I have a proven tendency to mess things up. I have good intentions and even a few really good ideas. But sometimes things can go sideways so fast that I find myself questioning not only my actions but also my worth as a child of God.
Not too long ago, I traveled to The Cove in Asheville, North Carolina, to lead a conference with my good friend Lisa Harper. The Cove is a fantastic retreat center run by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and a place I always look forward to visiting. To do the retreat with Lisa was an added blessing, and I looked forward to our time together.
My parents live just about an hour away from The Cove, so I went up a day early with Josie and the boys, glad to have the extended time for a visit. The morning after we arrived, I sat downstairs in Mom and Dad’s den in my pajamas, enjoying a cup of coffee and some much-needed down time. Josie, Ben, and Griffin were already out of bed and playing, running up and down the stairs — but I suddenly realized I hadn’t heard them in a while. About the time I got up to go and check on them, the doorbell rang. When I opened the door, I saw the boys in their pajamas, standing with the next-door neighbor’s gardener who explained that he’d found them alone outside and thought he’d better bring them home.
My sons were three, and they were playing unsupervised near a busy street. I didn’t even know they’d left the house, but somehow, they’d gotten outside. They could have easily left the yard and run into the street, or even wandered down to the creek that ran behind the house.
I thanked this guardian angel with a Weed Eater and brought them back inside, but I was really shaken. I had let my sons out of my sight, and although they were back home and safe, in my mind’s eye I saw every awful thing that might have happened to them but didn’t. For the rest of the day I thanked God for their safety and the gardener’s kindness, and I felt horrified that I had been relaxing on the sofa while their little lives might have been in danger.
That night I fell asleep at The Cove still feeling anxious and full of remorse. About 3:00 a.m., I woke up, and the devil was having a field day with my emotions! The accuser was accusing me, and I was buying every bit of what he was selling.
What made you think that you could take care of these boys? Why should you have been blessed with children? You don’t even know when they’re in danger!
I laid there and wept over what had happened and thought how a better, more “qualified” mother would have noticed sooner that her children were missing, would have already been out searching for them, calling their names. Heck — a better mother would have them gathered at her feet, telling them Bible stories or making crafts while a homemade breakfast simmered on the stove. I felt sick in my soul and completely unworthy — not just for motherhood but for anything at all, including the weekend ahead.
One of the songs I’d already selected to play for this retreat was “Good, Good Father” but the song on repeat in my head that night sounded more like “Bad, Bad Mother.” I heard it loud and clear: “You’re a bad, bad mother, that’s who you are, that’s who you are…” By the time morning came I was in Lisa’s room, choking out the story and feeling like the biggest loser-parent on the planet.
“I’m a failure and phony,” I told her through my tears. “I’m here trying to pretend I have it all together, but my kids could have drowned in a creek yesterday! I don’t deserve them, and I don’t deserve to be here!”
Lisa was wise enough to understand the very real spiritual warfare I was experiencing, and she prayed for me. That’s what good friends do. When she was done, she reminded me that my children have a Father who will never, ever fail them, and who sees them and looks after them even when I cannot. That was the truth I needed to hear.
I have no illusions about being perfect; most days I’d settle for just adequate.
But being a mom has made me realize how much I need Jesus. How much I need grace. And how grateful I am that He is a good, good Father who loves me beyond reason — even on my worst days.
Why would I ever imagine I’m as qualified as He is to rule my life?
One more thing about competing with God for control: it’s hardly ever a one-and-done deal. We’re never completely surrendered — at least not for long.
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Elizabeth Elliot once said that “living sacrifices have a way of crawling right off the altar,” and boy, do they ever. Even though I believe and agree that God deserves and should have 100 percent authority and control over my life, I sometimes take a little back.
It happens when, like my ancestor Eve, I imagine that God does not have my very best in mind. That He may be holding out on me, keeping things from me that are good — things that I “deserve.” I let fear grab my heart and decide that, since my life feels chaotic, God has no plan for it. (And if He doesn’t, then I’d better create one, and fast, right?) Or I feel ashamed of my sins and imagine that God has thought twice about forgiving me and instead is waiting to punish me. So I run from His presence — the only place where there is “fullness of joy” and “pleasures forever” (Psalm 16:11 NASB), resolving to do better next time — on my own. Or I let my circumstances dictate my understanding of God, instead of allowing Him to help me understand my circumstances.
There are times, as we continue to hope for healing for Martin’s illness, that I question whether God has dealt bountifully with us. I struggle to say with the psalmist that the lines have fallen for us in pleasant places, that we have a delightful inheritance (Psalm16:6 NIV). Some days don’t seem so pleasant at all and I don’t want to agree that the lines have fallen anywhere; I want them to move. If He really is good and really does love us, won’t God just heal my husband and make his disability go away?
On a good day, I can rely on God’s Word and my past experience of His faithfulness to help me surrender my will to His. On a good day, I can say, “This is how I feel, God — but here’s what you say in your Word is true.” But let’s face it: not every day is a good day.
So when the battle for control begins again — and it will — what do I do?
I acknowledge the struggle. (Denying it doesn’t help. I know. I’ve tried.) I confess my strong desire to be in charge, and I name my fear of not being in charge.
I admit that my emotions do not always tell me the truth about my circumstances or about my God. I search God’s Word for truth and keep it always before me. I read it. I pray it. I sing it. I write it on my hand with a ballpoint pen if I need to. I have it ready.
I remind myself of God’s faithfulness to His children throughout history and of His faithfulness to me.
Then I do the next thing I would do if I were surrendered to God on this day, in this situation, at this moment. Because the smallest act of trusting obedience can serve to remind me of the one who loves me, who sees me, who has my back, and who’s already gone out ahead of me to make a way.
And finally, I relax. Because I don’t need more of me on the throne. I need more of Him.
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WHITE FLAG PRAYER
God, I don’t want to compete with You for who is in charge of my life. You know me — all my fears, impatience, and, at times, even my unbelief. Holy God, Creator of the universe, help me to daily surrender to You as the Lord of my life.
Excerpted with permission from I Give Up by Laura Story, copyright Laura Story Elvington.
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Did this harpoon you in the heart? Wow, so often we may find ourselves suspicious that God can’t manage on His own and needs our help because things aren’t going the way we believe they should. Is that true for you? Let’s humble ourselves before Him and relax knowing He’s the only One who fits on the throne. Not us. Come share your thoughts with us on our blog. We want to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily