The little girl at five years old who sat beside her mother and asked Jesus to be her Savior didn’t understand all that it meant. She understood that she was not perfect, God is perfect, and she needed Someone to bridge the gap. Her mother sat and listened as her oldest daughter confessed to eating one more cheese cracker after her father had said “No more.” She admitted that she had heard him give that instruction, that she had eaten one after he left the room, and that she knew that made her a sinner. In the simple terms of a child she knew she couldn’t do it on her own. She was not God. Fast-forward several years to that same little girl as a teenager. She memorized the verses, she completed the quiet times, she sang in the youth choir (not well mind you), she checked the accomplishments off her list. She did, did, did, everything she was told to do. When she graduated from high school she knew something wasn’t quite right. Leaving behind the dogmatic ideology that had guided her sense of achievement when she was doing what was required and fueled her guilt when she did something contrary to the requirements, she went in search of something unnamed but missing from her disciplined faith. College and the graduate school provided enough space to pursue the oft-quoted and much maligned “God is love” mantra, but on her own she slipped carelessly into an arrogant state of pride. She could be religious and spiritual and intellectual and professional and anything else she wanted to be – she was going to redesign her life. After all, she had her spiritual fire insurance, she attended church periodically, and she participated in a Bible Study on Monday nights, so she was still doing “it.” As she continued on her spiritual journey to nowhere, her personal life reflected a well-designed and ideal progression, a few accolades here and there, and a relatively “normal” existence. She would easily admit that something unnamed was still missing, but there were other, more important matters to take care of first. When she figured out what was missing, she would just fix it. Eventually and finally, challenged and provoked by the Holy Spirit in the months leading up to her marriage, she looked around and critically examined the seven-year pit stop of her faith journey. Surely a new husband, new city, new responsibilities, and a new name would invigorate the passion and certainty she had as a child. Instead, she found more things to do. They were, again, good things, but not necessarily God things. She found a writing ministry at her new church, helped coach a girls’ volleyball team for a Christian school, and went on a missions trip to Biloxi, MS after Hurricane Katrina. When a career opportunity developed that merged all her key interests she assumed (without bothering to ask) that God had opened a door, and she waltzed right through. The career quickly consumed the rest of her time. For six years. Then, on the verge of starting a family and deciding if she would continue her career or stay at home, she had to admit that she didn’t have an easy answer. More importantly, she conceded to God that she clearly didn’t know what she was doing with her life. She handed over her decisions to her Lord and Savior – both titles that she intended to take more literally. She asked for guidance and listened intently. The call to be a stay-at-home mom came as a bit of a shock, but she went, not willingly at first, a little kicking and screaming was involved, but her resolution stayed firm. International trips were abandoned, obscurity was inevitable, and identity was rooted in something other than accomplishments. And that was exactly where God needed her. Yes, the decision would benefit their family in the expected ways, but God knew the dramatic shift would enable her to spend more time with Him learning to listen and trust. Sometimes it seems like learning to listen and trust is a lot like doing nothing. Many times the adult version of the little girl who sat on the couch has to admit again that she is not God. Sometimes over and over. She does not know. She does not see the future. She has to trust, simply. She must seek the “…peace of God, which transcends all understanding… (Philippians 4:7).” She must “Be still and know that I am God;…(Psalm 46:10).” That girl who sat on the couch didn’t understand everything. The woman who types this post still doesn’t understand everything. She doesn’t know the next step, the next opportunity, the next challenge, the long-term direction, but she knows Who does. And knowing Him is a lot better than trying to be Him.
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Did you know that almost six out of ten teens leave the church at some point? Nearly 60% of high school students who grow up going to church will close the doors to a Christian life. And usually, they don't come back (survey by the Barna Group). "Because of people breaking the laws and sin being everywhere, the love in the hearts of many people will become cold." Matthew 24:12
Whenever I answer a question like this, I’m deeply aware that someone may be reading this who is seriously contemplating suicide—and I would do everything in my power to convince them not to take that final, drastic step. With Christ, there is always hope. If that’s you, please hear me. Don’t you dare do that! Jesus and I deeply love you and need you.
(This post is written to Christian women and is based on a biblical worldview, supported with Scripture. Since the writing of this post, a sequel has been written, The Motive to Modesty.) Hurriedly I raked through my second dresser drawer in the dim light of the unlit closet, scrambling for pants of some kind. Finding some, I grabbed a workout shirt, jammed feet into tennis shoes and breathlessly answered the door for Mr. M. “Ready for breakfast?” he asked.