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A Labor Not in Vain

Before we had a little boy, we had a slew of sisters - each so different, wired in her own unique way. My firstborn is quiet and inquisitive, almost always content to walk closely by my side. Her little sister is sunshine and giggles, even and especially when she is not supposed to be. A little dark haired heaven girl followed them and her silence speaks volumes of the grace she taught even a decade later. Our fourth pink bundle is joy in every way and hard wired to love everything that breathes and many things that don't. God then dropped a curly-haired firecracker on our porch and she has been dancing until she slings her shoes off every day since, more so if her uptight mother's back is turned.

I'm tight with my girls. My husband is more at ease with a room full of little girls than just about anywhere else. We love being girl parents. Despite surrounding suspicions, our goal was never to "keep trying" until we added blue to our pink sea. And yet, when faced with the decision to close the door on the chapter of family growing or trust God one more time, both my groom and I were filled with a peace that defied all logic at that point in our chaotic lives. A narrative filled with tension and heartache, a history packed with pain, God wrote a new, surprising chapter and sent us a son.

From the moment both my eyebrows and my groom rose at the sight of male anatomy on the dark screen, everything has changed. 

To be honest, I was completely unprepared - although not unwarned - about the way a little boy would accost my heart.

I had endured two failed pregnancies and buried one baby by the time I learned of my son's life in my womb. Of my living children, only one had escaped that hidden place unscathed. My faith got buried deep in that {miraculously uneventful} pregnancy. In harder times, my voice had been much louder. It was almost as if I were afraid to speak of the wonder unfolding for fear it would make it all become untrue somehow. Right up until his broad little hand wrapped around my pinky finger and his newborn cry filled a once silent delivery room, I was in denial that this measure of grace could be real.


My boy is three now. He has been dressing up as a bossy little police officer every chance he has gotten for the last month and trick-or-treating was just one more dress rehearsal to him. He is looking at me even now with chocolate in the corners of his mouth - before his breakfast is eaten - and yielding a stick in the air he found somewhere. Everyone's baby, and the last of our childbearing years, he fascinates us with his innocence, wit, and determination. He's easy to spoil and at three, we are beginning to reap the fruit of our labor....

The one prayer I had the confidence to pray consistently throughout my pregnancy with him was for God to take him and use him, to make him a missionary. I so desperately longed for his life that I cried to God that He could use him any way He saw fit if only He'd let my boy live. (As if God needs a controlling parent's permission.) Each morning when I woke, I'd hold my breath and wait for our baby to move and prove he was still with us. (He's sitting atop my kitchen table now, of all places, proving just how alive and human he is today, too.) Then, I would thank God and "lay my baby" before Him again, vowing to raise Him up to know His mighty creator and to be bold in sharing His truths for all to hear.

For years prior to meeting my son, I had a heavy burden on my own heart to speak and share the truths the Lord had taught me in the fiercest fires of my life. While that burden remained, so did laundry, debts, hungry bellies, and dirty bathtubs. The one thing that remained constant in my life was my craving for knowledge and drive to climb. That turned into grad classes and classrooms of my own. Instead of feeling fulfilled and closer to the call, I had wandered further away. When one tries to find success in both the world and the Word, she will find herself with feet in two distinctly different, far apart places, apt to fall prone sooner or later.

Looking back now, I think I had quietly resigned myself to the fact I had "missed the boat" and was asking the Lord to send my son in my stead. It wasn't just him either, but all my kids. I had, however unwittingly, twisted the truth in Andy Stanley's popular quote, "Your greatest contribution to the Kingdom of God may not be something you do but someone you raise." I had used what should have been an encouraging admonition as an excuse to tell God no on a regular basis, to point the finger at someone else, and ask Him to send them instead. 

Lord, I don't have time. 

Don't you see all these kids?

You know I have debts to pay.

What will my family say?

What about all the ones who really are getting it right? Won't they see right through me?

Insurance? Pension? Do any of your offers come with those?

I can't, Lord.

Maybe in twenty years, okay? I'll still have time then, right?

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

"For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load.

Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season will reap, if we do not give up."

Galatians 6:3-9

I really thought I was something - telling my Father what I was and was not going to do, where I was and was not willing to go, trying even to assign others to go where He had specifically told me to go. Fear of failure, fear of man, fear of everything and everyone but God Himself had crippled me in ways I could not even see. The path with my girls had brought me to my face so many times before. He showed us all in big and flame-filled ways He alone could heal and save and my only place was on my face. Sometimes my loved ones saw Him and were in awe, other times they mocked and retaliated. In every season, He was faithful and we were dependent wholly on Him.

Our story reeks of His glory.

The moment I allowed my faith to grow quiet, the point when I allowed it to be buried beneath the cares of this world and my heart influenced by the world's motives, I lost my voice. In losing my voice, I lost my way. Fear choked me. I fooled myself into believing I could keep going through the motions and somehow safeguard myself and my family in a way that living in complete abandon never would. 

And you know what? God let me. He let me run in a panic down every dead end until I turned and walked the uphill road that led me back to Him, back to peace, back to life.

There is no joy like the joy of following the Lord. If I could be quiet about it, this proud, stubborn girl probably would. (Awful, but true.) It's not possible, no matter who likes it. I may forever be a train wreck or at best a work in progress, but the work I do unto the Lord will forever shine brighter than the work I assigned myself ever could. I don't think I'm something anymore. I know I am nothing apart from Him. I've never been happier to be a nobody.

Deceiving myself is over. Allowing the opinion of my neighbor to dictate my moves is foolishness. For all I know, she could be the reason I am walking this crazy road in the first place.

Lord, you've given me more time. 

I see all these kids. You alone have grown this family. Let me lead them by following hard after you.

All my debts are erased in you.

Who won't know if I don't go keeps me awake at night.

Oh, Father. Nobody gets it right apart from you. 

"For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord." 
1 Corinthians 1:26-29

Insurance? Pension? Can any security compare with the riches that come in boasting in the Lord?

No. Of course not.

I can't, Lord.

You can.

Maybe twenty years will never come. Maybe tomorrow won't either.

But today? 

Oh, today you have given me a chocolate-faced little boy and a slew of sisters excited about Halloween. You've given me the one and only starring role of their mother in this life. You've given me a groom who places his weary heart in your hands and declares that only you can make a way for us. You've thrown wide the doors and welcomed me back to this place You have for me. A narrative filled with tension and heartache, a history packed with pain, you, O God, have seen fit to write a new, surprising chapter once again. This time though, it's not about my little, helpless, flawed babe, but about your risen, resurrected, earth-conquering, shame-erasing, death-defying Son instead. 

In making much of Him, Lord willing, I will teach these little ones - and anyone else who will listen - by example how to live like never before. 

"I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery, we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and this mortal body put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, an the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: 

'Death is swallowed up in victory.'
'O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?'

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through Our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding the work of the Lord, knowing in the Lord your labor is not in vain."

1 Corinthians 15:50-58


Comments

  1. I am humbled to walk this life with you and see the ways the Lord is using you, whether things are easy or hard, whether it makes sense or not.

    Love you and so grateful for how much our Lord loves us.

    ReplyDelete

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