The Parenthood Files: Direct, Instruct, and Tend

In Sunday School last week, we discussed the judges of the Old Testament. We learned about the key role they played for the Israelites. We saw how this group of people, the Israelites, were able to love and obey God…only with the guidance of a judge. The judge would lead God’s people and direct them onto paths that were righteous, steering them away from the path of sin. The appointed judge would help them know how to love and live for the one true God.

I cannot even imagine taking on such a position as that of the judge. What a taxing job that must have been, I mean the people of Israel were not exactly known for their steadfast and obedient hearts. The people of Israel had hearts that were prone to wander. They were, in essence, a constant failure without someone there to lead them in the ways of the Lord. We see them repeatedly fall into patterns of sin and we see their hearts shun God whenever they had no judge to guide and direct them. Much like our own wander-prone hearts.

As I was typing up a reflection of the lesson for the parents in my Sunday School class, I was reminded of my role as a parent. In so many ways, I see my position as a mother mirrored as that of a judge. Just as the people of Israel needed someone to guide and direct them in ways of the Lord and just as they were taught how to love God, so also do my children need to be directed and taught.

But in the role that a parent takes on to direct and instruct, there is that which we (as parents) will never be able to accomplish for our children. Just as the judges of Israel could not rescue the hearts of the people, so also are we lacking. There is only one who can rescue and redeem the hearts of our children, and that person is Jesus Christ. 

“For the LORD is our judge; the LORD is our lawgiver; the LORD is our king; he will save us.” – Isaiah 33:22

As parents who are believers, my husband and I strive to guide and instruct our children in ways that will: point them to Christ, point them to a life that pursues holiness, and a life that loves and glorifies God. But in all the ways we strive to lead our children to God, He is the only one who can draw them in and change their hearts. He is the ultimate Judge, because in the way His spirit directs and instructs our hearts, so also through His Son are the hearts and lives of our children redeemed and restored. He will save us. 

As parents, we will be faithful and vigilant to direct and instruct our children, just as the judges of old, except now, we have what the judges did not: We have a Christ who died, was buried and rose from the grave. We have the living hope found in Jesus Christ, who sits on the throne at the right-hand of the Father, and that makes all the difference. We have grace. As parents, we tend the hearts of our children knowing it is only God who can change and rescue the hearts of our children.

I think that is where the definitive lies – in the tending of the heart. Along with instruction and direction, comes the important task of tending the heart of our children. It is the heart of each person that God seeks and it would seem that as parents, our job is to tend those hearts well. We direct our children to know how to live for Him, we instruct their minds to know about and understand Him and we tend their hearts to help them know how to love Him and to know His love for them. In doing all these things, we are not guaranteed anything…but in doing all these things we are obediently fulfilling our spiritual roles to our children. We can rest and trust in God’s sovereignty for everything else.

“Our key passage tells us that God is our Judge, God is our Lawgiver, and God is our King. God uses people in His plan, but He is the One in charge of everything. God has power over people and uses them to work out His good plan.” – Excerpt from The Gospel Project for Preschool


Letting Go of “Enough”

Inadequacy. It is that feeling which is born from the very thing of inferiority itself, it is that which leads to a life of ashes. It is everything that whispers “not enough”, “failure”, and “wrong”. It is that feeling that hauntingly arises when brought before the new and the extraordinary. Inadequacy, it is the thing that has taken up residence in my mind since I was a child. I wanted…I needed to be enough.

A reflection of the years gone by is shadowed in the murkiness of the inadequacy I have always felt. I keep it hidden. If others knew the fear gnawing at every decision chosen, what would they think? It is anxiety pulsing faster and faster that often leads to retreat. When opportunities arise, I see all the ways that I can mess it up. I see failure that is mine.

The retreat. It feels so good at the time. It is a wave of relief washing over parched mind. The many ways it is justified in my head, make it feel good and right. I can rest easy in the realm of nothing, because failure is not an option in that space. I can lean into the known and secure, spaces which I have occupied well, or well enough. I ignore the stab of wondering if I missing out on something more – if I am missing out on something so much bigger than myself.

A few years ago, God took me on a journey of grace. He was leading me into a place where I would understand it, embrace it, so I could let it be infused into my very being. It was a long journey. I had to let go of so much legalistic baggage, to make room for all that is grace. During this journey, everywhere I turned and every place I went, I saw grace. He was constantly pointing me to His grace. It was one of the best journeys I have ever taken…it changed my life.

More recently, He took me on a journey of obedience. He was teaching me to trust in His sovereignty; He was asking me to lean in to His will. Again, everywhere I turned and every place I went, I saw obedience in its most beautiful and pure form. I felt Him stretch out His mighty hand and to follow Him fully…obediently. It brought a rush of feelings – fear coupled with that of wonder and trust. To accept outstretched hand, was my decision alone to make. In perfection that is from Him alone, I shakily accepted the warm and sure hand extended.

Then the battle of the mind. Inadequacy hit full and hard. I wanted to walk in obedience, I knew it possible by leaning into Christ’s obedience perfected. But, the wretched thing of feeling as if not enough began to emerge. Where I had walked in safety for many years, I kept buried these feelings. Now, the fullness of the inadequate rises and begins to haunt me. Struggle. Prayer. I know nothing but running back to Him. I question and I probe – am I enough.

My newest journey is His whispering reply.

I recently experienced a weekend away with some dear friends. It was during this weekend that God began to answer my question and constant probe. His answer was found as He poured Himself fully into my life – heart, soul and mind. Where I was battling all my shortcomings, His grace was showing up and winning every battle. I could feel the tears brimming as I heard words spoken by Sarah Mackenzie, “He takes what I have and makes it enough”.  I just knew those words were His spoken to me. 

As a wife and as a mom (especially as a homeschool mom), that feeling of inadequacy is prone to wander in my heart and mind. I just know I am somehow falling way short in my purpose in these areas. I worry about failure. I worry that I am in the long process of screwing up the most important roles God has given to me. I look at my children as I read to them, teach them and point them to the glory and grace of a beautiful and perfect Saviour…and I worry deep that, because I am not enough, I will royally and thoroughly mess this all up.

Those words – “He takes what I have and makes it enough”,  I let the power of those words sink fully. It is His firm and grace-filled reminder that it is not me, but He who is living in me that is enough for every and all roles He has brought my way. I have not been able to let go of those words. Every time the feeling stirs up, I can squelch it with His words.

Each time he said,  “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.”

– 2 Corinithians 12:19

This journey He is taking me through right now, it is so so good. Everywhere I turn and every place I go, He is echoing the same words over and over to me – He is enough, He is enough. He is enough. And to rest in that knowledge is to rest in knowing that whatever role He is giving me or whatever path He is leading me on, He will be there and it will be His power working through my weakness. I gladly humble myself weak, to make His glory strong.

“For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13

“It is a special grace to have an equal temper of mind always. And in a low state not to lose our comfort in God, nor distrust his providence, nor take any wrong course for our own supply. In a prosperous condition not to be proud, or secure, or worldly. This is a harder lesson than the other; for the temptations of fullness and prosperity are more than those of affliction and want. The apostle had no design to urge them to give more, but to encourage such kindness as will meet a glorious reward hereafter. Through Christ we have grace to do what is good, and through him we must expect the reward; and as we have all things by him, let us do all things for him, and to his glory.”
– Matthew Henry

In every area of my life – I am being to led into this new area of grace. As I immerse myself more and more into His strength, I feel the slow release of inadequacy’s hold. I feel His boldness in my steps. I feel His embrace holding me close as I travel down into the wild unknown. This new journey can be slightly unnerving, but in where it unnerves, it also fulfills and makes new.

Another Birthday, Another Drop in my Bucket

It is almost midnight and here I sit with a mason jar of iced green tea and a banana chocolate Milano. My bed has been commandeered by two children while my husband sleeps deeply and comfortably. I was lying there, as best as I could, considering, contemplating and thinking. The whole late-night reflection things, seems to be a natural hobby of mine. My best thoughts and ideas are usually born in these quiet moments and my deepest fears and regrets often find this time to be their ideal moment to haunt. But, when I quiet my mind and focus on Him, I find this to be the time when I hear those heavenly whispers speaking life and peace into my soul. It is a time where I so heavily and fully feel His presence. It is usually the time when He invites me to search harder and dig deeper into who He is…it is a time when He cultivates and grows my heart closer to His own.

I was thinking of my life. I lied there lamenting the years of waste that I squandered so selfishly and sinfully. I begged God to forgive me – again. I felt His presence drawing near as He whispered reminders of grace. He showed me glimpses of who I am now, to help me forgive who I was then. The words from For King and Country echoed in my brain…“I see you dressed in white, every wrong made right, I see a rose in bloom at the sight of you”. He gave me a glimpse of who I am in Him and how I am seen through His eyes. He drew me nearer. I could feel his love. His love that pursued me, sent my heart racing. His love that redeemed me, made my lips tremble. His love that restored me, brought forth the tears. I then knew, so I could then surrender. I am thankful that He never tires of reminding me, especially in those dark moments, of who I am in Him and through Him  – as the song says, Priceless.

So, by this time, I am really no longer able to sleep. I gently climb out of my fully occupied bed and make my way to my computer desk. My birthday is on my mind…another year, another drop in my bucket of life. I now sit here, thinking of my original lament – wasted. I don’t want to look back and see a life lived in the security of contentment. I want to look back and see a life lived fully, one that made large investments into the kingdom, rather than into – a bank account, a bigger and better home, or a life of luxury. I look over my should and see my husband’s new book, it is staring me down – Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper. I pick up the book and flip it over. The words seem to pop-out, as if in 3D – “God created us to live with a single passion to joyfully display his supreme excellence in all the spheres of life. The wasted life is the life without this passion. God calls us to pray and think and dream and plan and work not to be made much of, but to make much of him in every part of our lives.”. My heart’s slow beat begins to find quicker pace. Redemption. He is showing me that, it is not too late. The wasted life I led so brokenly, there is redemption for that, as well.

God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. 1 Peter 4:10

He promises that there will be risks and that there will be sacrifices, but He promises that His glory and goodness is worth it.  I find it to be no surprise that I have just finished a study of the book of 1 Peter. The call for a life of obedience and submission to Him is echoed all throughout, but so also is the promise of a Living Hope and the fullness of grace that is to come.

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see.

1 Peter 1:3-5

At the end of the 1 Peter study (by Jen Wilkin), she talked about a moment when Jesus was talking to Peter – “A third time he asked him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, ‘Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Then feed my sheep’.” Jen brought up this passage from John 21:17 to show us how in the three times Jesus asked Peter of his love for Him, was to show Peter the three times He redeemed Peter’s denials of Him. Then the words she spoke next resonated deep within me, “Feed my sheep…it is what Peter was redeemed for”. Is that not the same for all of us? Are we each redeemed and restored from our broken states…to live a life dedicated to our own comfort and glory? Or…were we redeemed for so much more?

Today, I turn another year older…another drop in my bucket of life. I see God working and moving in my heart. I see God working and moving in my husband’s heart. He is drawing us deeper and He is asking us to trust more, so we can do more. His plans not revealed, but our hearts and mind wanting to surrender. We know He can redeem a wasted life for a life fulfilled. And in the place where He draws us both in sync, we feel His promise for perfect peace in the uncertainty and His sovereign strength for the struggle. I am shown that He can take my single drops and, by His grace, multiply them for His glory. It is here and now in which I know that I want a bucket full when I stand before Him, not a bucket empty.