When I was little, a man on an airplane asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. Naturally, I hugged my doll close to my heart and said, “I just want to be a mommy.”
I was raised to be a housewife, like my mother and my grandmothers and my great-grandmothers. “Discreet, chaste, keepers of the home…”
I grew up amid the sub-cultures of two extremely large and traditional families, and there are many things that I wish I could write, but I refrain, to avoid offending any of my 100+ close relatives. When a cousin from my mother’s clan married a cousin from my father’s clan, I was related to almost everyone at the wedding. So, obviously, our cradle has been crazy blessed, and the fact that I haven’t yet done my duty to society is so unorthodox, by our standards, it’s almost immoral.
But God calls those things which are not as though they are, and I do the same. It makes me happy to think that there is something I can actually do for you today. I just have a few things in my heart that need to be let out, and I won’t try to be witty or poetic about it. I’ll do this now, and someday, when I have you in my arms, I’ll gladly put my pen away and probably never reach for it again.
The grandmother who I never met became a mother when she little more than a child herself and died young. “No wonder,” people gasp, “after giving birth nineteen times!” But if they asked her she would have told them that delivering all those babies was the easy part. It was actually the child-rearing more than the child-bearing that put her in an early grave.
The pretty teacups that she left behind were all broken and glued back together. Her homemade dresses were folded tenderly away in my grandfather’s dresser drawers.
She deserved her own Taj Mahal for all the cloth diapers she washed by hand.
Your diapers, my love, will be like bundles of myrrh to me. A feminist might turn her nose up in disdain, but I am not a feminist. Feminism is just the female version of macho chauvinism, and both attitudes stink to high heaven because they are both opposed to the message of the cross. If the God of Abraham is the God of all hope and comfort then there is definitely a reward for every sacrifice. And just as Jesus endured the cross “for the joy that was set before Him,” I too will pick up my cross, whatever that might mean for me as a woman, and patiently follow His example–knowing that if I share in His suffering I will also share in His glorious reward.
The God that made the mother is the [God] whose highest and fullest joy is to minister to the life that He has given.–Mark Guy Pearse, God’s Cure for Worry
I’ve already experienced this in a very small way.
At eighteen, thanks to a sting opperation and a desperate social worker, I was initiated into the Sorority Of The Sleep-Deprived And Over-Caffeinated. It happened unexpectedly, in an old house on the windy northern plains, not far from where Chief Joseph surrendered a hundred years ago. The foster baby was a fragile newborn, feather-light in the curve of my arm, like an egg in a nest, blue with cold. I picked the lice out of his hair and took him to bed with me to keep him warm. He was my first thought in the morning and my last thought at night (as I’m sure you will be). I remember carrying him around at night with a Jack Holcomb CD playing softly in the dark. I remember being incredibly tired and incredibly content.
Then [Jesus] took a little child and set him in the midst of them. And when He had taken him in His arms, He said to them, ‘Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me…’–Mark 9:36-37 NKJV
When I kissed him goodbye a month later I didn’t believe that it was really goodbye.
Who will rock him to sleep? Who will tell him about Jesus? I wondered.
My little buddy… My papoose…
Anyway, darling, God wants parents to tell their children about what He has done for them, so I suppose I should have begun by telling you how thankful I am that God doesn’t leave us the way He finds us! And I’m so glad that He isn’t finished with me yet! He has caused my barren soul to become like a well-watered garden (as it is said, “He turned my thirst into a fountain”). Once upon a time He saw this little beggar–naked, helpless–and He said to me, “Live!”* He taught me to trust Him at my mother’s breast. He gave my tiny heart a tiny song in the night, and when darkness surrounded me He breathed His name into my lungs.
Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.–Exodus 34:14 NIV
No other relationship is as intimate and exclusive as your relationship with God, my darling. In fact your relationship with God will influence all your other relationships. You will discover that when you know you are forgiven and accepted and wanted by God, you can bravely extend that grace to your brothers and sisters, and when you have peace with Him, you can be at peace even with your enemies. “Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.”
Sanctification is a transforming process, which means that we are continually becoming more or less like Jesus. There is no static. I think sometimes we resist changing because we’re afraid of the unknown and the uncomfortable. But faith embraces the unknown and the uncomfortable (as well as the unexpected, the imperfect and the impossible). I remember driving through Zion National Park with my friends, and every bend in the road revealed a more beautiful scene than the one before. Whenever I wanted to stop because I thought the landscape couldn’t possibly get more beautiful, it got more beautiful. This is what heaven will be like, I thought, it will keep getting infinitely better and better.
The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms; He will thrust out the enemy from before you, and will say, ‘Destroy!’–Deuteronomy 33:27 NKJV
Life is transient, darling–that’s why it’s sometimes called a journey. We aren’t supposed to get too comfortable down here, in the world as it is. The pleasures are temporary, but so is the suffering, and whether we like it or not change is always happening, for better or worse. Hearts change. Seasons, circumstances, cultures, plans, fashions and politics change. God is the only stability, the only security, because He inhabits eternity. His will and His character are always consistent. There’s no flip-flopping with him. His words are written on stone. He is always with you. He is always patient. He is always on time. He is always generous and fair. He always saves the best for last. He always keeps His promises. He always repays. He always knows what is best. He always says what He means and means what He says, whether we believe it or not.
We can tempt Him with our disobedience or we can prove Him with our obedience. Live according to what you know to be true about God, my love. Be humble and honest with Him. Honor Him by praying big prayers. Bank on His promises. I dare you to. And remember, anxiety is not a fruit of the Holy Spirit (I have to emphasize this because my own private struggle with anxiety has been a very bitter one.)
I was cooling off under a slab of stone, one burning day in the harsh beauty of a rock-climber’s paradise, while my friends were overdosing on vitamin D. Our road trip had been demanding, and we hoped that a detour into nature would refresh us. We took Route 66 through the Mojave Desert, stocked up on firewood and bottled water, and parked our van in the driest, prickliest park I have ever seen. That day, as I rested in the shade of that boulder, I reviewed everything I had seen in the cities we visited. I thought about the pious Mormons of Salt Lake City who banned us from their Temple Square for asking innocent questions. I thought about the Hindu temple where my knees felt like water and the statues seemed to be almost animate. I thought about the neon lights flashing outside my cheap hotel room, above a casino in Los Vegas. And then I remembered the words of Isaiah the prophet: “A man will be as a hiding place from the wind, and a cover from the tempest, as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.”
The man, Jesus Christ, is that great rock. He’s the same “yesterday, today, and forever.” And what a comfort it is to realize that when we don’t know what to believe, we can believe Jesus, and when we don’t know who to trust, we can trust the one who died for us!
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.–Isaiah 9:6 NKJV
Don’t be lazy and let others do your meditating and praying for you, darling.
Remember, with the eating comes the appetite, with the drinking comes the thirst.
You can’t trust and obey God unless you spend time with Him and learn to distinguish His voice through the babble and confusion of life. I can’t stress the importance of this enough. I’m thinking about the man of God who was eaten by a lion in 1st Kings, chapter 13, because that story has haunted me for a long time. Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice…” When religious leaders “saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.” So pay attention to what you read in the Bible, and be sensitive to the gentle voice of the Holy Spirit–the comforter, teacher, and guide who lives in every believer. “The Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.” When you are an adult and you need wisdom, honor the gray-haired, but go to God first and make Him the final authority, because He created you, He knows the heart, He declares the end from the beginning, and “He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes, nor decide by the hearing of His ears.”
Let God–only God–be God in your life. Let Him take you under His wing and show you His perspective. Let Him have His perfect way.
As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.–Isaiah 55:9 NIV
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.–Matthew 11:28 NIV
Today I voted. I voted for you more than for myself. This has been the most scandalous presidential election in U.S. history. The media has turned it into a circus, and I’m sure that both candidates wish they had never done and said some of the things they’ve done and said–for truly “there is nothing hidden which will not be revealed, nor is anything kept secret…” We are often intimidated by the invasion of modern technology, the media’s warped influence, cyber surveillance, and the overall loss of privacy. It’s so easy now to live a double life through the internet, and it’s so easy to be sucked in and distracted. We are a generation of tube heads; our thoughts are piped in for us. So much of what we do now we do just to be seen, like stars in our own pseudo reality, and it all seems to be out of control, like a Frankenstein monster. It’s so easy for the government to spy on us. Edward Snowden has warned that the child of the future won’t have a single private, unrecorded moment. But the joke is on Mr. Snowdon because if “the eyes of the Lord are everywhere” then we don’t have a single private, unrecorded moment anyway… So stop for a second and let that penetrate the ivory dome before you do something you wouldn’t want the whole world to know about.
I went to Skid Row (the homeless district of Los Angeles) with my friends, and we spent a night on the roof of the Union Rescue Mission. Up there with the wind and the cockroaches and the incessant wailing of police sirens, feeling dirty all over and wishing I had a sleeping bag, I looked down at the wasted addicts in the street below. How do they live this way? I wondered, How do they sleep? How do they even close their eyes? (Drugs, of course.) We went to the Islamic Society of Orange County the next day. I covered my head with a hijab and sat on the floor with the Muslim women, and when the service was over we had a polite discussion with the imam. He was a condescending old man. But somehow, whenever he turned his hawk-like gaze on me, I knew that he knew he was living and teaching a lie–a lie that would cost too much to abandon.
It takes courage to be free, my love. Satan will try to trap you with lies. He’ll tell you that sin is not really a prison or that you’re happier in prison or that there’s no way out. He’ll tell you that your faith is mistaken and unrealistic. He’ll tell you that God doesn’t love you or that He doesn’t know what is best. He’ll tell you that God isn’t true, isn’t just, or isn’t able to rescue and redeem. But we don’t believe that snake. We don’t agree with him. Remember, the power is in the application, so be a doer and not just a hearer. And no matter how far, how hard, or how many times you fall, my love, know this: Jesus didn’t walk out of His grave so that you could live in bondage and defeat! It is written that “a righteous man may fall seven times and rise again.” This means that the mark of the righteous isn’t that they don’t fall but that they don’t stop getting up.
In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.–John 16:33 NIV
You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free… If the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed–John 8:32-36 NKJV
Whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world–our faith.–1st John 5:4 NKJV
This is my final word to you, darling. We who believe are not like Job was when Satan accused him. We are like Joshua the high priest, clothed in rich clean robes of righteousness not our own. Now God can parade each one of us, blood-bought and blood-washed, before Satan and ask him, “Have you considered My beloved Son, Jesus?” AND SATAN HAS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO SAY AGAINST JESUS! If you don’t remember anything else that I’ve written, let this be branded on your heart forever.
Your father and I will model a committed relationship for you–a relationship like the relationship that God has with us. We’ll hold your hands while you take your first wobbling steps. We’ll share our bed with you on stormy nights. But in the end we won’t be able to save you. We can only bring you to the “outer sanctuary”–we can’t usher you into the Holy of Holies.
It’s been said that Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good, but to make dead people alive. This is true. So from the bottom of my heart, darling, I want you to be born and then born again “to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away…” I want you to “know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings…”
For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height–to know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.–Ephesians 3:14-20 NKJV