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Sometimes I come across a gospel story that doesn’t make sense to me. I can read it over and over again and listen to explanations, but something about it doesn’t click. Jesus often spoke in parables and veiled language to His followers. Two thousand years later, it’s easy for me to find my head spinning as I try to figure out what He was saying. 

One story has left me perplexed for years. It comes from Matthew 8: 

Now when Jesus saw great crowds around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. A scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:18–20) 

A scribe approaches Jesus and tells Him, “I will go wherever you go,” and how does Jesus respond? He doesn’t say, “Welcome, good servant,” or “Are you sure you have considered the ramifications of your decision to follow me?” He doesn’t seem to acknowledge the scribe’s statement at all. Instead, He gives this vague response: “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head.”

As many times as I have read that paragraph, I have never been able to grasp what Jesus was trying to say. Jesus did have somewhere to lay His head. He camped with His apostles, and villagers often hosted Him and His followers as they traveled. So what did He mean? 

Last week, I was sitting with this passage—confused yet again—but this time I kept reading. The story following this encounter is called “Jesus Calms the Storm At Sea.” 

And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O men of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him.” (Matthew 8:23–27)

It was that first sentence, verse 23, that unlocked everything. I had never caught it before. “And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him.” The disciples obediently followed Jesus. They followed Him directly into a storm. The experience of the storm wasn’t a byproduct of their decision to follow Jesus—it was directly because of it. 

Jesus gives us a sober understanding of the stakes of following Him in both passages. When Jesus told the scribe in Matthew 8:20, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head,” He wanted the scribe to understand that following Him would lead only to Himself, nowhere else. Yes, following Christ can lead to a great adventure, but the adventure isn't the point. The point, the end goal, is that we get Jesus. When Jesus led the disciples into the storm, He wanted them to understand that even in utter darkness, even when we don't feel His presence, He is right there. He never leaves. He is always faithful.

Our current society likes to attach many other promises to Christianity. We are told that our lives will be easier if we follow Jesus. We are told that following Christ will lead to comfort and financial prosperity. Even if we don't explicitly believe these messages, they seep into our culture, and inadvertently, we begin to think that life should be easy for Christians. None of this is true. We will easily be fooled by these messages if we aren’t careful. We will then find ourselves only willing to follow Jesus if He leads us where we want to go—toward our preferred way of living. We will walk away from Him the moment the journey becomes difficult or we find ourselves in uncharted territory. 

But Jesus never promised us an easy life; He promised us abundant life. John 10:10 says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” So what is the abundant life? It’s Jesus. That’s it. Him. All of Him—nothing more, nothing less. 

And so, dear sister, put yourself in the shoes of the scribe and the disciples as we encounter them in Matthew 8. There is a good chance that if you are reading this, you have a desire to follow Jesus. Are you willing to follow Him if, in the end, you only get Him? Do you have the courage to let go of your life’s expectations and let Him have complete control? Will you follow Him wherever He leads you, for better or worse? 

At many moments, for me, the answer is no. In my heart of hearts, I know my commitment waivers. I have expectations for my version of the abundant life that I refuse to release so He can give me His abundant life. I'm afraid of the storm into which He may lead me, so I withhold my love from Him. I sit comfortably in my curated Christian life while He beckons me to go deeper. 

Years ago, I sat with a very holy priest who told me, “Mallory, I see in you that you could be a great lady. When situations get messy and people start to fight and gossip about each other, I see you as having the ability to rise above it—to live on a different level. You could be that lady, but you are not that great lady yet.” 

I am not that great lady yet because I haven’t yet chosen Jesus over everything else. But what if I did? How much more would I know Him? How much more would I love Him? How much more peace would I experience in my own life if I just gave Him a total yes. I would become that great lady. I wouldn’t necessarily be a wealthy lady, a famous lady, a successful lady, or even a popular lady. I’m not opposed to any of these things, but more than these things, I want to become a great lady. One who dared to follow Jesus wherever He led, so that in the end, I would receive Him as my prize.  

So what is holding you back? If you find that you can only get so far in your faith, maybe it’s time to let go of something. Perhaps it’s time to go all in, no matter where He leads. Because in the end, He is the abundant life. It is He who leads us. He makes us great, and life with Him is all that matters. 

 

Last year my husband and I went on a marriage retreat. During one of the sessions, the retreat leaders performed an illustration. They asked a couple to go up to the front of the room and stand back to back. One leader asked each partner to describe what they saw. The wife said she saw windows, a snack table, and an audience. The husband said he saw a white board. The leader looked at us and said, “Two people can be standing in the same place and see completely different things. It is your job to seek understanding so that you can move forward in unity.” 

It was a great illustration, but I found myself with questions: What if the couple cannot come to an understanding? What if both are convinced the other is wrong? Can they still choose to be unified in action? The answer, for the most part, is yes. The couple standing back to back can still move together in unison—for example, doing a jumping jack. It is possible to have different perspectives, or even vehemently disagree, and still commit to working together. 

This brings me to the biggest Supreme Court decision of my lifetime. 

A little over a week ago, the Supreme Court caused an earthquake when it released the Dobbs vs. Jackson decision which overturned Roe vs. Wade. I know that you, like me, have seen the public response, heard the sound bites and seen the memes, and are processing your own strong feelings about this decision. 

Walking with Purpose reaches 50,000 women a year. Each is made uniquely in God’s image and is irreplaceably different from the other. Each is a work in progress―an imperfect woman who God is patiently leading into deeper holiness. The women who read our blogs, order our devotionals, and dive into our Bible studies are at different places in their faith journey and search for God. And much of the time, they stand in similar places and see totally different things.

The Catholic Church clearly states, “Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains forever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being.”[1] 

Many committed Catholic women know the Church’s stance on abortion and disagree. My reason for writing is not to attempt to argue for the Church’s position. I am very happy to do that but not in this post. My reason for writing is to explore how women of goodwill, who have come to different conclusions regarding this matter, can still act together in Christian unity to uphold the sacredness of life in society. Can it be done? I declare that it must be done! So where do we start?

One of the more productive internet conversations concerning a post-Roe world has revolved around how the government can better support families. Some are calling for legislation requiring fathers to become financially responsible for their children during the mother’s pregnancy by paying for a portion of the medical bills and child support. I have seen others advocating for better policies around paid family leave. Still others say that if we are going to support working mothers better, the government should provide universal pre-k. 

These are the beginnings of great discussions that will hopefully lead to government policy that better supports marriage and family. But the love of Christ compels us to not wait for the government’s permission. We are His hands and feet, and it is time to lean into Christ’s mission with our entire beings. We have been given an opportunity to use our money, our time, and our energy to support mothers at every stage of life, and to create local communities that make it easier for families to thrive. It is here that I believe that women with good intentions, who desire to live for God, can come together no matter how they feel about the Supreme Court’s decision.  

So here are five things you can do right now that can help families in your local community: 

Examine the way you speak about motherhood and family
“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone.”[2] Marriage and family is most spoken about in a negative manner. Not only is it discouraging to those who are trying to raise children, it convinces others that marriage and parenthood are not worth the hardship.

We are called to speak about marriage and family as the blessing that it is. Does that mean we shouldn't be honest? Of course not. But take a moment to examine how you speak about marriage and family. How can you speak with joy about these gifts and start to change the societal tone? 

Invest in your own marriage and children
The Catholic Church calls the family the domestic church. “It is a community of faith, hope, and charity; it assumes singular importance in the Church, as is evident in the New Testament.”[3] Many people, however, did not experience family the way that it should be experienced. Let it be different with your family. Take time to invest in your marriage. Work to create a family culture of love and security where each member can experience love, joy, and security while being challenged to grow in maturity.

Offer to help the families in your church and your neighborhood
“Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”[4] 

If you do not have children or your children are out of the house, I invite you to think of a family that you might be able to help. Perhaps you could help with errands, meal planning, or babysit for a few hours a week so a mom can get a bit of space without having to pay a ton of money for childcare. Motherhood is an incredible gift. It can also be unspeakably hard. You might be able to lighten the load for a mother in your church or neighborhood. 

Donate and volunteer at your local pregnancy center
“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”[5]

For many women, a positive pregnancy test leaves them in despair. They aren’t married and feel they don’t have the resources to raise a child. There are many nonprofits that exist to help these women. Most need donations and volunteers. Jesus calls us to care for these women and offer them hope in their despair. Let us answer that call and give our help where it is needed. 

Pray about foster care or adoption
I recently heard about a church in Florida whose congregants emptied the foster care rolls in their county. Can you even believe that? That is radical love, and it comes with a high cost. As Christians, we are called to embrace that cost if the Lord is calling us to this kind of love. Some of us are being called to step up and consider adoption or foster care. I invite you to pray about it and answer that call if it is you! 

I know many of us might disagree passionately, but we are still the Church—broken and beautiful. These are only a few suggestions. Go to God and ask Him how He wants you to be His light to the world. Then, go and be that light. 

[1] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2258.
[2] Colossians 4:6
[3] CCC 2204
[4] Galatians 6:2
[5] James 1:27

 

At six o'clock this morning, I rolled out of bed and sleepily made my way to the coffee maker. I poured my coffee, as I do every day, and settled into my favorite chair. It was prayer time—my favorite time of day. As usual, I began to fall back asleep in the middle of my prayer. Instead of dreaming, however, my mind began to mull over a million tiny grievances that others have committed against me. I am not talking about deep-seated anger or long-harbored grudges, but rather, small annoyances that come from the dirty cup left out by my husband or the imperfectly worded text from a friend. It's these offenses that leave me thinking, "Doesn't he know that I like to wake up to a clean kitchen?" Or, "Doesn't she know that a quick phone call would have solved this problem?" By the end of my prayer time, before anyone else in my house is even awake, I am trying to work my way out of a bad mood. So much for holiness. I guess I'll try again tomorrow. 

Can you relate? It's not that you are always mad or even seeking to hold an action against someone; it's just that you often think that someone else could have been more considerate or accommodating to your needs. If they had just tweaked their words or actions by the smallest degree, they would have met your expectations, and all would have been well. But they didn't, and now you are going through life experiencing low-grade grumpiness because of all the people who didn't meet your secret expectations and desires perfectly.

Dear sister, if this is you, there is no judgment. It is clearly me, too. We live in a culture that teaches us to be easily offended. Now, please don't misread this. I am not talking about the issues of justice and equity that ignite a passion in us all. That is not what this post is about. I am talking about small offenses. Most of us go from day to day slightly offended by the family member who said the wrong thing, the friend who forgot to call, the coworker that didn't communicate properly, and the rude coffee shop barista. 

Why is it that every imperfect interaction has the power to pick and prod at our confidence and flare up our entitlement? Genesis 11 reveals to us the root of this problem. The people of the ancient world came together and said in Genesis 11:4, "Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the sky, and so make a name for ourselves; otherwise, we will be scattered all over the earth." The Lord then saw the city and the tower. He got angry, confused their language, and scattered the people across the earth. 

Where did the people go wrong? They came together and said, "Let us make a name for ourselves." In their effort to seek out the greatness of their own names, they turned their gaze away from God and His glory. They bought the lie that humanity is the center of the universe, and it is our glory that should be sought at all costs. They failed to see that it was God who gave them their place in life, and they turned their heads away from Him to focus on themselves. Their desires and expectations became the main focus. Romans 1:25 explains it this way: "They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and revered and worshiped the creature rather than the creator." 

Part of our problem is that we have the choice to make God the center of our universe (the truth) or make ourselves the center of the universe (the lie). When we place ourselves in the center, everything and everyone becomes subject to our preferences. When they are not met, it makes sense that we would be offended because we see our own preferences as the most important. 

Luckily, in the very next chapter of Genesis, God shows us a better way to live. In Genesis 12, God revealed Himself and His plan to a young man named Abram. God told Abram, "I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great so that you will be a blessing" (Genesis 12:2). 

Did you catch the difference? In Genesis 11, the people were out to make their own names great. In Genesis 12, God told Abram that He would make his name great. Abram received God's blessing, and he recognized that God is the center of the story, deserving of all the glory. Abram was part of the story, but he wasn’t the center. It is the same with us. We are part of God’s story—not the center of our own. 

Who is the center of your universe, the star of your life? Many of us acknowledge God with our lips, but then live as though it is still all about us at the end of the day. It is not. It never was. Every single thing, even our own good, is ultimately about Him and His glory. 

There would be a welcomed change in the state of our spirits and tone of our relationships if we moved out of the center and let go of our expectations. We would experience a fresh freedom if we stopped tending to our own greatness and reminded ourselves through unceasing prayer and radical generosity that God’s preference matters most. He will do what He wants with our hearts and our lives if we will only step aside, let go of offense, and join in with the saints and angels, whose unceasing focus is on the One who is worthy of all.

P.S. I loved leading our live discussions through Beholding His Glory and Beholding Your King on social media last summer and fall because both Bible studies focus on God as the center of history. Join Kristy Malik and me on Instagram and Facebook this Lent as we lead a live discussion on the Fearless and Free 6-Lesson Bible study (Thursday nights at 8 PM EST starting February 18). Our focus will be on God as the center of our hearts and how He leads us to healing and wholeness. 

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