Monday, September 15, 2014

Waiting for the Promised Land

I've struggled with fear and anxiety all of my Christian life. In many ways it seems that when I conquer one fear, another one is lurking in the shadows. Fear is my constant enemy. I've often thought that the constant refrain of my soul is "Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief!" This is my heart's cry as I seek daily to do battle with my ever present fears.

I just finished reading the book of Joshua. As the book came to a close for me, my fears were confronted with this comforting truth:
And the Lord gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the Lord had given all their enemies into their hands. Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass (Joshua 21:44-45).
After years of wandering, failing, and being carried by God to the land he had promised, these words came true. I imagine as the people of Israel embarked on the conquest of Canaan, and now faced the prospect of entering this unknown land, many fears could arise. But here we see that in the midst of it God is keeping his promises. Every word he spoke to their fathers proved true. Every promise he made to them from the calling of Abraham, to the fleeing of Egypt, to the wandering in the desert, not one word fell to the ground.

So what does this have to do with my fears? I have no word from the Lord about deliverance from what ails me. I have no promise that I will be freed from circumstances that terrify me. I don't know that tomorrow will go better than today, or that my children will come to faith in Christ, or that my husband and I will live to see our grandchildren. I am not an Israelite and I do not have those promises passed on to me from my parents.

But do I?

In Christ I have been given a great inheritance. I may not have promises of earthly deliverance, like the Israelites did. But I have a better one. Through Christ, God is making a people for himself today in the same way that he was in Joshua's day. Through Christ, He is keeping his word to his children in the same way he kept his word to the Israelites, but even more so. Through Christ, I have the reward of eternal life, the promise that while my earthly life may not materialize into everything I hope it to be, my heavenly one will surpass my wildest imaginations. Like the Israelites in the wilderness, I have yet to reach the Promised Land. God's promise to sustain me on my sojourn is just as real as it was for them. God's promise to give me a land of rest and glory is just as real as it was for them. Like them, I must wait for that Promised Land and trust that it is coming. But I also have something better than what they had. They had the tradition passed down from their fathers through the Law, I have the promised Son who intercedes for me and makes me like himself every day. This is my assurance that this promise is coming for me, too. Christ is my guarantee that this is not all there is.

So where do I go when my fears assail me? To Jesus, the one who purchased me with his very blood and daily lives and pleads for me before the throne of grace. He knows my fears and knows that they are not the final word on my life. I am a pilgrim on this journey, like the Israelites of old. Every word that God has spoken will be true in my life because God can only be true to himself. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

What I Missed About Work

The subject of work and how our faith relates to our vocation has been a topic of much conversation in our home lately. In a lot of ways, these two articles (for TGC and Boundless) are the fruit of those conversations. Daniel has sensed God's leading to stay within his current vocation (as a lay pastor and salesman) and I have wrestled with the implications of it all.

But more importantly, our thinking, praying, and crying (mostly me) through all of these issues has caused me to reflect on my current vocation (as a mom, wife, and writer) and also on my previous ones. If I am truly honest about the past, I was an unfaithful worker in my twenties. I may have shown up on time, completed my work, and even gone above and beyond sometimes, but my heart wasn't in it. I had an unbiblical disconnect between my role as an image bearer and the nature of work. I thought if I wasn't doing something really valuable (like saving orphans in Africa or teaching a bible study) I wasn't really doing anything at all. I saw my work in the secular market as a means to an end, and I had little respect for people who did such work for the rest of their lives. As Daniel has moved towards his current profession, I have been forced to move along with him. And it's been really good for me. I have grown to see his work (and ultimately my own) as valuable not necessarily because he is evangelizing everyone he meets, but because he is working faithfully in his job, thus reflecting his role as an image bearer.

This has had a profound effect on how I view my current vocation as a stay-at-home mom. While there are two little people who depend on me for their constant care, it is easy to see my work as meaningless. Because there are no tangible markers for how I am doing, I can easily neglect certain responsibilities or fail to work hard because no one really is evaluating me at the end of the day. But I also can see my work as having little value, because I don't bring in the bulk of our family's income or get feedback on my work. Besides the occasional hug or kiss, the most return I get on my work in my home is a peanut butter hand print on my clean windows or syrup in my hair. But it is still work, and it still demands my faithfulness.

Understanding the value of work that is directly related to my role as an image bearer shapes the way I work. I work not just as "unto the Lord", but also as a representative of my Lord on this earth. When my kids see me work on their behalf, for the benefit of my church, or for the good of a friend in need, I hope they see a small glimpse (albeit very flawed) of the creative goodness of our God.

This is what I missed in my twenties. I thought work was all about me and my personal fulfillment. I didn't see the people in the cubicles around me as recipients of my faithful work. I just wanted out of the cubicle. I wanted to be in a place where real good was happening, not some corporate environment. And I regret that.

My prayer for my thirties, and beyond, is that I would joyfully embrace whatever work God sees fit to give me, not necessarily because it fulfills every need I have, but because work is a good gift to God's people, his image bearers. We work to reflect his glory. We work to create and cultivate like he does. We work to make much of him as the author and giver of every good thing--even the fruits of our labors.

Now if you will excuse me, I need to get to work.

If you want to read more about how God has been shaping our understanding of work, you can read this interview Daniel did with The Gospel Coalition. It's really helpful, but I am a little biased!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Time is Never Enough

When we were at seminary, we regularly sang the hymn "Soldiers of Christ, in Truth Arrayed." The hymn, written for the first graduation ceremony of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, is moving and these lines have always stuck with me:

"We meet to part, but part to meet."

It's a fitting song for a seminary setting. Students are transient. You make friends with fellow students only to say "goodbye" a few years later, likely never to see each other again.

My parents were here visiting this past week, and like every time we are all together, we always think the time really is too short. "If only we had a few more days," we say. Except this time we did have a few more days. My mom and dad stayed longer than they both had ever stayed together (with the exception of my mom practically moving in after the twins were born!). When we go to their house for Christmas, we tack on an extra day with the hopes that maybe this time the time spent together will feel sufficient, like we aren't saying our goodbyes before we even get started.

But it never does. And this time I was struck by the fact that no amount of time will ever feel like enough. We could spend the next month together and still cry with the same amount of sadness when the time to go our separate ways arrives. Because it's not about the time. It's about the relationships. The more you love someone the more you want to be around them. I love my family, so naturally I enjoy their company. I will always feel like our time is cut short because of the nature of our relationship. But it's also more than that. The deep ache I felt as I watched their car drive away on Tuesday morning is pointing to something deep within my soul. I wasn't made for such departures. As a human being, created in God's image, I was made for relationship--relationships that aren't hindered by the distance of time or place. Every goodbye with my family and friends is reminding me that there is a day coming where there will be no more tears or departures.

The time will never feel like enough because it really isn't enough. The fellowship I experience with my parents is a sweet foretaste of the eternal fellowship I will experience with my heavenly Father. So I will cry. I will be sad. I will ache and miss them with each passing day. And I will look forward to the next time I get to see their faces in the flesh.