Last night, my son and I were reading through the book of Ruth together, and one verse jumped out at me that I’d never really noticed before. It was this one:
Ruth 4:11-12 Then all the people who were at the gate and the elders said, “We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman, who is coming into your house, like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel. May you act worthily in Ephrathah and be renowned in Bethlehem, and may your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, because of the offspring that the Lord will give you by this young woman.” [ESV]
If you’ve ever had the thought in the midst of potty training, wiping noses, and cleaning messes (of the toy and more…organictype), that there has to be more to motherhood than this, you would be right. Motherhood is far more than a list of mundane, albeit necessary, tasks. Motherhood is about building up a nation; and not just any nation. Though in a sense, we are (hopefully) building up a nation of responsible citizens for whichever country we are residents of, as Christians, we are part of building a different kind of nation.
Peter tells us in 1 Peter 2:9-12 that we are “a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession.“ Then he goes on to tells us what our mandate is. “As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. “Once you had no identity as a people;now you are God’s people.Onceyou received no mercy;now you have received God’s mercy.” Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world.”
Show others the goodness of God, live properly among our unbelieving neighbors, keep away from worldly desires that wage war… Wait a minute, war??? On second thought, let’s just stick to changing diapers shall we? Suddenly this noble calling seems rather daunting doesn’t it?
What I love about our Heavenly Father, is that He never gives instructions without first offering provision to equip us to carry them out. Israel’s entire history was a living parable of trying to carry out God’s instructions (the Law) apart from His provision. It can’t be done. This is why Christ came! Our provision is in Christ, apart from whom we can do nothing. (John 15: 4-5)If we look back at the passage from Ruth we see that the elders say, “May the Lord make the woman…”, acknowledging that it is the Lord who would do the work in Ruth, to enable her to become a builder of the house of Israel like her counterparts Rachel and Leah. Then, just a few verses earlier in 1 Peter 2:4-5, Peter says this: As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
Our first step is to humbly come to Him, then as we do, He builds us up as a spritual house. So really, it is not us building our house, and ultimately this holy nation, it is the Lord. In fact, Solomon reminds us that, “unless the Lord builds the house,those who build it labor in vain”. (Psalm 127:1) Could it be that in our moments of despair, when we feel we failed to live up to this noble calling the Lord has given us as mothers, it is because we are trying to build in our own strength apart from Christ?
Proverbs offers some strong words to mothers, “The wise woman builds her house on a foundation of godly precepts, and her household thrives,But the foolish one who lacks spiritual insight tears it down with her own hands by ignoring godly principles. ” Proverbs, 14: 1 [Amplified Version] When we are not building on Christ, and instead are building according to our own vision of what our “house” should look like, we are setting the stage for disaster. Essentially tearing down our house with our own hands! These words of Solomon’s are really an echo of Christ’s words as He closes His Sermon on the Mount.
Matthew 7:24-27 “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.” [NLT]
There is a myth floating around out there in the mommy blogsphere that we need to stop believing that we aren’t enough for our children. On the one hand, in His wisdom God chose us to be the mothers of the children we have, and we are exactly the mothers they need. However, the truth of the matter is that though we are the mothers that they need, we aren’t all they need. If we were enough, our children wouldn’t need Christ, and the truth is, they most desperately do need Him, and so do we. Apart from Christ we aren’t enough. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. There is something very powerful that happens when we come to the end of ourselves, and cry out to Christ to take over, fill in the gaps, redeem what we’ve lost or ruined, and work it out according to His purpose, for our good, the good of our children and for His glory. Once the house we’ve built on the foundation of our own wisdom and wishes crashes to the sand, we can come to Christ and humbly ask Him to help us rebuild on the bedrock foundation of His Word, on Christ Himself. Talk about a dream house designed by a Master Designer!
Then on those days when we struggle to remember why we are disciplining our child for the same thing a mere 5 minutes after the last incident, or why we need to love on the child who is screaming their hatred of us for forcing them to eat their beans, or why we need to explain why we don’t think that television show is a good choice even though all their friends get to watch it, the Lord offers us an answer to our why in the words of Peter. You will notice there are three little words before the instructions are given in 1 Peter 2, Peter says, “As a result”…. Then do these things. So the question is, as a result of what? As a result of the fact that we are a chosen people, a holy nation, God’s own possession. Once we had no identity as a people;now we are God’s people.Once we received no mercy;now we have received God’s mercy. In other words, it’s because of who we are in Christ, and because of all we have experienced in Him, namely His mercy, that we have every reason to carry out our mission.
I want to close by encouraging you with these thoughts. The trivial yet necessary tasks we perform each day as mothers can take on new purpose as we embrace this high calling to join the crew of Nation-builders God is assembling. Yet, as we move to answer this calling, by building our house on a foundation of godly precepts, let us remember that His grace is sufficient for us, and His strength is made perfect in our weakness; weakness that Christ our Savior, who came in flesh, is able to sympathize with. Since it is this compassionate Savior who stands before God intereceding on our behalf, let us draw near to Him with confidence and ask for mercy and find grace and help in our times of need as we attempt to follow the blueprints of the Master Foreman in this Nation-building venture.
We’ve all done it. We’ve all invested time and energy into someone or something and then come to the horrible conclusion that nothing is changing. Nothing we seem to do or say helps them or changes them or even seems to reach them.
When is it enough? When do we stop hoping, stop trying…stop praying?
The answer is never. Well, at least that’s the answer if you’re a Christian.
The truth is that we never stop. Charles Spurgeon said,
We pretty much need to take on a snail’s view of prayer, too. Slow and steady, moving ever forward and trusting that the finish line is ahead, even if we don’t know how long it is going to take or how far it is ahead.
No matter how painful and useless our prayers and our efforts seem, God never gives us a pass on this one. As a matter of fact, the very act of persevering in our prayers and in our efforts is exactly what our Father requires of us. And we are to do so with absolutely no time constraints on either how or when He will choose to act.
No joke. This isn’t easy, but it is a fact. It has been said that a Christian is the only person on the planet who willingly sacrifices her present on the altar of her future. We have to do that on behalf of others, too.
This is often so hard as parents. It’s so hard to pray and pray and pray for our children, especially when they are in some sort of rebellion, and then just keep on praying as days and months and years go by with no change. Often it even seems to get worse. It’s certainly not that we want to stop praying; it’s more that we can get discouraged with God.
Why doesn’t He act? What is He waiting on?
These are difficult questions, and it gets increasingly difficult to persevere when nothing we say seems to make a difference.
I’ve experienced this with my own children, and I’ve often experienced it with the women I counsel. I get so downtrodden and frustrated with the lack of improvement. Eventually, I have to fight the urge to simply give up.
Yeah, I’ve wanted to give up plenty of times. There have been times when I saw a woman for years, every single week, telling her the same things and watching her heed not one of my words. I would think about changing what I told her. I would think about giving up, letting her go, telling her that our time had come to an end and that there was nothing else I could do for her. I’d get angry and frustrated and fight the drudgery of seeing her again and again, having the same conversations over and over.
Do you ever feel this way with others? With your children?
A friend and I were discussing this very issue the other day, and the example the Lord brought to my mind were His people, the Israelites. When God delivered them out of the hands of the Egyptians, He simply told them to go out into the desert. They would wander from place to place, knowing that the promise was for their land, but they never got much clarity about when they would receive it. The Lord only told them that they would get to it, but in the meantime, they were to keep walking.
“Just keep walking,” He told them. “I will bring you into the Promised Land. I will give you victory over your enemies. I will protect you as My people. You are to keep walking.”
As I thought about these exchanges, I thought about how they must have felt. We can sometimes be so critical of the Israelites. Indeed, they were a rebellious and fickle people, but aren’t we, too? I mean, think about it. They wandered around for forty years! Sometimes they literally wandered around in circles, in the middle of the desert!
And all that time, God never said, “You will see the Promised Land in twenty-two days,” or in twenty-two years, or in any time frame at all! God just told them to walk and that He would certainly do the work.
Why do you suppose He didn’t give them His schedule?
I’m pretty sure it’s exactly why He doesn’t give it to you and me either. If He did, we would begin to rely on the schedule and not on Him. We would come to expect God to work within the parameters of what we think and what we want rather than just obediently walking where He tells us to walk and then having faith that He will indeed keep His promises.
That, my friends, is faith, and faith is precisely the way we demonstrate our full reliance on a God who has given us everything.
So, we pray. We persevere for as long as it takes—for decades if necessary—not because we have to do so in order to see the fruit, but because our obedience and faith are how we demonstrate our love of and trust in God.
Why do we never give up? It’s because the work is not ours to accomplish anyway. Ours is to walk, just like the Israelites, because God has promised in His Word,
God is not a man, that he should lie,
or a son of man, that he should
change his mind.
Has he said, and will he not do it?
Or has he spoken, and will he not
(Numbers 23:19, ESV)
Additionally, the writer of Hebrews reminds us,
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering,
for he who promised is faithful. (Hebrews 10:23, ESV)
So, we keep praying. We keep testifying, and we never change our proclamation of the Gospel. In those words are life, and God will do His work—in His time. There have been occasions where I got to see God move in the women I counselled, even after years, and how marvelous it was to know that I didn’t give up! But there have been times that I did give up, and you know what? God still does His work; I simply don’t get the joy of being a part of it.
And with our children? Sisters, persevere! The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:9, ESV) He will do His work in our children, too. We do sacrifice our present on the altar of our future, and we do so for our children, as well.
We know that what we see does not determine what will be, and we know that God is right in the middle of what will be! Hallelujah!!
Trust Him. Pray to Him. Have faith in Him. Even if it’s hard, hold tight to Him.
If we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself. (2 Timothy 2:13, ESV)
Why did the snail finish the race? The same reason we do. He persevered.
By Lisa Blanco
I fed Adley for the last time before going to sleep, hoping she’d allow me to get at least a good cat nap before she needed me again, but I think a cat would have slept better than me. Adley woke up at midnight, 2:15 and 4:45. After the last feeding, I gently laid her back down, and then my 5am alarm went off. I pushed the snooze button and started to walk back to bed. I stood at the doorway, very tempted to lay back on that pillow. I knew things ran much smoother when I got up before the children, but I was also exhausted. I gave it another minute of thought, then prayed for help and walked downstairs to start the blessed coffee.
As I poured the coffee into the cup, I poured all my trust in there with it. “As long as I get a few cups of it, I can gather myself and be patient with the children today.”
I didn’t fully realize I had directed this thought towards an unknown pagan god of coffee as I sat down on the couch to pray to the one true Living God and read his word, (thank God for his patience).
I opened my Bible and began to read a little with tired eyes. I was just making my way into a passage and ready to gain strength for the day when the baby monitor crackled. Sure enough, Adley began to cry. I waited and waited, but she did not stop. Before I made the climb up the stairs, my head fell into my hands and I prayed one last prayer before my time alone was done:
“Lord, I tried. I want to rise early and meet with you before my day begins. I want to hear from you and read and pray before my kids wake up. I have done everything I can to make this happen, and yet you have allowed my baby to wake again and it has interuppted my time with you. It’s your power that causes them to sleep and to awaken them, so why right now? How am I supposed to commune with you in this long season of busy life?”
I lifted my head, feeling more tired than before. The other monitor lit up as a voice loudly cried, “Mommy I have to poo poo!”
This is a picture of what my nights and the early hours of the morning can look like. For a long time I have struggled with joy and thankfulness that God calls me to as his child. I love my children tremendously; they are deeply precious to me. But what I struggled with is feeling (rather believing the lie) that God cuts me short in my time with him, or for some reason that it seems he doesn’t provide the time. I believed that my only time to hear from God and receive help and wisdom was before my children woke up. I thought my only hope for being kind and patient with my children was if I had read my Bible, put the dishes away, and put some kind of order to our downstairs before they came down. And if none of these were able to happen? You could just forget any kindness and gentleness (or any fruits of the spirit really) from me.
But over the last month The Lord has revealed all the ugly that has been going on in my heart. It sounds strange, especially after reading this, how obvious it should all seem, but I was blind to how much I really have been relying on my own strength to do what God has called me to do.
When I read Colossians 3 and how God calls us to walk and talk like a child of God with patience and gentleness and to be thankful, I don’t have to feel burdened. I used to, but God is rescuing me. Because if I read the chapter before, I’ll find Colossians 2:14 tells me that God has canceled the record of debt I owe by nailing it to the cross of his Son. And even further back in Colossians 1: 20 we are told that Christ’s work on the cross not only cancels the debt we owe for sin, but then he also presents us holy and blameless before God. So God isn’t holding a record against me of all the times I have failed with my children (or put my trust in the pagan god of coffee); he’s erased it and is conforming me into the image of his Son. I am therefore free to pursue gentleness and patience with my kids and start over in repentance again and again–not burdened to pursue it, but free.
While rising early before the children is still my goal each day, God has shown me that it’s not where my hope lies, and it’s not the only time he wants to commune with me. It’s not only the quiet, alone times he wants to talk to me, make me like Jesus, and bring to mind his Word so that I might fight sin. He isn’t just the God of help for early morning times of trouble, but the God who is our very present help in times of trouble (Psalm 46:1).
I have found that it’s also in the moments when the baby rises early that the Spirit asks me: Now, will you trust that The Lord will sustain you even if your plans did not pan out? Will you trust he’s making you look more like Jesus by sacrificing your time alone to care for these children? Will you trust that you can still obey and walk in patience even without the planned time of reading? Yes, it’s those times I can serve The Lord with gladness. (Psalm 100:2)
I have found that God is making me more like his Son and communing with me not just before my kids refuse to listen, but when I’m actually swimming IN the pool (or is it more like a dirty, murky lake?) of disobedience from them, and they have fought hard against my instruction for hours, and I have done everything in my power to warn them: “Listen to me! We don’t have to drown today! Listen to my instruction! Listen quickly!” It’s in those waters God has shown me 2 Thessalonians 3:5-
“May God direct your hearts to the love of God and the steadfastness of Christ.”
That has been a life-giving verse for me when I feel I’m drowning in the murky lake of disobedience inside the walls of my house, alone, when no one else can see but The Lord. And that verse quickly helps me fight in two ways:
1. The Lord loves both my children and me deeply, so my heart can quickly reach for thankfulness.
2. Jesus is steadfast and never runs out of patience and love towards those for whom he laid down his life.
So I don’t have to throw in the towel, because Jesus never does.