Hold Me Steady: on small needs and saplings

Support-Rope-Around-Young-Tree-Trunk

“Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal comfort and a wonderful hope, comfort you and strengthen you in every good thing you do and say.”

2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

 

Early motherhood has been challenging from the get-go for me. More often than not, I feel empty and in over my head; like I’m sweeping together the very last bits of what I have in order to keep caring for this baby’s round-the-clock needs, to keep giving to my marriage, to keep putting time into my work.

I berate myself for not knowing how to walk through this, how to balance it all, for struggling with what is painful, for needing help.  It is a fleeting season, sprinkled with such sweet moments. There is progress and relief and growth. But the build-up leaves me spent. It’s rough to feel that you’ve run out of steam for the day and it’s only breakfast time.

Especially because I am in this stage, this verse hit me.

I needed the phrase, “every good thing.”

Caring for a new baby, my days are filled with small tasks, and though they are small, they are taking everything I have.  I need the reassurance that they count, that in tending to these small needs, I am doing good things, and that I will be given the comfort and strength I need for each and every one of them.

“Strengthen” in this verse comes from the Greek word sterixai, which means “to make fast, to plant down solidly, or to render constant.”

I love the image of planting. I am not that great of a gardener and I have been the person who excitedly dug a hole, plopped a young tree down inside it, shoveled in some dirt, and then watched in dismay as the soil gave way and the tree went sideways.

It is not enough to hastily drop saplings into post-holes and call it good. They need the right depth, firmly packed soil, sometimes even stakes and ties to help them remain upright.  Good planting is more than picking the right spot and dropping off a plant. Good planting provides the firm support a young tree needs to thrive.

And when it comes to my heart, God is a good gardener. He settles me firmly, he ensures that I have all the bracing I needs to stand upright. He plants me deep and firm when I feel like I am crumpling, tipping, and falling to pieces. He offers the fresh hope I need to rally for the next day, the next task, the next word. He calms me and makes me steady for the work ahead.

Lord,

I feel worn through. I am only a human person who gets tired and frustrated, who doesn’t always know what to do, who has real limits when it comes to energy and pain tolerance, who is adjusting to a lot of changes. But for every good thing that is mine to do and every kind word I am called upon to offer, you yourself will bolster my heart with your unfailing strength and endless grace.

I am not the sturdy, unwavering oak tree that I want to be. I am only a sapling. It is easy for me to get bent and broken and off-balance. But you are a good gardener. So plant me firm and remind me that I can rest and let you hold me steady.

Pervasive Holiness: be a sponge, not a mannequin

sponge water

“Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. God will make this happen, for He who calls you is faithful.”

1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

The first thing that caught my attention about this verse was the pervasive nature of holiness. It is not merely a characteristic of outward behavior, but a quality that courses through and defines one’s entire being. I am called to holiness through and through.

Holiness is not an act. Holiness is not a rule to follow. Holiness is not an outer layer. It is not something I display like a lifeless mannequin that models good clothing.

Holiness is a sense of belonging to that transforms every detail of who I am. It acknowledges that every single piece of me is rightfully His, and so imbued with purpose. It sees all of myself, every hidden corner, every silent thought, as sacred, for it is His territory.

Holiness defines the children of God, inside and out.

I also thought it was significant that this is not something accomplished by me. Every verb in the verse indicates that this is something produced in my life by the actions of another. My holiness is a result of His faithful work. He makes me holy.

I cannot bring about holiness. But as I yield to Him, every fiber of my being is swallowed up in and soaked through with it, like a sponge immersed in water. I am made holy as He is holy, and when you squeeze me, holiness spills out.

And so I will echo Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonians as I look on my own life, on the lives of those walking this walk alongside me.

Holy in every way.
My whole body and spirit and soul kept blameless
God will make this happen.

Lord, may you make this true of my life. May I be defined, my body, my spirit, my whole soul, by holiness. Be faithful to do this work in me. Make me blameless, just as you see me. And help me rest confident in your faithfulness to produce what is pleasing to you, right here in the deepest parts of me.

“May He equip you with all you need for doing His will. May He produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to Him…”

Hebrews 13:21

The Wrong Question: on feeling qualified, broken plans, and how to walk forward

Moses gazed out across the sand.

It had been a good feeling to know his calling; to be so certain of his purpose. He had studied, he had prepared. He was a leader and he was well-equipped to lead. The timing was perfect, the path was clear-cut, he was not afraid to act. And then this.

Cruelty. Injustice. Tormenting of the helpless. This was his moment and he had seized it. He had stepped into his role as protector. He, Egyptian royalty, had swept in to defend a Hebrew slave. He was finally a part of his own people, he had taken up their cause and he could sense a grand story unfolding…

…except they did not follow him. “Who appointed YOU to be our prince and judge?” they had demanded, and his daring had slipped away as suddenly as the life in the slave-driver’s eyes.

And Moses ran.

He ran as far and as fast as he could. He ran until he could not see. He ran until he could not breathe. What had he been thinking? He had been bold and risky and then his whole world had given way with a single question and now he was here.

A prince without a people; an outcast, adrift in the desert sun. He had known his place. Now he had no place. He had been sure of what path to take. Now he wandered in a wilderness with no paths at all. Tears and sweat stung his eyes. He wiped at them furiously and let out an exasperated grunt. How could this have happened? How could such a noble ambition amount to nothing at all?

Moses shook his head and resolved to bury the question. He cast one long look back toward home and then turned his back on Egypt, on Israel, and on any aspiration of becoming someone significant. Moses walked away and tried to forget.

Forty years later, he had almost succeeded. And then one day, a flicker of hot white light caught his eye as he was picking his way through the wilderness scrub.

After taking quick stock of the sun’s position in the sky and the small flock of animals grazing behind him, Moses unknowingly took his first step toward a path he had abandoned a long time ago.

“You must lead my people out of Egypt, “ the God who spoke from fire told him.

Moses thought he might throw up. All the disillusionment and fear and frustration came hurdling back in a wave that overpowered and surprised him. NOW you want me to lead your people?? No thank you, I already tried that and it cost me everything! It’s clearly NOT my place.

“Who am I to appear before Pharaoh? Who am I to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt?” Moses argued, squinting at the flame.

“I will be with you…” God answered, “Say this to the people of Israel: I AM has sent me to you.”


From Beka’s Journal: