This is the time of year where I usually reflect on my failed resolutions of the past 365 days, an uplifting berating of my many failings and shortcomings. Most resolutions never live to see me sneaking Valentine conversation hearts from my kids’ stashes. It’s been such a strange and atypical year, though, that I decided to reflect on what the past year has taught me about who I am, flaws and all.
1. Dying to oneself takes many forms, but whatever form it takes, it is a transformative process designed to make us more like Christ.
When my husband proposed the idea of moving to Nashville, I wan’t thrilled. In fact, I was quietly devastated. I had great friends, a church I loved, and a successful business. My children and I were content in our home and with our circumstances, but my husband wasn’t. He felt led to begin a new business in a new town and saw it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our family. After praying over the request, I could find no compelling reason to stay, outside of “but I don’t want to move,” which let’s face it, isn’t a great one. Plus, I trusted my husband and knew he wouldn’t ask this of me if it weren’t the best thing for our family and if he didn’t feel God were calling him to this, so I acquiesced.
I could have made this difficult for my husband. I could have refused to move. I could have said no. Honestly, I wanted to say no…..out of fear, out of selfishness, but to what end? I wasn’t the only one sacrificing. He was taking an incredible risk to follow what He believed God was calling him to do. The very essence of my faith lies in denying self to live for others. Jesus addresses this in Luke when he says, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. Whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.” Now, granted, God wasn’t asking me to risk my life or to even truly discomfort my life. He was moving me from one cool city to another, but I think losing our lives can be interpreted in different ways here. Sometimes Jesus calls us leave everything we know, everything that makes our life ours, to stretch ourselves for Him and to stumble faithfully into the unknown. I was being asked to leave a life I adored in a town I adored with people I adored to go to a place where I knew precious few and to essentially start over.
God was placing before me an opportunity to humbly follow Christ’s command. He was allowing me to honor my marriage vows and to support my husband when he needed it most. He was giving me a chance not to just discuss faith in the safety of a small group but to live it out, to trust His plan, and to believe that it was for our good. Few times had I ever really been asked to walk by faith rather than by sight. God was calling my family to a new place and rather than looking at our situation as a time to stubbornly stick my heels in the ground or to go kicking and screaming to a new town, I decided, however reluctantly, to step out in faith and obey. For the first time ever, I had been asked to put my own desires aside and obey God’s new plan for my family, and I learned that wherever He asks you to go, He goes with you, even if you are kicking and screaming on the inside.
2. The sacred meets us in the mundane.
When I moved to Nashville, I stepped out of the role I’d played for the past eight years of successful small business owner, volunteer, active church member, homeschooling mom, and into the role of full-time, stay-at-home, homeschooling mom. Though I’d always considered myself a stay-at-home mom, I worked almost thirty hours a week, and to be honest, I felt a sense of significance in my work. I’ve always defined myself by my accomplishments. I strove to make all As from elementary school through graduate school. I fought hard to climb to the top of whatever professional ladder I was climbing. As longs as others saw my success and applauded it, I was someone. Take that away, and I lost a sense of self. My identity was formed by my ability to succeed.
Motherhood isn’t measured that way. No one admires your meatloaf. Few applaud your ability to fold towels while refereeing arguments. No one grades your ability to teach Shakespeare. If your sense of self worth and significance is measured by feedback from others, you’re sunk. When I found myself resenting my husband’s excitement about his new business and his ability to leave the house to go contribute something of value to society (and when I really resented his ability to shower without someone sitting outside banging on the door and to actually leave the house for conversation with adults), I decided it was time for a heart check.
Through prayer and bible study, God began to reveal to me that my new work was in my home, and that my significance was found in Jesus and His work on the cross and in my life. Period. In Counterfeit Gods, Tim Keller says, “The human heart takes good things like a successful career, love, material possessions, even family, and turns them into ultimate things. Our hearts deify them as the center of our lives, because we think they can give us significance and security, safety and fulfillment, if we attain them.” I was living this. When God took me from the safety of all that I knew and loved of all that I relied on to find my sense of value and placed me back in my home surrounded by little people who don’t really actively care about my significance or self worth, it forced me to put my focus back on Him. When He was truly all we had as a family, we learned to rely on Him to sustain us.
Christian author, Paul Tripp, says, “If God doesn’t rule your mundane, then He doesn’t rule you. Because that is where you live.” For now, my life seems more mundane. It is a series of planning lessons for my two sweet dears, preparing meals, shopping for groceries, breaking up arguments, bathing the dog, and cleaning, but it’s important work, even if few recognize it as such. God is teaching me that He is in even the most banal task. Colossians 3:23 reminds us “whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” Whatever we do, even bathing the golden retriever can become an act of worship. The past year has taught me to find the everyday astonishing knowing that I am enough because of Jesus and that even the most humdrum task can be holy.
3. Perspective is Everything
I mentioned earlier that I may have felt an inkling of irritation at my husband’s newfound sense of purpose. Actually, I would sometimes sit wallowing in a puddle of pity about living in a city where I didn’t know many people and had not yet found my place or purpose. I would escape to the bedroom for a few minutes to cry it out over my inability to call up my dear friends to meet for lunch at our favorite restaurant. I inwardly criticized the colder weather, horrific traffic, lack of convenient shopping. I saw my awful attitude reflected in my children. We were becoming an acrimonious mess of miserable me monsters.
In my weekly bible study Faith by Katie Orr, God placed this passage before my eyes. “I can choose anger, resentment….or I can relinquish all I believe I’m entitled to, and choose faith. It takes great faith to deny my selfish desires and follow the example of Christ.” It was as if God had opened up heaven and shouted through a megaphone from the clouds straight into my heart. This didn’t just resonate it radiated. So, in that moment, I prayerfully changed my perspective. I began to see the great opportunity God had provided before me to lead my children by example. I saw the new people God had providentially placed in my path as potential friends. I stopped feeling sorry for myself and began to actively seek out ways to meet people. My family and I joined a church and immediately jumped into service opportunities.
While there are still days I longingly stare at I-65 south and wish I could find a Saw’s barbecue in Mt. Juliet, I keep readjusting my focus and perspective. God has taught me this year that though I cannot change my circumstances, I can certainly control my response to those circumstances. I can choose to respond in fear, resentment, and self-pity, or I can respond with faith, optimism, and love. I won’t get it right every day, and I will still cry on days when I just need to meet my girlfriends face-t0-face, but this year I resolve to choose faith, joy, and love. I hope you’ll join me.