Purposeful Faith

Category - Contentment

Finding true contentment

Rules are His Tools

“Mikey, don’t stand on Maddie’s stroller.  Mikey, step down.  Michael, now!”  He looks at me and steps up higher and higher, until he starts to lose balance.  When I see the stroller tip backward and Mikey slam on to the ground, my heart drops.  If only he listened.

His sad eyes look up at me. Through the tears he asks, “Mommy, why?  Why did I fall? Why did you let me Mommy?”

I want to grab him and yell, “Because I told you to get down.  Why didn’t YOU listen to me?”  But instead I say, “I am sorry you fell.  I love you, little Mikey.  It is important to listen to mommy.  I am watching out for you when I tell you things. I want you to be safe.”  I give him a hug.

How often are we like Mikey?  How often do we push the boundaries just a little bit more?  We think, I can get away with this – I’ll be ok.  We want to do things our way.  We fool ourselves.   We think God isn’t watching.  We think he won’t punish us.  We think we can work our way around consequences with a little smart thinking.  We think that grace will just entirely cover us, so we are okay.  But, even though by grace we are secure in heaven and with God, consequences to our actions do arrive.  When they do, like Mikey, we often look up at God and say, “Why God?  Why did this happen? Why did you allow it?”

In many ways, we never grow up.  We are on the verge of tipping over our own life strollers because, in the moment, it feels worth it.  We step up, just a little higher, right to the very edge.  Why?  Because, many times, we view God’s commands as restrictions – rules – set in place to hold us back from fun, pleasure or relief.  These “rules” rain on our parade. We step up a little higher on our strollers; we take the risk.  Let’s see what happens!

Then, we down we fall.  We fall flat on our face and we feel hurt.  Like Mikey, we tend to miss the point of parental guidance entirely.

God lovingly, laid down directions for our lives to keep us in areas of safety.  He doesn’t want us to drive into places of fear, pain, and consequence.  He gives us a roadmap, so we can drive with an idea of where we are headed.  With this, we know exactly how to get there and what is involved.  He informs us of the places we shouldn’t venture.  Why?  Because we may get hurt, we may encounter bad people or we may get stuck.   We may even miss our destination entirely if we go our own way.  His directions are not given to demand his way, like an authoritarian dad.  His directions keep us from pain, shame, guilt and regret.  Even more, they are to offer us joy, fulfillment and purpose as we trust him.

He offers us the route to help us in our commute because he loves us.  If only we would actually see it this way.  We see his commands as rules, he sees them as tools.  Tools to help us, to guide us and to keep us in places of contentment, peace and purpose.

When we drive within the lines of the boundaries he has set, we will find safety.  We will live lives that are focused and purposeful.  As a result, we will effectively love God and love others more because we are not walking around as hurt vessels.  We are walking as loved children who are protected and secure in the path that God has set before us.

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise),  “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”  (Ephesians 6:1-3)

But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. (James 1:25)

God has perfect directions, or laws, for our lives.   Let’s keep our strollers upright as we walk hand in hand with God towards the destinations he has set before us.

 

 

When Love is Blocked

Have you ever tried to reach out to someone but failed? Have you ever tried to help someone, but felt unappreciated? Have you ever tried to do something for God, but it didn’t work?

If so, I totally understand. Many years ago, God brought a young lady into my life, at what seemed the perfect time. During her regular visits to help with my son, I could clearly see she struggled with various life issues. I could clearly see her pain. I could clearly see she had major insecurities. And I could clearly see that I was the one to help her with this. I thought, “God has a plan for me to work on this one”.

Boy was I dead wrong.

I tried and I tried – and I tried some more – to pull her out of her shell. I tried to pour out words of encouragement. I tried to smile all the time. I tried to help her whenever she needed it. I tried to be flexible with work hours. I tried to tell her about God’s love. I tried to be super careful with feedback. I tried to take an interest in her life. I tried to ask her one hundred questions. I tried to offer food. I tried to offer help. I tried to make jokes.

What didn’t I try? I tried it all.

What did I get back? Nothing. Silence. In fact, what I got back seemed to be irritation and annoyance.

I felt so discouraged. I felt devalued. I felt frustrated. I felt angry, both at her and at God. Didn’t God see how much I was doing? Didn’t God know how bad she needed help? Didn’t she see how hard I was trying to be there for her?

This mission was a big FAIL. It failed because I totally missed the point. I am embarrassed to say that I was pursuing another’s heart with completely the wrong motive. It wanted to fix her. This motive left a mess in its wake.

When I felt my love was blocked, I tried a little harder. I gave a little more. I pushed it on her because I didn’t want to be rejected. I was seeking value based on her response. My heart may have been looking to love her at first, but after a couple of rejections set in, I was looking for even more love, admiration and appreciation. This was about “My Mission” not “God’s Mission” and therein lies the problem. The result? I felt rejected and she felt smothered. Not only was she trying to do her job, but she was also trying to satisfy me. We were both frustrated.

When we look to others to fill us and to approve us, we miss God’s plan. We miss his work and his miracle. When we work by our  might it turns into a fight. When we work by his might, it is a delight.

So what are we to do?

We are to pray, to listen and to obey – in his timing.  We are to trust him. We are to do what he calls us to do, not what we feel we need to do in order to garner a “feel good” response. We are to do our part, independent of other’s reactions. Then, the Lord will  approve us as we move forward in his calling.  Our love is not reliant on others.   It is reliant on God’s love for us.   This means, we don’t need to over work or over try. He will give us just the right direction. Our works are for him – and by him.

When we listen, hear and love as he loves, not as we love, we are in his will. He blesses this reliance  with our hearts great desire – acceptance, love and purpose.

Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. (Proverbs 3:6)

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:33)

Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD! (Psalm 27:14)

When we wait, God makes our love great.

Wanting More: Do you Have Big Eyes?

My daughter Maddie, who is turning 1 tomorrow (Happy Birthday Maddie!), loves to eat. It is amazing; she can out-eat my 3 year old. It doesn’t matter what I put in front of her she will devour it. Many times, I can hardly keep up with her. She is an eating machine; I can’t cut fast enough.

Strawberries are just one of her favorites. When strawberries make their way to our table, her little eyes light up. Just a few days ago, I sat her down and she spotted them. Eagerly, she made little yelping sounds to get my attention. So, I cut a little piece off of one and brought it to the table. I held it in just the perfect position, so she could enjoy the little bite that I had prepared. The only thing was she wasn’t looking at the piece right next to her mouth; she was looking at my other hand, right down by my side – the hand that held the big piece of strawberry. She was so focused on the big one, she didn’t even see what I had prepared for her. It was even difficult for me to grab her attention; she was so focused.  She wanted more.

Little Maddie was so consumed with what she thought she needed, that she missed the joy of what was already prepared and waiting for her. So often, we are just like little Maddie. Whether we like strawberries or not, we miss what the Lord has right in front of us, because we think we need something bigger. We want bigger purpose. We want bigger relationships. We want bigger ministry. We want bigger security.  We want more.

The Lord has a strawberry right next to our mouth, ready for our enjoyment, but we look past it, wanting more. We lack contentment and joy. We think we are in an empty dry land, but we really don’t see the gift he has sitting right before us.

Let’s learn a lesson from Maddie and see what the Lord has before us. Let’s not let our eyes get bigger than our stomachs. The Lord knows what we need. He has big things in store for us when we trust him, his timing and his ways (Jeremiah 29:11). Do you trust him?

“Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)