loves to be around fun people.
These are the kinds of things that I preach to my kids.
But, the truth is that I realized sometime last year that I had become too cool for some things. I’m not talking about silly songs or theme nights. I had become too cool for certain types of Christianity. For particular testimonies or kinds of worship or ministries. I had become cynical about a lot of the things that would have gotten me incredibly excited as a young Christian, and I had begun to look down on those things as inferior.
I remember when I first moved away from my small hometown to go to college. My Baptist college wasn’t big, but for me it was a whole new world and way to think. I went there brimming with positivity, genuinely moved by many things all the time that I could see God was doing in my life and in the lives of those around me. I loved the Christian culture and church life and everything that had to do with Jesus. I was a Jesus freak.
But, I was also coming to adulthood at a time when we were beginning to see that some of the things that we had grown up experiencing in our churches were just sort of ringing hollow. We started becoming critical of Christian culture–not hateful, but skeptical in a way that might cause us to roll our eyes when we heard certain phrases or sigh impatiently when the same old ways were held up as the only ways. We were sentimental for our old youth group days, but we were quick to label things as lame or shallow or stupid if they smacked too much of youth group culture. We were still sweet little Baptist kids who loved Jesus, but we had lost some of our joy. We were trying so hard to figure out how church should work and how Christians should be, and we gave up some of our sheer delight in being a child of God.
I know full well that the church needed some examining (and still does). I know that we were feeling some of the effects of the great big, comfortable, easy, we won’t ask anything of you, let’s burn our secular tapes and feel like awesome Christians, rather soft 70s, 80s, and 90s churches that we were raised in. I know that we felt the need for something deeper. And, I know that in most ways a discerning and sometimes critical eye is a necessary part of the Christian faith. It’s one way that we hold each other accountable and help the church operate for God’s ultimate glory and our maximum growth.
But, something happened to me during those times (and maybe to some of you, too) that I recently realized has followed me for all of these years. The cynical spirit that I developed in my late teens and early twenties never went away. And, to be completely honest with you, I hadn’t really even noticed.
Then Chad and I started getting this stirring in our souls, and it happened almost simultaneously, which is so gracious of God to do. We started to have a deep longing for a closer connection to the Holy Spirit. We wanted to be a part of what He is doing, and I quickly realized that I have probably been missing ways that the Holy Spirit has worked in my life and in the lives of those around me because I had grown cynical and skeptical and critical. Gone were my teenaged years when I saw God’s hand everywhere I looked. Oh, I haven’t missed everything. But, there were sure a lot of things that I never noticed or wrote off as coincidence because I had developed a pattern of thought that rolled its eyes at what some might call a “God thing.”
I had become too cool for all that stuff.
Oh, it grieves me that I let a cynical heart and mind flourish inside of me, choking out the truths that were evidenced everywhere. The truth that simple faith is beautiful. That the Holy Spirit is working everywhere in a million different ways. That Christian music and movies and books and the whole culture, while flawed, is filled with sincere, godly people through whom the Holy Spirit does things that I don’t always understand. That the church, while flawed, is filled with godly, sincere people who have real interactions with the Holy Spirit that are different from my own. That I have so much to learn from those people.
God has been so patient with me.
I don’t want to be a cynical Christian. In many ways, just giving up that too cool attitude in my spirit has restored to me the joy of my salvation. That delight that I remember feeling when I was a teenager, loving so many different aspects of God’s people and the ways and purposes of His Bride.
I’m still a work in progress.
And, I still recognize the need for a discerning eye, especially in these times. Don’t misunderstand me: there are segments of the church that are flying off the rails at high speeds at the moment. It’s so important to test every spirit and cling to the Word of God. We must be diligent in making sure we remain firmly planted in His word, and we should judge everything that emerges from church culture through that lens. But, if someone wants to tell me that they’re too blessed to be depressed, if they want to play me some Michael W. Smith from the 90s, if they want to tell me about the way that God miraculously rescued their cat from the waiting jaws of a German Shepherd, then I will praise God with them, with great joy, and I will sing louder than anyone else.
Because I’m not too cool for any of that stuff.
I want to do big things! And I want to do them now! Adelade gave a passionate speech in the car on the drive home from dance class. At twelve years old, she feels like her life is being wasted on the utterly ridiculous pursuit of running around a track in P.E. She truly can’t believe that she is squandering her life in math class when she should be tackling all of the big dreams that she has laid out for herself. I laughed at her flushed cheeks and her animated plea for room to do something huge.
She thinks big, and I have no doubt one day she’ll do big things, but first she needs time to grow. She needs time to build character (in P.E. class, maybe), to gain wisdom, to learn from others. She wants to skip over all of the hardest parts of becoming a useful member of society because she just can’t wait to make her mark.
I understand how she feels. I often try to run ahead of where God has me. I think I should be more, do more, make more impact, and I want to pass over all of the hard work of growing in my knowledge and understanding of Christ. I want to speed right by all of the life experiences that teach patience, wisdom, kindness, joy, gentleness. The truth is, the day-to-day job of sanctification can be painful. But, it’s essential to my formation as one who can be of use to the Kingdom of God. I want to do big things. Badly.
But, maybe for now I just need to keep plugging away at the little things God has entrusted me with. This is where I learn to be more like Him. This is where He shows me how real love operates. This is where He demonstrates that His glory is all that matters. And, who knows? Maybe one day He will do something big through me.
Or maybe He already is, I thought, as I watched my firstborn’s eyes dance at the idea of changing the world.
In the fall, Chad and I started doing something we’ve never done before, in all of our almost eighteen years of marriage. We started praying together every day.
Thanks to his diligence, we haven’t missed a single day since we decided to try it after attending a marriage conference. I think it’s safe to say that this mission of praying together and for each other has revolutionized our marriage in more ways than one. We have never been more spiritually in tune with one another.
We have always had a solid marriage. Not every day has been absolute bliss, but every day has been meaningful. Even on the bad days, we have managed to go to bed at night knowing that we are committed to each other, that even in moments when the like isn’t quite there, the love always is.
We have always talked about spiritual things. We’ve talked about things we read. We’ve passed articles back and forth. We’ve debated endlessly about the best ways to do church, and we’ve spent time reading books together, listening to sermons together, and serving in the church together. All of those things have been good for us and have helped us grow as individuals and as a couple. The intellectual spark that flows between us has been a source of great interest and fun in our marriage because for the most part we enjoy talking about the same things and have similar interests.
But, none of those things has impacted our soul connection in marriage the way praying together has.
In the past three months, we have become more vulnerable to each other, spiritually. We’ve been more likely to get excited about what God is doing. More likely to notice where He is working. We have teared up together as we see Him working in our lives and in our kids’ lives. We have been more likely to pray over meetings before we leave the house, to pray about situations on the spot, to open up about where we feel God is leading us. We’ve been more likely to ask for prayer from one another. And, we have heard each other’s heart as we agree in prayer in sleepy voices at bedtime.
A few nights ago, Chad prayed for our marriage, as he often has during the past several months. He prayed that God would make us inseparable. I still get chills now even typing those words as I think about the power behind them. Chad prayed to the God of the Universe that He would keep any powers of this world or the wickedness in our own hearts from ever coming between us. He prayed that no one and nothing on this planet could separate the two of us. There is pure might behind words like that, prayed from a sincere heart to the Lord of Everything. When a husband and wife are clinging tightly to one another and even tighter to their God, crying out for oneness, for a impenetrable force field of His power to surround their bond, their marriage and family are sure to blessed by it.
What if we all made that the war cry of hearts, in a time when marriage seems to be valued less and less every day? In a time when people are considered disposable? In a time when every meme on social media is about what I can get for ME in a relationship, instead of what I can give to someone else? What if Christian couples everywhere decided that the way they are going to fight for their marriage is to ask God daily for the blessing of inseparability? I wonder how our families and churches would be revolutionized?
It’s such a simple concept, to pray that we’ll be inseparable. But, what strength can that one little word lend to a marriage in a dark and confusing world? Only God knows. But, I have my suspicions. Pray together. Pray that nothing in this world will come between you. And, watch God bless and bless and bless. I’m thankful for a husband who teaches me so many things, just by being a sincere follower of Christ and a true friend to his imperfect wife. May we never, ever be separated.