Sometimes my computer freezes. That terrible rainbow wheel turns round and round and there’s nothing I can do to get out of the screen I’m in, I just have to reach over and hold that power button until I manually turn off the computer. I wait a few minutes and turn it back on and usually all the same screens pop up, but at least then I can sort through them and pick the ones I want to get out of without the wheel of death stopping me.
Something like that has happened with me this past few weeks. It’s time to push the reset button. For me that’s turning off the frozen thought process and taking in truth. Bible truth.
Feelings are by no means a guide, but they are a sensor. The fire alarm in my house has a sensor that causes an alarm to go off when there’s too much of an unseen, unsmelled deadly gas in the house. When my feelings set off a depression-alarm in me I realize I’m taking in some toxic breath. Lately I’ve been feeling poisoned and truth, like strong breath of clear air is the anti venom.
I care too much about people’s estimation of me. Shouldn’t I care? Isn’t a good reputation important? I thought this as I was getting in my car after work the other day replaying a conversation I had with a co-worker. I argued in my head, “Isn’t it important to have a good reputation?” And I heard that still, small voice that breaks cedars whisper to my heart, “Are you concerned with what people think of you, or what people think of Me because of you?” Suddenly it was clear as day. My concern about what other think of me is perverted from the way God made it to be. I was made a God-Image-Bearer. I was made to magnify His nature. I was made to glorify His attributes. I was made to reflect His beauty. My reputation is important, not because it matters what people think of me, but it matters what people think of HIM because of me.
This tipped off an avalanche of my missed-the-mark-ness cascading down the mountain of my unbelief. And when it all came crashing down in my mind, and I sat there buried under the weight of my own sin- I struggled to find that breath of fresh air. All I could do was cry, “No matter what, you are worthy my praise. Even if I can’t figure out how to get past all this, or what to do with all the alarms going off in my heart, I know one thing. You are good. And you do good. And your judgements are right. Always. And you are merciful. And you are worth my mouth physically opening and giving you thanks and praise even if I’m buried under a mountain of unbelief!”
That’s all it takes. Reset. “Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.” Run to Him. Not away from Him. “The Lord is my strong tower. A fortress.” “He is my hiding place.” “Those who run to him will be saved.”
But then comes a time to turn the thing back on. To go back out into the battle. Once He’s restored my thinking, He shows me what went wrong and gives me the prescription to deal with my enemies: covetousness (which is idolatry), bitterness (which defiles many), greed (an insatiable desire for more- in my instance not of stuff but of recognition). Yuck! Ugh! The remedy: Confess. Say what the Truth-teller says about it. And sing. He is worthy no matter what! This will drive out the slick-talking Worm-Tongue who poisons the minds of so many.
So, since I’ve publicly wanted the glory, I must publicly give it to the One it belongs to.
Here’s what He says. He’s right. This is the root that’s sprung up poisonous tentacles all over my nearly numb heart:
I’ve wanted Ann‘s life, my whole life. Not the struggle she had to go through to get there, just the farm, and the family, the schooling and the writing. I’ve coveted what I don’t have.
I’ve wanted Carolyn‘s life. Elizabeth‘s life. Amy‘s life. And I’ve tried to take make my life like theirs. Well, that’s just following a role-model isn’t it? If it was just the character with which they faced adversity that I wanted, or the way they’ve walked by faith, then yes. That would be noble. But I wanted the circumstances. If I could just have their circumstances I would be happy. Life would be the way it should be. And I could enjoy life. So I worked at making their circumstances mine through pressure, force and manipulation. And when that didn’t work, I surrendered to what I didn’t want and looked up at God with a closed-fist and cried bitterly, “Why?! I wanted good things! Why?!”
I am Mara, Naomi’s self-given name. I saw God as responsible for my circumstances and because He wouldn’t get off the throne and let my wants reign when I wanted them too I saw Him as harsh and withdrew from His hiding place into my own self-made walls. I shut my lips from offering the sacrifice of thanks and started spewing out the poison of bitterness. Mostly to my own husband.
My lament became a complaint against God, but I didn’t even realize it. God is in control. Not my husband. Not me. Not my parents. No my job. Not the economy. Not the president. He gives and He takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord!
So now that He’s swept through and the toxic fumes of bitterness have cleared out and I can see the root of my bitterness: covetousness and greed, now what?
Wall building. Not self-made. Obedience-made. One brick of obedience at a time. I’m far from a Titus 2 woman. I’m far from Ann’s farm, or Carolyn’s marriage, or Elizabeth’s missionary adventures, or Amy’s orphan-rescuing life. I’m alien to the Proverbs 31 wife. My circumstances are very un-glamorous. And I can’t handle the public attention these women have been given. I want it too much. My walls are torn down because of my own self-destructive hands- hands that have tried to hold on to my own planned-out life and have lost it. And if God grants me the grace and covers me with His mercy- oh please let me Lord for my life means nothing if it doesn’t bring you glory!- I will begin the Nehemiah-sized task of rebuilding a life that brings Him glory. No circumstances can keep me from laying up bricks of virtue as laid out for me in scripture. This is a heart work, not a circumstance work.
Oh please let me Lord, please help me like Ezra as I have set my heart to re-learn your Word and to do it and then to seed-plant it in another! You have shown me such mercy! You have not treated me as my sins deserve! You have born the consequence of all my perversion of Your image in me. You, the most true, the most kind, the most pure, the most good, the most right, the most gentle, the most strong, the most meek, the most powerful, the most knowing Person ever and true God all the time… it is YOU I have marred and wronged… even when I’m not trying to. I’ve twisted Your nature. I’ve maligned Your goodness. I’ve perverted Your character! Nothing anyone has ever done or will ever do to me- no set of circumstances I have or could ever deem as messed-up could ever be more wrong to me than I have been to you. Actually all my messed up circumstances and the messed up people in my life who have hurt me reflect me pretty well. I’m messed up and they hurt me because, like me they’re messed up. But you are not messed up and I am. And I’m supposed to reflect you!
Woe is me! I am undone!!! Yet even still, with what grace, with what mercy you lift me out of this self-made dung heap and stand me on my feet. You call me what I am not. You promise me what I haven’t earned or deserved. You are good through and through! And so, what’s a cracked-pot like me to do? All I can do is let your treasure shine. You, the Light of the World, in ME?! Me. Yes. Through brokenness. I have enough of that.
And as though that wouldn’t be enough, You even call me to move as your strength moves me to rebuild your glory in me. I want to do it. You deserve it! Help me not to grow weary in that good work of loving a husband and children, managing my home, reaching out to others, voluntarily getting behind my husband as I trust You to lead through him, being self-controlled, kind, pure… my labor of love will not be completed in this life. Because forever I will be in awe of the riches of your grace, not the riches of my obedience. So be it! May Your grace be enough and may You receive my offering of a life that seeks to magnify your goodness!