What is reality? Homes, cars and retirement accounts can turn into fleeting mirages when troubles come and you actually lean against them. A rocky friendship, on the other hand, often proves solid ground. So many things have dovetailed this week: a visit with a friend, another diagnosed with cancer, a church sermon, and a blog. What is really important in life? The questions that surfaced are basic, but answering them may be a lot more difficult than anticipated.
– Am I really a child of God? Do I truly believe that God claims me and cares for me? The Bible says Jesus was spat upon, laughed at, and then died for me. Luke 4:29-30 records that Jesus disappeared from the people’s midst when they sought to grab him; He could have done that again if this were an injustice. He said He did it for us. (Romans 5:6-8) That would include me. Do I really trust that He loves me, personally? In other words, can I truly expect answers to my prayers, or are they a routine morning mantra, like making the bed, that makes me feel good?
– What have I built my faith upon? This is something I struggle with greatly. Are my beliefs what I’ve heard and read from people, or am I letting the Bible speak for itself? I find myself quite often reading a lot more about God than His own words. John Piper, Charles Spurgeon, and Martin Luther are amazing resources, but they should be accents, not the main dish. My faith might be sound, but if it’s not built on God Himself, the results will still be disastrous.
– Who gets the glory for this thought, idea, action? This has turned out to be a great check for whether I’m building my faith on the right foundation. I searched long and hard for the perfect dirt when we moved to Texas, so that I could raise all my own nutritious meat, fruit, and vegetables. My motives were good: organic food at the market is expensive and not always any better than its commercially produced alternative. My family would not only be healthier, but it would maximize the money my husband brought home. I sought out all there was to know about companion planting, weeder geese, goat scat fertilizer, and frost dates. I recognize now that any produce from the acres I devoted to this would have been to my glory. I got more food out of ten square feet of rock garden between my driveway and the basketball court in the Mojave Desert than I have ever scraped out of two acres of perfect soil here. It took a lot of asking God ‘Why??’ before I received my answer: “Who gets the glory for your provision?” We’ve never gone hungry.
– Am I following? In all my seeking of truth, I see that the Bible has set up an order of authority. In ancient times, Moses reported to God, men reported to him, and more men reported to them. The people at large were responsible to their appointed overseer from this group. In the New Testament, a similar flow chart is set up with Christ, the husband, and the wife. Men are to lead their flocks with strength and compassion just as the Spirit shepherded Israel through the wilderness. The authority trickles down, and women are to follow their earthly lord as though he were God Himself, since the husband is Christ’s appointed delegate. But he cannot lead if I will not follow.
And here’s where it gets tough: I despise being treated carelessly; yet how many times have I forgotten or disrespected Christ’s name, shaken my fist at Him – and continued to expect He will answer my prayers and provide for my needs? Humbling, this. When I was in high school, I was a member in good standing of my church every Sunday. I partied and cussed the rest of the week. And yet when an expensive, borrowed horse got loose from my grasp, I was on my knees begging Him to save me from this situation. He did – (I told the story here) – am I willing to forgive and love as quickly as I was forgiven and loved that day? My husband is human, just like me; he may not be ready to run to my side if I haven’t been by his. I must ask myself: if my husband led, would I follow? Or would I require that he lead according to my wishes? My duty before God is to follow, not to judge whether my appointed head leads righteously. America’s military would go down in flames quickly if only righteous orders were issued or obeyed. As wife, I need to obey cheerfully and let God hold him accountable for his leadership.
These questions and answers assure me of my soundness. But I’m not all there is. Some acquaintances once told me about a school library in Tennessee. It was a solid brick building, with four steps up to the front door and basement windows peeking out below two stories of edifice. The builders noticed within a few years that it was settling deeper into its place than anticipated. The students I spoke to said that now, 100 years later, there is a slope down to the front door, and the first floor windows are at the level of the basement windows in earlier photographs. The building, which was built to last, is doing so, but its foundation in insecure; it will one day be lost.
Will I, like the library, stand strong and beautiful on my righteousness, only to sink for want of the true Savior underneath? Storms are very effective means to weed out the riff-raff. Will I be weeded and burnt as chaff, or strengthened by constant exercise for God’s continuing work? I must know that His trials will purify and prove me, and that “all things work together for good” (Romans 8:28).
What does this look like in real life? In spite of well-laid plans, at dinnertime last week I found a key ingredient had not been purchased. Plan B was devised and implemented while the children continued with their chores. My husband never knew there’d been a problem when he arrived home. This is God’s plan for us. Trust and obey. As we respond well to the monkey wrenches thrown our way, we are better able to support others struggling with flaming darts of their own. We – I – must cheerfully accept that the Creator of the Universe saw this situation in advance and is using it to mold me into a capable steward of His Kingdom.
“I am able to do all things through the help of Christ, which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:13)