Tuesday, September 3, 2013

From Strength to Strength

I am coming to terms with the fact that I am an extremist. And not in the way where I have a bomb-shelter in my basement, but more so in the speaking sense.

I over state. A lot. I come from a long line of exaggerators. So, why not blame it on the gene pool?

If my daughter has a cough, I worry that it may be pneumonia and say, "I feel like she has been sick forever. When will this end?"

If my son loses his cool in public, I assume he must be suffering from severe starvation since he had only eaten a raisin that day. "I wonder if he needs a feeding tube?"

Blech. I'm so embarrassing to myself.

If I am overwhelmed, I think I will always feel overwhelmed.

Words like always and forever creep into my daily dialogue without much intentional thought. I'm just trying to prove a point, right? I think,  I do feel like I am always cleaning ketchup off the table. I do feel like I may never go to the bathroom alone. I do wonder if my legs will forever be partially unshaved since I rush out of the shower to comfort a child after his nap.

And I know that when I finally have fully-shaven legs, I will miss running out of the shower to comfort a child after his nap.

This morning I read an amazing verse in Psalms. I have had a love affair with these passages since I was young, but somehow I feel like I have never read this before:

Blessed are those whose strength is in you,  in whose heart are the highways to Zion. As they go through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools.

They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion.

The NIV of the Bible, explains the highway to Zion as a "pilgrimage". I would think that this means our lives' pilgrimage. The steps we take everyday towards missionally loving our family, friends, enemies, and strangers.  The steps we take towards solidifying the truth about who God is in our everyday lives. Becoming more like Jesus, and yet understanding that perfection was never a part of his plan.

As a young mom with two kids, I can say that my heart's highway has been speeding past at 100mph lately. New jobs, new school classes, new baby, and that some old sleep. I wake up feeling weak. And I am not very coy about sharing those feelings.

But absolutes are so very different than feelings. And God in his wisdom gave us a Spirit that can take us from strength to strength. He can lead us through a valley flooded with replenishment. A rain-soaked Savior in the middle of an insanely thirsty life.

My tendency to complain about my circumstances to the max, shows a very big tear in my faith. It shows me where I don't believe He is strong enough. It reveals that I believe my weakness is all I have in moments that try me. I let my emotions run away with my words.

Instead, I should focus on letting His words run away with my heart.

He takes us from strength to strength.

 I want my heart to hold the highways to Zion inside of it, and in order to train my heart to feel differently about my everyday circumstances I need to use my words to speak truth instead of lies.

But its not always the bad circumstances I am trying to manage, it's the good ones too.

Honestly, sometimes I am afraid to speak of the joy I feel in my life for fear that I am not "trying" hard enough for my faith. Wow, that is such an elementary Christian 'no-no' right? And yet, I still struggle with the idea of Christian hedonism (in the words of John Piper). I still wax and wane about my personal belief that God wants us to live life to the fullest- in JOY.

And not just churchy joy because of a successful altar call or a speaking in tongues translation- I am talking about life-giving joy. Joy because of great sex with my godly husband. Joy in wine tasting (not slurping) among gorgeous vineyards. Joy in eating amazing food and in seeing amazing the places He created. Joy in funny conversations and snuggles in cashmere blankets.

We aren't talking about a bland, I'll skip-the-butter-on-my-bread type-of-false-joy. We are talking about a real Jesus-drenched joy lavishly given us on the cross. Its the very joy that everyone wants, but can't find. It's that nagging dissatisfaction that is poured into buying functional gods with extended warranties that go out of style or lose their sparkle after we've lost interest.

You see, I need to relish in the beautiful days. I need to be quick to speak about the joy, and the gifts as often as I am about the struggle. I need to speak unabashedly about those moments when my heart twists in joyful pain over the laugh of my baby girl, the holding of my husband's hand, or the cuddle of my precious son. I need to remind myself that He is leading me from strength to strength.

He wants us to experience the joy of living fully in Him- which means that our weaknesses are made strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

He has the biggest tears in our faith covered. They are covered with a blood-soaked fragment of cloth that will always and forever be all we need to live in the land of plenty and resplendent joy.

We're in this together,

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