Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Brutal Honesty, Beautiful Reality ~ Part 2

Brutal Honesty... Introduction

Brutal Honesty...Part I

BRUTAL HONESTY - I desire control. And the reason I desire control is because I do not trust God with the present nor for the future.

On a very practical level, the emotional reactions are anxiety and worry - the "typical" stress over anything unexpected. I tend to worry if plans fall through, if everything I have precisely laid out on my calendar gets jumbled up due to the unexpected, and my stress level skyrockets when I'm faced with not knowing what's next on the short or long-term agenda. This fear of the unknown manifests itself in panic, pouring all of my energy into planning as much as possible down to the most minute detail, and then being completely reactionary when things don't follow my expectations. I have this constant desire, dare I say need, to have all events planned for and feel like I must have a handle on things. The more I have a firm grip on things, the more I can dictate the outcome and not be thrown off guard by anything unanticipated.

So what is this desire, this need to be in control of the events in my life, whether big or small? Is it merely just me being organized and wanting to keep things in order, or is there something deeper triggering these continual patterns of anxiety and worry? Feeling anxiety over the unexpected is natural and normal...right?

“Woe to him who strives with Him who formed him, a pot among earthen pots!
Does the clay say to Him who forms it, ‘What are You making?’or ‘Your work has no handles’?" (Isaiah 45:9)

The truth of the matter is...I don't trust the One who provides and sustains. I want to be the one in control rather than being molded by the Potter. I don't trust that He knows the future, the plans and all of the outcomes.

"I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of Me in their hearts, that they may not turn from Me. I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all My heart and all My soul." (Jeremiah 32:40-41)
"And he said to his disciples, 'Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you. Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.'" (Luke 12:22-32)
Beautiful seems like an understatement... God, the Creator of the universe and every intricate detail therein, pursues me in Christ. In this glorious pursuit, He works all things according to His will and my good. I should trust Him, the One who works according to His perfect plan, because He knows me better than I know myself, He has rescued me from the darkness in Christ, has called me His own, and even when I fail to trust Him, Scripture says that He rejoices in doing me good. The God of the universe rejoices in doing me good...in doing you good if you share in His glorious inheritance.
His grace is cheapened when I insist that my control is necessary.
But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay,
and You are our potter; we are all the work of Your hand. (Isaiah 64:8)
God is replaced on the throne in my heart when I demand to have a hand in all events and potential outcomes.
"Make me to know Your ways, O Lord; teach me Your paths.
Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation;
for You I wait all the day long." (Psalm 25:4-5)
Ponder the freedom and rest that comes from knowing His provision and sovereignty! Trusting Him does not mean we negate being responsible and wise in our planning and decision-making; I don't resort to being a sloth because I'm claiming that He is the One in control. On the contrary,
"Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established. . . .
The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps." (Proverbs 16:3, 9)
I have had to examine my own heart countless times during this quiet, post-seminary season of life. Am I really trusting in Him for the vast unknown that lies ahead, or am I secretly (or vocally) insisting that I should have a handle on all of the plans in case this or that just doesn't work out? Oh, sinner that I am... There are days when I have been hit hard with the reality of this ever-present idol of control. I have tasted the sweetness and freedom of trusting Him with each detail of my life, and yet there are still days when I live as "an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea" (Lewis). The amount of control I demand over my own life speaks volumes about whether or not I am dwelling in the joy and satisfaction which comes from knowing Christ and trusting Him. I trust and I believe, and I want to trust and believe every day I am given breath, that He is worthy of glory and He is the One who knows and determines what is best for my life.
“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom..."

Monday, January 18, 2010

Brutal Honesty, Beautiful Reality ~ Part I

BRUTAL HONESTY - I don't actually read my Bible. Therefore, especially in those moments when I need it most, I don't remember it and don't really believe.

Yes, you read correctly... I don't read my Bible on any consistent basis. I have not committed my heart, my thoughts, my attention to reading. I could easily take pride in the vast amount of attention I have given to reading the greatest books on theology, the church fathers, biblical counseling, and even ones on the very topic of devotion! But not the Bible. When someone asks me questions like, "Why did Christ die?" or "If God is so good, why is there evil in the world?" I am quick to spout off something else I've read about what Scripture says. My initial and heartfelt response is not:

"For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation" (Rom 5:6-11).

Rather than reading and unpacking such incredible, glorious truth from Scripture (take a moment to read that passage - it is packed with the truth of our hope and assurance!), I revert to other sources that will hopefully impress people and make me sound like I know what I'm talking about. I skim through my mental bookshelf and pick out what sounds best for the situation or topic at hand.
Then, on an even more personal note, when I have gone through a difficult time in recent months, my own "dark night of the soul," I have found myself empty...empty of joy, attempting to draw from a dry well that has not been filled with the water that quenches my thirst and satisfies my weary soul.

“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters;
and he who has no money, come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to Me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.
Incline your ear, and come to Me; hear, that your soul may live;
and I will make with you an everlasting covenant." (Isaiah 55:1-3)
"O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek You;
my soul thirsts for You; my flesh faints for You,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
So I have looked upon You in the sanctuary, beholding Your power and glory.
Because Your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise You.
So I will bless You as long as I live; in Your name I will lift up my hands.
My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
and my mouth will praise You with joyful lips,
when I remember You upon my bed,
and meditate on You in the watches of the night;
for You have been my help,
and in the shadow of Your wings I will sing for joy.
My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me." (Psalm 63:1-8)

What does He promise if I simply come to Him? He promises to satisfy my longing, to bring real and lasting comfort to an otherwise anxious heart. He is the hope and joy and source of salvation I am so quick to proclaim, yet I have failed to believe in the middle of a mediocre workday or when all good seems lost from a difficult situation. I have had to ask myself a very hard and honest question: do I really believe what I say I believe? Whether I am counseling other women, or lying awake at night with my mind racing, do I really believe?

I have not believed because I have not drawn near to Him. I have not devoted my heart and mind to that which was written for me, for you, for the Church. Should I be terribly surprised at how I feel and what the honest status of relationship is with Him if I have not been drawing from the well of living water? Is it any wonder that I am so prone to doubt and worry if I am not pouring over Scripture as one satisfying herself with rich food and healing balm? This has been a significant realization for me: my Father delights to do me good! And the more I know Him, the more I will see and really believe and accept the good He is doing even when I am oblivious to it.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Brutal Honesty, Beautiful Reality - Introduction

While my husband and I have both walked through some dark times, we can also look back and see the overwhelming, countless ways in which the Lord has so richly blessed us. From attending a Christian college (the context in which I first really believed and embraced God's sovereignty), to having a college pastor fervently pleading with us to find our satisfaction in Christ alone, to being blessed with the opportunity to attend one of the greatest seminaries in the country (not just based on academics, but because of their commitment to the authority and sufficiency of Scripture), we are truly blessed by the formative seasons we have been given. After years of being in such contexts, and now that the flurry of graduation and holiday festivities have passed, there is a sense in which things have come to a grinding halt. I no longer have the comfort of a context in which I can depend on the wisdom of others. My heart has been laid bare, and I have been forced to examine myself for who I really am removed from the godly influences on whom I have so often relied upon.


I was given a strong dose of brutal honesty a couple of weeks ago when my husband and I had a very candid conversation about where I am in my relationship with the Lord. After becoming so comfortable with relying on the wisdom and teaching of others, I was faced with the painful truth that my relationship with God has lacked any real intimacy; I have become more content in relying on the words of men rather than relying on Him. And while godly influences are good and encouraging, I had to confess that I have become increasingly less dependent on God Himself. Even good things can so easily become idols, taking over His rightful place on the throne in our hearts. This lacking of real intimacy and trust has very practical implications, ones that are difficult for me to admit, which leads me to this post...


I will be devoting the next several posts here to a four-part series on this "Brutal Honesty, Beautiful Reality" I have been grappling with in recent days. It is much easier to vaguely admit that we are all sinners rather than seeking real heart transformation and repentance that only come after specific confession of specific sin. Even I, a young woman who has been in wonderful churches and who has now received a masters degree from a leading seminary, need to be faced with the bitter reality of my own sin so that I might taste once again the sweetness of being satisfied in Christ alone. You might be shocked, you might be encouraged; I have no idea how people perceive me on a daily practical level. My hope is the latter, that you will be encouraged and compelled to examine your own heart, asking yourself the questions that might be difficult to face depending on where you are really at in your own relationship with Him.


Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. (Proverbs 4:23)
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
I the Lord search the heart and test the mind... (Jeremiah 17:9-10)
Be killing sin or it will be killing you. (John Owen, Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers)

Thursday, January 07, 2010


"I want to wash my hands, my face and hair with snow!"
It's just too bad that I'm having to take mediocre camera phone pics from one of our office windows, rather than curled up on the couch at home with husband and dogs taking pictures of the white surrounding us. It truly is a beautiful snow today, although I can't say the same for the roads around the city~

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

~Celebrating Our Second Year~

'Cause what I really want to say
Is what the sun would say to the sky,
For giving it a place to come alive,
But my words get in the way
Of what I really want to say...

Happy Anniversary to my husband, a man I don't deserve but was given by God's grace,
my best friend, the one I'd rather stay up into the late hours talking with more than anyone else,
my groom, the one who is wholeheartedly committed to reflecting the love Christ has for His Bride,
the man who aims for my joy in Christ over earthly comforts,
the man who reminds me that I was created by the One who has named me His daughter...
I so often lose sight of who I am in Christ, but God in His love and grace has given me a husband who continually helps me to remember.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Blank Pages

Brand new, crisp, untouched calendars excite me. Every year at work, just before the holiday season, our office coordinator sends out the email containing our calendar options for the upcoming year. From spiral to journal, pocket-sized to 8.5x11, I go back and forth trying to decide on the perfect planner. And then, after two months of anxiously waiting, the little book arrives at my desk. Although not to the full extent, it's almost as thrilling as cracking open the pages of a new journal. I flip through the clean, unmarked pages wondering what they will hold in the days, weeks, and months ahead. What will happen next week? What will happen in May or August or October that has not yet been written down? Only the Lord knows what will fill the that black planner tucked away in my bag. Here's to a new year and blank pages. May I trust Him daily, may I trust Him only, with both the planned and the unexpected...

O Lord,
Length of days does not profit me
Except the days are passed in Thy presence,
In Thy service, to Thy glory.
Give me a grace that precedes, follows, guides,
Sustains, sanctifies, aids every hour,
That I may not be one moment apart from Thee,
But may rely on Thy Spirit
To supply every thought,
Speak in every word,
Direct every step,
Prosper every work,
Build up every mote of faith,
And give me a desireto show forth Thy praise;
Testify Thy love, advance Thy kingdom.
I launch my bark on the unknown waters of this year,
With Thee, O Father as my harbour,
Thee, O Son, at my helm,
Thee O Holy Spirit, filling my sails. . . .
Give me Thy grace to sanctify me,
Thy comforts to cheer,
Thy wisdom to teach,
Thy right hand to guide,
Thy counsel to instruct,
Thy law to judge,
Thy presence to stabilize.
May Thy fear be my awe,
Thy triumphs my joy.
(Valley of Vision)