When God Takes Your Isaac

{ image source }

Gentle Reader,

The past couple of weeks have been intense. We are in the process of repainting the entire interior of our house. Everything is a wreck. Two of my coworkers went on vacation at the same time, so every day meant full-on running the second I hit the doors. Chris’ truck went what we feared was permanently belly-up (thankfully, it was just the starter). Then, Saturday morning, I hit and killed a puppy on my way to run a few errands.

Awful.

And underneath it all, I have been engaged in an intense struggle with God.

For some time now, I have been searching for my spot. My place, if you will. Most of the things that I have been involved with in my home church have turned out to be either entirely ill-fitting or what I perceive to be spectacular failures. I thought that I had a certain set of giftings and talents, but I was wrong. I’ll just summarize the whole messy story by saying that I never, ever, ever want to be in charge of a group of adults. Not ever again.

I want to be used by God and I want to be involved, so when the call went out for a glorified bouncer during the children’s Wednesday night Bible study, I figured, “Hey, I could do that.” Lack of my own children has not prohibited me from developing the “mom tone” or the “evil eye.” I have no problem telling kids to sit down and listen. Or shipping them off to their parents if they won’t. Plus, I find kids entertaining. And often much smarter than we adults.

This was meant to be a pit-stop of sorts while I figured out where God wanted me to be. I’ve never been the children’s ministry sort. Crafts are my enemy. Keeping track of snack allergies is exhausting. So, I thought that I’d sit back, lend a helping hand, and wait.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I pinch-taught the pre-K Sunday School class. There were no lesson materials available, so, as the ankle-biters prayed, I begged God for wisdom and His love. Taking a deep breath, I decided that we’d talk about the passage our pastor had preached on that morning.

God has a sense of humor, and it is often ironic.

The kids learned, based on Ephesians 4:7-11, that each person who becomes part of God’s family gets a present, and that this present is given to us so that we can work together and get along. (They also learned about Ephesus and the country of Turkey, which was absolutely hilarious to the under-6 crowd). They learned that even the smallest and youngest of Christians has a special thing that God enables her to do.

The next day, I’m crying. “God, I am so frustrated!” He just let me speak. I think that God simply waits for us to wail it out before getting into it with us. “I don’t know what I”m supposed to be doing!”

He asked me what I wanted. What I really wanted. Not with an audible voice, but with a strong impression upon my soul. I knew that He was asking me to reveal my motives. Not to Him, but to myself.

“I want to be known,” I whispered.

I have long labored under the belief that I have to prove myself worthy of being alive. One lie that the Enemy flings at me time and again, and I buy into, is that I’m not enough. Not good enough, not smart enough, not pretty enough, not successful enough. I’m always in this never-ending race to show that I am, in fact, enough. As my logic goes, if I am enough, if I am actually supposed to be here, then I will be noticed. There will be comments. Applause. Some kind of notoriety.

I want to be known.

“I want you to give that up.”

Have you ever had the wind knocked out of you? This was one of those moments. God was telling me, commanding me, to give up my desire to be known.

My response? “I can’t do that.”

IN my quest for validation, being known has become the ultimate treasure. It is THE THING. If I am known, then I am enough. If I am known, then I am worthy.

He brought this up again at work. I escaped to the bathroom, the only place where a librarian can get some privacy. “I don’t know how to give this up,” I said in my heart. “I don’t know where to start. I don’t know how to start.”

God was asking me to lay my Isaac on the altar, only this sacrifice wasn’t going to be saved at the last minute. The Lord was going to kill this desire, this pride. “Is it enough for you to do things for My eyes only?”

How He breaks my heart! I wanted so much to answer in the affirmative, but we both knew that would be a lie.

I thought that I was volunteering to help with the kid’s class, but it turns out that I am there to learn. They don’t care if a lesson is polished. They don’t care if the teacher went to college or not. They don’t answer questions just to hear themselves speak. They respond out of a purity of heart that I am lacking – singing with gusto, enraged at the injustice of starving children, playing with abandon, longing for everyone to know and love the Lord. They don’t stress out about their spiritual gifts, or how and where they are serving, or if they witnessed to that person correctly. Any competition is entirely good-natured, and they always cheer each other on.

They just…are.

They know that God sees, and that His eyes are enough.

My journey to faith. (15)

How I Came to Faith: Early Days

sunset-hair

Gentle Reader,

We are going to dive into some deep doctrinal waters in weeks to come. I am planning to write a series on the Five Solas – their historical background, what they are, if they stand up to questioning. A project like this takes a great deal of research and careful planning, however, and I don’t want to leave the blog completely inactive while wading through piles of books and stacks of articles. So, as a lover of both story and debate, I thought it would be worthwhile to answer a question I have been asked on multiple occasions:

Why are you a Christian? 

The short answer is that it makes sense on psychological, social and historical grounds. (Please hold your objections to the end of the post). The short answer is always the end point of a long journey, though. It is that journey I wish to tell you about.

I was raised in a Christian home. Some of my earliest memories involve being at church, giggling with other little girls as we twirled in our fancy Sunday dresses. I was taught to pray, very simply, at a young age. My brother and I had cassette tapes that contained Bible stories and worship songs. My parents prayed and I knew that they read the Bible.

My understanding of life began with God. It was a given that He was real.

The thing I don’t remember is the day that I decided to ask Jesus to forgive me and be the Lord of my life. My mom tells me that I was 4 or 5. I came out of the bedroom I shared with my brother and told her, quite matter-of-factly, that I had asked Jesus into my heart. That was that.

I had a simple, innocent understanding of God. When I hit first grade, I told my parents that I was always the first one to finish my lunch and go outside to play. My mom asked me if I was lonely, being all by myself. I told her that I was fine; I would sit on the swings and talk to Jesus. He was my friend.

When I was 7, I received a Bible in my Easter basket. It was a New King James Version done up with Precious Moments illustrations and little devotions for kids. I loved that Bible. (I still have it). I loved that I could read the stories by myself, that I could highlight things I liked (I have a deep, abiding passion for highlighters) and that I could write in it. Never once did it occur to me that I couldn’t write in my Bible. I had questions. I read things that made me cry. Or made me laugh. Or made me think, “God is just SO COOL!” Why not make notes?

I was encouraged to read my Bible – and I was encouraged to ask questions. Faith in God was never presented to me as something requiring a closing of the mind. I was a kid who needed to understand things, and that need splashed across every area of life. Why did the American Revolution happen? Why does 2+2=4? How come dogs don’t like cats? Why can I float in the water? Why was David the only one willing to fight Goliath? How did God make the world? Why don’t some people believe in God?

My parents didn’t always have answers for me, but that never stopped me from asking.

Right about the time I got that Bible, we left the church we’d been involved in for as long as I could remember. That made me sad, but I understood that my parents thought it was the right decision for our family. For awhile we didn’t go anywhere, but eventually my parents began the process of finding a new church for us. This was when I became consciously aware of different ways to order a congregational worship service (of course, I didn’t know that’s what I was aware of). This fascinated me. Could various churches do things differently and still be worshiping God?

We settled into a new congregation, but never quite became part of it. My brother and I were very shy, so the large numbers of children in the Sunday School classes scared us to death. Mom and Dad, being shy themselves, never forced us to join in. I was glad for that, much preferring to sit in the adult service and listen to the pastor’s beautiful preaching. (It didn’t hurt that he had a British accent, and I was already a confirmed Anglophile). I took my Bible with me and, with help, found the passages that he preached from. I was learning.

Things continued in much the same way for a few years. Like most people, it wasn’t until junior high school that my questions about life and all I had been taught reached a deeper level. The ages of 12-14 are so hard; you’re beginning to shed childhood, responsibilities increase, hormones rage. Suddenly, everything I had known to be true was shadowed by a gigantic question mark. It didn’t help that I had started attending a private school, away from all my childhood friends – and that we had been going to a new church.

This is where we’ll stop for today. I encourage you to reflect on your own story.

My journey to faith. (15)

For all posts in the How I Came to Faith series, go here