Three Cheers for the Tortoise

I have always thought perseverance is the boring virtue. I mean, let’s face it: love is beautiful…gentleness has a soft warm glow to it…integrity is noble and strong…even patience has a certain sense of satisfaction to it. But perseverance is just ordinary. Keeping on with the everyday of what you’ve been given, and then doing it all again tomorrow. Even when it’s hard. Even when no one notices. Even when it’s not where you want to be.  Perseverance is a slow steady progress that is easy to disparage. It’s like in Aesop’s old story about the tortoise and the hare, where the fast hare is so confident in his abilities to win that he doesn’t even take the race seriously.

And really, who wants to be like the tortoise in the story? No one wants to keep plodding along slow and steady when there are others out there flashing by, to the cheers of the crowd. (And wouldn’t we all rather have life come easily, with plenty of time to play in the meadow and take naps?) Sure, the tortoise won the race, but it wasn’t even through any skill or cleverness or strength on his part. All he had to do was keep on going. Anyone could have beaten the hare with that kind of mindset. But of course that is precisely the point. Visible skill means nothing if it makes you careless. Confidence and charm are pointless if you are going to quit running in favor of indulging yourself, before you hit the finish line. In the long run the character quality of perseverance may matter more than buckets of talent and ability, and not just in results. God says it’s actually a matter of who you are becoming on the inside.

Specifically, God says dull old perseverance is a building block of our character. When life gets tough and we find that things don’t come naturally to us, we get to choose whether to run away or to face the pain and let Him use it to grow us. The Apostle Paul drew a straight line to connect our hard times and strength of character, encouraged the young believers this way: “…we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5:3-4) It is that nitty-gritty virtue of perseverance that makes the difference. “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5) Perseverance is the holding-on strength that takes us from the growing to the good set before us. And it comes by the Holy Spirit at work in us with His power, just like all the other virtues. I need the help, because my own determination wears out after awhile, especially when life gets difficult and complicated.

Perseverance is what makes you give grace to that person and try to communicate better, to work together, instead of walking away….even though your heart is hurting. Because healthy relationships matter.

Perseverance makes you clean up one more mess….drag yourself out of bed one more time….listen to one more story of playground drama… when what you really want is just eight solid hours of sleep, or a quiet cup of coffee on the porch. Because you know they are worth it.

Perseverance is what keeps you praying long and hard until you have God’s answer. No matter how long it takes. Because you trust His love and His power and His timing.

Perseverance pushes you to face another day of the same old thing: of errands and phone calls and workday and chores that will need to be done again tomorrow. Because these hidden acts of service laid down with love and prayer are building a home and nurturing lives that will last beyond this world.

I guess the older I get, the more I value the simple virtue of slow and steady progress. Perseverance is about focus and determination– being willing to make many small right choices over and over, because you have your eyes out ahead on a bigger goal. It’s having faith that all those smaller, more boring choices are adding up to something wonderful just because God says so. It is simple obedience in the everyday, according to Paul: “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Colossians 3:17) Hang in there and keep on going– as old Aesop the storyteller said, “slow and steady wins the race.” And this Faith-race above all, is worth winning.

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“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:5-8)

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Hannah’s Song

Whenever I read Hannah’s story right there at the beginning of the book, I pause to wonder over the fact that she gave up her sweet boy. After praying so long for him “year after year” (so the story goes), she finally promises to give him back if God will just hear her prayer for a child. It is reminiscent of the desperate promises that lead to tragedy in some of our best folk-tales, except this one seems to be told with joy and we hear her song of praise, get to see her leading the little boy to the Temple to live with old Eli, watch her making wee garments to take to him when she visits once a year and sees how much he has grown. I chose her words of faith as our own commitment when we dedicated our children: “I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.” (1 Samuel 1:27-28) And I meant it, but I always wondered how she could bear to leave Samuel there to travel back home, after waiting so long to hold him. I always thought how she must be a stronger woman than I am.

Once you get past the main attraction that God answered a weeping woman’s prayers with a miracle baby, other valuable features of the story come to light, the first of which is that it is not really her story at all, but the beginning of Samuel’s. He himself is writing down the story he must have heard dozens of times– probably once a year when his parents came to visit. (I have it on good authority that parents tend to tell and re-tell their favorite stories about their children…you know we all do it.) And he records it with good reason, because his mother’s struggle has shaped his life, poured the foundation for who he is and the role he will play in the nation of Israel.

The first years of Hannah’s marriage read like an ancient soap opera, with two wives and one good-hearted husband caught in the middle. One wife loved, but barren; a second-choice wife (and probably younger) having child after child, but all too conscious of where their husband’s affections lay. Not surprisingly, their home becomes the grounds for some pretty serious rivalry and drama. Hannah weeps and prays and fasts. The husband gives gifts and coaxes her with declarations of his love. The other wife taunts and shows off her pregnancies and her children, jabs at Hannah’s faith year after year. You can’t help but wonder how Hannah kept praying; she kept going to the Temple to worship, kept asking God and did not give up. On the surface it appears that when Eli finally notices her praying in a public place, he casts his favor with her, and God at last gives her what she wants. But the year after year of praying without answers is a part of the story we would not want to miss.

We can feel it with her, the monthly cycle of hoping and praying and being disappointed yet again. Every month watching others flourish while she waited on her own body to bear life. Month after month pouring out her heart’s desires and believing that Someone out there was listening and could help her, despite every visible circumstance to the contrary.  And I wonder how her prayers began to change as she wrestled. We only catch glimpses of what was happening in her heart: Certainly she prayed for a child to fill her arms…to affirm her womanhood…to bring joy to her life. Surely she prayed for a child to please her husband and validate his love for her. Perhaps she prayed for a child to silence the neighbors’ whispering tongues. To restore her honor. Year after year, the narrative says. Her persistence speaks loudly of her devotion to God and her determination not to turn elsewhere for answers, and in the shape of her prayers we hear how God met her in those wilderness years. “… for the Lord is a God who knows, and by Him deeds are weighed….He will guard the feet of his faithful servants….” (1 Samuel 2:3,9)

She kept on giving her pain and her longing and her dreams into God’s care, until finally she just laid it all down– gave up her ideas of what should happen and why, and said Not my will but Your purposes be accomplished in my life…This child will be from You and for You, and this miracle will be for Your glory. And Samuel did belong to the Lord from the moment he was born, dedicated to serve Him as the last of the judges and the first of the prophets– the one who would guide the great kings of Israel’s Golden Age. Both mother and child were overshadowed by the Holy Spirit so that Hannah could prophesy “My heart rejoices in the Lord; in the Lord my horn is lifted high….for I delight in Your deliverance.” (1 Samuel 2:1) Maybe this is how she could gladly give up little Samuel to be trained in the House of the Lord– because she had already surrendered her life and her son into the Lord’s good purposes for them. A thousand years later, Jesus will describe the rightful and appropriate cost of obedience this way: “If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for My sake, you will save it.” (Luke 9:24) So Samuel begins his book here, with the faith and perseverance and worship of a strong woman who understood her purpose to know God.

This is where Hannah’s story intersects our own, because whatever we long for most, and whenever we labor long in prayer and wait for answers, we can know there is much more at stake than the object of our desire. We can be assured that God’s purposes are much larger than ours, and that He will allow us to wrestle with our emotions, and our circumstances, and His answers, until we are ready to surrender to His right to rule. And we can know for sure “that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28) Hannah understood that He is not diminished in the least by our turning away; it is only our own everyday experiences that are affected by the blessing or loss of His presence. She said “There is no one holy like the Lord; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.” (1 Samuel 2:2) In the end she chose Him, and gained everything that mattered for both her and her little boy Samuel. May we be as strong and as faithful.

And we can hear Hannah singing her prayer, “He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; He seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor.” (1 Samuel 2:8)

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“Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
(Psalm 73:25-26)

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“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
(Jim Elliot)

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The Unforced Rhythms of Grace

It’s a shame, really, how quick we are to criticize Martha of Bethany for her busyness. Maybe it is because we feel the prick of conscience over our own crammed-full schedules, and the nagging sense that we are losing more important things in the rush. We can relate to her, and when Jesus tells Martha to stop fussing and come sit down with Him we feel the indictment in our own souls…know how long it has been since we have truly listened to Jesus’ words, let them sink in and take root…since we have spent time just enjoying His presence…since we have had enough space and peace to even hear the quiet voice of His Spirit.

But in our wry admission that we should probably learn to be more like sister Mary, we miss some important details in the story. Like the fact that Jesus’ tone of voice was probably not nearly as accusing as the one we level at ourselves. Do we really think that the Person who looked right at a woman caught in the act of adultery and refused to throw a stone at her– looked her in the face and said “…neither do I condemn you….Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:11)— that this same Person would look at a woman working hard to serve a houseful of tired hungry guests and rebuke her harshly? We may not be able to hear His original tone of voice, but we do know the nature of the One speaking. We know that He loves Martha and her family. We know that He is inviting them all, both men and women, into relationship with Him– something unheard of for a Teacher in the ancient Jewish culture. We know He will say just the right words in the right tone to reach through Martha’s frazzled state to her heart. Because that is Who He Is.

We can also lose sight of the fact that Martha was an admirable hostess. In a culture that valued hospitality and showing honor to guests, she was doing exactly what she had been taught to do, and doing it well. And there is every indication that she took Jesus up on His invitation to sit and learn along with the men. It is she who verbalizes her faith in Jesus so powerfully beside the grave of her beloved brother: “I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask….I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” (John 11:22, 27) When we next see her, she is still in the kitchen serving, right where she feels most comfortable, doing what she does best out of love and thankfulness to her Teacher and Lord. Knowing Jesus’ heart for people, we can be sure He took the time to praise her cooking and express His appreciation for her service. Martha has taken the time to listen and know Jesus, and now she knows herself better too.

We find Jesus speaking peace to our own rushed and stressed hearts in this story, letting us know that He values what we do, but He so much more values who we are and how we are growing. He calls us away from the expectations of others, and the cultural values by which we measure ourselves; He calls us into His freedom where the only standards are growing to be more like Him, and Grace covering all our shortfall. In His eyes it’s just my bearing the image of God in this world, and learning to know Him better each day. In His eyes, it’s just the way I serve Him in love with the abilities He gave me…the way I come alongside others and help them to see Him better. These are the important things that will last forever– “the one thing worth being concerned about… that will not be taken away…” (Luke 10:42)

So He will continue to say to us, patiently, gently, as often as we need to hear it: “My dear…you are worried and upset over all these details!” (Luke 10:41) Stop trying to measure up and come and rest in My love.

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“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
(Colossians 3:15-17)

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“There’s a place where mercy reigns and never dies,
There’s a place where streams of grace flow deep and wide.
Where all the love I’ve ever found,
Comes like a flood,
Comes flowing down.
At the cross, at the cross
I surrender my life.
I’m in awe of You…
I’m in awe of You.
Where Your love ran red
And my sin washed white.
I owe all to You…
I owe all to You, Jesus.”
(At The Cross, Chris Tomlin)

**Title taken from Matthew 11:28-30, The Message.

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The Best Choices in Life

Most of the women I know feel overwhelmed by all the choices in the modern world– too many options, too many expectations on them, too many voices telling them what they need in order to be successful (or beautiful, or healthy, or good). It’s ironic how paralyzed, even trapped, we can feel under the weight of so much freedom.

And oddly enough, it is the example of a couple women from thousands of years ago that shows us the way out. We first meet Mary and her sister Martha when Jesus comes to town, and like any good Middle Eastern family, their home is open to the rabbi and his disciples. But it’s the choices they make that interest us. One does what she is expected to do, what she was taught to do, to serve the guests. She is a good girl. One quietly steps out of the box at the prompting of her heart, and I wonder if she could even put a name to whatever drew her to sit at Rabbi Jesus’ feet, that day? (Is this a sudden daring for her?… Or has she been quietly pushing against custom for years, much to her sister’s dismay?)

Martha’s gift of hospitality was welcomed by tired hungry travelers, and would not even have come under question except for her own questioning. She compares herself, like we do, and finds herself both more and less than her sister (like we do). Martha is bold in her own way, to ask the Rabbi to judge between them, though she felt sure the respected Teacher would land on the side of convention.

Instead, Jesus looked at the two women as unique individuals, saw right into their hearts and pointed out how their choices were shaping them. In a move that surprised all of them, Jesus seized the teachable moment and clearly invited women to become students at His feet along with the men, welcomed them as equals and said that the dishes can wait. So can dinner, for that matter, because the housework will need to be done again tomorrow, but Jesus is here right now. And even the customs and expectations of the world around you can’t compare to the value of knowing God personally. Jesus’ answer to Martha is that women are indeed free to choose how they will spend their lives, and should be careful to choose well.

So we talk about choosing well in our own lives, and whether those choices leave us “worried and upset about many things”  or whether they invest in Forever and “will not be taken away.” (Luke 10:41-42) And it’s not a matter of whether we prefer working with our hands or sitting still, or even a matter of whether it is better to serve or to learn. What divides through all the many options we have is the question of what voices we are listening to– where we are getting our identity, what influences are shaping our lives– and whether we are learning from the Teacher Jesus and following after our Master. Any voices but His will leave us scrambled and harried inside, no matter what good things we are doing. He said to the two sisters, “There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it….” (Luke 10:42) And then to all of His followers,“Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29)

But it is just as difficult for us as it was for Mary and Martha to step outside of what our culture calls “normal.” We get pushed by the urgency of what needs to be done right now, feel we must keep pace with the rush. And it is so natural to react to the intensity of emotion in the moment. Checking tangible, measurable tasks off our To-do lists is very satisfying. It feels good to gain others’ approval and admiration… to fit in and measure up to the standard of what “everybody is doing,” despite what our mothers told us all those years ago. Resisting all these natural currents so that we can make better choices takes courage, and focus, and a certain amount of self-discipline.

Or maybe, like in Mary’s case, it’s just a matter of becoming hungry enough that you will do whatever it takes to really Live. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Matthew 5:6)

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“One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple.” (Psalm 27:4)

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“Hungry I come to You for I know You satisfy
I am empty but I know Your love does not run dry
So I wait for You… so I wait for You…
I’m falling on my knees offering all of me
Jesus, You’re all this heart is living for.”
(Hungry,Kathryn Scott)

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What To Wear Today

The problem with finding my purpose in the roles I play and the work I do, is the way those things can drastically shift. Maybe gradually, as one season of time fades into another. Maybe unexpectedly, when the world you know takes a swift ugly turn. So that one day it is quite possible to wake up and feel that life has lost all meaning, and what in the world are you supposed to do with yourself in the time that stretches ahead?

Fortunately God’s Plans are so much larger than my circumstances. And there is this paradox that flies in the face of reason, that the more we seek for purpose in what life itself presents to us, the less likely we are to find it. Jesus put it rather cryptically: “If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for My sake, you will save it.” (Luke 9:24) He says everything that grabs your senses and sensibilities on this earth is nowhere near big enough to fit who you really are, and isn’t going to last anyway. John boldly declared that reality, challenging the young Believers to make their lives count in ways that matter: “For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions…..And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.” (1 John 2:16-17) We can let go of these changing roles and tasks (even when they are pulled away before we are quite ready), and be reassured that our true Purpose remains. The Wise King actually landed in the same place, close to three thousand years ago, in the closing lines of his journal: “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13)

Paul explains it this way: “we have not stopped praying for you….so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:9-10). He talks about how we should go about living that out as if he were some spiritual fashion consultant. “Since God chose you to be the holy people He loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.” (Colossians 3:12-14) This is an everyday Purpose that suits Christ-followers of all ages, in every season of life, regardless of situation. I can slip on these qualities in the morning when I get dressed, and wear them in the everyday moments of this day, let them guide my words and choices, whatever comes. Paul spares no pity for our anxiety over jobs, or whether we feel liked and needed. He starts with our identity and worth, and leads us on from there. “So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from His perspective.” (Colossians 3:1-2)

On days when I feel aimless and  wondering what purpose I serve on this earth, I can look up and remember the overall Plan…that I am created to be God’s image-bearer, and that is the most important thing I will ever do. Jesus has even given me a living example of what that looks like. If I go into this day wearing the character qualities He gives me, to face the particular circumstances of my life, it is enough.

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“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Colossians 3:16-17)

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Mirror, Mirror

When we begin to talk about purpose, the waters get murky rather quickly. Women start talking about children being grown and out of the house, or not having children at all; about being divorced, or whether their husband comes to church; about pleasing others, and serving the people they love; about finding a job they like better, or keeping track of everyone’s schedules at home, or the ministries they are involved in. It’s fairly clear that for us, our sense of identity and purpose springs from our relationships with others and the work that we do.

No wonder we feel pulled every which way by people’s expectations and emotions, and wear ourselves out trying to do everything we see on Pinterest and Facebook. In this comparison game, it looks like just about everyone out there is accomplishing more and living bigger and brighter than we are, doing more for their families and earning more approval because of it. Bring up the question of purpose in life, then, and right away women feel either frustrated and overwhelmed, or just downright confused.

But what if our purpose is much simpler than all of that– and much less subject to changes of circumstance? When we look back to the Beginning of everything we know, to find answers, we find God there already, exercising vast power and intellect and creative design to bring everything into existence. We even catch a glimpse of His personality in what He makes and how He goes about it… the order and complexity of His process…the harmony and cooperation between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit… and the variety and detail and beauty of the results. And with each stage of creation, God names it and tells its purpose– what He has in mind for it. It’s like a parent, attaching labels to the world for a toddler, so she can begin to understand what she is seeing and experiencing. At the climax of the story, God fashions the centerpiece for this world He has made: humanity. And once again, with the name, He speaks of purpose. “Let us make mankind in Our image, in Our likeness, so that they may rule over…all the creatures that move along the ground.” (Genesis 1:26)

The word used for image is the same one that will be used later to speak of idols. And just as the rock and clay carved by man’s hands was meant to reflect the image of some super-powerful being, so our clay was fashioned by God’s hands to reflect His own likeness. Our first purpose was to be a mirror that reflected God’s glorious Person. The eternal souls breathed into us, and what we call personality– our intellect, creativity, free will, full range of emotion, understanding of morality, humor, love, compassion, appreciation for beauty, verbal skills– all these are only shadow reflections of an infinite incomprehensible Personality. Every human that was ever born, in all our individual differences, reflect and express different aspects of one great Creator.

This is a purpose that doesn’t end, or change, regardless of our roles or duties in life. Sin dampens it, dims and mars it– but once we are made whole and straight in Jesus Christ, we are freed to become who we were created to be, to live as a unique mirror to His likeness. We can hardly blame the Church-Planter Paul for breaking into praise and worship so often in his letters to the early believers, as he told them about what God had done through Christ, and how great His purposes for us. He taught them that the fitting response was to “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4)

Figuring out how to reflect God’s image within our particular relationships and circumstances is what gets tricky, and will take a lifetime of learning from Him. So this is our faith-journey, to run the race we have been given– in this family, in this body, in this job, in this time and place, with these strengths and weaknesses, amid the consequences of our own choices and the choices of those around us. Here and now, to spend time with Him and learn Who He Is, so we can reflect His image well. This is our purpose and immense privilege on this earth.

And no one can take it away from us, not even our own failures, because He will use every last thing (good, bad, ugly, sad, or wonderful as it is) to accomplish His purpose in us.

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“I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God.  I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those He called—His holy people who are His rich and glorious inheritance.” (Ephesians 1:16-18)

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“The more we let God take us over, the more truly ourselves we become – because He made us. He invented us. He invented all the different people that you and I were intended to be. . .It is when I turn to Christ, when I give up myself to His personality, that I first begin to have a real personality of my own.” (C.S. Lewis)

 

 

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The Right Hat for a New Year

One woman can wear way too many hats sometimes. And in the week-in-week-out of life sometimes your goals can be reduced to learning how to juggle better…just finding balance…maybe squeezing out time for yourself amid the barrage of constant needs. Surely this is not what we were made for? Or could it be that this strangling urgency that drives us is a noose of our own making? And yet Jesus is whispering, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) It can leave a woman wondering about her purpose in life, and how to find space to pursue the most important things.  Maybe at some point, what we need is a complete makeover. Not just renovation, but a tearing down and refocusing on what is True. A calling to something stronger, quieter.

Deep down, I do know this– that I am more than wife/mother/daughter/sister, more than the things I can and cannot do. At the end of the day, I will still be what I was in the beginning: made by God’s hands and God’s heart, adopted into His family, and loved completely. So I take an old picture frame and make PEACE to hang on my wall, a visual reminder of what God is saying to me, these last couple months: “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10) 

Often finding our true purpose isn’t something we can grow into gradually. We pursue the things we value most, and we are good at building strongholds to protect our own interests. Sometimes the chance to live new and strong only comes after peeling away layer after layer of myself, and my ideas, like a messy and painful intervention. But the pruning is all part of the process. As the author of the book of Hebrews pointed out about God’s perspective on the things of this world: not only are they temporary, but they need to be battered and broken down “so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.” (Hebrews 12:27) If I want the eternal that God is building for me, then I have to be willing to let go of the things I hold onto, no matter how it grieves.

Here at the beginning of the year, there is something fresh and new stirring– a Breath in the middle of us. And women sit around a dining room table late at night over cups of tea, choosing their one word for the coming year– strong beautiful words that peel the layers of hats right off, and get beneath everything we Do, to find who we Are before the Lover of our souls. And we talk about our purpose in life, and the voices that pull us in different directions, and we are all hungry for the same thing: to know God more deeply, and understand His ways, to be able to hear His voice above the clamor, to let go of our own trying-hard and rest in His care and provision. When we start living intentionally, “seeking first the Kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33), we are finally able to find our true purpose in life, to throw open the doors to God’s plans for us.

It’s a good way to start the year– not with goals and resolutions, but with heart-searching. Jeremiah the prophet wrote down the promises God spoke to His people: “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13) This we can count on. Because this is what He made us for.

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“I cry out to God Most High, to God who will fulfill his purpose for me.” Psalm 57:2

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“Oh, I’ve heard a thousand stories of what they think You’re like,
But I’ve heard the tender whisper of love in the dead of night;
And You tell me that you’re pleased,
And that I’m never alone.
You’re a Good, Good Father–
It’s who You are, it’s who You are, it’s who You are.
And I’m loved by You–
It’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am.”
(Good Good Father, Anthony Brown and Pat Barrett)

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