Losing Control

I really like being in control of my life. Or at least, thinking that I’m in control of my life. I make schedules. I make lists. I keep a very good calendar. I dejunk frequently. The illusion of control was a lot easier to maintain before I got pregnant. We were living on two incomes, and I knew I could always put in a few more hours if I wanted. Although I had frequent migraines, they could be managed (to some degree) with medication.

Being pregnant has definitely been one of the more humbling experiences in my life. I have always prided myself on not being a picky eater, yet suddenly I find myself with a plethora of food aversions. Italian food: out. Alfredo sauce: out. Greasy food: out. I don’t have control over what I could eat on any given day, or what might cause me to throw up. On top of food aversions, I’ve lost control of my ability to push through exhaustion and do all my house cleaning in one day. I am lucky to get the dishes washed on a daily basis.

Those things aside, pregnancy has made me realize how dependent I am. Fairly early on, I had to cut back my hours at work. I cannot financially take care of myself without my wonderful husband working so hard to pay all our bills. It’s scary to not even feel like I have good earning ability. My hours at work continue to dwindle as my pregnancy progresses. And then—I am carrying a little person, a little girl, who for the time being is safe inside me. But come July, she will enter the world, and I will only be able to control so many factors in her life. I will be dependent on the fact that God loves her even more than I do.

Who knows what this little girl will bring? It’s out of my control. Will she have ADHD or ADD? Will she have food allergies? Will she be an easy child or need extra care and attention? My fear of giving up control (because I obviously had control to begin with….right??) has caused me to emotionally pull away from God. A part of me is holding back. Can I trust you with my child, God? What a silly question! The real question is: can God trust me with His child?

Our pastor is preaching a timely sermon series called “Marriage and Children and Debts-O MY!” One of the first “lessons for parents” he preached about was this: Our children are not our property, they are our primary ministry privilege. God has given me the privilege of being Abrielle’s mother for however many years He has allocated to her and me. I may be her biological mother, but first and foremost, she is God’s child.

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The Question of Purpose: Success vs. Progress

If you grew up in the church, more likely than not you are familiar with this catechism question: “What is the chief end of man?”, and its answer: “To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” It sounds trite, but I think all of us at one time or another have asked this question: Why am I here? I think this question is likely to be asked when we are in the thick of the mundane: folding socks, cleaning the bathroom…again, waking and rising, or eating steel cut oats for breakfast…again. I’m sure you could add a few of your own.

I find myself feeling insignificant and asking myself that question: Why am I here? In both secular and religious circles, there is pressure to be a “success.” To achieve something. To make your life count for something. To start that new church ministry. To rise in your career. To invent something new. To become famous. To be, in a word, a “success.”

I don’t think of my life to date as a “success,” but more like “progress.” What have I achieved? Few tangible things come to mind. Progress makes more sense to me because I do see growth. I can look even just six months back and see incredible progress in my life. Success? I’m not there yet—but growth, yes.

When a young person dies, it’s a tragedy. They had their whole life ahead of them. For those who are not followers of Christ, it’s devastating, because this life is all they had. This young person didn’t have time to achieve anything great. They hadn’t succeeded.

We’re taught growing up, “Shoot for the moon and you’ll land among the stars.” We teach our children and teenagers to shoot for high goals, that they can make a difference, that they can be great. This is not bad. Some of us will be a “success.” Some will plant churches. Some will write books. Some will found orphanages. That’s great. But some of us, many of us, won’t. We’ll be mothers, fathers, laborers, and janitors. We won’t achieve anything that might be considered “great.”

The good news is this: God doesn’t grade us on “success.” Our daily lives, the way we glorify God as we face each day, that’s what matters.

I like this quote from Martin Luther: “This life therefore is not righteousness, but growth in righteousness, not health, but healing, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise. We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it, the process is not yet finished, but it is going on, this is not the end, but it is the road. All does not yet gleam in glory, but all is being purified.”

Sometimes I worry that I’ll die before I [insert major life event here]. I have to remind myself that me following God every day is enough. Perhaps I have the opportunity to minister to someone, and while I’m on my way to meet that person, my car breaks down. Alas, my plans have been thwarted and I won’t be able to accomplish what I set out to do. And yet, this is what is before me. The car is broken. God knew it would break down, and He allowed it to happen!

From C.S. Lewis, “The great thing is, if one can, to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions in one’s “own” or “real” life. The truth is, of course, that what one regards as interruptions are precisely one’s life.”

I frequently notice young mothers who are frustrated because they didn’t “accomplish” anything that day. The baby fussed and wouldn’t nap, and they were unable to do what they set out to accomplish. Those of us who aren’t mothers can also identify with days like that. When I have a day like that, I am working on reminding myself that this is what God has for me today.

Coming back to the question I first asked, “What is the chief end of man?”—I say this:

To glorify God and enjoy Him forever. To grow. To heal. To exercise. We do “not yet gleam in glory,” but His grace is sufficient for us.

Grace Sufficient–in “The Hiding Place”

This week finds me in my third ever reading through of Corrie ten Boom’s book, The Hiding Place. As is true with rereading any book, some things struck me this time that I had not paid particular attention to before. I’ll just highlight two special passages from the book.

Toward the beginning of the book, Corrie is struggling with the concept of death when a little baby dies. Her father finds a special way to help her.

“Father sat down on the edge of the narrow bed. ‘Corrie,’ he began gently, ‘when you and I go to Amsterdam—when do I give you your ticket?’

I sniffed a few times, considering this. ‘Why, just before we get on the train.’

‘Exactly. And our wise Father in heaven knows when we’re going to need things, too. Don’t run out ahead of Him, Corrie. When the time comes that some of us will have to die, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need—just in time.’ ”

I loved this analogy that Corrie’s father used. The verse that comes to mind is “my grace is sufficient for you.” I can’t emotionally fortify myself against the unknowns of the future, but I can depend on God to give me the strength to face those unknowns just when I need it.

After Corrie’s release from prison, she ministers both to the victims of persecution, and to their persecutors. She finds herself in a rough place when she encounters one of her own tormentors in church. He comes to greet her after a church service:

“’How grateful I am for your message, Fraulein.’ He said. ‘To think that, as you say, He has washed my sins away!’

His hand was thrust out to shake mine. And I, who had preached so often to the people in Bloemendaal the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side. Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him.

I tried to smile, I struggled to raise my hand. I could not. I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity. And so again I breathed a silent prayer. Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me Your forgiveness.

As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me.

And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.”

If you, like me, have ever struggled to forgive someone, you will understand Corrie’s struggle to give someone who had literally tormented her and those she loved. How wonderful that God has truly done it all for us. I find I am able to forgive and love in difficult situations when I pray that God will provide the love and forgiveness for me to give. I’m still rolling this quote around in my head, and I hope you will too.

“And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.”

 

 

Wisdom from Luther

“This life therefore is not righteousness, but growth in righteousness, not health, but healing, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise. We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it, the process is not yet finished, but it is going on, this is not the end, but it is the road. All does not yet gleam in glory, but all is being purified.” -Martin Luther

How Self-Centeredness is My Marriage’s Worst Enemy

I’m presently working my way through a book called Spousonomics: Using Economics To Master Love, Marriage, and Dirty Dishes. The title sparked my interest, and it’s an enjoyable read, although I find the lengthy explanations of economics a bit tiring. I’m only a few chapters in, but so far the book has covered a few of the main conflicts that married couples face. The first chapter is called “Division of Labor, Or, Why You Should Do the Dishes.” As I read through each “Case Study,” where the authors describe real life couples in real life situations, I thought through what my husband and I have fought about the most.

One evening, I brought this book up in conversation with my husband, and we discussed what seems to cause us to enter a “rough patch.” It’s not division of labor (I foresee that as a future problem, but it’s neutral for the time being).It’s not money or finances. Not because we never argue about money, but because going through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University together really helped get us on the same page.

When we hit a rough patch, communication breaks down, and we start avoiding each other. This rough patch can sometimes be triggered by extreme stress/strain, or tough work schedules. I find though that the first thing to switch over is my attitude. I start thinking about the kind of husband my hubby is or is not being. I think about how he NEVER does _________[fill in the blank]. He ALWAYS does ______[fill in the blank], just to annoy me. Every little idiosyncrasy suddenly rears its head. When I’m 100% in this mode, every other move he makes is irritating to me. I suddenly feel a surge of fear and ask myself, “What is happening to my marriage?” Sometimes it takes a confrontation to get me to start analyzing myself. I’ll realize that I have switched my brain over to thinking entirely about MYSELF, MY needs, what I want to do, how I am not being served.

When my heart is in a humble/desperate enough state to stop criticizing for a second, then I realize what I am doing and start turning those questions around. How am I serving my husband’s needs? How am I being kind to him? What would he like to do? What is he feeling? How is he doing? Usually this exercise is enough to bring me off my high horse. Having redirected my focus on what I could be doing to be a better wife, I find that all those annoying idiosyncrasies (that were driving me crazy just 10 minutes ago) suddenly dissolve into the background. I usually find that I am not being kind, and have not looked for ways to serve my husband.

I’m going to end with a passage from a book I hold in high regard. It was given to me by a professor while I was attending college. From The Friendship Factor by Alan Loy McGinnis:

“D.L. Moody was one of the greatest Christian evangelists who ever lived. He could hold a crowd in the palm of his hand, won thousands of converts to the faith, and established several religious institutions. Yet he never displayed the pompous air of self-importance that so many famous evangelists did in that era. He was a tolerant, understanding man who rarely criticized. One of his famous sayings was, ‘Right now I’m having so much trouble with D.L. Moody that I don’t have time to find fault with the other fellow.’ ”