A Voice Said “Shout!”: on wrenching our attention toward what is lasting

A voice said, “Shout!”

I asked, “What should I shout?”

“Shout that people are like grass. Their beauty fades quickly as the flowers in a field. The grass withers and the flowers fade beneath the breath of the Lord, and so it is with people…But the Word of our God stands forever.”

Isaiah 40:6-8

When I was growing up, my dad had a rule: If there was screaming, there had better be blood.

He didn’t want us shouting about just anything. He wanted to know when he really needed to pay attention, when we were in trouble, when he should come running.

Part of growing up is learning to weigh our reactions to things, learning what is worthy of raising our voice; what things can we handle quietly and what are the things to which we must draw the attention of others?

So as I read this verse about the fading beauty of plants and people and the permanence of the Word of God, I knew it was true, but it raised the question: Why is this something to shout about?

undefined
 

I think it’s because otherwise, it eludes our attention.

We fix our eyes on the here and now and the people around us. We become obsessed with our appearance and our status and obtaining the respect of all who look upon us and we forget how quickly all that we’re striving for fades.

We need it shouted in our faces: All that beauty? All the achievement? All that we have built? Gone. As quick as a withering plant. Impossible to hold onto. Dying. Fading. Passing. Like annuals, they flower and die within one season. Appreciate them, but don’t make them your end-all.

Shout it.

Shout it until it sinks into your brain and you are breathless and finally asking the million-dollar question: If not this, then what?

What lasts? What stands? What holds its beauty season after season?

The Word of God. 

So cherish it, pursue understanding it, fix your attention on it, live your life following it.

If not me, then who?

Who lasts? Who stands? Who holds their beauty season after season?

The Word of God.

Who took on a human body and lived among us, who defeated death and has become our cornerstone. There is rescue and hope and lasting honor in no other name.

So cherish him, pursue understanding him, fix your attention on him, and live your life following him.

People are like grass, but the Word of God stands. May we learn to build on what is lasting. May we hold on tight to what does not fade away.

Lord,

In all that I chase after and all that I build, may I not be the one who ignores you for the sake of chasing after the withering, fading treasures that the world holds up as worthy.

May I learn to shout to my own soul until it shakes off its distracted gaze, fixes its eyes on you alone and runs hard in the race you have set before me. You are the prize my heart must learn to treasure. 

You alone are worthy.

“All the nations of the world are but a drop in the bucket. They are nothing more than dust on the scales…All the wood in Lebanon’s forests and all Lebanon’s animals would not be enough to make a burnt offering worthy of our God.”

Isaiah 40:15-16

Hair vs. Care: steps toward becoming a motherly mother

“Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry,  or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.”

1 Peter 3:3-4

I have been wanting to try out this short-in-the-back, long-in-the-front, curly, sassy haircut for a while now. Last week I took the plunge and chopped mine. I have always loved short hair because it’s so low maintenance. But I made a critical error: I do not have curly hair.

On the days I can find 10 minutes to style it, I’m in love. But on the days I have to set aside how my hair looks to handle the less obvious but more important things, I’m kind of wishing I’d stuck with a haircut that lends itself to a ponytail.

This verse in 1 Peter echoes Colossians 3 with its advice to adjust my mindset to the unseen things. It is natural to be drawn to and elevate the importance of what I can see. But what matters most is not as obvious as a hairstyle or how I dress or what I earn or what I live in.

What matters most about me is hidden in Christ. What matters most to the Lord are the hidden qualities he is cultivating in the inner person; and they are precious, and they are beautiful, but they are not obvious. They do not call attention to themselves. They are praiseworthy, but they often go unpraised.

People have been asking me if I am loving being a mother. Don’t get me wrong, I love my son deeply and I’m thrilled with who he is and savoring the sweet moments with him, but do I love being a mom? The answer is no. I feel like a failure all the time. I feel unimportant and invisible. I don’t feel very motherly. There are sweet moments, but there are also a lot of moments where I just feel tired and annoyed and unfulfilled. 

So I took some time this week to iron out in my mind the concept of what “being motherly” is,  and it came down to two central qualities: unselfishness and humility.

A motherly person puts the needs of another at the top of her agenda, above her own plans and desires and passions and vision. Being motherly is saying “no” to myself so I can say “yes” to my baby over and over and over again all day long. It is humbling myself to lay aside all I would like to be, all I would like to excel at, in order to care for him. 

And I do not feel very motherly, because I am not unselfish. I grate against the calling of motherhood, because I am not humble.

But perhaps mothering is not just the raising of a child, perhaps it is the making of a mother.

Perhaps the process itself is a beautiful thing because it is movement toward humility and unselfishness, even though that is not where I start from. 

So, Lord,

I bring these costly, beautiful qualities before you and I confess that I need you to change me. I desperately want the hidden person within to be beautiful in these ways.

To be willing to be hidden, I must become humble. To mother kindly and fully and whole-heartedly, I must become unselfish. I must lay aside the need to have an identity totally independent of being a mom. This is a central part of who I am now and I cannot sacrifice it because I want to excel in some other domain.

I must remember that the character you desire for me is something worth all I must give to chase after it. To be gentle and meek is not a mark of failure. It is strength held in check by kindness and humility; it is power and ability willingly laid down at the feet of the One who is worthy to direct it. 

So Lord, move me toward humility. Let me love to be hidden in you. And help me see that it is a good thing you are doing in me, even here and now, where it doesn’t feel so good.

“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