As a mother of strong-willed toddlers, I was instructed to “pick your battles.” Now, as a mother of strong-willed teenagers, I still follow this instruction. Having held a full-time job as “Ultimate Enabler” while working a part-time position in the field of “Keep the Peace and Sweep it Under the Rug,” I usually base my “picking” on what will produce the least painful and uncomfortable response.
The battle I chose not to pick this past summer was the battle of “asking my son to turn off his rap music while driving.” As I was navigating my way through a season of parenting that made the hours I spent at Chuck E Cheese look like a Bermuda vacation, asking my son to turn off what was downright offensive meant risking the ounce of peace I was desperate for. What can I say? I was weary. I had no fight left in me. “I can tune it out and pray the rosary,” I thought. I reasoned that God understood I simply did not have the emotional capacity to fight over something so...trivial. Were the song lyrics written by the devil? I am certain. Was the music good for my son's heart, mind and soul? Not so much. Did approving of such a thing contradict my morals, and all the good I am called to model for my children? You bet. So, you might be wondering, why on earth did I allow it?
Because, sometimes? Sometimes my own moral compass is easier to follow than God's.
I think we all know the difference between good and evil. But wouldn't you agree that at some point, our knowledge of right and wrong will be put to the test? Our culture certainly has its own set of standards, and all too often I convince myself that if I only compromise once in a while it's not such a big deal. Surely there are more extreme evils in the world than this. I figure God must understand.
And I am right.
God does understand.
But understanding is not the same as approving.
And He more than understands...He sees and knows exactly what I am doing.
What am I doing?
Dancing with the gray zone.
I want so badly to take credit for coining this phrase, but the truth is, it is taken from a quote by author Lisa Brenninkmeyer, out of her Bible study, Beholding His Glory. A study I am having difficulty putting down because it is just that good. She writes, “So often we dance with what we consider to be the gray zone. These are the little things that we know aren't particularly good, but we doubt whether we really need to take them seriously.” (1)
I do this, and maybe you do, too. I nominate myself to be my own moral compass because I think I know better. Because I do not believe the consequences matter. My standards are a whole lot easier to live up to than God's standards. And in the moment, it works. I drove miles by my son's side, listening to the catchy song that, ironically, began with the lyric, “I got standards…” and we arrived to our destination with minimal argument and discomfort. So what's the big deal? If it cost us nothing and gained us peace, I ask...who cares?
God, who endured much pain, fear, and discomfort, all in the name of carrying my shame, so that I wouldn't have to.
That's who cares.
And you know what?
Deep down in my core, I care, too.
And the only way I know to fix this; to stop justifying unholiness, to stop sweeping supposedly small things under the rug is to “sit in the presence of the One who knows and loves you deeply, and to allow Him to reveal to you the areas of where compromise is costing you.” (2)
Because we are compromising, it does come with cost, and we need to start trusting in His definition of good and evil, throwing away our own. The only way to arrive at this place of trust is to stop believing the world's perception of who God is and allow God's Word to tell us who He is. We need to marinate ourselves in Scripture and get to know personally and intimately this God who we are assured to never fully understand, but who proves His faithfulness over and over again. We need to stop avoiding fear, pain and the uncomfortable, and embrace every bit of it, just as He did for us. If you find yourself doubting in God's promises; if you believe that your sin can provide a better life for you than God can, if you find yourself dancing with the gray zone, please take this as a gentle and loving, but serious warning, and make this the very moment you turn things around. Make this be the day you evaluate the standards you live by.
I finally told my son that we would no longer be listening to his music in the car; that I, like the rap artist, had standards...God's standards...and he needed to respect them. And I know this will sound silly, but it was a hard thing to do. I was afraid that by my rejecting his music, he would think I was rejecting him. But if there is one thing I can promise you, any decision made out of fear is going to be the wrong decision. I can also promise you that God never asks us to do anything hard on our own. He is with us every single step of the way and He knows we don't always understand the why, but He asks us to trust, anyway. He loves us so deeply. If you ever question this, might I suggest you take a long, hard look at the cross. Those are our sins, our nails, our crown, our tears. Christ took our shame so we won't have to hide. And He never counted the cost. So living by His standards? Not always easy. But always worth it.
And we continue to drive. To the tune of silence, down unmarked roads, dancing out of the gray zone, and back into the light.
Your Sister in Christ,
P.S. In what area of your life do you find it hardest to accept as good what God has called good, and as evil what He has called evil? How often do you stop and listen to the reasons behind God's perspective on it? I highly suggest picking up a copy of Beholding His Glory to delve into these topics. While you are at it, go on and listen to the playlist that goes along with the study - music that is good for your soul and meets God's standards!
1 Lisa Brenninkmeyer, Walking With Purpose, Beholding His Glory (2010-2016), p. 24
2 Lisa Brenninkmeyer, Walking With Purpose, Beholding His Glory (2010-2016), p. 25
This month, I wanted to share with you a second excerpt from the Beholding His Glory talk that I gave at the WWP Leadership Conference in August. This is the second part of a two part reflection, so if you missed Part I, feel free to check it out on our website here: https://walkingwithpurpose.com/august-2013-reflection/
In Part I, I discussed what “Less of me and more of God” means in my personal life. The following excerpt describes a third area where God is working in me. “Less of me and more of God” has meant less self-sufficiency, less approval seeking, and…
Less accumulation and consumption.
Excess. My life is saturated with excess. I sometimes wonder how long my family could live on the food in our pantry. The supply never seems to go down. There's always a stockpile, yet we still manage to say that we're hungry and we can't find anything to eat. Dinner is served and too much of it ends up in the garbage. My closet is full of clothes but there are times that I can't find anything to wear, at least not the right thing to wear, and to me, the two seem like the same thing. We can barely move around in our storage room in the basement because it's loaded with things that I might need at some point, and I'd better keep, just in case.
I read Jesus' words in the gospel, telling the rich young ruler to go and sell everything he has and give it to the poor, and make myself feel better by saying that he didn't say that to everyone, so he must not mean me. “Please,” I whisper, “May that not mean me.”
Why do I pad my life with too many possessions? Why do I panic at the thought of letting the excess go?
Where is my security found? A convicting thought - one that has been niggling at my heart for some time.
And ladies, most of us are in this boat. Most of us are wealthy by the world's standards. Do you make $35,000 a year? Then you are in the top 4 percent of wealth in the world. $50,000? Top 1 percent.
In the words of Jen Hatmaker,
Excess has impaired perspective in America; we are the richest people on earth, praying to get richer. We're tangled in unmanageable debt while feeding the machine, because we feel entitled to more. What does it communicate when half the global population lives on less than $2 a day, and we can't manage a fulfilling life on twenty-five thousand times that amount? Fifty thousand time that amount? It says we have too much, and it is ruining us.
God got a hold of her heart, and her husband's heart, and led them to a radical change. They are following the command in Scripture to “love your neighbor as yourself,” and give away half of what they make. They decided to adopt two children from Ethiopia. Jen wrote a book called 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, based on a seven month experiment where she fasted from one thing each month. During the month when she focused on food, she made a commitment to only eat seven foods and fast from the rest. One particular night, she had made dinner for herself, and then fried up some fish for her kids. These were her three biological children, because she was still waiting for the adoptions to go through. Two of her children were in Ethiopia that night. She went upstairs to do laundry while they ate. When she came back down, they were done with dinner and watching television.
She asked, “Did you finish eating already?”
“Did you eat everything?”
She went to the trashcan and saw five of the six fish fillets uneaten, even unbitten. When the kids saw her face, they mumbled, “We didn't have any ketchup.”
And tonight, my kids here with me in the land of plenty threw away a pound of food because they didn't have ketchup…I wept for all my children tonight, my Ethiopian children orphaned by disease or hunger or poverty who will go to bed with no mother tonight and my biological children who will battle American complacency and overindulgence for the rest of their lives. I don't know who I feel worse for.
God has convicted my heart about this. And honestly, I don't know exactly what to do about it. I don't know what the solution is. But step one for me is calling it what it is and asking for God's forgiveness. Step two is going on right now. I'm daily praying with Leo that God will show us what needs to change so that we are seeking His glory with too many possessions instead of our glory and security.
He hasn't yet given us the answer, but I know that He will. And I also know that although letting go is hard, what God places in our hands in exchange is always better.
But even if I knew specifically what God is calling my family to, I don't know that I would share it here. Not because I don't trust you. It's more because I think we love formulas, and it would be just too tempting for everyone to assume that what God is asking of me is what He's asking of you. And that's not how it works. God speaks to each one of us, personally. The path to holiness isn't created with a cookie cutter. Each one of us is unique, and God has a special plan and a purpose for each one of His children.
But one thing I do know, He wants all of us to behold His glory, to know the fullness of Who He is. He wants every one of us to want Him more than we want anything else.
Matthew 6:21 says,
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
And I want my heart to belong to Him.
 Jen Hatmaker, 7 (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group 202), 21.
 Ibid, 22.