A little over 40 years ago, God called me to give my whole life to him--everything! My possessions, my future, my heart, my decisions, my health, my relationships, all that was dear to me or ever would be--everything. In my young idealism, I told Him I was his girl and I would follow Him anywhere all the days of my life.
Of course I could not have known what it would cost me, but in my sixties, I still want to think about what this means and live this way, as much as possible, every day until I see Him.
Abraham was our example, our model of faith early in Hebrew history. Hebrews says he is a hero of faith--following God, not knowing where He might lead, but choosing to follow Him, no matter what. I believe through Abraham, God wanted to make an impression on all of us--Abraham was the father of the whole nation of Israel. He was the beginning of the history of the Jewish people as God's people, a man with a heart willing to follow God anywhere.
I could not have imagined where this life of faith would lead me personally, and even now I am on some new, untried paths, but still, though I don't know exactly where it will lead, I trust more than ever that the one who leads me is worthy of my trust.
There are obstacles in everyone's lives, however, that would tempt us to question God when it looks like He might have made a mistake in leading us to such interesting and unfathomable places. Abraham had to wait years to have that one son who would lead to him being a father of all nations. Then God asked him if he was willing to give up even Isaac. Abraham did not hesitate. So Jesus did not hesitate to give up His life for us, a fulfillment of Abraham’s foreshadowing hundreds of years before.
Will you give up all of your expectations? Are you holding on to any demands you feel you have the right to make on God?
These are some of the ways I see women struggling—ways I, too, have struggled …
When we try to force God's hand, we tell Him what our will is (our desires, our way) and then we pray again and again demanding He does our will. Often this is expressed by trying to control our circumstances according to our own logic. I see moms who try to control their children, their children's friends, their circumstances, their husbands, their marriages, who their children will marry, etc. etc.— and they want God to cooperate.
This is not God's way. He will not be manipulated and is not free to work in the life of someone who will not follow Him anywhere. You cannot control your life, your children's, your friendships, your financial circumstances, the world we live in--to follow God His way means to give up control, even as Abraham did. God will not share his throne and we are not big enough to tell Him how to lead.
There is a lot of worldly advice in cyberspace that pretty much gives license for about any philosophy you would want to adopt. Much of it says, "Children are resilient, they will bounce back even if you make a bad decision." Parents are given permission to take care of themselves, to do whatever they want, to pursue their own dreams, apart from their children. In the same way that an adult would not thrive if left to fend totally alone, so children are even more sensitive. If left to culture, they will grow up without the oxygen of focused love and training, and will be hindered most of their lives for lack of it. Some philosophies give parents permission to become lazy or passive in regards to parenting. Though there are indeed many ways to live well as a family, passivity and neglect will have the same effects on children as on any other area of life--lack of growth, lack of development, and dependence on whoever or whatever will give them attention.
So often, I get letters which basically say, “Just tell me exactly how you did it; your schedule, your words, your discipline methods, and I will just copy you. I want my child to sleep through the night, learn to behave, be educated, and learn like yours did, so what are the ten rules that make children come out right?!" We all long for formulas. It seems like they would make life easier.
Now, there are all sorts of wisdom principles in scripture. Yet, each of us has a different puzzle. Each child has a different personality and responds to different kinds of a relationship. We have different personalities and will be motivated differently in our leadership of our children. Children and families are all different and must grow according to their unique makeup.
Even as plants are all different and some need lots of sun and others wilt with too much, so our families each have a unique culture and we must cooperate with who we are and not try to be just like someone else, or to follow someone else's method. It will not work for you. Live into the life you have been given with confidence.
Living by flesh requires so much effort. If I just get up earlier, work harder, use my influence on my children, my authority, they will turn out okay. Flesh living requires a perfect mom working hard in all areas, exhausted every day with no rest, in order to check off the list of everything she thinks she is supposed to do right. Usually children raised in this type of family develop lots of guilt because they know they will never, ever be perfect (and neither will their mama and daddy) or they rebel.
Fear can be focused on multiple things: being afraid of the world, afraid of failure, afraid of possibilities of what may happen. Fear tries to protect children from failure or difficulties or sinful people or the world. Fear overprotects and hides children so they will never hurt or be hurt. But a child who is raised by a fearful parent will never develop their own muscle--spiritual or emotional muscle. God wants our children to practice being strong, little by little, with us as their mentors. Children who are raised by fear seldom learn to leave the prison of their own parents making.
What if my child loses their faith? What if someone abuses them? What if they become disappointed in Christians? What if they get hit by a car? What if they lose their faith in college? What if? What if?
Fear keeps a parent from making forward decisions. It shuts out the power and presence of God and His reality.
When a person cannot forgive themselves for their failures, forgive their parents for a terrible upbringing, or get over the scars life has brought their way, they do not release their lives into God's hands to heal and restore and bring about strength and blessing. Forgiveness in broken relationships is essential. I see so many people tied up by bitterness and blame, and they oftentimes use the hard situation as an excuse for doing little with their own lives. Bitterness steals life, brings death and darkness, and is a never-ending black hole. Others may not change, but God will give you the ability to heal, to restore and to become new if you are willing to forgive and move forward.
Faith is the only choice that leads to freedom.
Faith is what God is looking for. He wants to take us beyond ourselves and all of our formulas, fears, flesh, force, and any other ways we would tell Him to run our lives. God cannot work with a person who is shaking their fist at him.
Have you ever seen a toddler throwing a fit, crying, falling on the ground and rolling around, slapping whoever comes their way? All adults know that a child who gets their own way will grow up to be untrained, undisciplined, and unusable for God's kingdom work. He is looking for a heart soft enough to respond to Him, a heart humble enough to wait on His timing, to trust Him even when life just does not look right. Throwing fits and shaking our fists at God just prohibits us from submitting to Him, finding rest by leaving our issues in His file drawers, living beyond our own potential into His infinite ability to work in our lives.
Faith says, I am not sure where You are taking me or why You are allowing this, but I will trust You and put my burdens and desires into Your hands, choosing to believe that you are good.
I have found in my own life, that when God's ways seemed too much and too hard for me, if I kept going anyway, they became the making of my character, the place where miracles eventually took place.
Each of us is more capable and strong than we know.
My difficulties as a mother gave me compassion for other moms. My challenges in marriage humbled me to understand the generosity of God's eternal love. The disabilities of my children taught me they didn't need to be perfect, they just needed God. He worked beyond what I could have imagined through my frailty and theirs.