Humility requires me to speak respectfully, even in awe, when it comes to motherhood. I have not yet been a parent, and I will never be a mother.
But I have learned this, mothers, thanks to my years in youth ministry: you have regrets. No matter how well your children have turned out, as they cross the stage and flip their tassels, all smiles with relief, you think of their flaws (as if there weren’t supposed to be any) and long to have some days back. Even when I’m thinking, amazed, “Are you kidding? I’ve known your kid for years. They’re awesome!”
The longing is legitimately greater in some mothers. But the mammoth task of motherhood is bound to leave holes. A mother can find the tiniest flaw in her own mother-work, as surely as she can spot a speck of dust on a table.
I want to encourage today. Yet I will never been a mother. I speak better than I know.
But I have been a child.
And I can say this with great certainty to many mothers: your children are probably thinking far better of you than you are.
I hate my brokenness.
I want it to end.
It’s been a tough week at work. The kind that leaves you feeling like a rusting wreck in the desert. Ever found yourself dreading going to work and finding out what little mistake is coming back to bite you this day? You’re breathing, so yes.
I know my weaknesses well. We’re old acquaintances. Not friends, though. I want them out of my life.
Tonight, though, I have to deal with the fact that they’re not conquered yet, that tomorrow hasn’t come yet, that the next opportunity to win hasn’t come yet. I have to deal with the shame and inadequacy that swarm toward this vulnerable chump like flies toward a carcass.
I’m reminded of a familiar saying.
God does not call the qualified; he qualifies the called.
But…there’s a but in my heart.
I used to scratch my head wondering why the world would call the gospel of Christ “foolish”.
“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Cor. 1:18)
I could see the world hating God for requiring something of them morally (even though his yoke is easy and his burden is light).
I could see the world hating God for people undergoing eternal punishment (even though he offers a way out, paid with his Son’s blood).
I could see the world hating God for allowing or seemingly ignoring, in the Bible, things that don’t match up with my 21st century Western worldview (like war or slavery).
I could see all that. I wouldn’t agree with it – he is beyond our accounting – but then again, I hardly expect the world to understand (yet) things that are only revealed by the Spirit they reject. From their limited standpoint, their hatred of God makes sense. I pray for their eyes to be opened.
But why would they think of God, or anything from God, as foolish, as 1 Corinthians 1:18 says? Judgmental, callous, unfair in their eyes, maybe, but foolish?
Then I started thinking, “Well, what does the world want from God?”
Holidays are weird.
We say to ourselves, “Here’s a wondrous, momentous person or fact that has improved the lives of everyone around us, but…let’s only celebrate it once a year.”
Easter is a little different. We actually kinda celebrate it weekly, when we go to church. At least, that’s the hope. We hope our hearts are filled with reverence and joy as we sing all those songs acknowledging what God accomplished through the cross and the empty tomb.
But we all know once a week isn’t enough.
Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian. His grace does.
And when we obey him, we don’t do it to earn his grace, anymore than our setting off fireworks is what turns the Fourth of July into a holiday. It’s a holiday because of what already happened; we’re simply commemorating.
Instead, we obey in order to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling you have received” (Ephesians 4:1).
Every time we obey, we celebrate the cross and the empty tomb. Easter is the one holiday we can and are commanded to celebrate 365 days a year, by surrendering our lives in obedience to God.
I pray Psalm 51:12 for us this week – “Restore unto me the joy of my salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.”
I’ve had to pray that for a long time just to get my apathetic heart to care. But the prayer worked. More each year, I find that much more joy in knowing that I have an entry in the Book of Life, that the gates are opened to me, far down the road it might be. Don’t just let life sap that joy. Fight for it in prayer. Ask God to restore it.
Have a great Easter.
It’s funny – in reading your comments, I’ve seen many of you looking forward to this part of Luke 15 as much as I. We know it by heart. Reaching verse 20 is like arriving at your favorite line in The Empire Strikes Back or hitting that favorite song in your old Newsboys album. But better. Chills of delight. (And I’m talking the Newsboys good ol’ days – Entertaining Angels at the very latest.)
(While I’m at it, God, can’t we have just one more DC Talk album? Pretty please? Asked another voice in the throng, never to be satisfied…sigh…)
Part 1: Be Careful What You Ask For
Part 2: Sex Isn’t Making Anyone Happy
Part 3: All The Wrong Reasons?
Part 5: Goodies and Godliness
“So he got up and went to his father.
But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20)
I need this.
I had a Muslim housemate a few years ago, a transfer student from (if I recall) Saudi Arabia. I got to sit down with him a couple times and hear about his life. He was discombobulated, a devout follower of Islam living in a Christian area. Hypercharged homesickness. I felt for him.
But that was nothing next to what I felt after hearing about his faith.
This guy had no idea whether his religion was “breaking through”. He practiced, as best he could, the Five Pillars of Islam and their attending rituals – a dizzying mass of minutiae including five daily prayers at proper times, even kneeling in a specific manner. Charity work. Fasting. He hadn’t yet made a Mecca pilgrimage, though he hoped to. But he admitted that all these observances were doing nothing to reassure him that God accepted his work. He was “flying blind”, as the saying goes.
I couldn’t help but think, “that’s an awful way to live.”
Then I read something today from a Catholic…: “If I take off my scapular prior to surgery and die on the operating table, will I still go to Heaven?” A scapular is a ceremonial apron that Catholics believe will grant you eternal life if worn at one’s death. I was like…good gravy! The sheer paranoia if such a talisman carried that kind of weight. Forget it in the morning and forget about heaven! I’m bad enough at remembering to pick the right shoes for the day.
You’re probably thinking, I’m glad we Christians don’t go there.
Forgive some liberals today.
It might seem a little facetious to treat holding different political opinions as something that needs forgiving. But we can be bitter even towards someone who has done us no objective wrong, like a manager who turned you down for a much-needed job.
So I will say…forgive some liberals today.
Is that hard to hear?
It’s probably safe to say that liberals – the media, whiny celebrities, Portland protestors, entitled college students and their PC safe-space police, and the outgoing president you never really prayed for – are amongst the closest thing to real enemies we have in this country. At least, that is how they exist in our minds. Isn’t it? Forgiving them feels like sponsoring their mindset, yielding ground, or “letting them get away with something”. It feels, for lack of a better word, a little dangerous.
And it’s a good thing, because Jesus doesn’t give us any exception clauses to the command to forgive. For he forgave us. There are a lot of decent people like you on the other side of the aisle who are disappointed this week. We’re supposed to be salt, not salt in the wound. Who’s “right” doesn’t matter. Godliness matters. (And it might even have power to win them over to our cause.)