A Lesson in Humility

I consider myself to be a pretty smart person. I’m no genius. But I like to think I have pretty good common sense and the ability to apply it properly. I also like to consider myself to be pretty wise. I don’t make decisions haphazardly. You can pretty much be assured that when I make a decision about something, I’ve considered all sides and thoroughly thought through my options. That’s why, when someone disagrees with me, I have a hard time accepting it. Enter co-parenting.

As their mother, I am used to having the loudest and most influential opinion about the welfare of my children. When I was married, my husband often deferred to my judgement when it came to things about the kids. It’s not that he didn’t care, he just knew I was down in the trenches with them more than he was and therefore had a better vantage point. But in the process of divorce and shared custody, he too has had to crawl down into the trenches with the kids.

And while I say I respect his opinion, I’m learning that I actually esteem his ideas as long as they are the same as mine. It’s hard, when I’ve considered all sides of a situation and come up with what I think is the best solution, to be challenged with a different viewpoint.

I find myself becoming indignant and judgmental, thinking that somehow I must love my kids more. After all, any one who would advocate for that idea must not love their kids as much as I do, obviously! Then that still, small voice rises up and asks, “Are you really upset that his suggestion is not what’s best for the kids or is it because he doesn’t agree with you?” Ouch!

As I think about my prideful attitude, I’m reminded of Proverbs 16:5: “Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord; be assured, he will not go unpunished” (ESV, emphasis added). What does it mean to be “arrogant in heart”? Well, I don’t know about you, but I know I can often display humility outwardly, but inwardly I am full of pride. I’ll say out loud, “Okay, if you don’t think that’s best, we can find another solution.” While inside I’m seething with anger at the opposition. But we must remember, “…the Lord sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7b ESV).

The word “abomination” means, “something regarded with disgust or hatred” (merriam-webster.com). I grew up hearing that word associated with sexual sin. I don’t remember anyone telling me my pride was an abomination to the Lord. That puts it in a whole other category of sin. To be clear, all sin separates us from God and shouldn’t be taken lightly. But somehow knowing that my pride, no matter what it’s based on, is considered disgusting to God, is upsetting. It’s no wonder James 4:6 says, “But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble'” (ESV, emphasis added).

There is no shortage of verses on pride in the Bible. Here are just a few:

  • “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom” (Proverbs 11:2 ESV).
  • “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18 ESV).
  • “One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor” (Proverbs 29:23 ESV).

Did you notice the negative consequences associated with pride: disgrace, destruction, being brought low, punished (Prov. 16:5)? But with humility comes wisdom, honor, and, according to James 4:6, grace.

So what does it mean to be humble in my efforts to co-parent? It means not always assuming my way is the right way. It means being able to consider someone else’s opinion as valid. It also means not getting my knickers in a bunch when I don’t get my way.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he will exalt you.”

1 Peter 5:6 ESV

It’s a work in progress. I’m a work in progress. I have to ask the Lord to forgive my prideful attitude a lot. And I have to fight against negative assumptions when there’s a difference of opinion on how to address an issue with the kids. But I’m learning it’s a much easier path when I choose to humble myself. Just as 1 Peter 5:6 says, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he will exalt you” (ESV).

If you would have told me that co-parenting and shared custody was going to be part of my refining process, I would have scoffed at the idea. But God, in His infinite wisdom and love uses everything, even the unpleasant stuff, for our good and His glory.

Raising Strong Kids

As a mom, it’s my instinct to protect my kids from the hard things in life. I want to keep them safe and protected from the harsh realities of this world. However, I’ve learned I simply can’t protect them from everything.

Last weekend, Faith fell and chipped her front teeth. As we walked through yet another challenge, it broke my heart to watch her process through this disappointment. She was upset and worried and embarrassed to show her teeth to anyone. But within a day, she was back to her smiley, joyful self (and this was before she had them repaired). Watching her, I realized something about my kids. They are tough. They’ve got a bounce back that is admirable.

Isn’t that ultimately what I want for my children, to be strong and resilient? But I don’t just want to raise strong kids. I want to raise kids that are strong in their faith–able to trust God no matter what. As I’ve seen in my own life, that kind of strength and steadfastness doesn’t come through easy living. It comes through adversity. Their faith is built by going through trials and challenges, and watching God answer their calls for help.

Romans 5:3-5 speaks about the upside of hardships: “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (ESV).

James 1:2-4 also says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (ESV). This is the fruit I want to see produced in my kids’ lives.

As their mom, I never want to see them hurt or face hardships. But I must remember they’re not mine. They belong to our Heavenly Father and He loves them more than I do. He would never allow them to walk through anything that wasn’t designed to conform them into the likeness of Christ (Romans 8:29). Everything they experience is helping to prepare them for the assignment God has for their lives.

It is my hope that, as God continues to meet them in the hard things of life, they can say as Job did, “I had only heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes” (Job 42:5 NLT).

Learning to Forgive Yourself

Recently, I had a huge parenting failure. I lost my temper and unleashed every emotion I had been keeping bottled up on my poor, unsuspecting child. Looking at the tears in his eyes as I ranted, I knew I had crossed the line. Once I gathered myself, I apologized and, as kids are prone to do, he forgave me right away. I prayed and asked the Lord to forgive me too. Then came the really hard part, forgiving myself.

When my former husband and I first separated, I struggled with self condemnation then too. I would recall all the ways I had failed in my marriage, all the ways I had been selfish and self-serving. I didn’t need anyone to punish me. I was doing a fine job of it by myself.

We all know how important it is to forgive others quickly (Matthew 6:14). But why does it seem okay to somehow keep beating ourselves up over our mistakes? When God says in Psalm 103:12 (ESV), “as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us,” we counter with, “No, you’ve got it wrong, God. This time I’ve gone too far. This time I can’t be forgiven.” When He says He “… will cast our sins into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:19b, ESV), we grab our fishing poles. Why? Why do we somehow think we know better than the God of the Universe when it comes to forgiving our own sin?

David knew what it was like to have an epic failure. He committed adultery, then tried to cover it up with murder (2 Samuel 11). Psalm 51 was written after the Prophet Nathan confronted him about his sin: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me” (vs. 1-3 ESV, emphasis added). I’m sure David felt as I have felt, unforgivable. I’m sure he kept replaying in his mind the errant choices he made. That’s why he says, “my sin is ever before me.”

When we are in self-condemnation, we hide from God, feeling unworthy. That’s exactly what the enemy of our souls wants. He wants us to feel shame for our sin and hide just like Adam and Eve did in the garden. But when Adam and Eve sinned, God came looking for them. He didn’t storm in with bolts of lightning and cracks of thunder, ready to condemn. He simply came looking for His children (Genesis 3). He does the same for us. While we’re busy trying to cover up our mess, He comes with arms wide open, ready to forgive, if we would only come to Him.

That’s what David did. He went directly to God, without covering up: “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgement” (Psalm 51:4 ESV). He goes on to say, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit” (Psalm 51:10-12 ESV).

Forgiving ourselves is really just learning to receive the forgiveness that God has already given us through the death of His Son. We need to take God at His word when He says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2 ESV).

In the immortal words of Jesus: “Your sins are forgiven” (Mark 2:5b). Now “pick up your bed and walk” in that forgiveness (paraphrase of Mark 2:11).

The Tweens Have Landed

I have a tween! If that’s not a scary thought, I don’t know what is. Journey just turned 11 and will be going into sixth grade this school year. And it’s almost like an alien invasion. Where did my little boy go?! Suddenly, I can see the next six or seven years flashing before my eyes. Soon, he’ll be in junior high, then high school. And I don’t even want to think about what comes after that.

This is new territory for me as a parent. I’m trying desperately to keep up, but I’m having a hard time. It always seems to take me by surprise when one phase ends with the kids and a new one begins. I’m having to learn new ways of relating, new ways of disciplining, new ways of getting my message across, new ways of letting go.

Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (ESV). It’s a wonderful promise until I start to think about whether or not I have what it takes to “train him up in the way he should go.” I can’t do this parenting thing on my own. I need support and encouragement. I need input from people who have walked this road before. And most importantly, I need the Holy Spirit.

As I was praying for my tween-ager the other day, I was reminded of what God’s word says in Isaiah 54:13: “All your children will be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children” (ESV). It’s inevitable. There will be things I miss as I parent my kids. But this verse comforts me by reminding me that God will teach them what only He can.

My prayer is that, as my children continue to grow and go through their phases, I will be able to meet the challenges with the strength of the Holy Spirit. Joel 2:28 says, “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy; your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.” I’m praying for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. I need His power to parent in this new stage. But I also want to see the Holy Spirit at work in the lives of my children.

Parenting well is hard work. It’s not for the faint of heart. But I’m thankful that I’ve not been given this assignment to do on my own. I’m grateful for the people in my life, including their father, who are walking this road with me. And I’m most thankful for God, the ultimate Father.

Common

Recently, the kids and I had huddled into a sort of hug prayer, with a child on each side of me. As I was praying, I was so distracted by their fidgeting with one another. And this wasn’t the first time my prayers had been interrupted by their playing. I remember my own childhood. My parents would have never allowed such frivolity and playfulness. They taught us to fear and respect God in prayer.

But we live in a different time. God is our friend, not some big, far-off being. We want our kids to like God and church and all things spiritual. But in my attempts to make Him approachable, have I made Him ordinary? Have I made God too commonplace?

The idea of the fear of God has somehow gone out of mode. It’s true, I do want my kids to enjoy church and feel like God is their Father. I’ve taught them that prayer is just “talking to God.” But I’m afraid in doing so, I’ve taken away some of the holiness, the sacredness of prayer.

God is nothing to trifle with. He is holy and deserves not only our respect, but our fear. When God spoke to Moses from the burning bush, He said, “‘Do not come any closer’ … ‘Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground'” (Exodus 3:5 NLT). Though God had called Moses to Him, He did not allow him to approach His presence casually.

When Jesus was crucified, the veil of the Temple was torn, permanently removing the separation between us and God (Mark 15:38). But that doesn’t mean our approach to Him should be anything less than reverential.

I’m not saying we need to pray formal, liturgical prayers all the time. But neither should we be distracted or irreverent. Prayer is talking to God. But we must remember that He is the Creator of Heaven and Earth, not our buddy with whom we are shooting the breeze.

So I’m doing quite a bit of backtracking and retraining with my kids. We are learning to “bow our heads and close our eyes,”–old school praying. We are learning that prayer is not the time to play and fidget. And most importantly, we are learning that God is to be honored, respected and feared.

Father Knows Best

The other day, I found my sweet little girl huddled in a corner with tears in her eyes. When I asked what was wrong, she said, “It feels like everyone is against me!” She had come to me earlier, expecting me to mediate between her and her brother. But when I didn’t agree with her on the matter, she believed that not only was her brother against her, I was too.

As I stooped down to look in her tear-filled eyes, I told her, “I am not against you! I will never be against you. There may be times when you don’t like what I choose, but know that I am always working for your good.” As I spoke, my own words began to echo in my ears: Where have I heard that before? Just as I spoke tenderly to my hurting daughter, reassuring her that I would never do anything that would not be for her good, my Heavenly Father says the same to me.

The reality is, as much as I would like to always have Faith’s best interest in mind, I’m imperfect and even selfish at times. But God is the perfect parent. If He says He’s working for my good, I know I can trust Him. I was reminded of Matthew 7:11: “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (ESV)

Circumstances and situations may not always feel like they are working for my good. But just as I can see the bigger picture that my daughter can’t, God can see the biggest picture of all–how my current trial fits in His eternal plan.

A (almost) Mother’s Day Tribute

I know Mother’s Day is usually set aside to honor the mothers in our lives. And I have several amazing moms I could laud, including my own. But this year I’d like to honor the two little people that call me mommy.

I have the special privilege of walking this parenting road with two incredible kids–Journey and Faith. In this new season of parenting, God has used them to make 2 Corinthians 12:9 a reality for me: “And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness…'” (NKJV). Through my kids, God has provided me with a strength that I wouldn’t have had on my own. They have comforted me, encouraged me, and waged spiritual warfare for me. They have loved me when I’ve felt unloved and unlovable–even when I’ve acted that way.

There was one moment, a few months ago, that I will never forget. It had been a difficult day–I had failed more times as a mom than I care to remember. In exhaustion and exasperation, I sent the kids to bed. I began crying out to God, telling Him I didn’t think I was going to make it as a single parent. I was convinced that I was messing up the kids somehow. The kids overheard me and came down to check on me. Immediately they began to encourage me. Journey stood behind me, and began commanding the lies of satan to be silenced, in the name of Jesus.

Just a few minutes before I had lost my temper and raised my voice. But here they were showing love to me as if I had just given them the greatest gift in the world. I was so humbled in that moment–by their love and God’s grace to me. It was as if He was saying to me, “I got this! You and the kids will be okay!” I was reminded of the promise in Isaiah 54:13, “All your children shall be taught of the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children.” God was instructing my kids on how to love me and fight for me, because I couldn’t do it for myself.

Before I became a mom, I remember a friend telling me that having kids would teach me so much. Being young and stupid, at the time, I thought I already knew everything I needed to know and didn’t believe parenting would be that impactful. I’ve since learned the truth. One of the biggest things I’ve learned is what true unconditional love looks like. Not my love toward them, but theirs toward me.

“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward” Psalm 127:3 (ESV)

I have been blessed with two amazing children. They’re not perfect and they get on my nerves sometimes. But at the end of the day, I can agree with Psalm 127:3, “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward” (ESV). They truly are my undeserved reward and my Incredible Faith Journey!

Be Faithful with the Small Things

A couple of weeks ago I wrote how details are important to God. But just as it is important for me to follow God’s instructions, it’s equally important that I’m faithful in my obedience.

Through out this challenging season, there have been “small” points of obedience that God has asked of me. Sometimes they’ve made sense. I could see how one “little” act would impact a bigger situation. But other times, they haven’t made sense, at least in my very limited perspective. In those times, I’ve been pretty compliant. My side of the conversation with God usually goes something like this, “Okay, Father. I’ll do this. I don’t understand, but I’ll do it.” And I do! I follow through with full commitment…at first. Then I get discouraged and start thinking about how much it really doesn’t make sense. It’s not changing anything or mattering to anyone. So why am I doing this?! I actually had a one-sided conversation like this with God recently: “Yeah, so I’m not going to do that anymore because it doesn’t make sense and I don’t really like doing it. I’m tired of doing senseless things.” Let me tell you, God is a much more patient Father than I am a mother. If one of my kids came to me with such a bratty pronouncement, it would not have been a one-sided conversation. But God just let me say my piece.

However, as I was praying for a friend recently, God reminded me of Matthew 25:23 which says, “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master'” (ESV). In my piety, I thought, “Oh this is perfect for her! She needs to remember that her little acts of obedience matter to God.” Then God finally responded to me: “This is not just for her, but for you too!” Oops! For my friend, it was an encouragement for her to continue doing the things she deemed as “small.” For me, it was a correction of my refusal to do the things I counted as insignificant.

I realize that I’m not always going to understand why God asks me to do certain things. I’d like to think at some point it will all make sense. But there is no promise of that. So I have to decide if I’m going to be faithful to do the “small” things He’s asked of me. To quote my wise friend, “I don’t have to worry about the success…of a matter. I just need to be faithful in doing it.” And that’s really what it comes down to! “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life” (Revelation 2:10b KJV).

Details Matter

Details matter to God. You only have to read Exodus 25 through 30 to see how important they are to Him. In these chapters, God gives Moses the instructions for the tabernacle and its furnishings. God was very specific about every aspect of the tabernacle. He didn’t miss one detail. And at no point was Moses scratching his head at something vague God had told him. It was all spelled out clearly, in such intricate detail–down to the type of raw material that should be used.

For me, the details in these chapters can be overwhelming. Do I really need to know that the ephod “shall have two shoulder pieces attached to its two edges, so that it may be joined together” (Exodus 28:7)? Part of me wants to skip this whole section, wishing it simply said, “God gave Moses the plan for the tabernacle and he built it.” But one of the things I love about the Old Testament is how it shows God’s character. And what this shows me about God is how much He really cares about details.

But why is it important for me to know that details are essential to Him? First, when I know that He was that specific about the manufacturing of inanimate objects, I can only fathom how much He cares about the details of my life. There’s not one aspect of my life that He’s forgotten or not made plans for.

Secondly, it helps me to understand why it’s important for me to follow His instructions. He told Moses, “Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you” (Exodus 25:9 NIV, emphasis mine).

There have been so many times in my life when I’ve been frustrated by my assumption that God isn’t giving me direction. I had one of those moments this week. One of my biggest challenges with Journey is getting him to stay focused on a task. It’s been a source of much consternation and a frequent point of prayer. So when I read Exodus 25:9, I plainly asked God, “Why haven’t you shown me exactly how to help my son?” But in His loving way, God used this same verse to correct me. He reminded me that He’d given me instructions, but I hadn’t followed them exactly.

I have heard it said, “If you’re not hearing from God, go back to the last thing He told you to do and do it.” And I think there is such wisdom in that. I know in my own life, it has often been the case that when I’m not hearing from God, it’s because I’ve chosen to ignore something He’s instructed me to do. Just as He told Moses to make the tabernacle and furnishings precisely as He had directed him, God expects me to obey His instructions without compromising.

So I’ve been doing a lot of backtracking this week–seeing where I’ve missed God’s instructions. It’s a humbling process. But if I’m going to be serious about being His disciple, I need to make sure I’m following His directions exactly.

Losing Control

“All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children.” – Isaiah 54:13

When my kids were infants, we brought them to church and dedicated them to the Lord. I remember this beautiful ceremony so well. We committed to raise them in the “fear and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). We recognized them as the gifts they were from God. And we acknowledged they were on temporary loan to us from Him. But somewhere along the way I forgot these babies were not really mine.

I’ve always struggled with fully releasing my kids to God’s care. Being in control is how I’ve dealt with the inevitable fear and worry that comes with parenting. Unfortunately, I’ve had to learn, very painfully, that not even this super mama can insulate them from the pain of this broken world.

As I’m realizing my inability to shield my kids from all pain and disappointment, I’m being stripped of the delusion that I’m in control. I think that’s a good place to be. It’s not comfortable or easy. But it is good.

Isaiah 54:13 says, “All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children” (ESV). This verse reminds me who is the ultimate caretaker of my kids. I can’t control every detail of their lives, but I can entrust them to One who can.

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