Not My Own: lifting my eyes to his worthiness, work, and power

Peter saw his opportunity and addressed the crowd.

“People of Israel,” he said, “What is so surprising about this? And why stare at us as though we had made this man walk by our own power or godliness? For it is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob…who has brought glory to his servant Jesus by doing this.”

Acts 3:12-13

I’m going through a Bible study about parenting in the power of the Holy Spirit right now because I’m 8 weeks away from my second son entering the picture, and what I feel is: “Oh my word, there’s going to be two!!! Lord, please help me learn how to do this, quick!” 

The study has been going through examples in Scripture of the Holy Spirit working through regular, flawed people with the gentle reminder that what made their work actually work was Him, not them. And so it must be in our homes.

When we let the Holy Spirit do his work in us, we make much of Jesus to our children. But instead, we often end up trying to step into the role of Savior to our kids and then we feel absolutely overwhelmed by needs we cannot meet in our own strength. I have felt this a thousand times! In our striving, we may not even realize that we’re actually working to steal glory that belongs to Christ, to substitute our hard work for what He is able to step in and accomplish as we yield to Him and wait on Him.

The author of this study asked the question: How does Acts 3 speak to your role as a mom? I loved this question because it helped me to put into words this thought: I am just as helpless to bring about the change and growth in my kids’ hearts as I would be to take a crippled man by the hand and tell him to walk. If it’s going to happen, it will never be because of my own power or godliness. And that’s where relief enters the picture.

I could never, by my own power or godliness, do the work God has laid out for me: not in my home, not out in the world, not even in my own heart. But just as his Spirit changed everything for ordinary Peter, He is able to lead me with certainty and work through me impressively as I yield to him.  No barrier, hurdle, or limit is too much for him.

The minute I say “not my own:”

-power
-godliness
-righteousness
-wisdom
-will

“but yours alone, Lord,”

is the minute that opens the way for His limitless and awesome work. 

“So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God perfect in their relationship to Christ. That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me.”
Colossians 1:28-29

Oh Lord,

As I yearn to walk well in this confusing season away from our ministry and displaced from our home; as I long to teach my son about you and instill in him a desire to know you; as I wrestle with my own heart to trust what you are building with my life and to be faithful in whatever work you place before me, my inadequacy becomes very clear. May it lead me again to the cross. To your worthiness, work and power, not my own. 

May these moments strengthen my heart to run hard, looking to you and believing you whole-heartedly for all you are able to do in and through a life like mine.

Six Hundred Expectations: on what to do when you can’t keep up



In that day, Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this will be its name: 
“The Lord is our righteousness.”

– Jeremiah 33:16

Off Balance

My one-year-old is in this crazy stage of exploring and climbing on almost everything, but he’s still getting the hang of his balance. This month, he fell and hit his head. so. many. times.

On a door hinge, on the steps, on the fridge door, on the coffee table, on the gravel, on a pinecone. Some days, I’m convinced he’s actually aiming for the only hard object with a corner in sight.

Man, have I felt like a failure when it comes to protecting him! So far it’s been nothing serious, but I am exhausted from trying to anticipate when this top-heavy toddler is going to tip over and the guilt I feel when I didn’t catch him in time. I have literally found myself saying the words, “One day. Let’s just make it one day without any head trauma, okay?”

It’s been just one of the many contexts where I have been moved to frustrated, irritable words toward myself and my family, and it’s been revealing to me that:

a) I have some unrealistic expectations about my ability to foresee and prevent every injury.

b) Kindness, patience, and self-control aren’t exactly the traits that surface when I’m under stress or pressure.

It turns out, I can be just as off balance as my toddler.

Six Hundred Expectations

This verse in chapter 33 of Jeremiah looks forward to a new way of things for Israel. It hints at a time when God would do something totally unexpected; when he would take these 613 expectations where his people came up short again and again and again, and he would step in.

My eyes flitted across the words, “The Lord IS our righteousness,” and it caused me to pause.

I think I most often function at the level of “The Lord expects/wants/demands my righteousness.” What would change if that thinking shifted to, “The Lord IS my righteousness?”

I would stop trying to be something I constantly fall short of. I would rely on his goodness and strength and kindness instead of trying to be those things myself. I would let these words that sing of Christ stepping in resonate in my soul, and perhaps, for once, I would let him.

Powerless

I read this verse in 1 Corinthians this morning, and it put to words the frustration I often feel day in and day out:

I am called to a way of living that I am powerless to carry out. I am called to participate in a plan that I am totally inadequate and unprepared to bring together.

And I hate butting up against that powerlessness.

He asks me to be kind and self-controlled and to consider others’ interests, to parent firmly and also graciously, to be a respectful and uplifting teammate in my marriage even when I’m under a lot of pressure and feeling frustrated, to raise the funds to do full-time ministry, to move overseas where there’s no Target or Starbucks and the internet is slow and I’m far from my family and the language falls strange on my ears and the state of things is heart-breaking and the work is worth it, but the team is understaffed and the hours are long and unpredictable and to adjust to everything being different and to still be kind and self-controlled and a faithful parent and a respectful wife and

I can’t.

I can’t keep up. I cannot do it all. I cannot do even one of those things.

And I am tired.

Your list probably looks different than mine, but maybe you feel that way, too.

Will You Let Me?

You and I are as powerless to keep up with our lists as any Israelite straining to measure up to those 613 impossible expectations and constantly falling short.

But our Savior says this:

I can. I can do each and every one of those things. You are powerless, but I am all-powerful. “I am the Lord, the God of all the peoples of the world, is anything too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:27)

I am your righteousness. I will do this thing. Will you trust me and come along? Will you relax your furrowed brow and breathe and watch me do it? Will you believe that I am bigger than the obstacles and able to heal even the most broken things? Will you let me be powerful and impressive and praiseworthy in your life instead of seeking to be those things yourself?

I am the Lord. I am your righteousness. Will you rest in that or will you keep trying to take my place?

A Prayer For When I Blow It

Oh Lord –

I am not kind. But you are my kindness.
I am not patient. But you are my patience.
I am not wise. But you are my wisdom

When I am unkind, help me to remember, “Oh yes. That’s because that’s what I am like. But that is not what you are like. Jesus, be my kindness right now.” 

When I blow up, help me to say in that moment, “Oh yes, that’s because I am short-tempered. But that is not what you are like. You are patient. You are self-controlled. You are gentle. Jesus, I cannot do what is right without you, because YOU ARE my righteousness.”

I am powerless to live this life the way you ask me to. But your strength works best in my weakest moments. 

So I will just be weak. I will be humble. I will say I’m sorry. I will beg for your help. And I will watch and see what you will do with a heart that is willing to step out of the way and give you room to work.

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