Taking Heart, Truth & Orthodoxy

To Keep Me From Becoming Conceited: A Thought Experiment

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“Only by surrender to our proper human place can we glorify and enjoy God the way we say we want to and the way he requires.” – Sensing Jesus, Zack Eswine

I was dreaming recently about what it would be like not to be beset with my particular set of social, physical, and emotional weaknesses. If I weren’t so prone to anxiety… If social situations didn’t make my stomach hurt… If my body were stronger and I had a bigger capacity… And it all seemed so ideal.

I didn’t realize though, that I was neglecting a key variable in this thought experiment. That is, until a wise friend said a few days later, “Maybe if you were able to do all you wanted to, you would come to the end of your life and say, ‘Look at how productive my life was.’ But because you can’t, now you’ll say, ‘Look at what God did.’”

Truth.

God has countless, hidden purposes in our weaknesses, and I would never claim that guarding us against pride is the only, or even main, reason why he assigns us our trials. But in the Scriptures and in my life, it is one of them.

The Apostle Paul had a thorn, a trial, that he pleaded three times for God to remove. But God said no, saying to Paul instead these well known words, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). At times I have seen my weaknesses used this way, as the lightning rod for God to display his greatness and power. But lately, I have been camping out a few verses back to where Paul writes of his thorn and says, it was “to keep me from becoming conceited” (2 Cor. 12:7).

In the calculations I was making which resulted in a picture of my ideal self, I had not accounted for one weakness that isn’t merely human frailty, but an insidious, deadly, and corrupting sin in me— pride. With my friend’s words of truth factored in, I’ve been thinking again of what it would be like if God removed all the weaknesses I wanted him to. But this time I shudder.

You see, if it were up to me, I’d be super human.

I’d be fearless, confident, and competent. A force to be reckoned with, I’d be, for all intents and purposes, limitless in strength, wisdom, and capacity.

I wouldn’t need to eat or sleep or sit down or go to the bathroom because I’d be doing more “productive” things. (“Are you an ascetic?” my sister has asked, and with good reason.)

I wouldn’t be needy, and would ever be in the position of giver rather than in need of others.

And, come to think of it, I guess wouldn’t need God.

I am not unlike our first mother who listened to the voice of the serpent. You will be like God! — not in the sense of being his representative, but his replacement. Like the builders of Babel crying, “Let us make a name for ourselves!” my heart in it’s twisted depravity yearns to say, “Look at all I’ve accomplished (for God)!”

But this is not the way of our Lord. God does not take delight in the strength of men (Ps. 147:10). He is never the beneficent of our works, never in need of our productivity. He alone never slumbers nor sleeps (Ps. 121). He alone is always at work (Jn. 5:17). God destroys the wisdom of the wise and discernment of the discerning. He makes foolish the wise and does not choose the strong. And he does this so no human being might boast in his presence (1 Cor. 1).

Just as Paul’s thorn was given to him by God’s grace for the sake of his own soul, sometimes God guards us from ourselves through our weaknesses. The very weaknesses we pray for God to remove may be God’s grace to us, for the sake of sparing our souls. God only knows who we would be not only apart from his saving grace, but for gracious trials from his Fatherly hand.

I know partially the danger I would be to myself and those around me if I were unencumbered by weaknesses. It is scary how much harsher I would be to others and how much credit I yearn to take. Through my weaknesses, God is in some ways keeping me from being tempted beyond what I can bear.

Even more importantly, God knows I would be blind to his grace, power, and lovingkindness if not for his work of bringing and keeping me low. Our Lord delights to show himself glorious as our powerful, kind, and gracious Giver and Sustainer. His righteousness is on display as he lifts up the powerless and defends the weak.

God wonderfully takes our work, bound in time and fraught with weakness, and accomplishes his eternal purposes through them. And when we come to him in humility, in recognition of the reality of our dependence, how kindly he supplies our needs and reveals his grace. All these things he does to the praise of his glory, giving us the most precious gift of all, true knowledge of him in a loving relationship.

As God is shedding the light of grace upon my weaknesses and limits, I am coming to a very different conclusion today in myIf I were/weren’t…  thought experiment. Could God be doing the same for you? Maybe he is, in unexpected ways, answering our prayers to spend and end our days proclaiming truly, Look at all God has done– through, in, and for us, to the praise of his glorious grace.

Truth & Orthodoxy

Learning How To Handle Abundance

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My life is filled with good things. As I write, my sweet boy is crawling around the room babbling to himself, every now and then coming to check in with me, snuggle, and play. My two girls are still asleep after a late night yesterday— one of them stayed up to help me clean while waiting for daddy to come home. So I sit in a now tidied-up room in a home I love. I write with a relatively clear mind and healthy body. The sun rose again this morning as it does every day, and I remember its glory I witnessed during Monday’s solar eclipse. I hear footsteps upstairs now. One little lady is up and calling for me.

My life is filled to overflowing with good and sometimes I don’t know how to handle it. I don’t merely mean sentimentally, though at times my heart does feel so full it could burst. And I don’t mean how to handle all the cuteness of my fuzzy haired boy or handle the messiness caused by my energetic, playful, artistic girls.

What I mean is that I often struggle with knowing what it means to respond to all this good, or as Paul writes in Philippians, how to “abound” and “have plenty,” in a Godward way. It may sound like I’m overthinking things, and maybe there’s a hint of truth in that, but stick with me for a moment here. I have a hunch that I’m not alone in this.

A few weeks ago, I read a fascinating NY Times magazine article, “Losing It in the Anti-Dieting Age.” In it the writer shares an anecdote about how she decided to stop dieting only to realize she didn’t know how or what to eat. She writes about seeing a nutritional therapist and learning to eat in an intuitive-eating class. In it, they took small pieces of food, starting with a raisin, and learned to eat food as if they were “aliens who had just arrived on Earth and were learning what this thing called food was and why and how you would eat it.

Ever since Adam and Eve took of the fruit and ate it, our relationship with things of the Earth has been complicated to say the least. Because what God made is good, there is good in the world. The skies proclaim his glory, people reflect his worth. But with sin’s entrance came the distortion of good things.  Food is one example of this, but it is just one category among all created things has the potential to be confusing, twisted, or misused.

After the Fall of man, we have elevated created things to the place of God and misused what we have toward idolatrous ends. We are tempted to find satisfaction in people and things rather than God and to use them for our own glory.  Furthermore, with sin came an element of fearful anxiety cast over our days, the entrance of loss and risk in a world now inhabited by thorns. We make friendships, work, buy houses, and start families knowing we could lose everything we have in an instant. And even with all the good we have, in the back of our minds we are always aware of countless others who are presently suffering.

In a world East of Eden, filled with good things but also of temptation, uncertainty, and suffering, it is then a struggle to know how to handle the “good things” in life– the created things that God has declared good. Like someone learning to see a raisin in a healthy way, we often need to undo and relearn our relationship to created things.

Apart from God, we only see glimpses of the purposefulness behind the universe and all it contains. But as Christians, our relationship to created things is redefined by our knowledge of the Creator to whom, for whom, and through whom all things exist. And as we grow in the faith, God teaches us how to relate not only to trials in life, but to the good, the blessings he chooses to give.

For those who struggle with temptation, guilt, fear, or anxiety in dealing with good things from God, here are some ways to start rethinking and receiving God’s gifts.

Receive good from God as a gift. (Or, receive with thanksgiving.)

I’ve written about how when my son was born, I struggled with reconciling such enormous blessing from God with the suffering I witnessed around me. Why God, why such blessing? I wondered. And God’s answer to me was simply that he is a good God who gives good gifts (Ja. 1:17).

I cannot make sense of the good things I have because I don’t deserve any of it. But I don’t need to deserve it to receive them as gifts. I am called thus to turn to God in thanksgiving, to the Giver of every good and perfect gift. And when I meditate on the heart of the Giver, I am drawn to him not to his blessings as ultimate, but to see his grace and surrender to his wisdom.

Receive good from God as a sermon. (Or, turn to God in worship.)

God speaks through the goodness of created things. As a Creator, his nature is reflected in his works— his beauty in the skies, his abundance in supplying our physical needs, his wisdom in creating our bodies, his lovingkindness in the care of others.

Sometimes, in an effort to push back against the prosperity gospel, we neglect to see that though God speaks through suffering, he also speaks in his endless supply of good things. The sun rises and rain falls— that is a sign of his goodness to all creation, to both evil and good. The skies proclaim his handiwork, day to day pouring out speech, declaring his glory. We breathe in his air, we walk on his earth, we enjoy the company of others made by him in his image.

All the goodness in creation is a sermon meant to harken our ears to the Preacher and turn to him in worship. As one pastor said, we don’t honor the Preacher by ignoring the sermon (quoted here.) As we guard our hearts against thinking God only speaks in blessing us, we don’t need to ignore the ways he does speak to us in giving good gifts. Rather we can see his character in the things created and turn to him in worship.

Receive good from God as a postcard. (Or, long for home with hope.)

Because we live in a world where death and sin have yet to be swallowed up, our enjoyment of good is often tainted with sorrow. We are sorrowful over our inability to enjoy good gifts today with those who have passed on. We endure the uncertainty of knowing those we love aren’t guaranteed safety and longevity. We are aware that every vacation must come to an end, each peaceful stretch on life’s road will eventually come turn into a place of struggle. As another has written, the “prospect of pain threatens our pleasure.”

We live in the time in between Jesus’ resurrection and return, after the beginning of the restoration of all things, but not at home yet. And so, all of our enjoyment of created things, though real, is still a flicker. Our delight in God’s good gifts are in a sense still fleeting. The flickering and fleetingness, though meaningful and wonderful, point us to our lasting hope at the end of the road. Only at the return of Jesus will our joys never be followed with sorrow, our gains never threatened with loss.

The good gifts from God we enjoy today are “postcards from the lasting city that are meant to be handled, admired, passed around, stuck on the fridge.” They are truly good but they are still shadows of what is to come for those who believe in Christ. So we enjoy these postcards with great hope and anticipation of a place filled with only good and eternal joy.

Receive good from God as a stewardship. (Or, seek to be generous.)

Sometimes, when we consider our lack of merit in receiving good from God, we are tempted toward guilt and introspection. Who are we to receive such good? And while there is an appropriateness to feeling our unworthiness, we are not meant to stay there because all we’ve been given is not just for our own sakes, but for the sake of others.

In 2 Corinthians, Paul exhorts the church in Corinth to give generously so that their abundance may supply the needs of others. He references the Israelites gathering manna, saying “As it is written, ‘Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack’” (2 Cor. 8:1-15).

Rather than merely feeling guilty about our lives being relatively struggle-free compared to others or even fearing that the trials of others will come upon us, we are called to willingly enter into the suffering of others to bring relief. Whether this means having the time and emotional capacity to intercede for the hurting or financial means to give to someone who lacks, all we have has been allotted by God to us to use for others. We are merely stewards of the created things we have however much and for however long God chooses to entrust them to us.

My life is filled to overflowing with good. Little things like a curbside find of a like-new infant push-walker we’d mentioned would be nice to have but weren’t going to buy or opening up the fridge for a late night snack to find fried chicken wings Jeff brought back from church last night. Important things like our wedding anniversary we just celebrated, three sweet little people in our home, and a cherished church family.

And I am learning to receive all this good and more from our gracious God— in thanksgiving, worship, hope, and generosity.

“For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” (Rom. 11:36)

Motherhood & Family

Why We’re Homeschooling This Year

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Someone told me recently they’d never heard anyone talk about bacon like I did. I’d said something to the effect of, “I’m ok with it,” but apparently bacon is polarizing subject, typically drawing strong supporters (“Bacon, every day, all day, on everything!”) or vehement opposition.

My daughter is about to enter first grade (how is that even happening already?) and figuring out her education has been a topic of conversation for Jeff and I for a while now. I’ve read through countless articles through the years and have found that homeschooling can kind of be like bacon. People naturally seem to have strong opinions about why they’ve chosen to educate their children in certain ways, (whether public school, private school, or homeschooling) and, naturally, those who take to writing about it have especially strong opinions.

I have strong opinions about many things, including education, but, like with bacon, have found myself on the fence when it’s come to how our daughter ought to be educated. Though we homeschooled last year and will do so this coming year, it’s not a decision that’s been an obvious or simple choice for us.

Though I’ve scoured the internet for a silver bullet for or against public/private/homeschooling, I’ve yet to come across one. What I’ve found most helpful hasn’t been bullet-pointed articles espousing the merits of public, private, or homeschooling, but seeing how other families have come to their decisions. It’s been helpful for me to see their reasoning and process, even if ultimately, our choices differed.

In that vein, I offer a few thoughts for others in our decision-making process as to why we are homeschooling come September.

First, the following are NOT reasons why we’ve decided to homeschool this year. We don’t think that schools necessarily ruin children’s drive to learn. We don’t think all public school teachers have a hidden anti-Christ agenda or that sending our daughter to our local elementary school would definitely be detrimental to her faith. Our desire is not to shelter her completely from the realities of this world and we don’t have any nostalgic feelings about schooling inside the home or about her mom being her teacher.

Secondly, as much as there are unfair critiques of public school systems, I’ve also found most reasons against homeschooling not to be compelling either. “Socialization” is not a concern for me because firstly, we have other opportunities for our children to interact with people and, secondly, because I don’t see socialization in public schools as an ideal or normative standard. And while I understand and have the desire to serve our communities and being on mission, I’m not convinced about that being the main impetus for making our decision about education.

There is no simple line of reasoning about schooling that universally applies to all families. So why have we decided to homeschool? The two main reasons for our family are 1. The freedom to shape our child’s education and 2. This is what works for our family for now. Both of these reasons are subsets of the orienting question, “What is helping our daughter thrive (academically, socially, spiritually, emotionally)?”

Homeschooling first became an option for us even before our daughter was born, when I realized I didn’t have to take the current public school system as the historical norm. Thinking, for example, about how public schools in America haven’t always been expressly secular or that historically, children have been educated in different ways made me start imagining what education could look for our children if we were building from scratch rather than within an already established norm.

Thus, for us, homeschooling appeals to us not primarily because of what we’d like to avoid in the public schools, but out of wanting to proactively build based on what education could be. Practically, freedom in subject matters means we are able include more music and art in our curriculum and focus on building a foundation not just for STEM but liberal arts. The flexibility to work at each child’s own pace means being able to choose an appropriate level of academic rigor. It meant we could spend time last year on world geography and other countries and cultures to intentionally instill in our girls a more global outlook.

More importantly, homeschooling also means we can teach about the world as it is, belonging to and made for God. I am grateful for the instruction I received in the public school system from grades K-12 and in my secular university, but I’ve also been reimagining what education could be like for our children in terms of the freedom to talk about the world as we know and understand it. This is more than just having a class on Christian beliefs and definitely does not mean unnaturally attaching Bible verses to school subjects. Rather, out of an understanding that all truth is God’s truth because our world is God’s world, we believe learning about and in the world is naturally woven into (and ultimately is founded on) the theological. (So, for example, my daughter asked what she warned us was “a very hard question” the other day. “In the beginning there were dinosaurs. But the Bible says in the beginning there were people. How can that be?”)

The public school system where we are is not just a pluralistic environment, but increasingly committed to secularism. (Not all public schools are like this, but elementary-aged children in our church have told me about being prohibited from bringing in their Bible for free-reading time or talking about God with other students.) And while we respect pluralism in the public sphere, we value the opportunity our children have, at least at a young age, to take in what they learn and think from an adult without needing to compartmentalize (keeping their questions about God and Scripture out of the classroom), or filter (wondering if what they learn is true.) We want our children to learn how to navigate being in the world with wisdom and humility, and don’t expect them to be in a Christian environment forever, but for now we value to opportunity to build their educational foundation in a place where there is more freedom in how and what they learn.

Even more than questions about reconciling certain facts here and there (like about dinosaurs and creation), we value the opportunity to incorporate into our daughter’s education the expressed purpose of her learning. I was humbled and grateful a few months ago when she responded to the question “How can you live for God?” with “Doing school!” (I know this isn’t grammatically correct, but that’s how we say “Going to school” here because, well, we’re at home.) As I probed for another, what I felt more fitting, answer, she explained, “No, like by worshipping him with my mind.” Education is not just about learning facts and skills, but knowing why we learn, having the right attitude of humility and faithfulness in our studies, and seeing ourselves as stewards of the minds we’ve been given by God.

Now you may say that all this could potentially happen in a Christian school, and you’d be correct. I actually started looking into classical Christian education after substitute teaching at a school where I was impressed both with the academic rigor and character development in students. But, though we’ve explored some possibilities, logistically this isn’t yet the best option for us. We do have a great community and program we’re a part of that will support our homeschooling. Hence, our second reason for homeschooling, “This is what works for our family for now.”

We are taking it one child at a time, one year at a time. And while this makes it a bit difficult for me since I’m often wondering, “What should we do next?” it’s taken a bit of the weight off to know we can always reevaluate. And the main question we ask then is, “Is she thriving?”

More personally, I’ve come to see that as is often the case when it comes to decision making, God is sanctifying me through the process of deciding whether or not to homeschool. Our fears, motives, and hopes are exposed when it comes to our children. And parents, we are being refined and challenged to be like Jesus here. As we look for answers regarding our children’s education, our hearts are being searched with questions too. Like, what do I really want most for my children? Are these hopes and ambitions godly?  Am I being prideful in my choices? Am I giving into comparison? And am I trusting God with their future? (It took me being awake in the middle of the night, worrying about my girl’s post-college job prospects to wake me up to the irrationality of my anxiety– I was trying to figure out Pre-K at the time!)

Lastly, thinking about our children’s education is also an opportunity for thankfulness. Thankfulness that Christian education is even an option when, as I heard from a friend in China the other day, there are local believers taking huge risks pulling their children out of the public schools so their children can receive a Christian education. And thankfulness for the gift of education we’ve been afforded. The stress of decision-making is actually a sign of blessing– that we have so many good options available to us when many around the world do not have anywhere near this kind of access to education.

That’s it from me for now and we’ll see what we’ll be doing in a year! Do you have any thoughts about education? Or bacon? (Just kidding.)  Leave questions or comments if you do. I would love to hear from you!

Truth & Orthodoxy

If God Is In Control, Why Pray?

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When it comes to God’s sovereignty and prayer, it is enough for some people to know that 1. God is sovereign (in control) and 2. God commands us to pray. But there are others who struggle with seeing prayer as an Achilles heel for belief in God’s providence and sovereign control over all things.

In other words, they sincerely wrestle with the question,  If God is sovereign, why pray?

All of us, though we may not verbalize the question,  practically live out our implicit answers to this question in how we pray. I’ve seen this play out in my life and in teaching, both good and bad,  I’ve received through the years. If God is immobilized by my lack of prayers or constrained by their content, I will pray with feverish anxiety, maybe in fear of forgetting something important or asking for the wrong thing. If my prayers only change me, my intercession for others end up short and passionless, “Do what you will, you know what’s best, amen” with faithlessness masquerading as faith in God’s sovereignty.

The question of “Then, why pray?” came up in church during a class on God’s sovereignty a few weeks ago, so I thought I’d share a few points here. They’re brief but may be helpful for some wrestling with the seeming contradiction of God’s sovereign will and our supplications in prayer.

1. Prayer is more than just asking for things.

Worshippers of God praise him in prayer because adoration is a natural and fitting response to seeing his greatness. We pour out our hearts before him in prayer not because he does not know our minds, but because he is a refuge for his people and he comforts us as we lay our burdens before him. We confess our sins in prayer not to inform him of what we did while his back was turned, but to receive his cleansing forgiveness and power to change.

Prayer is more than just asking for things and it is relational, not transactional. Even as we present our requests before God, our supplications are not so much like placing an order for Amazon as much as it is approaching our Father. We come to him with the longings of our hearts, trusting in his goodness and wisdom, knowing his love and care. Those who believe that prayer is pointless if God is in control do not yet understand our communion with God in prayer.

2. Scripture affirms that our supplications are effective as God responds to them.

Prayer changes us as we commune with God, but does not only change us. Scripture is full of stories of God responding to his people’s requests. Israel’s mass exodus from slavery is preceded by,  “Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel—and God knew.” (Ex. 2:23-25) And the prophet Elijah’s showdown with the prophets of Baal proved that, unlike false idols, Yahweh is the God who lives, hears and responds to his people. These are only two of innumerable Biblical examples.

In the New Testament, James says, “You do not have, because you do not ask.” (Ja. 4:2b) Paul urges supplications to be made for all people and asks the churches to pray for him (1 Tim. 2:1, Eph. 6:19, Col. 4:3.) And Jesus himself straightforwardly says, “Ask and you will receive.”

3. God’s sovereignty does not negate the meaningfulness of my prayers, but rather upholds their effectiveness.

Scripture overwhelming attests to God’s sovereignty, or providence.* At the same time, it also attests to the meaningfulness of my actions, including my prayers. The Westminster Confession of Faith puts it this way:

God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass: yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established. (WCF 3:1-2)

When we think of God as merely an actor in a pre-existing world, then his sovereignty seems to negate the effectiveness of our prayers. But remember that everything that exists is continually held together by his command and that fabric of the universe would completely unravel if he did not uphold it (Heb. 1:3). Therefore, “second causes” or what we may think of as “means” make a difference not in competition with but because of God. Our actions have consequences in the world because God upholds it. Our prayers are effective because and only because God himself establishes their effectiveness.

4. God has sovereignly ordained means.

Also, in believing that God has ordained all things, Christians believe that he ordains means. For example, though we believe that God has chosen how many days we have on earth, we still eat (Ps. 139:16). We don’t throw up our hands and say, “Well if God wanted me to live, I would,” because we believe God has chosen to use physical sustenance to prolong our days. God has not only determined outcomes in history, but the means toward these outcomes.

When it comes to prayer then, as one of my professors put it, What if God has sovereignly ordained your prayers as a means toward accomplishing his will on earth? 

5. Ultimately, we pray not in spite of, but because we believe in God’s sovereignty.

R.C. Sproul has said, “If there is one single molecule in this universe running around loose, totally free of God’s sovereignty, then we have no guarantee that a single promise of God will ever be fulfilled.” Similarly, rather than feeling demotivated to pray because we know God is sovereign, Christians can pray in faith because God is in control of all things.

Our God is able to direct the will of earthly kings, so we pray for leaders in our home, work, and nations. He can make dead hearts live, and so we plead for him to grant salvation to hardened hearts. He is able to break the power of sin in our lives, families, and churches, so we plead for more grace to overcome. And he has chosen to do all this and more through the prayers of his people to the praise of his glory.

Nothing is outside of our Sovereign King’s rule and thus nothing is impossible for him. What great confidence we have in Christ to approach the throne of grace to find mercy and grace to help us in our time of need.

* Kevin DeYoung writes in, The Good News We Almost Forgot:  “The Bible affirms human responsibility. But the Bible also affirms, much more massively and frequently than some imagine, God’s power and authority over all things. The nations are under God’s control (Pss. 2:1–4; 33:10), as is nature (Mark 4:41; Pss. 135:7; 147:18; 148:8), and animals (2 Kings 17:25; Dan. 6:22; Matt. 10:29). God is sovereign over Satan and evil spirits (Matt. 4:10; 2 Cor. 12:7–8; Mark 1:27). God uses wicked people for His plans-not just in a “bringing good out of evil” sort of way but in an active, intentional, “this was God’s plan from the get-go” sort of way (Job 12:16; John 19:11; Gen. 45:8; Luke 22:22; Acts 4:27–28). God hardens hearts (Ex. 14:17; Josh. 11:20; Rom. 9:18). God sends trouble and calamity (Judg. 9:23; 1 Sam. 1:5; 16:14; 2 Sam. 24:1; 1 Kings 22:20–23; Isa. 45:6–7; 53:10; Amos 3:6; Ruth 1:20; Eccl. 7:14). God even puts to death (1 Sam. 2:6, 25; 2 Sam. 12:15; 2 Chron. 10:4,14; Deut. 32:39). God does what He pleases and His purposes cannot be thwarted (Isa. 46:9–10; Dan. 4:34–35). In short, God guides all our steps and works all things after the counsel of His will (Prov. 16:33; 20:24; 21:2; Jer. 10:23; Ps. 139:16; Rom. 8:28; Eph. 1:11).”

Motherhood & Family, Taking Heart

You Don’t Become Superwoman Overnight

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My daughters are not good eaters but I can’t complain, because apparently I’ve never been a good eater either. My dad tells a story of when I was an infant, and how my mom called him at work in frustration after I threw up all the food she’d painstakingly fed me over the course of an hour. I like this story because it gives me a plausible genetic-predisposition excuse for how my girls eat, but more so because it gives me a glimpse of my mom as a first-time momma.

If you knew my mom, you would probably agree with the man who stopped me a few weeks ago at church to tell me, “your mom is a superwoman.” Her capacity for working to serve others and enduring difficulty is super-human. That’s why it’s strange for me to imagine her calling my dad at work about a feeding session, and that’s why I enjoy the Faith-was-a-terrible-eater story so much. It reminds me my mom didn’t become superwoman overnight.

Some of you may be in the thick of learning how to keep a home, be a wife, or survive as a mom. You may be looking at the superwomen in your lives— your own mom, a godly older woman, or a friend with more children— and hang your head in shame for being so weak and struggling so much. I know how it is. Today, I want to encourage you to remember, these superwomen didn’t get there overnight and they didn’t get there on their own.

As a mom with three littles, my daily agenda most days is still usually “make it through the day.” So the just-married and first-time mom stages aren’t so far behind me that I don’t remember how hard they were.

I remember, as a newlywed, being surprised at how much time was spent on food. Pre-marital counseling prepared me for a lot, but I did not expect meal planning, shopping, prepping, cooking, and cleaning to be so taxing. Three meals a day, seven days a week– and repeat again with no end in sight!

I remember the terrible morning sickness of my first pregnancy. I remember being sad because I wanted to have more kids but didn’t think I’d ever be able to make it through pregnancy again.

I remember the never-ending day that was in actuality the first few weeks after the birth of our eldest. The theme of my days were “I need Thee every hour!” because truly, I didn’t think I could make it through the next sixty minutes.

And I remember the struggle of figuring out the dynamics and choices involved with having children and being a ministry family. 

A few months ago though, Jeff and I joked about going on vacation with the baby when my parents took the girls away for a few days, and I wondered at the fact that five years ago, we’d never have thought “Wow, we just have one kid at home— how relaxing!” We are still young parents and far from being out of the woods, but even in the last six years I’ve noticed one important theme as a homemaker and parent— God grows our capacity over time. 

Some may see the repeating tasks of homemaking and child-rearing and wonder if it’s monotonous and mind-numbing doing the same thing day after day. Yes, there is an aspect of repetition and it is important to maintain perspective in the mundane everyday tasks that make up our days. (I’ve written about it here and here.) But I’ve also found great satisfaction learning that though the tasks of keeping a home and caring for children do repeat, over time, we get better at them. In other words, in doing our daily tasks of service over and over, we become more effective and efficient in doing them and grow in our capacity to do more good to love others.

Over time, in the kitchen, our hands move a little less clumsily at the cutting board and we get better at throwing together a meal for last minute guests. At the changing table, we become able to wrestle down the squirming poop-er deftly enough to continue our conversation with the two older kids about speaking kindly to one another. In matters of the heart, we learn to engage our children better, and discern more quickly whether they need a hug, a swat, a nap, or all three (not all at once of course). All of this doesn’t happen because some people are born with super-capacities– it comes because of all the time spent each day in the kitchen, at the changing table, engaging the heart.

To use gym language, God is the perfect trainer and the daily tasks involved in housework and caring for children are our reps. Our Trainer knows exactly how to push us a bit (a lot) past what we feel is possible or pleasant, because not only is he enabling us to serve others now, he is preparing us for the good works he’s planned ahead. God increases our capacity not so that we can gain mastery and control, but because as we do our tasks in love for those around us, he has other tasks and training lying ahead.

Day by day, God is training us in the work he’s called us to not only physically but spiritually. In putting us in positions of weakness, he gives us a chance to recognize our need for his strength and grace in our work. He gives us a chance to see his grace at work in the day-to-day and his wisdom in ordering our days and seasons as homemakers and parents. I think one reason he does this is so that we can testify to his sustaining presence and comfort to give courage to others, even after we have moved to the next struggle.

So, for the newlywed fumbling around in the kitchen or the first-time mom wondering how you’ll get through the next day, know that there is grace for you today. Grace from God to sustain you, and grace in how he is teaching you skills and lessons you will be able to employ in the future for the sake of serving others. It may be hard, and in a sense it’s supposed to be, but trust your wise trainer and gracious sustainer. The same One who has given daily grace to those you look up to is the One who is training you today.

And to the one who looks like superwoman to another, would you consider testifying to her that you didn’t get to where you are overnight? Is there a way you can speak grace and truth into a younger person’s life, apart from the “just you wait and see how it gets worse!” the world seems to offer? Would you remember how God showed you grace in the past, as he continues to do today?

“By the grace of God, I am what I am and his grace toward me was not in vain.” (1 Cor. 15:10).

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Eph. 2:10)