God is constantly changing the way I think, and this year my Gentle Schoolmaster has taught me much. Let me see if I can recall just a few of His lessons…
When I surrender my plans for my life and agree to live the life He has given me here and now, I am actually more content. When I give up what I naturally desire, and deny my own willful ways, I find joy because I have escaped the bondage of myself. I don’t have to do what I want because I am freed to do what is right.
When I try to find my identity in anything other than Jesus, I am anxious and dissatisfied. For a time, I was a mom of young children who needed me, but when those children grew and became independent, I became unsettled because my identity had been placed in motherhood, not in Christ alone. Then I became a runner, and my identity was placed in how far and how fast I could run. When my running stopped consuming me, I felt uneasy because if I wasn’t an athlete, what was I? I then decided that I would be a writer since I was no longer a young mom or a successful runner, and this writing, it satisfied me…for a time. But when I had less opportunity to write, I was constantly anxious because I was a writer but I wasn’t honing my craft. If I thought of myself as a writer but never wrote, I felt bad and wrong since I was not doing what I was “made” for. The fault with all of these methods of “finding myself” lies in the fact that I am made to bring God, not myself, glory. I am not here on earth to find myself. I am here to acclaim the God who saved me. I am here to make His name great. My identity is to be found in Christ, not in what I do.
The other night, I attended my son’s band concert, and before it began, while all the instruments were still warming up, chaos and disorganization reigned. The clarinets practiced scales while the trombones belted low notes. The drummers practiced paradiddles (yes, this is a real thing. I am a former drummer), as the flutes trilled melody. The din of all of them together assaulted my ears. But then, as the conductor took his place on the podium and as all the eyes focused on him, the unorganized noises instantly became a beautiful song—with each instrument performing its appropriate role. Isn’t this how it is with us? We focus on a million things and our lives seem confusing and overwhelming. But then, as we learn to keep our eyes on our Conductor, we begin to play our appropriate role in the Kingdom, and the very place that God has put us becomes a beautiful melody of praise to Him.
When my oldest son Luke was just a little boy, he loved to set up armies of plastic green soldiers. In fact, he spent so much time setting up his army men that he never played with them. The process became so important that the fun of having a virtual, plastic battle was sacrificed. Sometimes I am like this. I get so caught up planning the details of my life, or trying to find a way to make a task more efficient that I forget to be present in the moment. I forget to find joy in the process. I often recall the quote by John Lennon that warns, “Life is what happens when you are making other plans.” God wants me to live right now, in this moment. I can plan, but I can’t ruminate and become anxious about my unknown future. God’s got it. THIS is the day that the Lord has made. I WILL rejoice and be glad in it.
Each morning when I go out and feed the pets (a job I inherited from my new college freshman, Shay), I am reminded of the verse in Psalm 145, “All creatures look to you to give them their food at the proper time.” When the animals hear the garage door rise and see me descending down the hill, they know it is time to eat and that I will give them what they need for the day. This daily reminder of their trust in, and total dependence on, me leads me towards my Savior every time. I often want to grow faster and understand more deeply the truths of God NOW. The painfully slow process of sanctification is discouraging to me. But my Father knows what I need and when I need it. If He revealed all of His will for me in a torrent, I might become overwhelmed. And if He made me unable to comprehend any of His precepts, my spirit would be malnourished. He feeds me what I need when I need it. I must trust in that promise. As always, my Father knows best.
He must become greater; I must become less.