to lift him high

to lift him high

Friday, August 24, 2012

Without Cessation


 

[But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.
For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And]
 “The Lord – who is the Spirit – makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.”
- 2 Corinthians 3: 16-18- NLT


            I want to start by being VERY clear not to confuse sanctification with justification. In the instant that God calls us to Himself (and grants us the faith to believe in the work of Christ on the cross) we are justified before Him. There is nothing we can do to add to (or take away from) what He has already done. So I feel like I should start with my story of justification (or more accurately, the story of God calling me to himself for His glory):

“For God knew his people in advance,
and He chose them to become like His Son,
so that His Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.
And having chosen them he called them to come to him.
And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself.
[And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory].
- Romans 8:29-30- NLT
           
            I will be 25 years old this coming March and was hugely blessed to be raised in a Christian home. I had the most wonderful parents a girl could ask for; I have never wanted for love or acceptance. My mom and dad sacrificed financially to send myself and my siblings to a Christian school where I had the opportunity to study the Bible on a daily basis, and where every classroom we stepped into focused in on the Christian faith. Growing up in the Christian Reformed Church, I did a public profession of faith and as I stepped into my teen years I took a missions trip to Mexico. In 2005 I walked out of high school with excellent grades, self confidence, respect and love for others and “the world at my feet” (so to speak).  And yet, with every opportunity having been afforded to me, I had not encountered Christ. 

Though I don’t know that I would ever have voiced it this way… I didn’t need Him; I could live a happy, moral, successful life all on my own; and in this thinking, I certainly didn’t need God to guide my steps… I was perfectly capable of making wise choices. 

So, that being said, I will never understand what prompted me to take a year off before heading to university (except to say that I now faithfully believe that every step I took was God was calling me to him).

 In that year, I met my husband-to-be, fell MADLY¹ in love,

¹[definition of: madly [ˈmædlɪ] 1. in an insane or foolish manner, 2. with great speed or energy, 3. extremely or excessively…. Accurate on all three points]

and shortly later stepped into a marriage founded on “you make me happy, therefore I love you”. (recipe-for-diSASTer). Two kids, and five years of dissatisfied marriage later (“you don’t make my happy, therefore I don’t love you”), and I wanted out.

Walking in the belief that I deserved so much better, I asked my husband to move out until he could get his act together. I told him I was unhappy, and that I essentially needed time away from him to figure out if there was anything salvageable left in my heart for our marriage….ouch. He loved me enough to grant me that, and all of a sudden I was alone.


And then came Christ.  
And In a MOMENT, that I couldn’t pinpoint if you asked me to, my world changed.

In sharing this part of my walk, I have been asked how I knew that something had changed. When asked by a brother or sister in Christ who has walked a similar path in their faith, I find it easy to answer: “I just knew.” But when it is someone who is struggling to accept my story of salvation, or worse someone drowning in the mess that “Christianity” has become, grasping for anything to quiet the voice of uncertainty, I find that my answers feel insufficient…as if the meaning I long to express gets lost in words that have long since lost their flavour and their depth. 

Peace, Hope, Love.

If I had to put it down to one tangible bit of evidence, for me it was that for the first time in my life I was SURE of my salvation;

“For I AM CONVINCED, that neither death nor life,
neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future,
nor any powers, neither height nor depth,
nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us
from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
- Romans 8 -


and because of that assurance I have been able to begin to walk in a peace I never imagined attainable... which I can put down to nothing else but the Spirit in me and Christ’s sanctifying power at work in my life.

All that being said…I am being made humbly aware that sanctification is a process. A two steps forward, one step backwards process; a lesson in humility, and a daily reminder that though Christ lives in me, I am, and will be until His return, nothing more than a blurry reflection of the image that is His beauty and grace.

Here’s how it played out in our household a few nights ago:

Our baby girl is struggling to fall asleep, a constant problem for the past few weeks.
I am exhausted. Minimal sleep, excessively grumpy child(ren) and every cell in my body is stuck on crazy mode. My husband is listening to a podcast on his Iphone and I snap at him to take the headphones out of his ears. He asks why and I snap (again): “So that you can hear if Talia starts crying for the eighteen millionth time!” Obviously unimpressed with my attitude he does it anyways (wise man) and sits looking at me until I break. In a semi-coherent mess of sentences it all comes tumbling out… “I’m so frustrated. I spent all day putting them first and they’re still grumpy. I didn’t get any exercise… and I’m so frustrated. I’m sick of Talia whining at me all day and Braden not listening… I’m so frustrated. I can’t remember the last time we had a date night and you haven’t texted me from work in ages… I feel like I’m running on empty and I’m just so frustrated.” At this point the tears are making their way to the surface and honestly I’m a really ugly crier. My face goes all blotchy and my nose starts to run; but as I wipe away the mess of tears and snot, realization breaks through. “And I’m not really frustrated with you. I’m not even frustrated with them. I’m just so frustrated with me being frustrated.” And, loving me through Christ and Christ through me, my very wise husband gets up and pulls me into his arms. And I can let go.

To the casual observer this scene might not be anything special. But to me... to me this was revelation, and freedom. As a professing OCD, perfectionist control freak I have the tendency to need to finish everything I start and tie it all up with pretty pink ribbons to find peace enough to let go and move on. But the reality is that Christ’s sanctifying work in my life isn’t always going to go the way I want it to; in fact, more often than not I think its going to be an ugly, messy, humbling, and yes “two steps forward and one step back”, continuous process until the day that he returns and renews all to Him for His glory. The beauty for me in this moment is that I could let go; that I could accept the comfort and peace that He offered me in the arms of my husband, and in the quiet truths whispered in my soul. “You don’t have to do it. I’ve already done it, and I’m going to keep doing it.”

It’s going to be a process, and I’m okay with that. In fact, I’m more than okay with it… I am so incredibly thankful that in His great mercy and love He chose to lift me up out of the mess I was making of my life, and grant me His Spirit so that in all things I can say boldly, in the words of Chris Tomlin:


I lay me down, I’m not my own, I belong to you alone.
Lay me down, lay me down.
Hand on my heart this much is true,
there’s no life apart from you, lay me down lay me down.
Letting go of my pride, giving up all my rights, take this life and let it shine.
Take this life and let it shine.
It will be my joy to say, your will your way.
It will be my joy to say, your will, your way, always.



For His Glory (in spite of my rambling),

Amanda



Monday, August 13, 2012

Motherhood and Seeing Jesus




1. Have you seen Jesus?
Have you heard of Katie Davis

A few months back the pastor at the church we attend gave a brief overview of Katie Davis’ story in a sermon he preached. Though the story was moving I was not at a point in my walk where it had much impact past Sunday morning. However, this past week a friend reminded me of her journey and I couldn’t get it out of my head. So I put it on my “to do” list (i.e. the list of things that IF the kids nap at the same time, or IF they go to bed on time and actually fall asleep, I will get done in the next couple days… or years. :)  ahhh the joys of motherhood!)
When the kiddos went to bed at 9:00 last night there was minimal crying/getting out of bed to pee/I only got called in twice for more hugs and kisses. So I went to http://kissesfromkatie.blogspot.ca  and started to read.

Katie Davis: June 15 2012
“People expect romantic, and all I have is a wildly disorganized bookshelf and dirty children shrieking with too-loud laughter. People expect that the days all hold life-saving medicine given to children on the brink of death and profound revelation and while some do, most consist more of peeling potatoes and wiping spills and listening to recited memory verses and biting my tongue as spaghetti sauce splatters everywhere and I light the pot holder on fire, again.”

            Motherhood. There are moments of beauty in the journey but on a day to day basis it can be nothing more and nothing less than a mundane, never-ending lesson in patience, kindness, gentleness, self control, selflessness, and a constant humbling awareness that we are impossible sinners who have absolutely no chance at even a semblance of loving these precious little lives in the way that we are called to… except by the Grace of God. 
Now, apart from this understanding, my story and Katie Davis’ story hold few parallels:

I am a mother to two… she is a mother to fourteen.
When I tucked Braden and Talia into bed tonight, they were safe and sound in their beds in British Columbia, Canada…in a country where fevers don’t kill babies and toddlers because Advil and Tylenol can be found at the gas station down the street. Where antibiotics are paid for under MSP… and in the event of an emergency the nearest hospital is ten minutes away and an ambulance can get to my house in five. When they wake up in the morning there will always be food eat, and clean water to drink and PLAY in. When I meet with my Moms group or spend time with friends during the week, their children will not be malnourished or have bodies ravaged by the HIV virus. There will not likely be a need to open my doors to strangers and invite them to live with me and my children while I nurse them back to health. And when I get exhausted by sleepless nights and the daily “grind” I will only have to look my husband in the eyes and he will send me off to go for a run, or have coffee with a girlfriend.

            And yet:

I am a mother. She is a mother. And though I do not know her personally I imagine that the prayer she prays over her little ones would echo the prayer I pray over mine as I go into their rooms and cover their sleeping bodies with their blankets and lay a hand on their chests just to feel them breathing.

“Thank you Jesus for my beautiful babies. Lord would you wrap your arms around them and protect them when I cannot, and would you daily draw them closer to you. By your grace would you open their eyes to you and give them the faith to believe and trust. May they see Jesus in me and the world around them, and may they live to enjoy and glorify you here today and into eternity.”

For those of you who know mine and my husband’s story, you know that in the past few months God has opened our eyes to him and given us a faith to believe and trust in him. 

Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.
But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.
God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” – Ephesians 2:1-10 NLT


And by the Grace of God, everything has started to change. Where once I lived in worry and anxiety (bordering on paranoia) because my greatest fear was that something could happen to my children, I now live in peace. Not dismissing or diminishing the responsibilities given to me to protect and responsibly care for the precious gifts that are my children, but living in the trust that as we walk with God in obedience to the Spirit’s leading, He will hold me, my husband, and my babies close to His heart and lead us into His perfect plan for our lives, for His Glory and our greatest Joy. 

            I have seen Jesus. I am a follower of Christ and a mother… and in motherhood I catch a glimpse of God’s selfless love for His creation. If I could give Jesus to my precious children I would do it in a second. I would suffer eternity apart from my beautiful saviour if in doing so I could grant my children eternity WITH him. Instead, I walk in faith, and allow my most fervent prayer to be that in His great mercy God would open their eyes to Him and grant them the faith to believe in His Son. I pray that God would protect them and keep them safe, because I am their mom, and I never wish to see them suffer in anything. I would like their testimonies to be that there was never a moment when they did not know, love, and trust Him for their salvation, their identity, and their joy. But if their safety, and their coming to Christ cannot coexist… if in our following the Spirit’s leading, or in spite of it, I must watch them walk through tough times, I will continue to pray that His will be done. Because they need to see Jesus; I need them to see Jesus. 

            In a post from February 2011, Katie puts it like this:

“Strangers eat at our table, bathe in our showers, sleep in our beds, share our everything. And I fleetingly wonder if it wouldn’t be better for my girls if I maintained some semblance of normal, but He shows me that HIS definition of family is not at all limited by my own.

I want to see Jesus.

I want to see Jesus and if I don’t step out, how can He come in? If I don’t give all of myself, my home, even my family, how will He be magnified?

Do I want my children to be safe? Absolutely. Do I want them to have a “normal” family dinner sometimes and be healthy and not be subject to the rage of an alcoholic or the hurt of friends dying and siblings leaving? Of course. But more than that I want to take a cue from my baby girl.
I want to whisper to them excitedly each morning, “Look, Jesus.”

I want them to see Jesus. In my life. In my actions. Lifted High. Magnified. In our neighbours, no matter how sick or dirty. In our home.

I want the best for my children, I do. And I believe with all my heart what is best is for them to have a mother – a crazy mother even – wide-eyed in wonder, recklessly chasing after her Savior.

More of Him. We want to see Jesus.


For His Glory,
Amanda


"But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord - who is the Spirit - makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image."