relationships

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The Ministry of Jesus – God’s Will for You

Published February 8, 2018 by Dawn

It’s amazing the things God uses sometimes to teach us. The way He works into the fabric of our day, the little things He needs to show us to mold us and make us more and more like Christ. The other day, my schedule was upended two days in a row, and I found myself in a situation at work in which I had to shadow a student at her job sight: a nursing home.

We walked in and immediately jumped in line with a lady rushing here and there, all over the facility, passing out clean linens. She had no time to talk, no time to teach, and the student and I simply followed her, stayed out of her way and watched everything she did. At one point, though, I glanced into a room and noticed a lady in a dark blue shirt sitting bedside to an elderly man, slowly putting a full spoon of soft mush into his mouth and speaking quietly to him while he ate. She turned and looked at me as I stared, lost in this intimate moment. Her face was not soft. It was hard and she never smiled at me, though I smiled at her in a friendly manner. She turned back and scraped up another spoonful of food while I shamelessly watched, in awe. You see, though she didn’t smile at me or even seem remotely softened by my own smile, I looked at her and recognized Christ.

It dawned on me in that moment that I have spent so much time trying to figure out the will of God, trying to see what big plans He has in store for me. Fighting with life because I feel like there are many things hindering me from being all that God wants me to be. But what if God just wants me to be like Jesus in any circumstance? Willing to feed the elderly, or sit with the broken, or minister to a child’s heart simply by hugging him or her? What if God’s big ministry opportunities are really just the small things of daily life? That woman, in that moment, was more Christ-like than I, because my relationship with God is sometimes just a pursuit of the next big thing and a lot of anger and frustration in the between times. Sitting in a church pew wishing God would use the Word I’ve faithfully planted inside me. Wishing He’d give me a platform and an audience so I can minister truth because it’s like fire shut up in my bones. But could it be that I am missing all the daily things God could be offering to use me in? What does it mean to be Christ-like, anyway? Jesus didn’t base his idea of success in ministry on the number of people who showed up. Sometimes he ministered to the masses, and sometimes, he ministered to a lonely woman at a well or a desperate group of lepers. He didn’t really even set the world on fire. That fire started after His earthly ministry was complete. What if, ultimately, some of our greatest victories for the kingdom are seeds planted now that we won’t even see bear fruit because it happens long after we’re gone?

I swallowed my fear when that woman walked past me several minutes later. I ignored her hardened, smile-less face and spoke to her heart. “Thank you so much for what you did. For feeding him.” She said, without a smile, “Well, he had to eat.” I just started weeping. I know, it’s so unprofessional, but I couldn’t help myself. I had seen Jesus in her actions and I realized in that moment that what she was doing is more “ministry” than I do as a youth leader. As a teacher. What might have been humiliating to her, and often devalued by the world because of how degrading it seems, is exactly what Jesus would be doing. Helping the helpless. Loving in actions and not just words. Touching people instead of just speaking to them. I don’t think we’re doing it right if all we ever do is show up to church and sing songs and listen to a preacher preach. Even if we crack our Bibles open every morning and hit our knees every night. If we don’t have a relationship with people, putting our faith into actions such as these, our lives will amount to nothing, eternally speaking.

“Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?” (Matt. 7:21-22) Jesus confronted the ministry-minded here in these verses. In essence, what he wanted to make very clear is that these things might have a place in the work God gives us to do, but they aren’t “the work.” Micah 6:8 says that God wants us to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with him. James 1:27 says that God’s idea of religion is to look after orphans and widows in their distress and keep oneself from being polluted by the world. Then there’s the parable in Matthew 25:

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

In this parable, reaching out to those around them was literally their ticket into the Kingdom of God. Why have we focused on the platform – the recognition and busyness of teaching people what we know – and forsaken the real work of the kingdom? There are more churches than morgues, but the morgues are fuller than the churches could ever be, and they are full of people who needed to see Jesus but didn’t because the body of Christ (the “church”) is so inwardly focused. Narcissistic. Distracted by false prophecies about big ministries. We Christians spend so much time trying to find out God’s big plan and purpose for us, because we’re convinced we’re all so incredibly awesome and equipped for big things. Have we forgotten that Jesus said even he didn’t come to be served, but to serve, and give his life for many? Give his life. Live every day for others and not himself. Christ showed us what selfless love was. If we cannot live a life of service in obscurity, we cannot consider ourselves Christ-like. We have to wonder if God is pleased with us as we devote so much of our time daily seeking our own advancements, serving others with impure motives, so that we might be somebody in our own eyes.

I wonder if there would be less broken people in the world if the church got a little uncomfortable. A little less cliquish. A little more involved in the world outside the sanctuary doors. A little less worried about having a bright sign and a steeple. A little more like Jesus. Revival isn’t a well-planned sermon in a good location with a bunch of big names. Revival is dead things coming to life. And it has to start with the church. The body of Christ has been lethargic for so long. We need to reach out as the hands and feet of Christ, with his precious lifeblood coursing through us, ministering to the world like Jesus desires us to. First Corinthians 4:20 tells us that “the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk, but of power.” Our meetings are good and beneficial to the body, but they aren’t everything. Let them serve as rest stops, and there will be some who find their calling there, but most of us will be obscure instruments who will be last here. Forgotten. Forsaken. Used. Despised. Rejected. Scorned. Broken and belittled. God, help us to endure to the end (Matt. 24:13). In whatever way God chooses to use you, in whatever situation He daily places you, be faithful, friend. One day, the first shall be last and the last shall be first (Matt. 20:16).

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Strength When the Struggle is Real

Published January 25, 2018 by Dawn

I sat here last night and wrote two or three sentences over and over, going back and erasing, writing something else. Nothing flowed because I didn’t even know where to start. A regular reader will have noticed a marked decrease in my blogging over the past two months, and I finally have a word that adequately defines why: stunned.

Like a deer hit with a high beam, I’ve felt taken off-guard. Hit hard and fast with an overwhelming barrage of things, and for a while, I didn’t want to talk about any of it because it would have been complaining and I am currently breaking up with self-pity. I didn’t want to go there. I wanted to share from a place of security and wholeness. So, let’s talk.

A little over two months ago, we took in a little boy who needed a safe place to stay for a bit. He’s six, adorable and more of a handful than I wanted to deal with. It was a God-thing, but it didn’t feel good. First lesson: our comfort is not God’s ultimate aim in life. We have to stop worshipping our comfort and refusing to do God’s will because it doesn’t feel good. Let’s just say this wisdom didn’t come immediately, but more of a chastisement. I was wallowing in my own self-pity and self-centered bitterness. Then, the Word said, “Whoever welcomes a little child in my name, welcomes me,” and immediately I was faced with this dilemma: who’s right? Me or God? I was hurting, but not right.

It’s hard to accept, with gratitude, a child who causes angst in your own children and purposefully annoys them to get their attention. A child who pees in the floor when he’s mad or upset. A child who moves like a sloth through his morning when you have to be taxi to three different schools before you head to work. A child who doesn’t do what you ask unless you watch him like a hawk, repeatedly disobeys, and is one more person not picking up after himself in a house full of people you were already frustrated with for the same reason.

This child has good qualities too, but I was so frustrated with the depth of sacrifice, I couldn’t take my eyes off the things that were causing me to choke, to give him any credit. Not only was my attitude unChrist-like, it was downright sickening. And I knew it.

Then, we added a third into what is now known as “the boys’ room,” (another thing grating on my already-hurting son), when I had to take in a short-term exchange student because they are my responsibility while they are here and this teen’s placement didn’t work out. He’s not a problem at all, but there were more sacrifices: Earlier mornings, shorter showers, less laundry days, putting on make-up in bad lighting and not having time to do my hair. Having one more person to pick up and drive all over every day. One more person eating meals and hanging the door open. My electric bill roiled my stomach!

On top of this – or maybe beneath it is how they feel – are my own two precious kids struggling with hormones, an absent father, pressure from school, pressure from teachers, pressure from friends, and needing me to console and love on them while inside, I’m kind of freaking out. When my daughter hit me with an “I miss my dad” at bedtime the other day, and all I could do was cry with her, the magnitude of how powerless I am in my life hit me hard.

Lesson two: hardships bring us closer to God, and that was why Paul gloried in them. I went to my room and prostrated myself on the stained carpet that desperately needs TLC. Inhaling dust and God-knows-what, I cried out to God because I do know that, although things seem out of control, He is absolutely still in control. I felt held.  I felt listened to as I poured out my soul. Then, I felt taught as the Holy Spirit reminded me that God’s aim in our suffering is to teach us obedience, perseverance, and all the strengthening words we need to help others in their suffering. Paul talked about being offered up on the sacrifice and service of other believers’ faith – he was talking about enduring trials so that the faith of others may be built up. His comfort, his desires, were the sacrifice. All so that others might come to really know God and His power at work on their behalf. This is such a beautiful thing.

I was also reminded that when you tell God you are ready to be used, you don’t get to pick the circumstances and it’s foolish to complain because God is answering your heart cry to be used. It just might not look like you want it to look. And it certainly never feels like you hope it will feel. God orchestrates our lives because we are His. While we are looking for miraculous and amazing things, God is in the people and places of ordinary, everyday life. So many of us will miss our moments to be used for His kingdom waiting on a stage and lights. If I refuse to be Jesus to this little boy, or this Chilean student, because they take up time that I could be holed up reading my Bible or writing, I’ve missed a divine appointment that I’ve prayed for simply because it’s not the way I envisioned my service to the Lord working out. But that’s not the will of God; it’s the will of Dawn. I set myself up as an idol.

When I thought I couldn’t possibly do another thing in surrender, God asked something else of me: I was asked to move our teen meetings at church to Sunday mornings so that the larger group of teens that attend on Sunday morning will participate in a service. I was reluctant, but I did it upon the advice and excitement of others and the peace I received in prayer. But as eleven bustling, energetic teens followed me up to our new classroom Sunday morning during the interim between worship sets, I faced my own fear: losing “my time.” Sunday morning is my time of truly pressing in to God. I mean, I have a prayer-life outside of church and my Bible and I are besties, but Sunday mornings fill me to overflowing like no other time of my week. It’s a time of release and abandon and submission. And when I close my eyes during worship, I feel alone with God and it is glorious.

I walked away from “my time” to teach a group of teens that sometimes, I feel, just want to mess around until the bell rings without really digging into the treasures God lays before us each week. Again, self-pity and bitterness sidled up next to me and cooed in my ears in patient understanding of my plight.

When I got home, I went to my room and laid my face on the dingy carpet again and told the Lord how I felt. Again, God comforted me and then reminded me of Jesus, climbing up a mountainside to pray and being followed by a couple thousand people. Or being chased by a boatload of them across the Sea of Galilee when all he wanted to do was mourn over his cousin, John. Jesus, who, of all people needed a break, stealing away for moments with God whenever the opportunity arose, but never insisting that a time be set aside specifically for him to pray. He made time of the moments in between, instead of making a god out his OCDs. Lesson four: It’s important to be filled, but God does not want you to make a god out of your set times to be with Him. He wants you to be available to minister whenever and wherever, and He promises to meet you in the in-between moments to strengthen and encourage you.

If all of this has taught me nothing else, I have learned lesson five, which is that people will drain us quickly. So many need Jesus, but they will come to us first and they will fill up on Christ through me and you. We are the first image of Jesus people see, and they will earnestly desire Him and seek Him out through us and we will pour ourselves out until there’s nothing left in the bottom of the cup. But emptiness is not God’s will in ministry. Fullness is. Springs of living water bubbling up inside of us. David said, “All my fountains are in you” (Psalms 87:7). We have to be with God in stillness and be filled. He is our source of replenishment. We need Him in order to be the hands and feet of Christ. If even Jesus needed him, how much more will we?

I can honestly say that circumstances have become so much easier, having heard these blessed truths. I can now look down into the freckled face of this six-year-old boy and see Jesus and my duty to Him. I can smile at this child without feeling the weight of the burden I thought he was. I can endure a host of students hanging out in my kitchen at eleven at night, eating my lemon meringue and stealing moments with a Chilean teen who will be leaving in a week. I can smile through the murkiness of mothering children who are experiencing inner turmoil. I can smile at God knowing that while I didn’t ask for any of this specifically, I did ask to be used and this is what it looks and feels like. I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.

 

Trials with a Tea

Published January 18, 2018 by Dawn

“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet, not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).

Hot cup of tea in hand, I retreated to my bedroom this morning, set a fifteen-minute timer and sat down with the Lord for what was left of my morning before I had to leave for work. There’s not usually anything left of my morning, so this was a rare treasure I gave myself by getting up just a smidge earlier. I should really do this every day…

I’ve been quiet before Him for two days like this, purposefully. I cleaned “the chair” and took care of the laundry-in-limbo so I would have a special place for my time with the Lord. I just needed a newness because things have been stale and I’d become complacent. So I cleaned “the chair”, rearranged my room a little and now I have a quaint sitting area where I can have tea with Jesus.

Ok, now that you can visualize  … teatime this morning, the Lord shared something with me that really lifted a burden. I’ve been a victim to bad theology, and although I easily recognized it was false, some of it got into my heart. It’s that junk about God only having good plans for us, based on Jeremiah 29:11. We’ve created an entire doctrine based on this one scripture and I’m afraid it’s hurting people in the church. You see, the church is in a dangerous rut of delivering inspirational/motivational, me-centered sermons that convince people that God only wants them to be happy. Such a misguided notion tends to make people think, when things get uncomfortable in life, that it’s just an attack of Satan or a punishment for wrongdoing.

According to scripture, sometimes, hard things that break us are the will of God. I mean, it was in Jesus’ life. Also in Paul’s. And John. James. Peter. The list, people, is long. Many men and women in the bible endured hardship as the will of God. And do you know what’s missing in this scripture in Luke where Jesus, weeping droplets of blood, asks his Father to remove the cup because it’s a hard one to swallow? God’s reply. I checked all four Gospels and there isn’t one. God didn’t respond to him. Luke 22:43 tells us an angel came and strengthened Jesus, but he was strengthened to endure the road ahead. Golgotha. Betrayal. Torment. Death. All the will of God.

God did not even utter a word. I wonder if He was weeping just then. He knew what was to come. He purposed it. And Jesus didn’t deserve it. It wasn’t punishment. It was for a greater good. God’s greater purpose.

I desperately want people to understand that, while God desires our ultimate good, He is more concerned about working things out in conformity to His will than He is about rescuing us when things don’t feel good. Sometimes, He requires hard services and acts of obedience that take us beyond our own abilities and make us cling to Him as He teaches us how to walk the hard road. We cannot say that because something feels right, it must be what God wants because I have found that sometimes, things don’t feel right or good, but when I pray, God says to me (like he said to Paul), “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9).

God sometimes brings us to places we don’t want to be. Asks us to be obedient in things we don’t want to do. I believe He does this to humble us, so we see our weaknesses. So we reach out for His strength. So we learn to depend on Him. One of Satan’s many lies is that God never gives us more than we can handle. Sure does make us feel strong, doesn’t it? But it’s a lie. God often gives us more than we can handle because He wants us to turn to Him and usually, this is the only way to get us to do that.

I share this from my heart, friend. I pray this word brings relief and leads to healing. God really does love us, and while He has good things in store, He also works mightily through trials and tribulations. The Bible says that “he comforts us in all our sufferings so we can comfort others with the comfort we received” (2 Cor. 1:4). Such trials are precious when they cause us to run to God. Those tender moments of being comforted eclipse even the most harrowing circumstances and remind us just how good our God is. I hope you run to Him, friend, and climb into His daddy-lap. He longs for you and is patiently waiting, even now, to tenderly gather you under His wings where you can find refuge. Be at peace!

Blessings that Feel Like Curses

Published November 27, 2017 by Dawn

“Greetings, you who are highly favored. The Lord is with you.”

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.”

It was one of the most pivotal moments in Mary’s life. How many dreams did she have about her future? She was betrothed already, and would soon be married to a highly esteemed man. She had a flawless reputation. Her character was such that she was not just a child of God, she was a favorite. While she dreamed of the white picket fence and a yard full of kids, all two years apart, her Father had big plans for her.

I wonder what kind of disposition Mary had when remembering this moment as God’s plans unfolded in her life. From that moment on, nothing looked quite like she thought it would. She was pregnant with no alibi. The man she was engaged to wanted to leave her. While the Bible does say Gabriel explained everything to Joseph so he wouldn’t leave, it doesn’t say anything about a town hall meeting so everyone else knew that Mary was still pure and virtuous. Her reputation took a fall. No wonder she immediately left town to go to Elizabeth’s!

I’ve been thinking about this for days now. Mary’s “blessing” probably felt like a curse sometimes. First the pregnancy, then the long journey on a donkey in her last trimester. Giving birth in a stable. Fleeing to Egypt not long after becoming a new mom. Raising a son whose thoughts were often otherworldly and strange. When Jesus was twelve, he told his mom he stayed behind in Jerusalem so he could “be about my Father’s business.” He wasn’t talking about Joseph.

Gabriel had warned Mary about Jesus’ mission. That he would be despised, rejected and crucified. I wonder how often she thought about that, and how gracious she was when her emotions overwhelmed her. Gabriel had told her a sword would pierce her own heart too. God’s favor and blessings in Mary’s life felt like pain and agony from the start. I imagine she lost perspective sometimes. I wonder if she ever knelt in prayer and poured out bitterness instead of praise.

More than anything, I wonder if perhaps we have gotten it all wrong. Have we decided that blessings in our lives are curses and vice versa? When trouble comes because of things we know are the will of God, how often do we lose perspective and struggle to hold on to promises? Likewise, how often do we look at the things of this world that distract us and keep us complacent and decide in our hearts that they must be blessings simply because of how they make us feel? We get comfortable and love it that way, but what would God be doing in our lives if allowed to have His way? Would it be any less His will just because it causes us turmoil?

As I thought about Mary, I realized that God didn’t call her blessed because He had a life of ease planned out for her. I think He called her blessed because He had chosen her to bring glory to Him. In spite of all the pain, God trusted Mary to raise Jesus. She was His faithful servant and God was pleased with her. His gift just didn’t always feel like a blessing. I wonder, though, if her response was always just as kind and gracious as it was that first day when Gabriel broke the news to her. She said, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let your word to me be fulfilled” (Luke 1:38).

I’m not always that gracious. Actually, I’m not sure I’m ever that gracious. I want to be, and it’s been my prayer for a while, but when God allows things that hurt – things that break me – I don’t respond like Mary. I weigh the things God allows against the pain they cause and decide from there whether they are a blessing or a curse. But I think I’m doing it all wrong. The Bible makes it clear that oftentimes, walking in the will of God hurts something fierce. The pain doesn’t make it any less the will of God, or any less a blessing. The blessing, after all, isn’t in how much we benefit. The blessing is solely about the glory of God being revealed through our lives. It exists in the way our trials make us less worldly and more like Christ. If being broken was the will of God for Mary, and the will of God for Jesus, how can we expect it to be any less His will for us?

I believe we can take comfort in the fact that in all of the brokenness and despair, every person that endured the will of God in the Bible and was obedient, brought glory to God. Their stories have stood the test of time and remain to remind us that God’s will is ultimately for our good, even when it doesn’t feel good. May God continue to bless us, and give us strength to bear it.

 

Friendly Misunderstanding

Published September 12, 2017 by Dawn

Today, I had recess duty with first grade. First graders have a lot of problems … well, from the perspective of a child. I believe most of them can be chalked up to colossal misunderstandings. Today, a little girl came to me over a what turned out to be a misunderstanding and it struck me as something that happens in the church a lot. I immediately wanted to share it with you.

This little girl comes up to me just completely broken. She’s weeping into her sleeve over something that must have truly devastated her. After calming her heart, I asked her why she was so upset. She said, “I came out to recess late and went to find my friends. They were playing tag. I went up to them and asked them if they were missing a friend … I meant me. I was missing from the group. They said no!” She dissolved into tears again and I stood there looking at her and trying to see this from her perspective. Let’s just say I am not on a first-grade level of thinking …

Finally, it hit me. I calmed her down again and asked, “Do you think maybe they weren’t missing a friend because you were standing right there when you asked it?” She just looked at me in confusion. I said, “Maybe they weren’t missing you because you weren’t gone anymore.” I then told her to find her friends and ask them if she could play tag. She did and all was well.

I was deeply moved by this misunderstanding because I thought about me and my best friend. Not any person, but my Bible. I call it my best friend … I take it everywhere with me. It’s my constant companion. I thought about the times I have read something in the Bible that maybe troubled me or confused me. I think this must happen a lot with anyone who reads their Bible. I believe scripture invites us to press in to God for understanding quite often. We see dimly, after all (1 Cor. 13:12). I have had instances where something did not make sense to me and I prayed about it, asking God to reveal what He meant when He spoke it. Sometimes, He speaks right away. Other times, I have had to persist in prayer over a particular scripture for days, weeks, months, and even more than a year! I can identify times in my life when I had a misunderstanding with my best friend (the scriptures), and found it very difficult to pick up for a time because it offended me or scared me. In essence, I turned from my best friend feeling very betrayed or even abandoned at times.

There are so many divisions within the body of Christ and I believe this is a huge reason why: many of us have had misunderstandings with the Word of God and have sought out our own wisdom, or the wisdom of someone else who frankly, might be as fleshly about their perspective as we might have been. I believe, according to scripture, that the Spirit of God brings unity (Ephesians 4:3-6), and if the body of Christ had taken their misunderstandings to the Lord, we’d all be on the same page. God does not talk out of both sides of His mouth! We can trust Him to reveal His truth in His time. We just don’t, oftentimes. Instead, we are guilty of seeking man’s wisdom when things don’t make sense, and worse yet, taking man’s word for it, even if it doesn’t line up with scripture.

I have no intention of pointing fingers, but I would like to encourage those who are humble enough to admit they don’t know everything: pray about it. God can handle you admitting you don’t understand something in His word. He can even handle it if you admit you don’t like something about His word. He is faithful to reveal to you if you are persistent in your asking. Don’t seek wisdom from others; seek wisdom from God.

You might say to me, “Iron sharpens iron.” I know that it does. But I also want to remind you that Paul, after his conversion, went off alone for fourteen years and sought the wisdom of God about what he later preached. He wrote half of the New Testament, and it wasn’t with man’s wisdom! It is okay to be sharpened by your peers, but we also must be diligent in seeking first the kingdom of God. Man’s wisdom should agree with the Word of God, or should be swiftly discarded.

Don’t abandon your pursuit of God when He seems distant or different. Don’t walk away heartbroken when He speaks a hard word that leaves you dumbfounded. Ask Him what He meant and be willing to wait on His reply. You will not be disappointed! In fact, to the contrary, you will be overjoyed to know your Heavenly Friend on a deeper, more personal level. Be faithful to God, Beloved, because He is indeed faithful to us.

Maybe God Misses You

Published September 6, 2017 by Dawn

James Dobson said something to my mother heart when my kids were very young that haunted me since. He said, “At some point, a boy begins to push away from his mother.” He was talking about bringing up boys, and I was mostly resentful (then) of his wisdom because I faced the daunting task of raising a son on my own, and Dr. Dobson made it sound all but impossible. I have slowly conceded to his points, one after the other, as my son has shown how very much Dr. Dobson knows on the topic (in contrast to how very little I know). This past summer, this particular nugget of truth became revealed. My son wanted to be home as little as possible.

I have always, ever since becoming a mother, wanted my children’s happiness more than my next breath. I have lived for their delight. I have read all the psych books, poured over the scriptures, and done all that I could within my power to secure the perpetual joy and bliss of my kids. I will not sing my praises more than this, because perhaps I have failed … I don’t know. All I know is that this past summer, while my daughter clutched the apron strings just a little tighter in anticipation of high school (which we are ALWAYS reminded is really just a blur in the rearview mirror before you know it), my son pushed us away like we were a plague. The end of summer brought him back home long enough to find out his new boundaries for the school year, then he was off every evening after chores and spending the weekends with his friends again.

Last weekend, he asked me if he could go to his friend’s house and I told him no.

“But WHY?” The badgering began.

Can I admit something to you? I didn’t have much of a real reason. I told him it was because I wanted him to do his chores, which was partly true. He came home and did them, then asked again.

“No.” I just wanted to cry. Why do you want to leave me?

He was getting a little heated. “But I did my chores and I always go to my friends’ on the weekends. Why can’t I go?”

I stumbled through a list of excuses, all of which he had a great rebuttal for. He protested like a legal expert and I had to concede one after the other until I was left with nothing but the truth.

“I miss you!”

He just gaped at me. “Are you serious?”

Tears welled up in my eyes.

“I want you to stay home. I miss you being here.”

I wish I could say he melted then and there into my arms and told me he’d never go anywhere ever again. He didn’t. He actually continued to argue with me, and even though all I had was the truth of my heart’s cry, I used it to combat his defenses until he sulked to his room. I hugged myself and went to make dinner.

Then it happened.

“Mom, come in here.”

He was in his bedroom. I stepped into the doorway.

“I cleaned it up in here. Want to sit with me?”

Did. I. Ever!

To be invited into the sanctuary of my thirteen-year-old son … YES! I went in and sat on his futon. He laid down on his bed, pulled out his phone and ignored me for the next twenty minutes, but my heart was satisfied just being in his presence. When I finally got up to leave (because let’s face it, I can only be ignored for so long before I have to get up and actually accomplish something with the daylight left), he implored, “No, Mom, don’t leave me. Sit here with me.”

I excused myself to finish dinner and he trailed me into the kitchen and helped cook. Every time I turned around, he was leaning into me for a hug. For the first time in months, my son wanted to be around me. I was in heaven.

Do you ever wonder if God keeps us isolated from our friends so He can be with us? Do you think it’s because He misses us? Maybe it’s because He knows that if our attention were on other things, we wouldn’t turn to Him for companionship. Maybe all the times relationships have fallen through, friends have seemingly abandoned us, and family has forgotten we exist … maybe all of the times we felt society shun us was God’s way of giving us a gentle “no” that redirected our attention to Him. Maybe He has a longing for us that hasn’t been articulated so much as shown by a cold shoulder from the world around us. Maybe God just wants to be near us again.

Perhaps, too, we are like my son: pulling out everything we can to distract ourselves, even when God is sitting in the room, and not interacting with Him even though we want Him near. Is it enough to be in His presence? Of course! But we must admit … there’s so much more to God than nearness and silence. Oftentimes, we get this far and we feel like we’ve experienced all there is in our relationship with God, but if we venture out of our sanctuary into His world, and we follow Him as He does His thing, we will inevitably find that God is working on things and we can partner with Him. So often, we invite God to be a part of what we are doing. Perhaps it’s time to stop asking God to make something of us and use us, and instead, we come alongside Him while He works and help in what He is doing. There’s a huge difference, after all.

Yes, I believe God misses us more than we miss Him sometimes. I encourage you to turn your eyes to Him in your loneliness and allow His presence to bring you peace. Furthermore, allow Him to lead you out into the things that He is doing and graciously agree to be a part of His work, whatever He may ask of you. God bless!

Nevertheless

Published July 26, 2017 by Dawn

“Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love” (1 Kings 11:2).

Solomon had a problem: he loved women. He loved all women from all kinds of nationalities and many times, he took them home with him. He made alliances with other nations through marriage, and get this … he had seven hundred wives! You can add them to his 300 concubines, and Solomon had a colossal problem. One thousand women in his life!

Did you notice the “nevertheless”? It’s referring to the previous verse, in which the writer explains that God had warned the Israelites against intermarrying with other nations because their idol worship would lead them away from God. Nevertheless Solomon married nearly every woman who caught his eye, or conscripted her to his harem for his own pleasure without putting a ring on it, because he could and because he wanted to.

I woke up super early this morning, so I picked up my Bible for companionship. I began reading where I left off, but I didn’t get very far. I kept coming back to this verse.  “Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love.” It kept beckoning me back, so I began to meditate on it. Why is this particular verse nagging at me? What is it trying to get at in me, and why can’t I just get past it and move on? Finally, I prayed. Lord, what is it? Why is this verse taking up so much space in my heart and mind right now?

It was the nevertheless.

God had spoken to His people. His children. He had given them direction – a warning, really – because He loved them and didn’t want them to have to endure a lot of unwarranted heartache. He wanted them to be wholly devoted to Him and He wanted them to have His favor and blessing. Solomon, their king, specifically asked God for wisdom and gained that and so much more. He was recognized as the wisest of all men, and his kingdom was the richest and most prosperous kingdom on earth at that time. But then it happened: the nevertheless.

Solomon, despite his wisdom and the favor he enjoyed from God, let his own desires (or weakness, if you will) come before the will of God for his life. Not only his own, but also the lives of all the Israelites. He married unscrupulously and his wives led his heart astray into idol worship. He built shrines for other gods in the land and then, the whole country began to believe that such idol worship was acceptable. Solomon’s sin in defying God had very far-reaching consequences and affected so many people. He probably did not intend to create such a catastrophe in Israel, but when the smoke cleared, his waywardness had led astray an entire nation and would eventually lead to the downfall of his kingdom. There was a lot on the line and Solomon shrugged it all off. Nevertheless.

It’s a word that signifies a stubborn self-will. A will that has decided, in spite of the wisdom of God inside, or even the word of God on a matter, to have its own way instead of His. Nevertheless represents the will of a person bent on his or her own satisfaction and gratification, despite God having already had a say in the matter. Nevertheless was Eve taking the fruit, eating and giving to Adam to sample. It was millions of people ignoring the prophets, giving way to the flood in Noah’s time, and the fire in Lot’s. It led to the captivity of an entire nation over and over again because they had no regard for the Lord or His expressed desire for them. Nevertheless led Jesus to the cross, and is still leading people away from God over 2000 years later. It has taken over churches, families, and cultures entirely.

Have you recognized it yet, in your own life? It’s there, friend. We all have a nevertheless. We all have a will of our own, bent on destruction unless completely surrendered to God. It might not seem that way at first. Surely Solomon never thought his lack of fidelity to one woman or one nationality would lead to such chaos. But his infidelity in marriage mirrored his infidelity to God. Just as he was not satisfied with one woman, he was not satiated in his relationship with God either. But it wasn’t God’s fault, it was his own. God promised to be with him just as He was with David. Solomon didn’t have the same heart as his father. David’s heart desired God above all else; Solomon’s loved women.

What is it that you love above God? What desire have you placed before His will? What self-knowledge have you exalted above the wisdom of the Word of God? Know this: your story will have a nevertheless. I do not write this in judgment, but rather in fear and humility. I have experienced my own already. I tremble to think what my own self might decide at any point, and steer me away from God’s will for my life. I watch my life closely because I know the power of my own heart and my naïve willingness to blindly follow feelings instead of God. I have caught myself in the middle of rebellion before. I know this, though: it doesn’t have to be that way. God would prefer it not be that way, and eventually so do we.

There’s only one way to avoid the error, and that is on our knees. Prayer enlightens us to the depths of our own sinful natures, and our wayward desires. Prayer awakens us to our need of God. Prayer enables us to admit our faults, and lay down our pride. Prayer makes crooked ways straight and hardened hearts flesh again. Prayer is the only way to destroy the commitment we’ve made to our own flesh. Prayer is the only way to avoid nevertheless.

Dear Holy Father,

You know us. Thank you. You know us better than we know ourselves, for you have made us and we are yours. Your ways are higher than ours and often, because we cannot see what you see and understand what you know, we follow our own weak vision and near-sighted understanding of things. We follow our deceitful hearts and end up making a mess of things where your Will would have done something redemptive and holy. We’re a mess, Lord. Please forgive our waywardness and the way we jump so quickly into our own actions. Help us to pray. To linger in prayer until we know your Will. Help us to obey your Word and your Will as you give us understanding of it. Give us an increased measure of faith to drown out our fear. We long to walk in your ways.

Have your way, Lord. We love you.

Amen.