Election 2016. I Shall Not Fear.

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  This election is drawing to a close and I can’t say I’m sorry to see it go. Perhaps, that is the only thing most of us can agree on. It has certainly been the most tumultuous, divisive, and, might I say, ridiculous election I have seen. It hasn’t been pretty to witness what’s happening to this country on either side of the political spectrum.

Though, I can’t help but feel that this election is not so much doing something to this nation as it is simply revealing what we have done to ourselves. We are merely reaping what we have sown: strife, envy, malice, greed, immorality. 

It can produce in us a deeply rooted anxiety at what might lie ahead.  As a mother of children who are growing up in this mess, I am no stranger to this feeling. It rises up and whispers perniciously that I should be afraid. And sometimes I am.

Yet, we are a people of faith and not a people of fear. We trust in what is unseen. Hopelessness is not befitting the children of God who, every day, are being drawn closer to a living hope, an imperishable inheritance, a better country ( Peter 1:3,4, Hebrews 11-16). Therefore, we must combat our fears with truth. When our hearts whisper despair, we must shout back words of hope, for our hope is great indeed. 

Our God is mighty, sovereign, ruler over all. To him, the nations are like a drop in a bucket. He is transcendent and yet, imminent. Both King and Shepherd, He is sovereign over this mess and with us in this mess. He will not falter or fail to achieve His will. “For he spoke and it came to be; he commanded and it stood firm. The LORD foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples. But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations” (Psalms 33:9-11).

Therefore, “it is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes” (Psalms 118:8-9). For we know “the earth is the LORD’s and everything in it, the world and all who live in it” (Psalms 24:1). “He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing” (Isaiah 40:23). 

Whoever rises to “power,” Trump, Clinton, is as nothing before Him. Their heart will be in His hand. Like a stream, He will direct it wherever He pleases (Proverbs 21:1).

So, we “do not put our trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save. When their spirit departs, they return to the ground, on that very day their plans come to nothing” (Psalms 146:3-4).

Nations may be in uproar. Kingdoms may fall (Psalms 46:6), but “God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea” (Psalms 46:1-2). Though corrupt and evil men rise to power, though troubles come our way, though darkness and madness seem to rule the day, we shall not fear.

For “the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love…We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD, even as we put our hope in you” (Psalms 33:18-22).

The Mirror of Motherhood

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I remember sitting in my living room with my small group leader, my infant son napping peacefully and angelically in his crib. “Believe it or not,” she told me. “Someday it will be hard to love him.” I knew she was right, but it was definitely difficult to imagine at the time. Today, as I spend my days with my now two year old son and my three month old daughter, I can tell you that love is a choice and it’s often a difficult one to make. I can also tell you that the love that is the most difficult to give is the most meaningful to give.

In many ways, parenting is a picture of salvation. Through Jesus, God causes us to live (Ephesians 2:5). He meets us in our greatest need (Romans 5:6). He spoon feeds us when we are weak and helpless. He chooses to love us when we are unlovable and gives us new mercies every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23). Gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love (Psalm 103:8), He patiently cares for us, disciplines us, teaches us so that we may become mature and complete, lacking no good thing (Hebrews 12:10, James 1:4).

Being a mom is both a joy and a struggle. It is evidence that I am made in the image of God as well as a reminder of how far I have fallen from it. I find such joy in my children. I delight to meet their needs, to care for and protect them daily. I love seeing them grow and learn new things. There are so many wonderful moments, but there are also very hard moments, moments when it is difficult to love.

My son is whiney and selfish. He cries if he doesn’t get his way. He is foolish and short-sighted. He wants  things that will harm him and is angry with me when I won’t let him have them. He doesn’t trust that I know what’s best for him. He is so very helpless and needy. He is just like me.

As adults, we (hopefully) learn not to have fits when we don’t get our way. We learn to cover up our inherent selfishness, but it’s always there. We are not so different from a two year old child.  Growing up can modify our behavior, but only the power of God can really change our hearts.

I’ve found that motherhood is a mirror. I see myself reflected in my children, their great weakness and need, their foolish desires. And when it is hard to choose love and patience over a sharp word or anger, I find myself amazed at how longsuffering God has been with me and convicted of how short I fall of loving as He does.

If motherhood is a mirror, it is a two way mirror. Through my children, God is giving me a picture of what I am like and how greatly He has loved me in Jesus. And through me, though they don’t even know it yet, He is daily giving them a picture of what He is like. I am His messenger,  through word and deed, of love to them. This picture I give them is marred no doubt, but in the day to day sacrificing and serving of motherhood, He is refining and clarifying and sharpening His image  in me so that it might be better reflected to these little ones whose greatest need is to know His perfect, transforming love.

“As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust…from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children.”   -Psalm 103:13-14,17

Good Friday Was Bad

The older I get, the more I become aware of life’s fragility, of our precarious position in this world. We are not promised tomorrow, nor even tonight. What’s more, neither are our loved ones. Living is risky and loving is even riskier. Motherhood has made me all too aware of this. From ISIS and the zika virus and just basic human error the endless list of what if‘s could bring a mother to the brink of insanity. I think with each pregnancy, I will confront fear again and again. I can be haunted by the words of Job, “What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me…”

The question then, is what is the answer to the problem of our fears? Is it a blind, unfounded belief that bad things won’t happen to us? Do we just tell ourselves God wouldn’t do that? I don’t think so because we can plainly see that bad things do happen to people. As scripture tells us, God not only lets them happen, but He ordains all that will come to pass. How then can we know that this God, this sovereign God is really good? How may we look our fears in the face, knowing that they might all come true and yet believe that God is trustworthy?

Whenever I wrestle with the sovereignty of God and the existence of evil and suffering, a profound mystery, God always leads me to the surer, solid ground before the cross. We celebrate today, the day Jesus died, and we call it good, but the truth is, it wasn’t really good. Good Friday was bad. Nothing could have been more disastrous, more terrible for followers of Jesus than the death of the one on whom they had pinned all their hopes.

But it wasn’t even just that it seemed bad at the time. It was really wrong. It was really evil and unjust that Jesus, who had committed no wrong, was crucified at the hands of those who had. Jesus himself, when they came to arrest him, said, “But this is your hour when darkness reigns” (Luke 22:53). What a startling statement for the light of the world to make. God purposed that darkness, evil, should reign–but only for a time. For we know that the real injustice wrought by man was, at the same time, mysteriously coinciding with God’s perfect justice against sin and amazing grace to sinners. You see, the cross tells us that God always re-purposes or rather, “supra-purposes” evil and suffering. What man intends for evil, God intends to work for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Genesis 50:20, Romans 828).

So my answer to my fears and worries is not some wishful belief that they will not happen, that they could not happen. As they happened to Job, they could happen to me. All that I fear might come to pass and it might be truly bad, truly wrong. Yet if I follow the logic of Romans 8, the logic of the cross, I find the freedom to walk in faith instead of fear. Good Friday was bad, but now it is so very, completely good. Through His resurrection, Christ redeemed His own death and if He can redeem such a great wrong, He can and will redeem all the pains and sorrows of those He suffered so greatly to purchase. If He can redeem the cross, He can redeem anything and if He can redeem anything, we have nothing to fear. That is not trite, vain hope, but plain, solid truth to which our souls can firmly hold.

 

For the Mother Whose Life Feels Small

It has been a while since I’ve written. I’ve wanted to write, but honestly, I just haven’t had much to say and don’t want to write something just to write something. With the New Year, I’ve been reflecting back on where my writing took me in 2015. I don’t regret a single thing I wrote, but it has caused me to sort of re-examine why I write and what I want my writing to achieve. I think the ultimate answer to that question is that I’d like my writing to enlighten or encourage and, in the best of cases, both.

I remember driving back to school the summer before my junior year of college and calling my dad to tell him I didn’t want to study Microbiology anymore. “I want to write,” I told him. It was a little crazy, but I changed my major to Philosophy halfway through school and as I got into my studies, I knew I had made the right decision. I felt so assured of God’s purpose for me. My strengths, my passions, and God’s plan all seemed to be in perfect alignment. And they were, although in a different way than I thought at the time. I saw myself doing what I loved, thinking and writing, and doing it for the glory of God. If I was honest though, I envisioned more than a little glory for myself too.

It’s funny how as we get a little older, we realize that our lives are not going to be quite the movie or biographical material we thought they would be. It can come as a bit of a shock to our individualistic American sensibilities that we are after all, quite common. Growing up, I was a star. I say this not to applaud myself, but more to laugh at myself retrospectively. I was a star athlete, a star student. Man, I had potential. With my perfect GPA and variety of extra-curricular activities, I felt as if I was on an upward path to something really special.

Now sometimes, I feel more like a rocket that failed to launch. My days are quiet, as quiet as days with a one year old can be. Each day is a repetitive cycle of diapers, dishes, and laundry. My greatest recent achievement is teaching my son where his nose is, which he points to and inevitably starts picking. I love being home with him. I treasure the moments of tickle-induced giggles and sleepy bedtime snuggles. I wouldn’t trade any of it. I know I am so incredibly blessed.

But sometimes, my life just feels small, so very insignificant. I look at people who I went to school with, out conquering the world and doing big, important things and think, What am I doing? Putting on real pants if I’m having an especially motivated day, that’s what. “I know what I’m doing is important,” I told my husband the other day, “but it just doesn’t feel very important.”

What I’m learning, really re-learning and then re-re-learning, is that importance cannot be measured in audience members or applause or even in difficulty. The greatest of tasks can be cloaked in the humble and ordinary. Purpose is not always tangible and it’s often delayed in fulfillment. The one who sows the seed waters bare ground for days before he sees any reason to. And then it is many years until that seedling becomes a great tree. So it is, I think, with being a parent of little ones.

My husband and I met with our pastor today to get some advice about starting to discipline. On the way home, I was thinking about the end goal, the vision of the godly man I hope my son will grow to be. I was struck by what a great task the Lord has given us and how very important it is, but that that importance is only felt in light of this far-off vision. What this world needs most apart from Jesus Himself is men and women who are like Him. And so it needs fathers and mothers who do the mundane task of watering and nurturing our children like the tiny plants they are. That is my task, my great, great task which for the moment, feels so very, very small.

So for now, I’ll teach my son where his ears and feet are. I’ll make sure he has a clean diaper and keeps his fingers out of outlets. I will do these menial tasks to meet his basic needs, to love him. But someday…someday, I will teach him greater things. I will teach him to love what is good and to hate what is evil, to cling to what is honorable and right and true. I will point him to Jesus, to life. And someday, I pray, he will be like a tree, planted by the stream which is Christ (Jeremiah 17:7), bearing much fruit and offering shade to the weary. I hope that day comes and that then he will know what I am learning: the most important things in life are often what make us the least self-important and the greatest life is the life which is given away.

 

My Body My Choice? Thoughts of a Woman on Women’s Rights.

Let me start out by clarifying what this post is not. It is not an attempt to be combative or even to really argue for the morality or immorality of abortion. It is, I hope, more of an examination of the philosophy behind the mantra of abortion and a reflection on the wisdom or lack of wisdom of said philosophy, for I wish, in all things, to live wisely and I should hope that you do too. Though I think we must be cautioned that wisdom, unlike its counterpart folly, rarely leads us where we are most comfortable and usually asks us to pay some kind of price.

“My body, my choice” is the prevailing chant of those who argue that abortion is permissible. This mantra exalts the philosophy of bodily autonomy, the idea that our bodies are our own and we get to choose what we do with them. I think there are some pretty gaping holes in this argument and that the good principle of bodily autonomy has been abused to mean something it was not intended to, something more akin to bodily tyranny, as if our choices are impervious to any dictates of moral law.

Certainly though, there is an appeal. The right to choose seems an obvious and inherent good and so it is to an extent, but I think we must ask ourselves some bigger questions. In whose world do our bodies exist and are our bodies really our own? In essence, do our choices dictate to moral law or is it the other way around? If we want to know the answer, we must find out if we exist in someone else’s world, for if we do, we are answerable to that someone for the choices we make. If we do, we should care about what He thinks about what we do with our bodies. More than that, I think we should think rightly about our bodies and about how we may best use them.

My husband was telling me that he is going to be talking to our youth group about abortion and he might want me to contribute a woman’s perspective. So it got me thinking. The issue of abortion is framed as an issue of women’s rights. The argument I have heard is that pregnancy is such a burden, such an invasion of bodily autonomy and privacy that no woman should have to endure it against her will. Having now experienced it myself, I can tell you that it is true. The thing I kept thinking while I was pregnant was, “Man, this is a commitment.” I threw up for three months. I was tired from waking up several times a night to go to the bathroom. I gained a lot of weight and felt unattractive. And then there were the contractions and the labor, the literal tearing of my body.

What I’ve come to realize though is that we continue to pay a bodily price for our babies even after they are out of the womb. You start with the painful recovery from labor and the sleepless nights with a newborn. You have stretch marks in places you didn’t know you could stretch. You basically become an on demand milk cow. You get circles under your eyes from long nights and pains in your back from bending over to pick up toys and scrape dried sweet potato off the floor. Your body will literally never be the same again. Children, at any age, take a toll on your body and your life. The bottom line is that people and commitment to people are inconvenient, demanding, and costly.

But you want to know the truth? Our bodies are wasting assets and how we use them matters. We have two choices. We can invest in them and our right to rule them. We can hope in our power over them, but we will be sorely disappointed for at the end of it all, each of our bodies will be claimed by death whether we choose it or not. The grave is no respecter of our independent wills. The other option is that we can choose to invest our bodies in something that lasts or rather, someone that lasts. We can take what is perishable and with it, purchase what is imperishable, the life and souls of our children.

Wisdom whispers to us not miss what is lasting because it is hard and reminds us that everything that is of great worth comes at a great cost. It beseeches us to think beyond the present and into eternity. It beckons us to be like Christ, who gave up all rights to His own body for our sake. So, I would also urge us all to set aside our wills, our comforts and to let our bodies be spent, to be used up for another and so, to not be wasted.

The Lesson of Our Mortality

In the past few days, I’ve had a lot of tragic reminders that life is short and that it is often filled with pain and sorrow. Our lives are more fragile than we care to admit. Our position in the world, which seems to us to be so fixed, is far more precarious than we are willing to believe. We suppress this truth. We deceive ourselves into believing that we have always been and we will always be, but this is folly. We imagine ourselves to be great and enduring when, in reality, we are small and fleeting.
“The ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough—that he should live on forever and not see decay. For all can see that wise men die; the foolish and the senseless alike perish and leave their wealth to others. Their tombs will remain their houses forever, their dwellings for endless generations, though they had named lands after themselves. But man, despite his riches does not endure; he is like the beasts that perish” (Psalm 49:7-13).

Thus, it is good, even vital, for us to ponder the transience of our own existence, to stare our mortality in the face and make sense of it. “It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting for death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart” (Ecclesiastes 7:2). I urge you then, take it to heart. Of course, it’s easier to ignore. Our mortality makes us uneasy. It makes us afraid. We could be snatched from this world at any moment. Our loved ones might be taken. How then, do we live? How may we walk in hope and not in an ever-present, all-consuming fear of our fixed fate?

We hope in Jesus, not in ourselves. We fix our eye on the resurrected One who put death to shame. We invest, not in this world, which is susceptible to decay, but in the heavenly “city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God (Hebrews 11:10). We bear up under the stings of a broken world and walk the path of death because we know that death will not win the day, but it will be swallowed up in victory (1 Corinthians 15:54). Death, our greatest enemy, “has failed to be found equal to the life of Him who saves.” Jesus is risen. He has conquered. He has atoned. He will make all things new.

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ (Reveleation 21:1-5).