Have you ever tried to teach your child a lesson, only to realize God is trying to teach you the exact same lesson?
“You seem upset. Is there anything wrong?” I asked my eleven year old son. He shook his head and continued frantically looking around.
Let me flash back with you for
a moment. About four hours before that short exchange took place, this son decided to take some of his favorite Lego mini-figures with him to church. Then this series of events took place:
He left them on a table.
Someone found them while cleaning up and brought them to me.
I put them in my pocket to give to him.
I forgot they were in my pocket.
We came home.
Now, back to that short exchange above. Right after I asked him if something was wrong, it dawned on me. He was searching for his Legos. I reached into my pocket to give them to him, but I stopped. This son tends to clam up and not communicate, so I decided to wait and see if he would come to me or his father with his problem.
We had been trying to teach him the value of communication, and I thought this could be a good lesson. All he had to do was communicate his issue and it would be resolved. Boom! Done. But not so fast…
During the next hour, I watched him continue his frenzied search. I asked several times if I could help him or if he was upset about anything. Each time I received the same response, a polite, but curt, “No.”
My mama’s heart was breaking. If only he would say, “Mom, I can’t find my Lego guys. Can you help?” That would be my cue. Like a superhero, I’d dip into my pocket and retrieve the supposedly lost treasured items. He’d hug me and the music would swell; my proverbial hero’s cape would flutter and all would be well. Didn’t he know how much I loved him and that he could tell me anything? I told him every day in different ways.
With my heart raw and softened by witnessing the unnecessary plight of my child, I was struck, almost blown over with this powerful, yet gentle whispering in my soul,
“You do this to Me.”
“What? I do what?”
“You clam up with Me.”
“No, no I don’t. What my son is doing is ridiculous. All he has to do is…”
My heavenly Father was right.
I was caught clamming up.
With my heart even more tender toward my son, I squatted down as he searched desperately under the washer and dryer. Putting my hands gently on his shoulders, I said, “I can tell you are upset. Please share with me what is wrong.”
He looked up at me and said the words I was waiting to hear, “Mom, I can’t find my Lego guys. Can you help?”
Ah, there it was.
Not so much like the superhero I imagined earlier with the music swelling and cape fluttering, but more like an empathetic child myself, I reached into my pocket and gave him his mini-figures. Tenderly, I asked him why he didn’t come to me earlier for help. His answer hit my heart.
“I didn’t think you could do anything to help so I didn’t talk to you about it.”
Boom. Thoughts flooded my mind.
I sat down on the laundry room floor with him while he clutched his newly found Legos, trying to quickly capture those thoughts into a few sentences I can express to him.
He was right in some ways. While this time I was able to immediately fix what was bothering him, that would not always be the case. Sometimes, I wouldn’t be able to fix his problem or heartache, though I would if I could. Other times, even if I could resolve his problem, because I know it would be best for him to work out a particular issue on his own, I would not “fix it.” And then there would be times like this, that I could and should fix the problem for him. Those times will always be my favorite.
However, despite which circumstance it may be, I want to walk with him through his struggles. So I wrangled those thoughts into four sentences and said to him,
“I understand what you are saying. You are right. Sometimes, I won’t be able to fix your problem, but that doesn’t mean I can’t come alongside you and walk with you through your problem. I can carry some of the burden for you when you share with me what’s wrong.”
As mentioned before, he is eleven. I don’t know how much of those sentences he truly understood that day. I’m sure they will be repeated again in the future, but they resonated in my soul as I then heard,
“I also want to walk alongside you through your problems. Let me carry some of your burdens.”
“What? You want to do what?”
It wasn’t until later, when all was quiet, I remembered the verse from 1 Peter:
Cast your cares on him because he cares for you.
In that quiet moment, the simple beauty of this verse became very real to me. Through my own parenting, I caught a tiny glimpse into the beautiful and vast heart of our heavenly Father. He cares for you and me, and He so very much desires to walk alongside you and me through problems and carry them for us.
I imagined God saying my own parental thoughts back to me, “Don’t you know how much I love you and that you can tell me anything? Every day, I tell you that I love you through my Word and in my creation.”
I began to wonder if God’s heart breaks when we don’t come to Him with our problems. My heart certainly was breaking with my child. I strongly desire a relationship with my children where communication flows freely and often. I began to think how God the Father sent His Son to die so that He could have that free and open communication about all things, big and small, with us. Talk about wanting a relationship with someone!
Then I remembered what my son said earlier, “I didn’t think you could do anything to help so I didn’t talk to you about it.” Do I have this attitude toward God, my heavenly Father? Do I speak to Him about all things whether He “fixes” them for me or not?
He is the all-powerful, only true God and actually could fix all my problems if He wanted (I wonder if those times are His favorite). But I also know that He is all-knowing. He knows when He should not miraculously fix my problems because it is best for me to figure it out on my own. Then again, if I’m talking to Him about it, I am never really on my own. He will be right there, walking through the problem with me. Carrying some of it for me as I trust Him. He will be bending down with me as I look under the washer and dryer for the solution, so to speak. And I think His Father’s heart will swell with the communication and togetherness as mine would with my children.
So here’s to parenting and remembering these things:
1) Let’s remember to talk to Him about all things, big and small.
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.
2)Let’s not forget He walks with us through all things.
When you walk through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”
If I were at the Battle of the Alamo, I wonder what I would have done.
Have you ever pondered this? No? Let me explain why this is on my mind today.
In case you’re not from Texas or a history buff, allow me to give you the Cliff’s Notes version of the battle:
Texas declared independence from Mexico.
Mexico didn’t like this.
A pivotal battle occurred at the Alamo.
The Texans fought bravely but were greatly outnumbered by the Mexicans.
The Texans lost the battle, but the bravery galvanized the other Texans.
Texas won its independence.
Here is the part that is getting me thinking today:
Legend has it that Texan General William Travis knew on the eve of the battle that the outlook was bleak. He drew a line in the sand. He asked those who were willing to stay and fight despite the certain doom to step across the line. Anyone else was welcome to slip away.
Almost every single person stepped across that line and stayed to face battle.
If I were at the Battle of the Alamo, I wonder what I would have done.
Well, the Lord put me on the earth about 116 years too late to tell for sure, but He did give me four children. And most moms know child-rearing is a battleground of sorts.
Today, that battleground found me whimpering face-first into a pile of laundry on the floor while my kiddos watched in shock and awe. Yes, friends, it was a sight to behold.
So, as my eyes moistened with tears of exasperation, wetting my newly dried t-shirts, I thought about the choice I was making. Not too long after, I “remember the Alamo” (pun intended). I thought about that line in the sand and the choice those men and some women had to make. Who were they going to choose to serve?
That word resonated. As “choices” echoed in my heart, while my children continued to stand over me in a stunned stupor, my mind shifted to Joshua’s entreaty to the Israelites,
“Then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve… But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
The Bible says nothing of Joshua drawing a line in the sand, but I see this as a verbal line in the sand.
If I were an Israelite listening to Joshua, I wonder what I would have done.
I am a mom in Indiana with four little ones watching mein shock and awe. (Remember what am I going to do?)
I ran to the bathroom. That’s what I do. Ah, that line in the sand. Rather than cross that line, I chose to slip away.
Not two minutes later, our middle son darted into the bathroom and placed a card with a Bible verse on the bathroom counter and darted back out. I picked up the card and read the verse. It occurs to me: Here is another line in the sand.
I have a son who believes that the power of God’s Word will pull Mommy out of this “adult temper tantrum.” What am I going to do?
This moment now, like the Alamo, is a pivotal battle.
Humbled, I make the choice.
I cross the line.
I wish I could tell you that upon being reminded that my strength comes from the Lord and His Word, Bible verses to back up this truth rushed from my memory, but they didn’t. All I could pull up was Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul.”
It still worked. I began to calm. I was making a deliberate choice to dwell on His Word and not on my exasperation. A choice to serve Him and be led by His Spirit; to follow His commands to love. Love is patient and kind, not exasperated.
Friends, we are all in a pivotal battle every day.
Each morning, as soon as our eyes open, we must choose that day whom we are going to serve. Are we going to serve ourselves and give in to the unstable tossing to and fro of our own wills and emotions? Or are we going to cross that line and serve the Lord, being controlled by His Spirit?
“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.”
Then just below this he writes:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”
Face first in the laundry, I was gratifying the desire of my flesh. Our middle son reminded me with the Bible verse card that my strength to cross that line and serve the Lord comes from Him and His Word by His Spirit.
Tonight, convicted that I couldn’t from memory pull out God’s words to back up this truth, I found 1 Peter 4:11 to memorize:
“If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.”
So tomorrow before I open my eyes, I’m going to do a few things I read here. I will:
First, admit to God that I can’t serve Him without Him.
Ask Him to help me.
Then, trust that He will.
Make the conscious effort to choose to cross the line; to serve Him and not myself; and to dwell on His promises: His words I’ve memorized.
At the end of the day, I’m going to thank Him for His faithfulness.
Tell me, how do you choose to serve God each day?
What steps do you take to cross that line into His service?
How will you choose to Create a Great Day? (Again, pun intended.)
I know you so well. I know everything about you. And I know your heart so completely that I could even finish your sentences.
I will protect you with my whole being. You are never far from my heart and I will be with you and help you in everything you do.
You are wonderful to me. I am always by your side and always will be.
Love, The Creator of the Universe and Creator of you
Ok, so I’m truly not trying to be tricky or overly clever here. But what I am trying to do is to open your eyes to a powerful truth: God has written you a love letter.
And He’s not just talking. He’s making good on His words.
Friends, this is so true. God’s Word truly is a love letter. And I believe that if we can start to see His Word as the love letter it is and not only as an instruction manual,it can revolutionize our attitude toward His Word, and through that, our attitude toward God.
Now, God’s Word has wonderful instructions that lead to everlasting life, I don’t want to minimize that truth. But my point is that His Word is also so much more and it’s sometimes easy to miss…
Consider this: who of us would receive a love letter and then put it aside to read “someday?” Probably not many of us! If I ever were to receive a love letter, you better believe I would tear into that faster than I would tear into a king size Snickers! My heart would be racing and my hands trembling, my mind eager to read what the letter said.
But how many of us do this exact thing with the Word of God?
How many of us put it aside to read “someday” or “later tonight” and then maybe even forget because we are too tired or too busy.
Friends, I have been that person all too often. But seeing God’s Word as a love letter is changing my heart, and I pray it changes yours too.
Going back to the above letter, it is a very loose paraphrase of Psalm 139. Let’s read that psalm together. Before we read it, instead of thinking of the words as ancient text, something to memorize, or a lesson, let’s pause…
See Scripture with New Perspective
Let’s read them as one who is beloved by the Author. Read the words with fresh eyes, as if we have never gazed upon them before. Let’s hear these sentiments as though they have crossed our hearts for the first time. Take a deep breath and read this as if our hands are trembling because we are about to open an envelope from the one whose affections we desire the most…
You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue, you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there,
If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,
Even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb,
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand–
No, every promise of love, every hope He sets in our hearts through His words, He makes good on.
God’s love letter starts in Genesis when he promises Adam and Eve, after they betrayed their Creator and Friend, that He Himself will make it right and fix the damage they have done. Talk about heroic and relentless love.
Every book in the Bible has God’s thread of love and redemption running through it. We just have to notice it.
The books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are overflowing with exclamations of love in action toward you. Read them again this week with a heart that seeks to hear the love letter in them instead of only getting the history out of it. Ask God to give you eyes to see His love story for you. Seek and you will find.
The Culmination of God’s Love Letter
My other favorite love letter chapter is Romans 8. For me, it is the culmination of the love in the gospels. It says to us:
I am for you. I have done what I promised and given you everything, even my life. No one can harm you or accuse you anymore.
Nothing can tear us apart. Nothing. No matter what happens in this life, you are my beloved and I love you relentlessly.
Everything will all come right in the end when you come home to me. I have fought for you and conquered the evil one who was out to destroy you. You are my beloved.
Let’s read the real letter out of Romans now with those same fresh eyes, eager heart, and trembling hands as when we read the psalm.
What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one.
Christ Jesus who died–more than that, who was raised to life–is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The colors in the leaves are breathtaking. Check out this picture my mother-in-law took of a tree glowing with color:
That tree is stunning, golden and vibrant.
The leaves on the ground around the tree reflect like a mirror the beauty on the branches.
I’d love to be next to that tree and sit under its calm beauty.
As I admire the vibrance of these fall colors a thought occurs to me:
Those leaves are beautiful because they are dying.
Those leaves are not producing food for themselves anymore. In their death they blaze bright before falling to the ground. In that moment, a question occurs to me: Is there beauty in dying?
Yes, I do believe there is beauty in dying. As I think about it three thoughts come to me.
I believe there is beauty in dying to yourself in the everyday choices.
If two (or more) of my boys are arguing and no compromise can be made I say to them, “Well, one of you must die to yourself and desires then.” This idea comes from many Bible verses such as this one: “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Galatians 5:24, NIV) It is beautiful to see one brother choose to put aside his own passions and desires for the love of his brother and for the love of Christ.
There is beauty in a mother who is weary with chores but chooses to roll up her sleeves anyway and find something to be thankful about. Beauty in a husband choosing to roll up his sleeves and do chores right next to her.
There is great loveliness in choosing patience and love toward someone who is rude to you. Loveliness in choosing to cry out to God to help you truly forgive someone who has wronged you.
There is something lovely in choosing to not watch a popular movie because the Lord’s name is profaned and the story has inappropriate sexual content in it. Beauty in a wife choosing to say ‘yes’ to her husband even when tired. And beauty in a husband choosing to be patient and wait on his wife to be ready.
There is beauty in a father choosing to ride bikes with excited children after a long day’s work. Loveliness in a mom choosing to share her last bite of chocolate with small pleading eyes.
Beauty in choosing to get out the checkbook, an envelope, and a stamp to send off $25 to the mission asking for financial help as they reach people for Christ.
There is beauty in dying to yourself in everyday choices.
I believe there is beauty in a Christian’s death.
Often, at the passing of a loved one people will say, “I am sorry for your loss.” It is true there is loss in death, but for the death of a Christian the loss is temporary and beauty abounds. I have a dear friend who lost her sister this past May. This woman was in her early thirties and leaves behind on earth a husband, two very young daughters, adoring parents, and loving siblings. To be sure, there is a painful and searing loss. But, oh, there is beauty too.
The Bible says, “To live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21) This mother, wife, daughter, sister has died, but because of her choice to follow Christ she has gained.
That is beautiful.
Her seeing her Savior face to face is incomprehensible in its beauty.
Her legacy of love and consistency in putting aside her own passions and desires is glowing in loveliness.
Her freedom from cancer and being given a new body by Christ is stunning.
And the promise of her reunion with her husband, daughters, parents, siblings, and friends for eternity is breathtaking.
If you have lost someone and they were in Christ, you have not truly lost them. You know where they are. They are saved for you in the most unfathomable place of beauty.
I believe there is beauty in a Christian’s death.
I believe none of this beauty would be possible without my Savior Jesus’s death.
There would be no reason for a person to choose to “deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23) if Jesus had not done it first so beautifully.
There is immeasurable beauty in Jesus’s life’s example where He, without fail, denied himself and died to His own passions and desires. When He, surrounded with sick and begging people all the time, chose the beauty in giving of Himself and thinking of others first. Beautiful.
There is inescapable beauty when He said, “yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42) and chose death on a cross so that we might never be lost. So that we might never feel unloved. So that we would never have to say goodbye to anyone who is in Christ but only ‘see you later.’ Beautiful.
There is indescribable beauty in His rising again to live and to rule on the third day. “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55) Breathtaking.
There is now beauty in dying. Jesus is the reason for it all.
So friends, feel free to die.
There is little that is more beautiful. Feel free to deny yourself and live for Christ and others. Find joy in being “a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God for this is your true and proper worship.” (Romans 12:1) It is your proper worship to the One who did it first. If you earnestly seek His help, He will show you. He knows the way.
May we, by God’s power in us, be like the tree above.
Beautiful in dying. Stunning, golden, and vibrant in sacrificial love.
May our actions leave a beauty around us that reflects like a mirror the loving beauty Christ has put in our hearts.
May we be people the world looks to for the calm in our hearts because we know death in the body is the beginning of eternal beauty.
An Annual Reminder to Find Beauty in Dying
Has this shed some new light on fall foliage for you? I know it will be an annual reminder for me from now on. Would you share how you see beauty in dying, or how you want to have more beauty in your life by denying yourself?
Thanks for reading.
*A note from the woman’s sister mentioned above: “By my sister living out her faith until the very moment Our Father called her home, she taught us how to choose joy in life and how to face death with such courage and hope. What a gift.” Beautiful.
We are a week a few days away from Good Friday. The day we somberly, with thankfulness in our hearts, bow in awe of the love of God toward us. At least that is how I approach Good Friday now.
I have a confession to make to you: I used to think Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf was NBD or No Big Deal.
I’m going to tell you what truths I was forgetting to make me that indifferent to what Jesus did for us on Good Friday. Then I’ll tell you what brought me out of my forgetfulness and how I react to Good Friday now.
Friends, I used to think about Jesus dying on the cross and be very thankful. But while I was thankful, I was not particularly impressed.
It seemed to me that sacrificing your life was kinda common. I remember reading stories of war heroes who valiantly gave their lives for their fellow soldiers and country and being so grateful. I remember hearing about how the Secret Service would jump in front of the President to save his life at the expense of theirs. As I got older, I would read about the courage of Christians who were killed for their faith. In all of these stories, I would think, “They did what Jesus did–sacrificed their life.”
And yes, it is true, they certainly did sacrifice their lives and I still am always moved and amazed at the courage of people when faced with incredible circumstances.
But I forgot one thing. Jesus was not just human.
It is true that Jesus was fully human, but he was also fully God. He is Emmanuel, God with us. This is the truth I was shamefully forgetting.
He is God and God allowed himself to be killed and tortured for us humans.
A few thoughts brought me back into remembrance of this fact. When thinking about this incredible, astonishing, shocking, humbling truth of Jesus’ sacrifice, I like to go back to where the sacrifice all began: Christmas.
(If you don’t know about why we needed Jesus to be the sacrificial lamb for you and me, click here to learn more. It’s crucial to your life. I guarantee it’s worth your time. And if you have questions, please feel free to comment below or send your email to us via our contact page and I’d love to chat with you.)
At Christmas, Jesus left heaven to come to earth so that he could be the sacrificial lamb for us.
Jesus left heaven!
That right there alone is enough of a sacrifice! Friends, I can’t even leave my bed on a cold day! Think about the perfection of heaven and what comfy, cozy place Jesus left for us.
We all know life here on earth is no cakewalk. We all get sick and tired and cold and hungry and… Jesus got those things too. He didn’t in heaven. Plus, he was mocked, beaten, spat upon, and betrayed by his closest friends. Not a cakewalk for sure. This alone is a huge sacrifice. I now always think about this sacrifice at Christmas and this sacrifice alone now leaves me in awe.
Second, Jesus is God. We are human.
This seems obvious but for years it escaped me. I was knocked back into remembrance when my husband was talking about something he had heard someone say about humans, dirt, God, and how they all relate.
It starts with a question: Would you die for a pile of dirt?
Probably not. I’m wagering almost every person would say that would be so crazy! And they would be right. But that is exactlywhat God did.
Genesis 2:7 (NIV) says, “And the Lord God formed man out of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”
Yep, we are dirt. From dirt we came and back to dirt our bodies will return when we die. The only thing that gives us any value is God himself because he breathed hislife into us, gave us a soul that will live forever, and values us as cherished children.
I had forgotten that I am dirt and God is the Creator of the Universe whose very words have the power to bring galaxies into existence…
…and yet he came down from comfy, cozy heaven for me and you to be tortured, betrayed, sick, and eventually killed.
On top of all of this, Jesus died for a pile of dirt that sins against him. For “all have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” Romans 3:12 (NIV)
We have sinned against you Lord and yet you died for us.
Oh friends, how I have asked God for his forgiveness for my being so prideful and forgetful of his immense mercy, grace, and love toward us. Who can “grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ?” Ephesians 3:18b (NIV)
I didn’t. And the truth is I still can’t.
Because I’m a human sinner I don’t think I can ever grasp how perfect and unselfish God’s love is toward us. I’m incapable for “who has known the mind of the Lord?” Romans 11:34 (NIV)
So for me, Good Friday now is a remembrance of who I am and who God is. This fact alone throws me into worship of him. Then, on top of that, to remember that he has died for us and that I know the depths of his love toward us is far greater than I can fathom–it’s overwhelming. I’m overwhelmed.
Have you ever felt this way?
Let me know in the comments. I’ll be glad to hear from you.