I have a perfectly reasonable reason (how’s that for redundant?) for not posting. I’ve been doing an online book/Bible study, What Happens When Women Say Yes to God, with some ladies. After I share my thoughts with them via an email, I don’t feel like typing the same thoughts again in a post, and it just feels inappropriate and less personal to copy and paste an email. So, today I’m going to try to mix it up; I’ll post here first, copy and paste to an email and then edit to direct my questions to them specifically. It could work…
Obvious from the title, the book is about saying yes to God. Full surrender, full obedience. It’s one of those things I’ve heard all my life, but didn’t really understand, and, honestly, didn’t care to understand until the last few years. It always seemed so hard and looked like it would cost SO much. But, I discover everyday that my life is actually easier when I hand things I normally try to control over to Him. And, it hasn’t cost me anything I’ve missed!
We’re to chapter 5 this week, and the title of the chapter is “What Keeps Us From Saying Yes to God.” Lysa Terkeurst, the author, first begins with the “foes of acceptance and rejection.” I hadn’t really thought about it, but it does pretty simply boil down to those two forces in our life many times. I mean, that’s why peer pressure is so effective from age 5 until, well, when does it really end? I mean, I’m 33, and I’ve come to a point in my life where I’m very secure in who I am. Love me or leave me, I’m okay with that. (Wow, that sounded really arrogant, but that’s not it, I’ve just learned that it’s okay, even great, to just be me and not try to dress like, talk like, look like, or try to be someone I’m not.) I guess it was actually hardest for me to accept myself…I’m getting off on a tangent. Back to acceptance and rejection. The point is that we as Christians fall into a whole new set of peer pressure.
Maybe you don’t boldly share your faith or live out your faith because there are those around you who are might reject you; you fear Rejection. Friends that might stop calling. You fear where you might be excluded from “the group.” So, rather than take hold of Jesus’ hand, you walk along beside Him pretending that you don’t know him. The other side of that is Acceptance. You become prideful in what YOU can do that you become bigger that your God and float along in front of him. The biggest problem with both of these is that they come down to performance – works or actions – rather than a relationship. It seems so easy sitting here writing and reading it, but why is it that once I get in the world, I suddenly start the tug-of-war game with Acceptance and Rejection?
When I focus simply on my relationship with Him in Bible study, prayer, and focusing on Him in my life, I find myself in a very joyful and contented position. When I start giving in to Acceptance and Rejection, I fall into Condemnation (term from Lysa) because I’m hopeless to live up to all the expectations of the world. This is where I start devaluing who I am, and I think part of that is because apart from Him, I am nothing. But, the closer I walk and dwell with him, the thoughts of Condemnation turn to Conviction. I no longer feel worthless or hopeless; I feel motivated and encouraged to make changes. It’s a small difference that is different only in my walk with Christ. Both Cs involve change, both involve realizing I am lacking something, but the perspective offered through my Lord is the difference. When I realize I’m feeling the pang of hopelessness, I realize I need to get closer to God to give me hope.
From there, I have to decide to worry or to worship. “But we can make the choice to worship. When we worship in these hard places, we are reminded that none of this is about us – it’s all about God…. We all worship something. We must choose who – or what – we will worship” (83). Wow, that comes full circle back to Acceptance and Rejection that flows into the cycle of Condemnation vs. Conviction that takes us to Worry vs. Worship. What a cycle! What breaks the cycle – worship, which is a pure focus on God and brings us peace.
Here is where I was going when I sat down to type…finally.
“If I am ever going to find peace past [the above cycle], it will only be because I choose daily to walk in absolute obedience to the moment-by-moment, day-by-day, assignment-by-assignment commands of the Lord” (84). Lysa quotes Isaiah 48:18, and I’m going to challenge you to look it up in your Bible (or biblegateway.com). And peace is described as “peace like a river.” “A river is not calm and void of activity. It is active and cleansing and confident of the direction it is headed in. It doesn’t get caught up with the rocks in its path. It flows over and around them, all the while smoothing their jagged edges and allowing them to add to its beauty rather than take away from it” (84). So, my walk with God isn’t guaranteed to be smooth sailing? Nope.
“The world’s way to peace would have me pull back to make life a little easier for me, my circumstances, and my family. The problem with this is that we were not put here to be all about ourselves – we were put here to be all about God” (85). This stood out to me like a flashing neon sign on the darkest night of the month in a desolate pasture (that’s a weird simile). I guess I feel like it vindicated feelings I’ve had lately. I get various emails such as, “we’ve got a lot going on and just need a break, so I won’t be able to serve this week” (at church) or “we can’t make the meeting because we’ve been shopping, Johnny had a game, and I had a long day at work.” I’ve been disappointed by those closest to me, some of which I’ve coached on the importance of saying no when things get too busy. We tend to over commit in our culture, but it’s what we withdraw FROM that frustrates me. Why do we skip church so we can catch up on sleep and then later that day head to the lake for a day on the boat? Why don’t we skip Johnny’s game or shop later when the meeting is a Bible study, an accountability meeting, or prayer meeting? I’m not just pointing the finger to you, I’m pointing it at me, too.
Ouch. After listening to a message series by Andy Stanley over a year ago, I realized I needed some breathing room in my life. It was at that point I realized my teaching career had to come to a screeching halt. I don’t think I can communicate how much I have always loved teaching. I have had so many people in my past tell me that once I had kids I HAD to quit working because that’s what a pastor’s wife does (I was a youth pastor’s wife in those years). I have had some criticism at StoneWater for the same. But teaching is SO IN me. I cannot express the joy it brings me (of course there are bad days, too). I came to a complete peace over the situation – both the loss of teaching and the loss of income. My income was finally more of a cushion and fun money than a necessity. Then, God gave me the opportunity of the job share. I could have my cake & eat it too! Praise God, it has been THE BEST YEAR as far as teaching & being a wife, mom, child of God. But, what I have noticed about myself, is I let other stuff creep in to suck up my time again. Then, I begin to look for ways to give myself some more breathing room (Andy called it ‘margin’). Well, to give myself margin, I start trying to cut out stuff. But, where do I start – with prayer, accountability, and bible study. WHAT? What am I thinking? How self-centered is THAT? “God, I’m getting a little busy. I realize my whole purpose in creation is to worship and praise you, but I need a break to catch up on my sleep, my photography, grading papers, cleaning house. So, I’m going to skip prayer meeting tonight. Or, I’m going to stay home from my accountability meeting. That is SO backward. So, this part slapped me across the face one way and then back across the other. BTW – I read this Sunday, when I was contemplating skipping prayer Monday night so that I could process some senior pictures that I desperately wanted to deliver to a mom and student tomorrow for the last day of school so that word could spread (since I can’t openly advertise at school). But, I was at prayer. And, God thought it was such a good lesson for me that the whopper storm came through right as we finished so we couldn’t leave. Then, it was 7:00 and my family hadn’t had supper. So, we went out to eat and got home at 8:30. I sat down to process pictures and felt the call to email my study group and then work on my blog. Have you done this? Have you made peace in your life by pulling back from God to make life easier on you instead of being all about God?
I have to confess that I need to forgive those around me who have let me down by placing themselves before God. It’s not my right to judge. It’s my right to help teach, but I also realize that I have a big ol’ speck in my eye that I have to get out before I can point out the speck in my brother’s eye (Matt. 7: 3-5), because I have to get my priorities straight every morning.