Ever since we were told to shelter in place, I have been generally upbeat about everything going on. I know that it's bad out there, but I am naturally an optimist, so I focused on the positives. "Oh, the opportunities," I thought to myself. Sure, we couldn't go out, which is sad, but I'm an introvert, and there is an endless amount of projects to do and habits to form. By the end of this, my house would look perfect, and my husband and I would have finally started that couple's workout routine I have been dreaming about. With a smile on my face, I went about starting the new life in quarantine that we are all establishing. Then Easter came, and I hit my wall.
My husband and I tried to make our family’s Easter celebration as special as possible, but everything we did fell flat. Doing church while social distancing made me want to be next to people all the more. It made me miss the sacraments more than I ever have before. On a drive to get doughnuts from the grocery store, we saw another family that we know, and that was it. As we waved and drove on, all of that optimism crumbled as I finally admitted to myself that we are in this for the long haul.
I realized the adrenaline rush that I experienced at the beginning of the crisis was gone. What is left is the hard work of waking up every day and choosing if I will live my day in hope or not. As I soberly came to terms with this, I remembered the words that the Lord spoke to me four years ago when my husband and I welcomed our first daughter, and I had to get used to the "new normal" of life as a mother.
When my daughter was three months old, I was up at 2 am for the usual middle of the night feeding. All the excitement that comes with welcoming a baby had faded, leaving me face to face with the constant, often unseen, work of caring for my child. As I jealously looked at my sleeping husband, I started to get honest with God. I told him that, while I loved my daughter with a love that words cannot describe, this was hard. I missed my old life and the freedom I once had. I missed being able to pray whenever I wanted for however long I wanted and the exhilaration of jet-setting around the globe to preach the gospel. I missed a life where I was seen. Here, in the darkness, no one saw what I was doing; no one saw my suffering or my sacrifice. It was hidden.
In the middle of my complaining and mourning with God, he spoke clearly in my heart. "It is here that I make you holy," he said. "It is here in the unseen repetition of this new life, where much is hidden, and there is no applause, that I will expand your capacity to love. In this present monotony, I will sanctify you if you let me."
Friend, we are now a month into this global shutdown. The adrenaline rush is gone, the bad news is constant, and the end is not here yet. We are now officially in the middle, faced with the reality of living with this new normal everyday. While we are all in this together, it is undeniable that we are going through this crisis apart. Our daily realities look completely different depending on where we live and how hard the virus is hitting our city. Day in and day out, it can be so easy to feel that we are alone in our struggles and unseen by the outside world.
It is right here, however, in these unseen moments and unshared sufferings that God sees us. It is here that He wants to heal our hearts and make us holy. It is here that we have to make a choice. We can choose inertia and slowly give in to cynicism, numbness, and fear, or we can actively decide to renew our minds through daily prayer and surrender. We can choose to read too much news and spend too much time on our phones, or we can dive into the scriptures and spend time on things that will feed our soul.
I decided four years ago, in that quiet moment of prayer, that I would let God do His work in the hidden moments of my life, and I would be okay with the fact that they are hidden, only between Him and me. On Easter, I recommitted to that decision. Here in the middle of this crisis, the Lord wants to enter into your daily grind. He wants to be there in the small, hidden moments of your life, and He wants to use them to make you holy. I pray that you will let Him so that, when the end finally comes, you can emerge from this crisis more closely resembling the saint that He has called you to be.
“Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord?” 1 Samuel 15:19
If we can't wait to tell our girlfriends about our new favorite Netflix series, you can be sure that when we taste the difference that Jesus makes in our lives, we'll want other people to experience the same. Nowhere is that desire more intense than when mothers want to pass their faith to their children. I'm often asked about good resources for this, and what to do about older kids who have stopped coming to us for advice and who probably aren't listening to us much at all. It would be so simple if the solution was found in a book or a program that I could recommend. But that's not what I've seen to be the most effective. Here's what I think is the total game changer: MAMAS WHO ARE RADICALLY OBEDIENT TO GOD.
In 1 Samuel, we find Saul, a man who stood head and shoulders above all the Israelites. God chose him as Israel's first king, but even with all his accolades, good looks, brawn, and leadership opportunities, Saul had self-esteem issues. We know this from the words of the prophet Samuel, Israel's spiritual leader. In I Sam. 15, Samuel was calling Saul out for not obeying the Lord. Saul was supposed to wait for Samuel to come and offer a sacrifice before a battle, but fear crept in, patience wore thin, and Saul took matters into his own hands and did it himself.
The first words out of Samuel's mouth when he saw Saul was this: “Though you are little in your own eyes, are you not the head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king over Israel.” (1 Sam. 15:17) He then went on to ask Saul why he didn't obey the voice of the Lord after being given clear instructions.
Samuel was basically saying, “Saul, even though you don't think you are adequate or amount to much, God has chosen you for a really important task. He anointed you to LEAD. He told you to obey. So what were you thinking?!”
Saul responded by saying, “I have obeyed the Lord. I went on the mission he sent me on. These are all the things I did do. Why the obsessive attention to minute details? I obeyed in the big things. Isn't that good enough?”
And Samuel's answer brought down the hammer; “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.” (1 Samuel 15:22) Then the news was delivered that God had rejected Saul as king. Obedience didn't just matter in the big stuff. God was concerned with the details.
So back to our kids and our desire to pass our faith to them. There are great materials and programs out there, and we are wise to expose our kids to them. But there is nothing that will have greater effect on our children than our own radical obedience- not just in the big things, but in the little day-to-day decisions that most people in our lives don't see but our children do.
Romans 12:1 says that we are to “present [our] bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” This is a picture of us offering everything we have on an altar to God. It's a declaration that we are willing to take our hands off our lives and let God be utterly in charge. It's giving Him the right to call the shots on the big things and the little things. It's committing to a life of prayer where we are in touch with God throughout the day so that we recognize the small ways He's asking us to obey, not just the big and obvious ones. It's committing to radical obedience where we do what He has asked ALL THE WAY, RIGHT AWAY. This is what our kids notice. This is what impacts them deeply.
Our kids are asking the question, “Is this faith thing for real? Does Jesus really make that big a difference?” And they look to our lives more than our words for the answer.
We hear that call to offer our lives as living sacrifices-to obey radically-and all too often we say, “God, I'll obey you if….”.
Make no mistake. Whatever is on the other side of that word “if” is what we want and worship most. That is what we are willing to sacrifice for. And our kids know it. They see it. We all worship something. Whether it's comfort, a career, a relationship, status… there is something that we will give anything to have and hold onto. God asks that it be HIM. He asks that our obedience not be tied to conditions.
The only way we will ever be able to obey Him in this way is if we see Him as infinitely wise and infinitely kind. We need to know Him in order to trust Him. This is why we delve into Scripture- so that we can know Him better. So that we can see evidence of His wisdom in order to trust in His plan for our lives. In order to hear of His kindness so that we remember He is utterly FOR US.
Where is God asking you to obey right now? What choice is in front of you? Who will you worship in this moment? What is holding you back?
I pray that we can follow hard after God in the big and in the small, because what our world needs is women whose trust in God translates into brave and radical obedience. Being up to date on our social media feeds, having perfectly organized homes, nailing it with deliverables at work- all of that feels great. But the simple acts of obedience CHANGE THE WORLD.
*This post first appeared on the WWP website in February 2017.