I love Jesus. I read my Bible every day (almost). I worship weekly. I pray often. In other words I try really hard to be the kind of girl who glorifies God in how she lives.
But my very best effort is a complete and utter failure. It’s the whole point of Paul’s letters to the Romans:
Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. (Romans 2:1)
When you are so busy trying, like I was, sin has a way of sneaking in the back door and taking up residence right under your nose, well a little farther south, down in the recesses of your heart.
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?
So there I was as the Proverbs 31 She Speaks conference last week, learning how to grow my ministry (and my blog following if I’m being honest), when all of a sudden, out of nowhere, God confronted me with an area of sin in my life that I never saw coming.
I had almost gotten out scot-free. I was at the final session called, “Discovering God’s Power for Your Life and Ministry.” It was a how-to on waging spiritual warfare through the power of the Holy Spirit. As I listened to Wendy Blight candidly share her past struggles parenting her daughter, I felt a twinge of conviction, a little spiritual angina, as her story struck some familiar chords in my own relationship with my youngest child.
At the end of the session each attendee received an anointing with oil and a message about their ministry, inspired by the Holy Spirit. Mine was:
You are called to be a light in the darkness.
My initial reaction was that this was kind of generic inspiration (I know, I’m awful but it is true!), and I was tempted to disregard it. But as I turned to scripture to see what God’s Word had to say, the weight of conviction fell heavily upon my shoulders:
You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Matthew 5: 13-16
Here is what this passage spoke to me: I am called to be light, and the first place I am called to do that is at home. As I let God begin to transform my relationship with my daughter, one of the four children He gave to me to love and nurture, others in my home — friends and family alike — will see and know that it is God at work.
And conversely, unless and until I become a light here at home I have no ability to shine into the darkness beyond.
As I marinated and prayed over this I was reminded that God and my kids are counting on me to help them form a lasting relationship with the Lord, to set priorities for themselves and their lives that will make them a light to others, and to learn that sinfulness and spiritual warfare are not rare things, but a constant battle of repentance and renewal.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him because he cares for you.
1 Peter 5: 6-7
‘Twas Blind but Now I See
I was shocked and saddened when confronted with my own sinfulness. My past words and deeds flooded my consciousness. I felt deeply ashamed.
The second thing that happened was I became acutely aware of many recent moments when God was calling me to awareness, but I had remained blind to it. Just a few days before the conference I was sharing my latest frustration over my child with a friend and she said, “Yes, I have seen how you two interact and the stress it creates. The thing to recognize is that God is using her to refine something in you.”
How right she was. How blind I was!
Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again.
Without grace I would wallow in shame for my failure in this important area of my life. Without grace I would not know how to make a change, nor believe it could last. Without grace I would not have the courage (nor the right) to ask my daughter’s forgiveness and work with her to make our relationship new, something God does again and again throughout the Bible:
- Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. (Isaiah 43:18)
- Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. (Isaiah 43:19)
- For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. (Isaiah 65:17)
- And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Revelation 21:5)
- By abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace… (Ephesians 2:15)
- And to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 2:24)
- In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away. (Hebrews 8:13)
I think one of the lies I allowed myself to believe was that as I drew closer in my relationship with God I was somehow building up an immunity to sin. It seems now that the only thing I was building up was blindness to my sin.
One Day at a Time
I know I am powerless to make this change on my own. I’m still a pretty impatient person. I’m still too easily annoyed by some of the things my girl is wont to do. I still feel those bursts of anger flare within me. So where is the hope even after repentance?
First it’s found in surrender. I have given this defect of mine to the Lord, and my prayer is that He will teach me to see and love my daughter with the same abundant, unconditional love with which He sees and loves her.
Second is that when I feel tempted to react or speak in ways that are not life-giving I intend to pause and invite the Lord into that moment. I know it won’t be a perfectly straight path, but if I am faithful to invite Him in I trust that He will be faithful to give me a heart like His: Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Psalm 51:10
I’m not looking back at the years behind us, nor too far forward; instead, I’m focused on committing this day to the Lord to do the next right thing, as one of my dearest friends advised me in my lament.
And finally, I’m owning it. I hesitated to write about this experience until I could look safely in my rearview mirror and tell you it was all better. But then I realized I would deny you the opportunity to see the place of failure and brokenness from which I am beginning; the one where we all begin as we nail our “self” to the cross, and through the work Jesus accomplished there, begin again to live freely and abundantly:
For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.