At first I was shocked, then jealous, then hopeful, then hopeless, then skeptical, then concerned.
Peter and I were talking to a man who has been married for 60-something years and he had just told us that he and his wife have never had an argument. "We're both from sets of twins, so we just know how to get along!" he explained.
On the ride home, I was deep in thought about it. We had only been married a couple months and we had already had several handfuls of arguments. No door-slammers or name-calling, but painful, unpleasant, cut-through-the-heart disagreements. How in the world
did this man and his wife go 60-something years without fighting?
Maybe Peter and I could start a clean slate. Maybe that day would be our last day of arguments for the rest of our lives.
Nope, that would never happen. We just disagree too much. That man must have either been lying to us or been delusional...or maybe he and his wife never lived in the same house together. How can you not have arguments? Is that even a good
Finally I asked Peter his thoughts about it.
"I don't think the absence of conflict is necessarily an indicator of a healthy marriage
," he wisely commented. "In fact, I would argue that the absence of conflict is more an indicator of lack of holy striving
He further explained that in marriage, we are two deeply flawed, sinful people living extremely closely together. It is inevitable that our hearts will latch onto different idols, and it would be spiritually tragic if, in the name of lack of conflict, we simply let the idols develop in our spouse's heart without confronting them with the Word. Conflict is like a painful surgery that must be done in order to remove a cancer; it would be easier to pretend there's no issue there, but it would be selfish to not present the truth of God's Word to your spouse when they are being disobedient to it.
Let me make an important side note here: Holy confrontation is not the same as nagging. There's nothing helpful about nagging
. I also highly recommend the book Practicing Affirmation
by Sam Crabtree. In that book he suggests at the very least a 5-to-1 affirmation-to-criticism ratio (at least five to ten encouragements for every critique, even if you're trying to be helpful or lovingly tease.) He also recommends occasionally fasting from criticizing for entire days. I cannot even tell you how much healing this has done for our marriage when we stuck with it!
Here is the main point I'm trying to convey: we are constantly mistaken about who is fighting whom.
When my husband and I are having a disagreement, it feels like it's him against me. If I present more scathing evidence that he's wrong, the score is more in my favor. If he points out something I cannot contest, I lost that one. Our tendency is to treat one another as if we are fighting each other. Isn't that what marital conflict is? Two sides battling against each other?
One day it hit me that this way of thinking is all wrong, at least when one or both of the spouses are followers of Jesus.
Ephesians 6:12 says it plainly: "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places."Marital conflict, when done biblically, is not one person fighting another.
It's two people fighting together against the enemy.
It's one soldier helping his wounded comrade.
And chances are very likely that in no time at all, the stronger soldier will become the weaker and in desperate need help himself. Sometimes both will be weak and broken and they will limp along together. (This is why it is so important to have brothers and sisters who are on the front lines with you. Our local church's help for our marriage has been invaluable.)
1 Peter 5:8 reminds us, "Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour." When we remember that we are fighting him and not each other, conflict becomes one of the most valuable tools in a marriage.
When Peter comes home from a long day at work and his attitude might be a little less than chipper, my first response is usually: "What did I do to you to deserve being treated like this? Could you just stop being harsh? Do you even care that I had a hard day too?" Or, I silently seethe and develop a poignant speech about all the wrong things he's doing and how he should feel really bad about it.
But do you know what's so awful about responding to him in that way? It's dissatisfying.
What happens when I finally give my long-awaited speech and he agrees with me about his shortcomings and is really broken about it? I don't feel victory; I couldn't gloat if I tried. My heart breaks over him and I can't help but wanting to help him. Why in the world did I waste all that time fuming when I could have helped him?
The other day I was in a very bad mood and the house was very messy, and it would have made sense if Peter responded to me with impatience. Yet he listened to me and tried to help me get to the root of why I was feeling this way, then he clearly reminded me of the gospel and assured me of God's love for me...and his
love for me. (Then he stayed up till 1 am cleaning and organizing the house so I could have a fresh start the next day!)
In What Did You Expect?
, an excellent book on marriage, Paul Tripp powerfully expresses that "we turn moments of ministry into moments of anger
" because "we tend to personalize what is not personal." My spouse's goal in life is not to make me miserable; that's the devil's.
So why am I fighting my husband
when I should be helping him by fighting sin
I think the fight with sin will become more wearisome and tiring the longer we fight it. I already feel like I'm huffing and puffing and about to fall over. Yet the more we know our victorious Jesus, the more we truly consider ourselves "dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus" (Romans 6). We can joyfully "lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely" and "run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith" (Hebrews 12.) We can take heart because He has overcome the world (John 16) and there will be a day when death will be nothing more than a memory (1 Corinthians 15.)
I think James 4:1-10 is a perfect scripture with which to close. (And here's a great sermon
about it by CJ Mahaney!)What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
Here are the other posts in this series on marital conflict:My Sin is Larger Than My HusbandWhy Marriage Is Good...Even When It's Rough
I found myself crying as I was waiting to pay a ticket at the clerk of circuit court because of a conversation I overheard between the man and woman behind me.
"If we're still going to be together," the woman whined, her tone desperate. "Why won't you tell me where you live now?"
"I don't want to put up with your [beep]," the guy replied, his tone annoyed.
The woman was clearly hurt. She paused. "It must be nice."
"What?" The guy clearly didn't want to have this conversation, especially not in public where people like me can effortlessly hear everything they're saying.
She swallowed. "It must be nice to be able to pick up and leave."
"Isn't this what you want?"
you to stay with me!"
"When you're stressed like this..." The man's voice grew increasingly more impatient. "Ugh, I don't want to have to deal
with you when you're like this!"
The woman was shattered. "You're breaking my heart."
"I'm not trying to." He sounded surprised but also didn't sound like he cared much.
They argued more and eventually the woman found herself pleading for her boyfriend to stay with her. "I'll move my stuff and stay in the other room so you can have your own space! The house is big enough! You don't have to leave!" Then she broke down and was crying.
"I love you," the man said, as if that could make everything better.
"I love you too," she weakly said through sobs, more of a reflex than anything else.
After a little while they made arrangements about how much of his stuff he'd be leaving at her house. Then it was my turn to pay my ticket and I never saw their faces, but this conversation will stay with me forever (especially since I wrote it down while it was happening.)
In many ways I could relate to both of them. Peter and I have had frustrating conversations too, and both of us have at times had the feeling of "I don't want to have to deal with you anymore!" Both of us have also felt the rejection and unwantedness from the person we know we displeased. Countless tears have flowed and neither of us could number how many times we've crushed the other person's heart.
But there's one major thing thing that sets our marriage apart from the co-habitating relationship I observed.
Is it because I'm confident that we love each other more than they ever did?
Is it because I'm sure that we communicate better than them and we would never say something like that to each other?
Nope. We've only been married for 2 years; I have no clue how we'll sin against each other in the future!
But this is why I have confidence in our marriage: unconditional love that is founded on an unbreakable covenant.
It's not passion that sustains the promise; it's the promise that sustains the passion.
There have been times when we have not felt love for each other. There have been some times when we sort of dreaded the idea of a future together. But since there's no way "out", we've had no choice but to work through our issues. The result is nothing less than a deeper, richer, and more mature love than we had known before.
The action of love must be present when the feeling of love is weak...or absent.
Tim Keller's book The Meaning of Marriage (which I highly, highly recommend) presented this idea so clearly:
"In any relationship, there will be frightening spells in which your feelings of love dry up. And when that happens you must remember that the essence of marriage is that it is a covenant, a commitment, a promise of future love. So what do you do? You do the acts of love, despite your lack of feeling. You may not feel tender, sympathetic, and eager to please, but in your actions you must be tender, understanding, forgiving, and helpful. And if you do that, as time goes on you will not only get through the dry spells, but they will become less frequent and deep, and you will become more constant in your feelings. This is what can happen if you decide to love."
Many would say that it's torturous to force yourself to love someone that you don't have feelings for. In the pursuit of happiness, why let a miserable relationship get in the way? Especially young people like me may be tempted to think, "I've got my whole life ahead of me! Why should I let myself get slowed down by someone who doesn't share my dreams?"I can think of no example of meaningful love that lacked permanence.
In fact, I see the opposite: the most meaningful love relationship fathomably attainable to me, that of my Creator and I, is forever. It can be no other way. And this love was made possible only through the sacrifice of Christ.
Marriage is a covenant itself, not only fashioned after or symbolizing but held together by that greater covenant.
As you read through the Bible and keep your eyes out for covenants that are made, you'll notice that there are conditional covenants and unconditional covenants.The benefits of conditional covenants can be removed if one party does not hold up his end of the deal (example: Deuteronomy 28.)
However, nothing can mess with an unconditional covenant. When God said He would never flood the earth again, He didn't say "That is, as long as you don't (fill in the blank)."
The promise was completely because of His mercy.
When God chose me as Christ's bride and "delivered [me] from the dominion of darkness and transferred [me] into the Kingdom of His Beloved Son, in whom there is redemption, the forgiveness of sins" (Colossians 1:13) I entered an unconditional covenant.
God shows me mercy and adopts me into His family and makes me Christ's bride and fills me with the Holy Spirit and gives me a new heart and makes me alive in Him.
I receive/accept/become alive.Deal!
But what happens when neither person is showing mercy? Is marriage worth anything at all then?(Please note: I am not saying that if you are being abused by your spouse, you should just live with it. If that is your situation, you need to seek help immediately. This article is addressing the whole "not getting along" and "falling out of love" issue.)
Hebrews 13:4a says "Let marriage be held in honor among all." This verse is convicting to me because sometimes, when Peter and I are mad at each other, I do not have a very high view of marriage. But when I hear heartbreaking things like that conversation at the clerk of circuit court, I can see how good God's design is in creating marriage. Living together without committing for life is a cheap, selfish, dollar-store-brand attempt at copying the good thing that marriage is. It can never come close.
By the way, can I also just testify to how sweet marriage can be? It is so good.
I truly madly deeply love my husband and I know he truly madly deeply loves me. I love
being married, and I love being married to Peter!
So I urge you, unmarried friends, to desire and seek after one
relationship that is promised to stay till death do you part. Though in the short term it may seem best to try out all kinds of different people before committing (legally, bindingly) to one, you are only setting yourself up for heartbreak and instability. If you feel you must "test" a relationship before committing, that shows that you have concerns about whether the relationship will really work out after all. Why toy with uncertainty like that?
And I urge you, married friends, to carry on with the action of love. I think the phrase "Remember why you got married" is one awfully soggy chicken nugget of wisdom. It's completely unhelpful advice for people who got married on a drunken whim, but it's also unhelpful for people who got married with false assumptions, impossible expectations, and wishful thinking (which is every single person who has ever been married.)
Instead remember the covenant you made; remember the ultimate Covenant Keeper, the Creator of love, who has designed marriage to be joyful and steadfast.
To read the first post in the series on marital conflict, click here
(the first post in a series on marital conflict)
"But you started it!"
I'm still surprised by how frequently I employ preschool-level argument tactics during disagreements with my husband. It's not that marriage has made me a bad person---it's having quite the reverse effect---but it certainly makes my badness more clearly seen. And just when I thought I had developed a 20/20 self-perception of my flaws, baby Stephen entered my life and I discovered whole new depths of my own selfishness.
But here's where it gets worse: I keep thinking that this problem is close to being solved.
If only my husband didn't make me mad so often.
If only Stephen wasn't such a needy kid.
If only I had access to the right organizing tools.
If only I was eating the right superfoods.
I'm sure that if I followed steps A, B, and C I wouldn't have conflict anymore...
I was convicted about this recently when talking to a friend about a struggle I was having. I found myself asking her for "tips on how to get better." Practical tips can be very helpful, but when I heard myself refusing to call my "issues" out for what they really are, I realized how lightly I view my sin and how half-heartedly I fight it.
Later that night my friend read to me Psalm 51. David wrote it when he lusted after a woman, got her pregnant, then killed her husband. Verse 4 struck me hard: "Against You, You only, have I sinned."
I feel like if I were in David's shoes I would have been primarily beating myself up about what I did to the woman, not what I did to God. I would have written an "I'm-really-sorry" song to the person who I can see and whose scorn I can feel, not to the unseen God who doesn't really seem involved in any way.
David's attitude is reminiscent of Joseph's in Genesis 39. Joseph worked for an important man named Potiphar, and Potiphar's wife tirelessly tried to seduce him. And Joseph responded, "How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?" If I was Potiphar's wife, I would have retorted something like "What does God have to do with this? Aren't you more concerned about what would happen if your boss found out?"
Oftentimes when I sin against Peter, I feel like that's the extent of it: I sinned against Peter. And in those moments it's not really a big deal to me because I'm mad at Peter and it feels like he deserves it anyway.
But if all I'm doing is upsetting my husband, I only need a husband-sized savior who can solve my husband-sized problems.
However, my sin is an offense to GOD; so I need a God-sized Savior who is bridging this impossibly large chasm my sin has made between me and my Maker.
(If you think I'm just being dramatic, be sobered by Psalm 7:11-13: "God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day. If man does not repent, God will whet His sword; He has bent and readied His bow; He has prepared for Him his deadly weapons, making His arrows fiery shafts.")
And that God-sized Savior came! Jesus bore the guilt of my sins against not only Peter but against God Himself! And the peace between God and man indeed was made because Christ rose again, proving that God had accepted His payment.
So, by realizing this, that I have greatly sinned and therefore have a great need, and that I have a great Christ who met and daily meets my need, I can have a thankfulness much greater than Peter-sized gratitude. And since my sins are much greater than merely Peter-sized, I can respond with something much greater than Peter-sized repentance and experience greater than Peter-sized joy.
I hope I haven't lost you. If I have, here's an example.
Today my mom watched Stephen so I could catch up on homemaking stuff, and I wasted a lot of that time.
I looked up pictures of Hilary Duff's baby.
I did some useless, judgmental Facebook stalking.
I looked up pictures of Bryce Dallas Howard's baby.
I clicked around on different blog websites but didn't really read anything.
Before I knew it, a serious chunk of time had passed. I felt sick from my idleness (and from the inhuman amount of pretzel sticks I consumed during this time.) This situation may sound like a small thing, but I really indulged in sin and it's serious.
When Peter gets home he will probably wonder why his work clothes aren't clean or why Stephen's room is a wreck or why dinner is lame. He might be upset.
I can think of at least a few responses I can make:
a) I could call my time-wasting "escapism" and tearfully tell him that I am just trying to numb the pain from some area in my life where I've found myself to be the victim.
Likely result: I'll either receive pity I don't deserve and Peter will feel horrible for apparently making me depressed, or that excuse won't be good enough and we'll end up arguing.
b) I could tell Peter "I'm sorry I wronged you. You really deserve clean clothes. I'll try to make sure I'm more efficient about that."
Likely result: He'll forgive me then the next day I'll keep in mind his disappointment and maybe work harder. Then he'll be more happy with me.
c) Before Peter even gets home I can acknowledge that I am not just wasting my time or Peter's time but I am poorly handling God's time. Like Denethor poorly stewarded Gondor, I poorly handled the time God has given me. I was created to worship God; I didn't do that; this grieves God. But I don't leave wallowing in what I did and apologizing repeatedly so God can love me again. I rejoice in what Christ did for me, and rest in God's resulting irrevocable favor. (And when Peter gets home, I could do option b as well.)
Likely result: Joy in Christ's work on the cross and peace about Christ's work in me that mobilizes me to do what I was made to do.
This is how the gospel transforms every part of our lives. This is why, when marital---or any kind of relational---conflict comes, we must see our issues not as inconveniences but as sin: lethal, enslaving, offensive to God, and, for the Christian, blood-covered. Praise God.
I love how he prefers to put his foot up while eating, whether he's in the high chair or sitting on a blanket at the beach.
I love how he plows through the laundry as I fold it (and re-fold it, and re-re-fold it.) At first I was annoyed with Babyzilla, but now I'm so grateful that he wants to be with me, and I think it's good preparation for when he can actually help with the folding.
I love how he makes other people happy. I can tell that he brightens the days of the Costco employees who have watched him grow since he was in my belly. Paul, who's waiting for grandchildren, loves to play with his feet. Brenda, whose grandkids live thousands of miles away, always greets him by name. He's the closest thing to a grandchild that some people have right now.
I love how he wants to be like his mommy and daddy. He usually won't eat food unless he sees us eating it first. I can put a quesadilla on his tray and he'll just stare at it until I take a bite of my own quesadilla.
I love how he jams to beats. He'll be sitting in his high chair and, upon hearing Peter play drums in the other room, he'll look at me and nod his head and groove. It's the cutest thing.
I love how he knows his boundaries and pushes them as much as possible. He sits right by the line. He throws things over the line. He falls down to the ground with tears when I merely say "Remember your boundaries!" But he knows the rules and he obeys (most of the time. ;) )
I love how he loves animals and wants to pet every single thing with fur he sees, despite my best efforts at making him non-desirous of pets.
I love how he watches outside the window as Daddy leaves for work and comes home. I love it when he waves.
I love how he loves playing with his daddy. All Peter has to say is "Excuse me, little sir!" and Stephen will laugh, zoom away, and immediately commence a game of tag.
I love when he toddles or crawls over to me while I'm sitting down just so he can pull himself up on me and wrap his arms around my neck. His only purpose in all that work is to hug me.
I love how he's so snuggly in the morning and he lets me kiss all over his cheeks and neck. His eyes are usually still closed but his closed mouth makes a huge smile as I smother him with love. He's not aware of too much in the mornings, but he knows for sure that I love him and he loves me.
I love how he chows down on his food. This dude can maul a peanut butter sandwich, a sizeable pile of lasagna, or an entire banana without batting an eye.
I love how he practically does acrobatics while nursing. His wiggly and, at times, upside-down posture makes nursing in public difficult, but it's still quite hilarious.
I love how he loves the outdoors and always has. Previously it had been the only thing that could calm him when he was otherwise inconsolable. Nowadays he brings me his shoes or reaches for the door handle, and he throws a fit when we come back inside.
I love how he loves family. When my Mammaw picks him up, he rests his head on her shoulder and has the biggest, toothy smile for a long time. He loves her.
I love how his appetite for organic blueberries knows no limits.
I love how he is consistently amused during diaper changes as I express to him how miserably stinky his diaper is. He is proud of his stench.
I love how he looks in his little pajamas. Before he was born I had frequently imagined him running around in those tight little pj pants, his tiny booty cheeks begging to be squeezed. And, boy, do they get squeezed. ;)
I love how he completely ignores the toys he has and would much rather take all of Daddy's business cards out of the box or completely disassemble all the yarn pieces in Mommy's latch hooking kit. My heart is warmed by those kinds of messes as my curious little boy explores his world.
I love how he knows when I'm sad. Even when he was a couple months old, I was sobbing while he was nursing so he stopped nursing and looked up at me with the biggest smile. God really used him to remind me of His tender mercy.
I love how the moment he was born wasn't the magical experience some people describe, but when I saw him for the first time I kind of felt unsurprised. I remember just feeling like "of course that's him. I already know him. He's been mine for a long time." He isn't a cute widdle baby to pamper, he isn't a problem to deal with; he is my son and my friend (and hopefully one day, my brother in Christ.) I am called to be his mother, and I don't want to take that lightly. But I want to enjoy every day of it. And I most certainly do. :)
Click here to read part 1.
Yesterday's post was about how motherhood follows Jesus's model of making disciples of all nations (motherhood does ministry like
Jesus) and today we're going to talk about how motherhood does ministry for
Just so we're clear, the word "ministry" has many negative associations in my head. I think this is best illustrated by the time some friends and I picked up a youth speaker from the airport and drove him to a church event two hours away. I hoped for good fellowship and asked lots of questions, but I was very discouraged by the conversation. Eventually he even put his earbuds in and tuned us out! The man traveled to speak all the time and left most of the parenting to his wife. He openly told us that he didn't really study the Bible, and that was plain throughout the event because he managed to "preach" entire "sermons" without opening the Bible.
But he talked about ministry. Oh yes, he likes doing ministry. He went to a well-known seminary. He speaks at camps all the time. He knows people. I know I should show this man some grace, but I can't help but wonder, "Is any of this really for Jesus? Is He pleased with this?"
Contrast that experience with a week during the summer that I visited my cousin Karen three years ago. She has two young children and is in the process of adopting a daughter from China
. Both of her children have had different allergies and other problems that made mothering very, very difficult. But that summer (and when I've seen her since) I was amazed as I watched her calm her colicky baby and patiently shepherd her older daughter's heart. I remember feeling so bad for how difficult her life was, but I was amazed at how quick she was to tell me about God's faithfulness and what good He was bringing about through the situation. I remember thinking, "I might end up having not-so-easy children...but that wouldn't crush me because it hasn't crushed her." God gave and is giving her so much grace, and she lavishes her children with unconditional love. Without a doubt I know that what she is doing is for Jesus and that He loves what she is doing!
I remember being at the library several months ago, very frustrated with Stephen and not feeling a whole lot of unconditional love for him. He was being extremely fussy that month, and especially that day, and it was just about time to eat, so I, red-faced and flustered, grabbed a John Piper book and sat in between some shelves in the kids section so I could feed him. I opened to a random page and was blown away by Mark 9:36-37:"And He took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in His arms, He said to them, 'Whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me, and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but him who sent Me.”
John Piper commented
:"Receiving a child into your arms in the name of Jesus is a way to receive Jesus. And receiving Jesus is a way to receive God. Therefore how we deal with children is a signal of our fellowship with God. Something is deeply amiss in the soul that does not descend (or is it really ascend?) to love and hold a child."
Wow! I looked at Stephen in a whole different way after that revelatory moment. What a crazy thing for Jesus to say, that by receiving a child I am receiving Him! This as-if-you-did-it-for-me concept is also seen in Matthew 25:34-40.
"Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed Me, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you visited Me, I was in prison and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these My brothers, you did it to Me
When I read that I can't help but think particularly of those who through adoption welcome, nourish, and clothe young people or babies in dire situations who would otherwise probably die. Jesus said that by doing that's for Him. Every single time you give a meal to someone in need, it is as if you are serving up some food for Jesus! I'm not sure if anyone has the energy to work at a homeless shelter three times a day, seven times a week, but mothers feed their needy ones that often for all of childhood!Note: Since it says "as you did it to one of the least of these My brothers", from what I can tell this passage applies to what we do for other Christians, as not every needy person on earth is considered a "brother" by Jesus. However, there are plenty of other passages (like Luke 6:27-36) that say we are to show mercy to unbelievers too, so either way my point still stands that loving children shows love to Jesus.
I am just amazed at how Jesus cares for the marginalized and how much He calls His church to do the same. Caring for children is such a high calling, and what a privilege that mothers get to do it on a daily basis!So take heart, weary mother, and know that your work, as demanding and consuming as it is, is so much bigger than just trying to keep your children alive another day. You're parenting for Jesus and for the nations (see yesterday's post.)
May 1 Corinthians 15:58 encourage you:"Therefore my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labors are not in vain."
Cruise director, journalist, aide to a child who has primordial dwarfism, actress, 4th grade teacher, Target cashier, flight attendant, sign language interpreter, pastor's wife, best-selling author. Oh, and...mom I guess. Homeschooling mom.
This is what I would have told you at almost any time during my childhood if you asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. There were variations, of course, like dolphin trainer or linguist or Disney World tour guide. And over time one or two items might have dropped off the list. I accepted that being a flight attendant might be demanding, I wouldn't make it as a journalist or actress, and I don't have enough red clothes to work at Target.
But I had ambitions.Growing up, a lot of people told me "You're going to be something big!" "You are a very special girl." And, with a pleasant pun on my name, one kind elderly man always greeted me with saying, "Hope for the world!"I imagined people writing biographies about me and the significant impact I made during my short time on earth.
Then I found myself married, pregnant, and having a baby before I turned twenty. My husband feels very strongly about homeschooling and raising a large brood of children---and I do too!---so God-willing I'm pretty much locked into this job of stay-at-home-mom for 30 years or so. (I did joyfully choose to do all these things at these parts of my life, but you know how it is with unwarranted self-pity!)
So I figured that maybe when I'm 50 I can do those things I'd always dreamed about and really change the world.
Yes, that's being overly dramatic, and of course homeschooling moms can write books and even interpret sign language on the side. But sometimes it does feel that I could have done so many things but I traded it all for what? Diaper-changing and tantrum-handling? Anti-climactic.By the way, writing this blog post was interrupted by snatching important papers from my baby before he ripped them, changing his poopy diaper, sternly warning him to not touch cords or eat board game pieces, and nursing (though thankfully I can type while doing that!)
Thankfully, however, God used multiple different resources (His Word and the women in my church primarily, but also multiple blogs and an excellent book by Carolyn Mahaney called Feminine Appeal
!) to bring me to the conclusion that there is nothing more significant I can do with my life than to take on this role of mother.
My reasoning behind this is because motherhood is the best means I can think of to 1) Do Ministry Like Jesus, and 2) Do Ministry for Jesus (which I'll post tomorrow.) I realize that not every woman is called to motherhood, but I do think it would help the church to see the value in this crucial role.1) Motherhood does ministry like Jesus.
In Bible college for my Evangelism and Discipleship class, we had to read a book called Master Plan of Evangelism
by Robert Coleman. I only read enough of it to finish my book report, so I missed out. However, the book clearly asserted through scripture that the main way Jesus evangelized the nations was through the discipleship of only twelve men (and more closely, three.) Reach the many by discipling the few
. I liked that. I agreed with that. And the more I read the gospels the more I see that this is true.
However, it wasn't until after becoming a mom that I realized motherhood beautifully follows the ministry model of Jesus
! How much more life-on-life can you get than spending nearly every waking hour with someone---or multiple someones---for at least 18 years?
I love the "Hey Christian Girl" meme that says "Let's get married and start making disciples" because the more I think about it, the more I see that the context of the family is absolutely the best way to raise disciples
.(Note: I may be giving the impression that if Christians parent correctly, their children are guaranteed to believe in Jesus one day. The Bible gives no such promise. In fact, as I read the Bible I see that a lot of times godly men produced ungodly children, and ungodly men produced godly children. However, I can still parent with hope that my children will one day love Jesus because of the power of the gospel that will be spoken repeatedly to them on a daily basis.)
A young man from our church was baptized a few months ago, and at the baptism he was asked to give his testimony. His was similar to mine and that of many believers I know: his Christian parents raised him and taught him the Word and eventually he made the decision for himself to follow Jesus.
Some would call his story of conversion "boring" because there was no dramatic experience or criminal past.
Yet after he gave his testimony, one of our pastors said something like, "That is one of my favorite kinds of testimonies to hear! Praise the Lord that his parents obeyed scripture and trained him up in the gospel! May we all do the same with our children!"
Awhile ago I read an excellent collection of short biographies by Noel Piper titled Faithful Women and their Extraordinary God
. There were some really beautiful, exciting missionary stories in there, but most of all I appreciated the chapter about Sarah Edwards, the wife of Jonathan Edwards, who spent her days tending to the home and her eleven children.
The book references a study that was done in 1900 by a man named A. E. Winship. He compared the descendants of Sarah and Jonathan Edwards with those of a man who had lived around their time but was a lazy, irreverent, alcoholic.
The other man's family produced mostly a slew of men and women who were a hurt to society (7 murderers and 60 thieves, for example.)
The Edwards family, on the other hand, produced:
1 U.S. Vice President
3 U.S. Senators
13 college presidents
66 physicians and a dean of a medical school
80 public office holders
100 lawyers and
Additionally, members of the family wrote 135 books. Even if I lived on my own and spent myself doing something that the world sees as "significant", I could never in one lifetime do for the world and for the Kingdom what my children and their children and their children could do!
Don't even get me started on how exponential the adoption and foster care potential is with my children's children's children!
The Edwards family exemplifies Psalm 145:4, which says: "One generation shall praise Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts."
Psalm 127:4 says "Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth."
Jim Elliot commented on that verse in a letter to his parents: "Remember how the Psalmist described children? He said that they were as a heritage from the Lord, and that every man should be happy who had his quiver full of them. And what is a quiver full of but arrows? And what are arrows for but to shoot? So with the strong arms of prayer, draw the bowstring back and let the arrows fly - all of them, straight at the Enemy's hosts."For my non-Christian friends who are concerned about me brain-washing my children and forcing them to pretend to believe in something, let's talk about it privately or I could do a separate post later :)In conclusion, I hope you see the power of a family and the power of a mom who invests in her kids! Mothers, may we thrive in this mundaneity and look to Jesus, our perfect example as we seek to influence generations upon generations who love God and can change the world better than one person ever could!Click here to read my other posts on significance:The Significance of StayingThe Significance of Being a Homemaker
On December 13, 2012, a brand new Chick-fil-a is opening in Winter Haven, an hour away from me. At 6:00 am on December 12th, there will be a raffle and 100 names will be chosen. The participants (and their guests) will then proceed to spend the next 24 hours on campus at that Chick-fil-a, camping out in the parking lot, while the restaurant feeds and entertains them. At the end of the 24 hours, the 100 participants will be given 52 passes for a #1. Free Chick-fil-a for a year.
I was supposed to be going.
I had been planning on it for almost a month. I told other people I was going. I looked at the pictures on the website and read the fine print. I thought of board games that would be fun to play with each other and with the other CFA fans around us. I was trying to figure out how many times I could post pictures of the event on Facebook without being annoying.
Then tonight Peter's truck broke down for an unknown reason and we decided it wouldn't work out for tomorrow. I was crushed.
"Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life." -Proverbs 13:12
I made this verse the main event at my pity party. Poor me, getting my hopes up for nothing. Boo you, circumstances, for making my heart sick.
But as God reminded me of better realities, some psalms I read earlier today comforted my soul in newer, deeper ways than they had before:
"Blessed are those who dwell in Your house, ever singing Your praise!" -Psalm 84:4
"Blessed is the one You choose and bring near, to dwell in Your courts! We shall be satisfied with the goodness of Your house, the holiness of Your temple!" -Psalm 65:1
Immediately my heart was convicted yet simultaneously encouraged. I was throwing a pity party because I couldn't go to a Chickfila grand opening, when I have theeeee highest privilege fathomable: I get to worship God!!!
When I read "satisfied" I faintly yet endearingly remember all those times when verses like these were my comfort in my singleness. "The LORD is my husband!" I would remind myself. "He does not withhold any good thing from those who walk uprightly!" And praise God for sustaining me with those truths.
But now I am reminded to be satisfied with His goodness, even in the small things. Jesus has felt every bit of the forsakenness that I should have felt so I can be brought near. How I must keep reminding myself of this, that my heart may be revived even during the insignificant little changes of plans that still make me feel really, really bummed.
If hope deferred makes the heart sick, wouldn't it be wise to only put my hope in desires that I know will be fulfilled?
I'm reminded of Colossians 3:1-4.
"If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory."
Wow, every single one of those verses so sharply directs our gaze upward. What a glorious thought, that Christ is seated at the right hand of God, experiencing fullness of joy, upholding the universe by the word of His power, working all things together for our good (and for His glory!)
And what a great promise that we will be behind our King in His grand, victorious return! That we will be with our glorious Bridegroom and enjoy Him forever. That our groanings will be silenced as He makes all things new and swallows up death forever.
It's times like these, when I miss a Chick-fil-a grand opening, when the words in the Bible need to become more than just words to me. The glorious truths of what Christ has accomplished on the cross and in the resurrection and of what He will accomplish at a time unknown to me can easily eclipse even my greatest earthly disappointment. There is absolutely no disappointment big enough to trump the certainty of the success of what is to come. :)
So I'm encouraged. And I'm challenged. May God remind us always of the imperishable, undefiled, and unfading hope that is kept in heaven for us (see 1 Peter 1!) so the forgettable, uncertain, dissatisfying hopes we have today may be seen as they are.
Please read my blog post from yesterda
y to see why it’s dangerous to idolize overseas missions.
As my friend Dena pointed out on Facebook, the phrase “I’m Not a Missionary” is pretty inaccurate because every believer is a missionary wherever they are. We are all joining with God on His mission to save the world and glorify Himself.
Before I begin my list, I want to remind you that the key to being missional is not good ideas or relationships or situations, but love for the Gospel. (Even reading the title of this great blog post from DG challenged me: "Don't Get Organized, Get Enthralled.
The problem is not that we don’t have good systems for evangelism, but that our desire for Christ to be glorified is weak and unprovoking. So---no surprise here---if you want to know how to better love others, love God. It’s cool how He makes all that work.The most mobilizing thing you can do is read your Bible and find yourself in awe of how worthy God is to be worshipped. Enjoy Christ and be broken over how much the lost are missing.
So here’s the list. Please keep in mind that though I can recommend some of these from experience, I am nowhere near where I want to be evangelistically, and I can afford to -Go after the messy people in your life.
There are women and girls that I know who need to hear the gospel, but in my mind these people are “exceptions” to my missional to-do list because I really don’t want to get involved in their lives (maybe they’re annoying, rude, etc.)
I want to go overseas to make God known to people that I perceive are just waiting to worship Him (which is a totally idealistic notion anyway), but God is just as worthy to receive praise from the “messy” acquaintances, friends, or family members that are already in my life.
In other words, the command “love your neighbour as yourself” is a lot easier to obey when you tell yourself “I’m totally going to love my neighbours when I move to Uganda!” as you pat yourself on the back for your future-tense obedience. But we need to reach out to those people who are actually in our lives now, even the ex-Christian who really hurt you.
May we dare not say "I'll invest in anyone but her
! She's not worthy of my time and effort!" Praise the LORD that, despite our severe unworthiness, He invested in us!-Embrace people of other cultures!
When I found out my neighbor is from Turkey, I started researching Turkey like a madman and even learned some Turkish phrases, thinking maybe this was God calling us to be missionaries to Turkey. I don’t know if that’s the case (it probably isn’t), but I definitely know God is calling us to be missionaries my neighbour! She was absolutely enthralled when I said “İyi akşamlar!” one evening and it really makes her feel loved when I ask about her home country. (Plus, it’s really interesting to hear about it!) I am so grateful that God has allowed me to know her!
When I was still researching going overseas, I decided I really wanted to be involved in an English-speaking international church at a port city where people from all over the world come to work. These churches are so strategic because people from all nations---even restricted nations---are hearing the Gospel, becoming followers of Jesus, and going back to their home countries and sharing the Gospel there!
Then I realized I live right outside Tampa! The pastors of my new church strategically came to Tampa to plant a church
because of how diverse the culture is---geographically, socio-economically, etc. etc. This place exudes global influence. May I view my city with the same missional intent!-Go to the same cashier at Walmart, ask for the same banker at Wells Fargo, etc.
Build relationships where you are. I know someone who has gotten to share the gospel with people in both of those situations I mentioned. It took a lot of time and some intentionality but she said it was totally worth it!-Use your skills or situation to get involved in the community.
Go to the skate park or play basketball. Join La Leche League or go to library events for children. See what our city has to offer and get involved with other people there.
Just don’t go so far in the “friendship-forming” process that you become a cowardly people-pleaser. (This is a major struggle for me!) I do not want my lost friends to say “If Jesus is as important as you’re saying, why have we been friends for so long without you telling me I need Him?”I read a really good quote on Twitter the other day: "If you don't live a life that demands a gospel explanation, you probably won't share the gospel very much." -Jeff Vanderstelt-Read your Bible, talk about it, or work on scripture memory in public places.
That sounds totally Pharisaical and boasting-about-your-righteousness, so you really have to check your heart on this, but really...show nonbelievers that His Word is life and we need it at all times. Show them the sweet precious Word that sustains us and that we enjoy. Publicly cherish the Word.-Be open about yourself.
Don’t be afraid to tell nonbelievers that you’re struggling or that you’re going through a hard time. If you act like Christianity is all peaches and roses they’ll probably think you’re trying to sell them a lie. Jesus said it’d be hard...but He said He’d be with us.That is a distinction that we can boast in to our friends and family as we confess our hardships.-Be honest.
Ask God to give you the courage to be real with your friends and family and say things like “I know you’re empty. It breaks my heart. Don’t you think there could be a better way?” or “That’s a really hard situation! I can’t imagine what you’re going through. Do you ever wonder why?” Then tell them how they can be filled! Eternity is urgent; don’t be afraid to express that urgency. (Reading Charles Spurgeon, especially Around the Wicket Gate
, has really inspired me to beg and plead with the lost to believe and repent.)-Give to missions!How American of us to think we need to get our hands into something for it to be good.For a good article on why it might be a good idea to cancel your short-term mission trip and give your money to people who actually live overseas long-term, read this.-Keep it complicated.
(I read a great blog post on The Gospel Coalition
that I definitely recommend.) If you want someone to follow Jesus, don’t be afraid to tell them what following Jesus entails, according to the Bible! It’s okay to boast in every bit of God’s character; there are too many weak and diluted views of Jesus being pushed on people anyways. Simply saying “Jesus loves you” to a nonbeliever is most likely something they’ve heard a million times already anyways, and it doesn’t show them their need for a Saviour. Tell them the truth that they haven’t heard.
-Read the Gospels and Acts.
See what kind of people in which Jesus invested himself. See how He did it. See what He said. See what the apostles did and said. Adopt their mission, their strategy.For example,
when I was in Mark last week, I was so convicted when I read about how Jesus cared about the marginalized (like children and deaf and blind people.) I thought about that odd-looking toothless neighbour who walks her dog all day and is a really good target for telling Peter things like “You won’t believe what that weird lady did today.”May I instead see the “weird” people in my life as souls in need of Christ, not dehumanized objects of snickering. It is so American to objectify others in this way while soap-boxing about how we need to care for the poor and needy.-PRAY.You may not be able to go for God to the nations, but you can certainly go to God for the nations.
I would venture to say that prayer is the most humble, effective means of ministry.
You won’t get books written about you and it’s likely that nobody will ever know of you labours, but I’m sure that God is using some grandmothers in their prayer closets to bring about major revival across the world.
I hope this helped! Please comment and leave YOUR suggestions for being missional where you are!
This is the hardest and easiest blog post I have written yet.
It’s the hardest because this issue is still something I really, really struggle with. Some days are better than others.
It’s the easiest because, since I’m right in the midst of going through it, I have really struggled with the LORD about it and He’s taught me a lot through His Word and through the wisdom of others.
I think it’s necessary to write this because---especially since this week is missions week at Bell Shoals---I observe a lot of people (young women especially) who have the same really unhealthy view of missions that I had only a year ago.
The same view that had the potential to completely wreck my marriage.
I am sensitive to bad thinking in this area because I have had some really bad thinking in this area.
Some background: Even before I was a genuine Christian I wanted to be a pastor’s wife. In 10th or 11th grade I was willing to expand that desire and the job of “missionary” was also an option for “what I want to be when I grow up.”
The guy I really wanted to marry (Peter, now my husband) was risk-taking, great at evangelism, and majoring in Missions at college. I think anyone who knew him would vote Peter as “Most Likely to Be a Missionary.”
“Here am I, send me!” was my prayer and I spent so much of high school and college being restless, painfully itching to go overseas to tell the best news ever
to people who had never heard about Jesus.
Before marriage as Peter and I talked about our future, ministry in some capacity was definitely the plan.
At GOC (the missions week at Bell Shoals) last year, I met a couple who lives in China and I wanted to live with them for awhile so we could learn from them and maybe stay there for the rest of our lives. If that didn’t work out, I had multiple back-up plans and I was very passionate about all of them.
About a month later, Peter told me he was no longer pursuing the missions track and he just wanted to work hard, lead his family, and live a quiet life here...at least for awhile.
I was completely shattered to pieces. It felt like someone had died. This wasn’t part of the deal,
I thought. I married a future missionary, not someone with a normal job!
“My goal is to glorify God,” Peter reminded me, and I knew he meant it. “Isn’t that enough?” But no, it wasn’t enough for me.
My brokenness over this was very disconcerting, and Peter suggested that since I had such a strong reaction to his current career choice that my dreams of becoming a missionary were idolatrous. I had never considered that a possibility, but after struggling with Peter more about it I found that to be true. I’m not sure if it was the glory of man or what, but my “desire for the nations” was clearly not as pure as I thought. I was saying “Here am I, send me”, as long as “sending” meant “leaving.” But what if God sent me to stay?
In other words, my submission to the LORD was conditional. “I’ll go anywhere You want as long as it’s not the suburbia in which I grew up.” But what if that suburbia is exactly where He called me?
Now this idea of “calling” must really be reconsidered. If I feel that my “calling” overseas is stronger than my “calling” to be submissive to my husband, I am blatantly out of God’s will because the Bible commands that I am submissive to Him.
(I read a really helpful article on the will of God here
So here are some things to remember for those of you who want to go overseas or do something particular for the LORD but simply cannot go right now (or maybe ever):
-God would not call you out of submission to your husband or your parents (if you are still under their roof.)
It’s Satan, not the LORD, who wishes to tear families apart, and he’s vile enough to tempt us with very biblical things that breed very unbiblical priorities.
Don’t trade the gospel image of submission for a romanticized idea.
-If you think right now you’re being called to something (like overseas missions) and it conflicts with where you’re already called (submission to husband or parents), you’re not really called.
God is not conflicted and His sovereign workings are always in perfect unity with His revealed will in scripture.
-God’s hands aren’t tied by your location or opportunities.
One time I was talking to an unmarried girl and she was carrying on as if it was impossible for her to live for God until she got married.
God would not put you in a situation where it is impossible to live for Him.
Any time God wants, He can “flip the switch” and make your authorities give you the green light.
Don’t let yourself think that God is saying “Hey, I’m on your side here, but you can’t be a missionary until this stubborn situation gets resolved. Sorry.”
Don’t view your time in America just as “practice for the future” or “a waiting room”; make Christ known here!
As Matt Setliffe has pointed out, in Acts 17 from all outside views it would appear that Paul was in a season of waiting, but his spirit was provoked for the city where he was, and he capitalized on the opportunity to share the gospel!
(Hudson Taylor also was a great example of this; his autobiography is one of the most inspiring things I’ve ever read. It’s very short and you can read it online
I don’t want to make this post too long, so stay tuned for tomorrow when I talk about how we can be missional where we are.
And please know, I LOVE missions. God's main purpose in everything is to make Himself known among all nations. If you are pursuing foreign work, praise God! I just don't want to cheap foreign missions with a romanticized, idolatrous view of it.
Confession: I used to be a Sanrio addict. Badtz Maru all the way. But now I am not, so I have a seemingly widow-at-zarephath self-replenishing supply of this notebook paper. Not very adult-like.
I also happened to need envelopes to send out all three invitations to Stephen's half-birthday party. None of the ones I had fit. Badtz Maru saved the day.
Basically you wrap the letter/card like a present. Fold the vertical sides over your card. Fold the bottom (about 1") over your card, then tape to the margins to secure. Fold the top over.
Now flip it over. Present-style, fold in the corners of the top flap and fold the top flap over. Tape to secure. 30-second envelopes. Voila :)