Bidding moms of young children to rest in the power of Christ

My sons are now sixteen and eighteen, but the days of bending over to care for their needs seems like it was just yesterday.

The years I spent investing my life in theirs felt like a mix of chaos, cherished moments and sheer exhaustion at the time. My mothering isn’t over, it’s just entered another stage, but those early years I needed to hear the messages Liz tenderly delivers in her first book, The End of Me: Finding Resurrection Life in the Daily Sacrifices of Motherhood. 

When my oldest was a toddler and I was carrying around his newborn little brother a woman whose children were grown saw me looking tired one day at church. She pulled me aside and told me to go take a nap. I felt like a failure. I had plans for what I would do with my toddler. I’d teach him to identify colors, read him stories and sing Jesus Loves Me with him. But instead I was exhausted from the screams of my newborn and the tantrum throwing of my toddler. This woman I looked up to didn’t give me a do-better speech, she took my kids and told me to rest. 

Liz’s book calls moms who feel like they’re failing because they’re tired and don’t have the ideal circumstances they imagined, to let their pride, ideals and expectations die. And instead receive the rest and life that comes from trusting in the resurrected Christ to be enough for our mothering. 

Like the older woman who took me aside when my kids were little and bid me to die for an hour in a room with a pillow, Liz calls moms of young children to learn from Jesus and embrace the rest we find in him. 

Young moms need this message. We need each other in the church to help us raise our kids and to help us see our need for Jesus. Liz’s book serves young mothers of the Church well in giving a primer on what dependence upon the power of Christ, not ourselves, looks like in motherhood. 

Liz’s writing is clear and full of scripture. The End of Me is easy to read, and gives young moms who may have very little down time to read a book, a helpful and encouraging message in short chapters with room to reflect at the end of each chapter. 

As a leader in my church’s ministry to children and parents, I plan to give this book to new moms. If you are a mom to young children, or you know a mom of young children, get this book. The End of Me is a welcome word of truth and hope to weary young moms. 

Ecclesiastes and a Pandemic

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I didn’t keep a journal during this pandemic. I wish I had. I find myself scrolling back through my iPhone calendar trying to figure out how many days we’ve been like this. Arizona “reopened” on May 15th. We’re eight days into gyms, restaurants and many retail stores being open for business. But life is by no means business as usual.

For me, as a nurse working in a hospital during this crisis, I have not experienced the shelter-in-place like so many have. The big changes in my family’s life has been having our two high school boys doing school at home via online learning and my husband being mandated to work from home until May 1st. The 2019-2020 school year officially ended yesterday.  Not being able to hug my friends, pick up their kids, sit on the floor with elementary students and talk about Jesus and sing loud with them all on Sundays is by far the biggest area I’ve felt the impact of Covid-19.

I’ve been doing my shopping weekly for groceries and feed for my animals. People are shopping, some with mask, others without. To me it seems about a 50/50 split. I can now find toilet paper at Walmart and the pasta isle at Fry’s is almost back to being fully stocked. No one has harassed me for wearing my homemade mask. People have been polite and I’ve been thankful for the efforts of grocery clerks and cart runners who continue to serve me with a smile I can’t see. I may not see the smile, but the way their eyes sparkle as they nod makes me think the smile is there.

We aren’t big out-to-eat-ers so we haven’t tested the reopening of restaurants.

All in all, life feels fairly normal for my family. The strangeness is in the buzz on social media and news stations. My Facebook and Twitter feeds are tattered with anger, accusations, suspicion, conspiracy theory, blame and divisive politicizing. All those people I miss from church, see at the store, work with in the hospital, drive by running errands… they all have feelings and thoughts about all that has happened in the pandemic. A handful of them I’ve spoken to personally. And of those there’s a handful of differing opinions about what went wrong, who’s to blame, what we should do, what we shouldn’t do, and where we go from here.

I’ve been listening to the audio version of the ESV translation of Ecclesiastes lately. I’m drawn to this long meditation on, “What’s the point of life?” This global pandemic has brought me face to face with my utter lack of control over life. As a Christian, I believe my God is good. Jesus showed me that. And if he’s God, and he’s good, I can just ride the wave of this pandemic and trust he’ll make everything right in the end. But it’s not that simple.

I can’t just ride the wave. People all around me are getting knocked out by the wave. Ecclesiastes reminds me that death comes to us all. Whether by Covid-19 or a car accident, cancer or coronary artery disease. Pick your reaper, either way, he’s coming. And you don’t even get to pick your reaper. So what am I to do with this life? It sometimes feels like all my concern for my neighbor, my desire to share Jesus with my friends, my heart-work to become more emotionally intelligent and aware of the logs in my eye, the work of loving a husband and raising men is for nothing.

Listening to Ecclesiastes I’m reminded that life is painful and sometimes seems fruitless. The point of it all is found in the God who made it and rules over it.  Even there I find Ecclesiastes telling me to stop trying to figure out what God is doing, and do my work, be a good friend, be thankful, love my neighbor, enjoy my glass of wine, go outside, take in a sunset and laugh when the dog chases his tail.

Tonight I’m sitting on my back porch listening to a bird sing in one of our sissoo trees. The sky is a faint peach and grey, the aftermath of a blazing fiery orange sunset that was a few minutes ago. Tonight one of my friends is sick with Covid-19. His wife is scared. Tomorrow the sun will rise, and I pray my friend gets up feeling much better. Life with Covid-19 will go on. At least until the One who makes the sun rise says it’s all over.

Conspiracy and 5 Christian Responses When Suspicions Rise

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When you shake a cup, what comes out reveals what’s been in there all along. The global corona virus pandemic has brought out the suspicion, anger and conspiracy theories in many.

I’ve been thinking about why so many of us are given to believing or promoting conspiracy theories. Folks who do so seem to be self-proclaimed prophets with their memes and YouTube videos. Their practice is name-calling, blame-shifting, complaining and crying “corruption” at every news story or government decision. Their gospel seems to be, “Repent of being dumb sheep who listen to science and news. Turn and become suspicious! Watch this enlightened person on YouTube or take this alternative supplement or treatment, or follow the politician I approve of.”  They peddle their own sources and accuse those who don’t agree with them of being gullible or worse.

Many of these folks call themselves Christians. And I’m not say they aren’t. My question is, how should the Christian approach news, disease, government and disaster? With suspicion? Anger? Blame-shifting? Slander? Pride? Arguing? These kinds of responses are not fruits of the Spirit. They aren’t Christ-like. They aren’t spiritual gifts. Those given to these practices should turn from them for the sake of love, for the gospel and for Christ’s name sake.

I have to begin by confessing my personality type would rather ignore all bad news and hide myself away in a convent somewhere, where I wouldn’t have to deal with people’s problems. My tendency to be passive and avoid conflict isn’t a fruit of the Spirit either. I am not here to say that evil should be ignored, or that justice should not be called for. I am not saying wisdom should not be sought or that conflict should be avoided. What I am saying is that scripture, Jesus and the saints who have suffered much worse than we, point us to a godly way of responding to news, government, disease and disaster. And it’s not passivity, nor is it to spread suspicion or promote a conspiracy theory.  Ed Stetzer is right, spreading conspiracy theories is hurting our witness and is foolish. So when suspicions arise, when bad news comes, when you find yourself angry about what the government is doing, what should the Christian do?

Check your eye for logs. I’ve found that the things I’m most upset about, whether in my personal relationships, or in relation to the public or government about social issues or moral issues, usually are the result of my own idols, my own faulty way of seeing the world and my own attempts to self-preserve. When Jesus taught us how to deal with people we see error in, he told us to first examine ourselves. When the corona-virus pandemic began to impact your own personal way of doing life, your bank account, your health, etc., was your response anger, blame-shifting, suspicion? Did you turn to YouTube? Did you use God’s word to scratch your itch? Ask yourself why? Why are you angry? Is it because you feel your freedom has been taken away? Do you fear being out of control? When the news is bad, or the government makes a decision that imposes on your way of life, don’t examine the news, or the government first. Examine yourself. Take scripture, look at Jesus, look at other Christians who’ve suffered well throughout history and hold it up to your own life first.

Humble yourself. The book of 1 Peter is addressed to suffering Christians. The Christians Peter wrote to suffered at the hands of a corrupt government because they were Christians. If what’s driving you to conspiracy theories, anger, or withdrawal is your belief that the government or some evil power is corrupt and out to destroy your way of life, look to the folks in 1 Peter. That was their reality. “Even if,” is one of the phrases Peter uses to encourage married women in that tumultuous time to submit themselves to their husbands, even in that culture, even if their husband’s didn’t believe the gospel of Christ. “Even if,” should be our mantra. Even if our government is corrupt (Newsflash- it is. Has there ever been a government without corruption? Are there humans in power? Then there’s corruption in power), even if there is a secret society of power trying to poison us or oppress us, 1 Peter tells us, to submit to those in authority the way his sons and daughters do. We humble ourselves. We are sons and daughters of God. We are heirs with Christ. Nothing we suffer here compares to what God has for us in Christ. So if the government is corrupt and we suffer, let us suffer as little Christs (Christ-ians), not as those promoting suspicion, anger, rebellion, pride or slander. We will not be under corruption forever. The One who rules the powers we cannot even see will, at the proper time, lift us up.

Complain to God. When I find myself getting angry, accusing, becoming cynical or suspicious of those who’ve offended or hurt me I often hear this, “Sheila, your problem isn’t with him. Your problem is with me! Come to me. Bring your complaints to me.” I don’t think we do this enough. At least I don’t. It’s no sign of moral courage to lash out with complaints, gossip, anger or suspicion when we’ve been offended, hurt or feel threatened by another. In fact, we don’t usually even take our complaints directly to the people we’re offended by. Usually we take it to someone else, or social media. It’s my conviction that when I do this, it’s because I’ve lost sight of who can make a difference in this situation. The Bible describes a good and merciful God who is completely sovereign. If our circumstances are such that we suffer, there is freedom and comfort in taking our complaints to the one who rules over our circumstances. He may change our circumstances. He may not. But He will not leave us unchanged. He promises to use every circumstance for our good and his glory. He promises to redeem it all. So we should cry, “How long!” and “Where are you?” and “Don’t you see this evil happening?” and “What are you going to do?” We should take all our complaints to the God of the Bible and throw them his way.  There is no conspiracy where God is. He rules. And we will suffer. But if we cast our complaints on him and seek refuge in Him, we can rest.

Seek Wisdom.The thing with conspiracy theories and those who promote suspicion is there’s a claim to wisdom that the general population isn’t privy to. It’s a secret wisdom, that comes from the person claiming the masses are duped. But wisdom in the Bible is never a secret. The personification of wisdom in Proverbs cries out in the streets. She’s on the news. She’s heard. She speaks and points others to the fear of the Lord which is the beginning of wisdom. Wisdom is not suspicious, it’s, “…open to reason…” As we seek out what to do in this pandemic, submitting ourselves to earthly authorities, examining our own hearts, running to God with our concerns, we should let the spirit of wisdom guide us. And it will look like this, “wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”  (James 3:17-18)

Fight the Good Fight.  1 Timothy 6 there is a description of a person teaching false teachings when comes to the gospel. It says, “...he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions...” Although I’m sure that when I am given to suspicion, and when folks turn to conspiracy theories we may not be conscious of it, but we are spreading, perpetuating false teaching. If we find in ourselves a “craving for controversy,” it may be that we need to repent of being false teachers and turn to do the good works God created us to do. There is so much good to do. Even right now, with social distancing and in financial hardship, even more right now. The end of that passage in 1 Timothy 6 tells the man or woman of God what to do. “But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith.” (1 Timothy 6:11) There is a fight the Christian should fight. It is not over 5G, or the origin of the corona virus, or vaccines, or government structure even. Our fight should be to live by faith and in so doing we should be making disciples of Christ, not disciples of our personal beliefs about any controversial thing.

We are being tested. This pandemic has shaken our earthen vessels. And out of us has come stuff we need to clean out of our cup. May God test us, purify us and make us useful for his kingdom, overflowing with joy, even in the midst of sorrow.

Learn from my mistakes

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I’ve been married for over 26 years to a man I deeply love, a man who doesn’t love Jesus with me. Through our hard marriage, God has helped me see the error of my ways and led me in better ways when it comes to loving my husband.  This morning, one of the typical tests I’ve faced, and frequent mistake I make, came up. My husband was watching a YouTube video and said, “Hey, did you know a bunch of Christians believe the earth is flat?”

My first instinct was to roll my eyes and argue.  I didn’t think before I spoke this morning, or even pray. I just started laying into how ridiculous it was that he was getting his information about Christians from YouTube. I tried to win an argument with him and then walked away exasperated, wondering if I’d ever get to experience the joy of worshiping Jesus with the man I’ve loved since I was 17.

Here’s a married-to-an-unbeliever life hack for you: When your unbelieving spouse wants to argue with you about unimportant or controversial issues, you may be tempted to try and win an argument. Don’t do it. Jesus shows us a better way.

This morning, while I was pouting in my bedroom after arguing with my husband about faith, science, Christianity and credible resources for information, Jesus’ words came to mind.

“…as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13:35

Getting ready for today’s Thanksgiving feast, asking God, “How long?!” for the seven billionth time, God’s word gently and powerfully reminded me there is a way to love unbelievers: The way Jesus loved me!  In that passage in John, Jesus was about to suffer the condemnation of all my sin, and all his disciples’ sin in his own body, and he bent down and washed feet, even the feet of the one who would betray him. He didn’t love them by arguing with them about petty things. He loved them by serving them and bearing the pain of their sin in his body.

There is no magic argument that will win your unbelieving spouse, relative or friend to Jesus. There is no Petri dish of circumstances you can create that will grow faith in them. If your spouse or child or neighbor or friend or relative bends their knee to Christ and worships him it will be an absolute miracle. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do anything. You and I should do what Jesus leads us to do and what the Bible tells us to do and then offer up our faith and obedience to God, praying he would light it on fire, and save our loved ones.  We should follow Jesus example, and with his power at work in us, put down our arguments (even if we could win them), and instead just vulnerably love and serve the unbelievers we are in relationship with.

We must love our spouses well, and entrust them to God.

Today after confessing I’d been a jerk, I told my husband, ” I love you. I wish you believed Jesus and followed him with me. I don’t want to argue with you… What time do you want to eat our feast?!” It’s vulnerable and tender to speak the truth like that. But it’s the way Jesus loves.

Yesterday I received my copy of the winter edition of The Joyful Life Magazine: Treasure. In it, there is an article titled: Marriage: When the Yoke Is Unequal.I wrote it. Sometime in early 2020 the Daily Grace podcast will publish a podcast interview with me on this same subject.  I never wanted to grow up and be a woman who wrote and spoke about my hard marriage. I wanted to be an author, or an archaeologist. I thought I’d write children’s books or poetry or dig up old things out of the dirt. I didn’t think I’d dig up treasures out of the ashes of my life and write or speak about them. But here I am, blogging, writing and speaking about my mistakes, what I’m learning and the treasures and trials I’ve found as I bend my knee to Jesus under this unequal yoke.

I hope these blogs, articles and the coming podcast will help you follow Jesus in your circumstances. I hope they’ll give you courage.

Mothers: Tell your kids to trust the God of their mother.

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Yesterday at church my pastor taught through the story in Genesis where Jacob wrestles with “a man.”  Toward the end of the sermon he referred to the passage in Genesis 32: 9-12 where Jacob prays.

And Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O Lord who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your kindred, that I may do you good,’ I am not worthy of the least of all the deeds of steadfast love and all the faithfulness that you have shown to your servant, for with only my staff I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two camps. Please deliver me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I fear him, that he may come and attack me, the mothers with the children. But you said, ‘I will surely do you good, and make your offspring as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude. – Genesis 32:9-12

I’m raising two men. My sons are now sixteen and fourteen and everyday I wake with a burden to see them bend their knee to Jesus. I’ve approached my desire for them to know Jesus from different strategies as a parent, hoping to plant the seeds that only God can make grow. I’ve sung to them, as infants and toddlers, songs and hymns dripping with the doctrine of salvation by faith through grace. I’ve taught them Bible verses and told them Bible stories. I’ve prayed and pleaded with God, pouring out my concerns and intercessions for them. I’ve taken them to church with me and have tried to use every daily life opportunity as a teachable moment or a chance to hear their heart and learn how to pray better for them. I’ve sought God’s wisdom and have asked other parents for their help in knowing what to do in various situations. I’ve read books and blogs and articles. And as the long days and short years have flown by I continue to do the above on repeat.

I’m not sure exactly when it happened but I remember a time when I was praying and struggling to say what was on my heart and I remembered Jochebed, Moses’ mom, who placed him in a water-proof basket and put in him in the river like Pharoah decreed, hoping he would live, and I cried, “God of Jochebed, please save my sons!” It was a powerful moment. I wasn’t conjuring up some proper Christian prayer, I was drawing on the accounts of those who trusted God and acknowledging that I was calling for the help of the same God they trusted in.  It was a turnaround in my prayer life. Since then, I often call on the God of people in the Bibles who trusted God through various circumstances, as well as people in my life I’ve watched trust God when their faith was tested.

This has led to me teaching my sons to do the same. They both have expressed their doubts and questions when we’ve talked about Jesus or the Bible and their need for a savior. And in recent years I’ve found myself saying, “If you can’t believe because of what the Bible says, or what you hear at church, believe because you’ve seen me. Trust in the God of your mother. Look at my life. Look at my faith. And put your hope in the God who continually hears me and gives me hope and wisdom and a faithfulness to love others and turn from sin.”

It isn’t a strange practice, to call new or unsure believers to believe because of the witness of another person. In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians he said:

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. – 1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1 (emphasis mine).

When Paul was trying to stir up Timothy to courageous faith it’s not only Jesus he draws him to look to, but the faith of his mother and grandmother.  Hebrews 12:1 points back to chapter 11, calling the reader to look at the long history of people before them whose faith helped them endure through suffering an trials.

I am raising my sons in a post-modern, post-Christian culture with an unbelieving husband, who I love. I want to point them to Jesus, but in recent years I realize God would have them look to me to help them trust the Jesus they cannot see.  I’m calling them to follow me as I follow Christ. I’m calling them to look to a cloud of witnesses, including me, and to call on the God of their mother just like Jacob called on the God of his fathers.

It puts a holy fear in me to do this. Not a fear of not being good enough. But a fear of loosing sight of grace and ceasing to point them to Jesus. Asking my kids to trust the God of their mother means I am asking them to trust the God who called a coward like me to repentance and faith in Jesus and has provided for me, rescued me time and time again and is able to help me stand.

My faith has to be real to do this. As Moses wrote, I must love the Lord my God with all my heart, and all that Jesus has commanded must be written on my heart before I can tell my kids to follow the God of their mother (Deuteronomy 6:4-7).

Mothers, we can’t save our sons and daughters. But we can call our kids trust the God who saved us!

Sojourning

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I don’t speak the language
I don’t know their signs
But I understand their reasons
and I know what it feels like
to eat, sleep and breathe
pursuit of happiness.

I remember and still feel the draw of
that cancer, not yet fully
eradicated in me.
Something beats deeper
something I can’t explain
because there are no words
just a man.

I heard him say,
“Come to me, all you weary
and heavy burdened and I will give you
rest”
and I understood.

That language, that tongue
that love
I know it
somehow
somewhere before I was here-
I know it’s my native tongue.

He speaks my language
He is my kin
I know this man
even though I’ve never met him.

I know his words
I understand
even though I still can’t manage
to do what I know he says.

But he speaks my tongue
He gave me this voice
He is home and I am
sojourning.

Church

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You are not a well-oiled machine.
You’re a body
with heart disease
weak in the limbs
and dim in the eyes.

You’re forgetful,
and yet
time
and time again
you look to the One
who loves you with his life.

You lift your head,
revive your heart,
strengthen your limp arms
and take another step with your bad knees.

Your face lights up at his words.

You’re getting stronger.
Your heart is enduring.
Your eyes are fixed on Jesus.
And every time you start to sink
down
into
the
mire,
You cry, “Save me!”
and he rescues you
time
and time again.

And he will keep rescuing you
until you see him
and then
you’ll laugh
and leap
and shine with strength.

3 Reasons I Got Up on Sunday

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I woke up this past Sunday feeling heavy, tired and unmotivated. And honestly, I wake up that way a lot.

On the energy scale of Eeyore to Tigger, I’m a notch or two above Eeyore. And my goal when I wake up is to just make it to the coffee pot.  There, I usually catch myself spacing out, listening to the 2,000 thoughts nagging me to not forget to do this or that. When I realize I’m holding my breath, picking at the dry skin on my cuticles, I usually stop and exhale, “Have mercy on me Lord! Apart from you I can do nothing!” And I wait for some remembrance of God’s word that gives me hope.

This Sunday was like that. The 2,000 voice-secretaries reminding me of all the things drove me to plead with the Holy Spirit to remind me exactly why I get up on Sunday mornings early to go to church, sing with toddlers and hear the preaching of God’s word.  This Sunday Moses came to mind.

In Deuteronomy 6, Moses reminds the people of God’s command to love him with all they are and to teach His ways to their children. And then in verse 20 through 23 it says:

When your son asks you in time to come, ‘What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the rules that the Lord our God has commanded you?’ then you shall say to your son, ‘We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt. And the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. And the Lord showed signs and wonders, great and grievous, against Egypt and against Pharaoh and all his household, before our eyes. And he brought us out from there, that he might bring us in and give us the land that he swore to give to our fathers.” -Deuteronomy 6:20-23

This is what came to mind on Sunday when I couldn’t remember why I was up.

As a mom, kids ministry leader and member of my local church, I am responsible for more than myself. I’m responsible for those looking to me for leadership and the why behind what we do.  And if I don’t have the why bubbling up out of me, I’m not going to be able to lead them in the why.  That’s basically what Moses told the people. He told them first they had to love the Lord their God with all their heart; they had to have all God had done had for them on their hearts before they could ever teach it to their children.

As parents and leaders and members of the body of Christ, we need to know the why behind what we do so we can cast a vision for our kids and those we serve and minister to.  Moses’ instruction in this passage in Dueteronomy is a good guide for remembering the why.

First, the reason we have church services, and small groups and classes for kids, and talk about the gospel, and the way of Jesus with our kids when we sit, walk and drive is because we were once slaves. Not in Egypt like the Israelites, but to sin. I was once a slave to my appetites that lead to death. But now I’m free. That’s why I gather with the local church corporately and in small groups and teach preschoolers the name of Jesus and talk with my kids about the love of Christ on the way to school.

Second, the reason we sing, and pray, and raise our hands, and clap, and celebrate special days, and have devotions with our kids despite the multiple interruptions and inconveniences is because the Lord brought us out of slavery to sin into the freedom of the children of God by the mighty act of bearing our sin in his body on a tree; absorbing the condemnation coming our way. That’s why we worship. Because Jesus has done a scandalously gracious thing for us.

Third, the reason we make plans, live missionally, seeking to lead others to Christ is because God has shown us his faithfulness. We’ve seen him change our hearts and give us new desires. We’ve tasted of his goodness and experienced his love. That’s why we plan special outreaches, and make phone calls to meet with strangers who are becoming friends about Jesus. That’s why we make a big deal out of the resurrection and invite our friends to follow Jesus with us. Because we’ve tasted, and we’ve seen that the Lord, he is good.

And we press on through our lives, and as a church throughout history, moving forward in the race set before us, eyes fixed on Jesus, looking for the day when he makes all things new, because He promised he would never leave us or forsake us. He promised to give us all we need to do what he calls us to. He promised to return. And we believe him.

Submission to others as a child of God

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Who do you submit to?

I know, it’s a weird thought isn’t it? Uncomfortable. I feel defensive as soon as I ask it. “I don’t submit to anyone!” Is my instinctual reaction. But it’s really not true. We all submit to other people in our lives. If we didn’t, anarchy would reign.

We all do it, but we don’t like it

The truth is we all submit ourselves to someone else throughout our lives. When we’re children we submit to our parents’ rules. In our relationships with spouse or friends one or the other yields to the other person at different times in the relationship. When we drive, live in our HOA-governed neighborhoods, engage in learning in school or college we submit to the lawmakers, teachers, police officers, etc.

Even though it’s irrefutable- we all submit to other people in our lives- we don’t like it! We’re always resisting authority, from the time we’re two, learning what mom means when she says, “No!”, to the way we speed down the highway disregarding the posted limit, looking out for those blue and red lights so we can slow down before they catch us. Submission to others is an unwelcome, necessary part of life for there to be order and peace.

Authority abuse

But what about when the authorities are using their power to impose a law or rule or requirement on us that we know is wrong? Where do we get the sense that what they’re asking is wrong? Where do we get our sense of what’s just and right?  As a Christian, I believe that we all have this sense of right and wrong within us because we are the Imago Dei ones. We were made in the image of God, and the moral goodness of God is imprinted on our souls. But it’s also marred. We know that even those in positions of authority do what’s wrong and impose oppressive wrongs on those under their authority. And we ourselves display the same brokenness we see in the authorities we call out and rale against.

As a Christian, submission is a word tainted in my mind by the evil we all at times display. As my old pastor used to say, I wish I could reach in my brain through my ear and erase all the old input about what submission means. I can’t do that, but I wonder if you’d look at John 13 with me to see what submission really means, and what, as a Christian it should look like.

Christ the submitting King

In John 13, Jesus is hours from facing the authorities who will mock, beat and finally kill him. In a room where his disciples have gathered to remember the old, old story about how God had delivered their people from slavery with the blood of the lamb on their homes and angry Pharaoh and his army chasing them to the sea, it says Jesus did something that blew his disciples’ minds. He washed their feet.

They thought they knew who he was. He was the long-awaited Messiah, the King of Israel, the Anointed Son of God come to save his people just like Moses had all those years before out of Egypt, only now, from the Romans. They believed he was THE king. And there was their king, getting on the floor with water, basin and towel, washing their grimy feet. And while he was down there on the floor, the King of Heaven, who made their feet, and knew the evil in their hearts, exposed Peter, and called out his betrayer. There, each disciple wondered if it was them their King was calling out. The knew they were a broken bunch. There, Judas, who Jesus made, Jesus washed, and sent to do the deed that would lead to Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion.

Jesus knew who he was when he performed this jaw-dropping act of submission- washing feet and exposing his disciples’ sinful hearts. In the first verses of John 13 it says:

“Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father… Jesus knowing that the father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet…” John 13:1-5

Jesus knew his hour had come to submit himself to rulers who were going to kill him. He knew impulsive Peter was going to deny him. He knew Judas would betray him and kill himself. He knew all of his disciples would run away from the scandal he was about to become. He also knew he had all authority. He knew no one could really take his life from him or take away his position as Son of God through denial or betrayal or abandonment. He knew God was doing something greater than letting his son be killed. He knew he was the resurrection and the life.

This is submission. And this is what Christian submission should look like.

It really has nothing to do with women, as many in church history and abusive male authorities have taught. It has nothing to do with sex, rank, class, pedigree or geography. It has everything to do with Christ. The broken way we all begrudgingly submit to others and look for ways to avoid submitting, vying for the right to put ourselves in the position with someone under us, is not what God does. It’s what we do in our sinful selves. But Jesus came to show us what it really looks like to submit to others. And the Holy Spirit came to empower us to submit to others like Jesus did.

We who believe Jesus is the Christ, placing our hope in his atoning death and resurrection for being made right with God- we are children of God! We are not slaves. We are not victims of our circumstances.

Just as Jesus stood in that room of disciples, knowing who he was, where he came from, where he was going and out of that confidence in the Father, lowered himself under those he could have destroyed at his command, we, children of God must know who we are. We must know where we came from and where we’re going and lower ourselves. And in the lowering, we must expose wickedness and evil with the humility and power Jesus did.

Submission is not turning a blind eye to oppressive authority. It’s not passive piety. It’s not Pilate-like refusal to do what’s right. It’s not a wife thinking she has no voice in her marriage or church because she’s a woman. It’s not enabling a man to think he has the right to rule because he’s male. Submission is Christlikeness. Submission to others like Christ trusts God, obeys God, gets low to lift others up, expose dirt and sends out the evil from its midst because it knows God is in control and will not abandon us.

So child of God, who are you submitting yourself to?

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil… giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. –  Ephesians 5:15,20