Assassination of Self

For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh…
…For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
(2 Corinthians 4:11, 17-18)

The call to homeschool is a call to sacrifice.

No, wait. It’s been on my mind lately as I’ve found myself advocating for a troubled young lady. But there’s more to it. Hmmm, maybe –

The call to be a parent is a call to sacrifice.

No, no. Not there yet. To be married? Single? To work? To stay home with your kids? Be a missionary? Be a friend? Be alone? Write? Eat? Breathe?

Ah, yes. It’s all of those and more.

The call to follow Christ is a call to sacrifice.

Or as Dietrich Bonhoeffer stated it:

The cross is laid on every Christian. The first Christ-suffering which every man must experience is the call to abandon the attachments of this world. It is that dying of the old man which is the result of his encounter with Christ. As we embark upon discipleship we surrender ourselves to Christ in union with his death—we give over our  lives to death… When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.  (from The Cost of Discipleship)

Let me speak frankly here, my friends. The more I walk and talk with my King; the more I read His word and put it into practice, the more I surrender to Him and learn to trust Him, the more I see the beauty in sacrifice. In death.

Last week, I wrote to you about a confession of my own sin and of the good which came of being hurt by church. Today I can tell you I still feel free from the taint of bitterness. But it was not a process either quick nor comfortable. It was long and terrible, for the root of bitterness was wound tightly around not only my heart, but around everything else as well. And it did not begin with confession – it ended there.

In some ways, it was nothing short of spiritual open-heart surgery. Or, if you will, circumcision of the heart. It was painful. It was bloody. And it was completely worth it.

And there’s the thing – no matter what the King of kings calls us to give up in this life – even if it’s hurt feelings or pride or selfish ambition – it is worth it. Not only will it be worth it for the next bazillion years, it will be worth it here and now.

An image comes to mind here from one of my pastor’s sermons. He spoke of putting to the sword any temptations, selfishness, envy, pride – literally anything which distracts you from the Lord.

Guys, let’s be real here. These are not vague words encompassing ideas of “bad stuff” to avoid. These can even be good things. Praise music. Family visits. Fun times. Entertainment. Anything which has become an idol for us and merits more attention than the God who gave them to us must go. Anything. 

(…and a quick aside for the record, I am not advocating putting your family or your movie collection to the sword! Just the idolatrous misplacement of our own affections…)

Whatever it is which entices us away from the Lord’s best, from growth and humility and Truth, we need to put it to the sword – the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.

Let’s think about the use of a sword for a moment. To put anything to death by the sword, there’s a necessary intimacy. A gun is cold and impersonal; the slight pressure of a single finger and the deed is done. I can shoot from the relative anonymity of a passing car or a window. I can put a neat bullet hole right into a skull without ever seeing the face of the one I robbed of life.

Not so with the sword. To put a person to death with a sword takes proximity. There’s some degree of effort involved, as even a sharp blade will not penetrate far into muscle, bone, and tendon by accident. There will be pain. There will be blood. There will be screams of agony and it is likely I will see the eyes of the one I destroy – the windows to her soul.

Look in the mirror, Soldier. There’s your target. It’s time for the assassination of the old self. But it has to be personal. You have to mean it.

Even when it hurts. Even when it’s embarrassing. That’s just the death throes of our pride, friends. Bloody, messy, agonizing, horrible to endure, but so, so worth it in the long run.

Lord, may we all be willing to let You show us what must die, then give us the strength and trust to put it to death. Forgive us for clinging to what we believe are good things when You truly do know best. No matter how painful or shaming, expose them in us. We yield them to You to rip out, and we take up the sword in cooperation and obedience to You, our King. 

We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin.
(Romans 6:6-7)

 

The Dreaded “S” Word

For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
(Ephesians 5:23-24)

Like many aspects of the Christian journey, submission does not come naturally for most of us. In fact, according to our modern values, the idea of a wife submitting to a husband is not only unpopular, it is almost shameful.

Yet there it is, plainly spelled out in not one but two ancient letters now accepted as part of the canon of Scripture:

Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
(Colossians 3:18)

But of course we could object and say that Paul was a chauvinist pig and simply had a grudge against women… except for the fact that Peter used the same Greek word (here translated with a different nuance) in one of his letters as well:

Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives,
(1 Peter 3:1)

As a woman growing up in a cultural climate proclaiming, “What’s good for the gander is good for the goose,” and other girl-power statements, this was not a teaching that I easily adopted when I became a disciple of the Messiah. However, I did adopt it, and I would love to share my experience with the concept of submission.

You see, I became a Christian as a youngish adult whose life had just been turned upside down by some pretty poor choices. At the age of 25, I found myself pregnant and living with the man who would later become my husband. Clearly, neither of us knew or obeyed the Lord at this time.

But God had plans to use this mess, and the new life that was growing inside me fostered a desperation to find out if there was a God. For the sake of space, the nickel version is that I began to read the Bible while challenging God to prove Himself to me if He was real.

He did.

So it was that my eyes were first opened to my sin and rebellion as well as the astonishing love of God and the breathtaking humility of Yeshua (also called Jesus). I was floored. What’s more, as I talked with God through what was to be the first of many readings through His Word, I was guided by His Spirit to take what I read literally where it was rendered literally and symbolically when it was clearly stated as a symbol.

For me, that included submission to my new husband. This did not come easily, particularly before my husband also became a Christian. Yet Peter’s words from chapter 3 of his letter dogged me.

I admit that I implemented submission with a touch of resentment at first, sorry little rebel that I am, even after my husband devoted his own life to Christ.  And I had many, many heartfelt and teary discussions with the Lord about how difficult it was to be submissive.

Until one day, God finally opened my eyes to three truths. First and foremost, He knows. When I say that, I mean He has actual, experiential knowledge of how difficult it is to go from a place of authority to a place of deference. He has done it on a grander scale than I ever could.

Secondly, He showed me that not submitting to my husband had less to do with failure to trust my man than it did my failure to trust God Himself.  If I submit to my husband, even when I disagree, I am trusting in God to lead my man effectively – even if it means difficulty or learning from poor choices. After all, the most enduring lessons I have learned have been through my mistakes… and often the very place where I disagree was the place my husband turned out to be right, after all.

Besides, by not submitting to my husband, I was refusing to submit to my God. This one gave me pause.

As a Christian, I am commanded to act in humility; a necessary ingredient for submission. Now I am not saying I have never spoken a contrary word to my man. I have, and often. I am not afraid to express dissent, yet I present my disagreement respectfully, just as I would to any other authority. While my man always considers my feedback, my man does not always decide in favor of my way.

This takes especial humility on my part when I am convinced that my way is right, and through it I have certainly been humbled to discover that I am wrong much more frequently than I once believed!

Finally, God gave me a sense of the cost of responsibility the husband’s authority carries. After all, right or wrong, it is he who will answer to the Almighty for the decisions made for our family and for the direction of his leadership.

Let that sink in a minute.

Ladies, our husbands are accountable before God for their leadership – right or wrong.

When the Lord put it to me that way, I began to feel both genuine relief not to shoulder this grave responsibility and sincere respect (even awe) for my husband who bears it all.

When I think of it in those terms, submission is not such a bad position to be in, after all!

TrumpetFlower002

 

 

Victim

Love is patient and kind…
(1 Corinthians 13:4a)

I have the very greatest prayer partners on the face of the planet. No joke.

Just this morning, two of us carried our coffee mugs down to the basement where we proceeded with a pre-dawn outcry before the Throne of Grace on behalf of our families, our friends, our nation, and our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ worldwide.

While one of our members could not make it this particular day, these ladies are my go-to warriors, my trenchmates on the front line, my confidants.  With them, I confess sin with unabashed candor, knowing that they will join me in lifting up a broken and contrite heart as well as in the celebration when a particular sin has been vanquished.

We laugh and cry, we make pleas for the salvation of friends and loved ones who walk in hopelessness, we praise our God that He provides us with enough difficulties along the way that we never forget our incredible need of Him. Together, we pray that we will not only be partakers of grace, but givers of it as well; that merit for any good deeds will be credited to His account and not to ours.

This morning, one friend and I chatted for quite a while after we had knocked fervently at the pearly gates. As our small group is doing a Scripture-based study on marriage, we were thinking back to our selfishness with our spouses early on in our marriage and discussing areas where we may still owe these dear men an apology.

And it got me thinking…

If you have perused this blog for long, you’ll know from a past post that my marriage did not begin with a typical “love and courtship” type of relationship. We did the commitment thing first and worked on the love part along the way.

Through it all, that vow about “in sickness and in health” has been well-tested for my longsuffering husband. He has stuck with me through babies, routine illnesses, meningitis, a surprise baby on the tail end of recovery, and chronic migraine.  Years of chronic migraine.

In fact, I had one yesterday (first in 2 weeks, though, so celebrate with me!!). In the midst of it, I had a tutoring/study skill coaching session with one of my part-time daugthers who also struggles with migraines. After some meds and a nap, I composed a quick email to her dad (my adopted brother/sensei/co-small-group-leader)… and subsequently had to compose another quick email to clarify my muddy thoughts from the first one.

It is very likely that I was unsuccessful. However, at the end, I recall typing out, “Thank you for your patience!”

Since then, I have been thinking about those words, especially in the context of my early-morning discussion on marriage.

For anyone who deals with any type of debilitating or life-altering medical condition or chronic pain, patience can quickly run short. In the fog of fatigue or the pestilent gnawing of pain, it can be difficult to answer your children softly or speak with respect and love to your spouse.

On days in which the old gray matter is sluggish and each thought seems to be extracted with great effort as if wrested from some glutinous quagmire and even basic tasks loom to towering heights of impossibility, a body needs an extra measure of patience just to exist. In such situations, it can be tempting to see oneself as a bit of a victim of circumstance.

Yet in reality, it is my husband who has been the victim here.

When I am annoyed with my own inability to string a handful of words together, how much more patience must it require for the man who listens and struggles to comprehend my disconnected (and often repeated) words?

If fatigue leaves me feeling frustrated with of piles of unfinished tasks, how much more frustrating for him to watch me fight a battle we both know I cannot win? If it is a great feat of composure for me to handle my teenagers’ vitrolic responses delicately when I feel that gentle stabbing behind my left eye, how much more patience it must require for them to respond to me when I am (quite literally) out of my mind – or for my Man to listen to  the lot of us?

So to my Man, if you read this, I have to say:
Thank you so much for your years and years and YEARS of unswerving, unwavering patience and for your example of uncompromising, Biblical love!

Ah, Lord! Forgive me for my self-pity and thank You for an amazing husband who is also an incredible father. May I learn to count the cost of my words as well as he does and spend them as carefully. Let the word of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight! Amen!

… love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
(1 Corinthians 13:4b-7)