Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Author and Perfecter

Some of us are afraid to go anywhere without make-up. Come on, ladies, admit it. You don’t want anyone to see what you really look like under there. And, I get it. I’m not married to my make-up. I go places without it. In fact, I’m pretty sure the PE coach at the elementary school chuckles at me every morning when he sees me pull up in my minivan to drop off my girls at school while still wearing my bathrobe. But, I digress. The fact is I like to wear make-up. (People don’t smirk at me when I wear make-up.) Even if I get all soapy and fix my hair, I just don’t feel finished without putting on my make-up. It helps me put my best face forward, so to speak. Even though I know God made me the way He wanted to and that He doesn’t make mistakes, I don’t really like the way I look as much without make-up as I do with it. Maybe that’s vain, but it is true.

I have begun to recognize, though, that there is much more than make-up covering my true self. Rewind to a few weeks ago when I was afforded the opportunity to look at myself in the mirror…not without make-up, but without God. You heard me correctly. I saw what I look like when I am au natural…me, unaltered, in the flesh, striving on my own, floundering without God. And, I wasn’t pretty. I didn’t like what I saw under there. No one should have to see that! Let me elaborate…

My mom and I attended the Women of Joy conference in San Antonio. We were so excited to finally get a weekend away together (the first since the birth of my daughters nearly 9 years ago). We were even more pumped about what God is doing in our family. We set out on our adventure asking God to show us more about joy. Both of us have experienced an inordinate amount of pain, and we both wanted God to show us how to live here and now, anticipating the future, with joy. After a night to rest on the Riverwalk and hear the inspiring voice of Sarah Palin, we felt like we could take on the world for Jesus! My faith had never seemed so strong.

Fast forward less than 24 hours. While I was still in San Antonio on “retreat”, something painful occurred (let’s call it a set-back), the details of which are personal and not necessary to make my point. It is sufficient to say that Satan knew just where to punch me. I had thrown my whole heart into moving forward with my life trusting God, and he had let me down. He had allowed me to hurt one too many times. And, I was done with Him. (I told Him that myself, so you don’t have to gasp and worry that I’m being irreverent. He already knows how irreverent I was.) I raged and screamed prayers. At first, they were desperate pleas for help. But, they dissolved into angry, bitter, contemptuous, snide remarks. I told God I didn’t believe in Him (funny, I was still talking to Him, though…or, out loud to no one—CRAZY!). I cried all night long. I did not get one lick of sleep. I felt utterly desolate. I would not listen to a word of encouragement from my mom. In fact, I think I physically pushed her away and yelled at her. I could not worship on Sunday morning. I could not dream of spending one more minute listening to someone tell me their line of bologna about how God will come through for you. I just could not do it. I thought my life as I knew it was over, and I was not sure how I was going to change everything to match my new point of view that God did not exist. We skipped the end of the conference and I drove home to face my new life…and who knows what that meant! I was utterly lost. What a change from the freedom and power of the previous day!

Later that day, as I faced my “set-back”, I was physically wiped out. My kids sat on the bed with me and read books while I let an ice pack tend to my whopping headache. And, as I lay completely vulnerable to the world and its attacks, God began to tend to my wounded soul by His Spirit. I may have been done with Him, but He wasn’t done with me! Miracle of all miracles! You mean, I practically cursed him (ok, really cursed at Him), and He still wanted to pursue ME? Unbelievable. And, true. As the next several days wore on, God built my confidence up again. He showed me by the responses of the people around me that He was still at work and that the success or failure of everything does not depend upon me. It depends upon Him. I had never felt so free.

My point is a simple one: Even your faith, dear one, is given by God. Hebrews 12:2 says, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” In other words, God created my faith. He started it! I didn’t dream it up in my own head and then construct it. God did! It was His idea in the first place. Not only that, but He is the one that sustains it. He perfects it. And, He is the one who will bring it to completion (Philippians 1:4-6).

God has given us the choice to believe or not to believe. But, God is sovereign, and He will have His way. Not as much depends on you as you might think. I’m not advocating getting lazy or being rebellious. We will respond to God with joyful obedience when with grateful hearts we recognize His great love for us. But, listen friend: When you mess up or you just cannot find the strength to believe God for one more second, He will continue what He began in you (whether you like it or not!). This provides tremendous comfort to me! How refreshing!

Corrie Ten Boom once said that she did not have a big faith in a small God, but rather a small faith in a big God. Amen. My little mustard seed of faith will be enough for even the grandest of tasks because my God is big! It is not about me. It is about what God began, what He wants to accomplish, and what He already promised He will complete. It was true for Jonah. He tried to run from God’s calling on his life, but God had His way, didn’t He? Our rebellion and our unbelief cannot stop God. And, His long-suffering, patient, loving presence will be there to nurse our faith to health when it is ailing.

If you detect even a hint of truth in what I have written, then God has probably already authored your faith. Is it ailing today? Are you having trouble believing? Tell Him. God knows what you look like without your make-up on. Let Him nurse your faith back to health. He doesn’t abandon the works of His hands.

“Those who know your name trust in you because you have not abandoned those who seek you, Lord” Psalm 9:10


Anonymous said...

My family went to the same church as yours several years ago. I have prayed for you and your family since. You had to walk through my deepest fear and I witnessed you walk with faith and courage. I remember watching you once sing in worship to the Matt Redman song "Blessed be your Name", and I pray for you and your family when I hear that song.

My daughters and I now worship at a differnt church. I've become a single mother through circumstances most do not understand. My former husband walks in deep rebellion, and is capable of deep deceit. It has been so confusing and painful.

My eyes have adjusted to a darkness it seems many around me do not see. I too often cry out in my disorientation for light and truth.

I too have come to realize that too often we think we can save ourselves, if we just live in the right way. Yet, I too have come to realize that it is all by His grace.

Lately, I have come across a book title "If God is Good...Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil" by Randy Alcorn. You recommended his Heaven book to me once.

My prayer is that He will be glorified as we reflect His love in our journey. I have come to realize that when He is glorified; who He is; and the truth of Him shines through the darkness. Know that you are in my prayers.

Pray for my family too.

"Be strong and take heart all you who hope in the Lord" Psalm 32:24

Jenna said...

It is paramount in our Christian walk that we often come to the place of questioning God. Only the One who is truly sovereign will allow it to grow our faith in Him. Your words are eloquent, heart-felt and true.

You bless me each time you post. Thank you so much!