Thursday, March 26, 2015

"He must increase...."

Then there arose a dispute between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purification.  And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified—behold, He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him!”
 John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven.  You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent before Him.’ He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled.  He must increase, but I must decrease...." -John 3:25-30

"If you become a necessity to someone else's life, you are out of God's will.  As a servant, your primary responsibility is to be a 'friend of the bridegroom.' (John 3:29).......Listen intently with your entire being until you hear the Bridegroom's voice in the life of another person.  And never give any thought to the devastation, difficulties or sickness it will bring.  Just rejoice with godly excitement that His voice has been heard.  You may often have to watch Jesus Christ wreck a life before He saves it (see Matthew 10:34)." -Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

This was God's word to me today, and it was a sobering, encouraging, difficult word.  My firstborn child graduates in May.  The graduation gown and cards are ordered, the date is set, and she has been accepted with a full scholarship to the university she wanted.  For all but six months of her education, she has been at home learning under both my and her father's tutelage.  We have watched her grow and change, from an opinioned, small little girl to a still diminuitive, still opinioned, but refined young lady of character.  It has been a joyful journey, and I admit we are blessed that she has received wisdom and grew in it, and I can see her making far wiser choices than I made at such a young age.  We have gazed with pride and admiration,  as she has undertaken to own her faith for herself, and soon she will launch out as an adult, free to make her own decisions, both mistakes and victories.  Free to fly or fall on her own.

As a mom, it is hard.  I remember how I held her in my arms after she was born, so tiny.  And I remember the overwhelming love I felt for this little person, the amazement I felt at how she had instantaneously transformed me---not into an angelic being, to be sure--but that someone else's needs could have so instantaneously supplanted my own.  That I became secondary. I remember the fierce determination and desire that took root in my heart to protect her and nurture her.  To guide her safely through the pitfalls of life, and to help her avoid the hurts and pains which I had experienced.  Such are the joys of motherhood.  Truly, from the first moments I knew she was growing within me, I committed myself to sacrifice in such a way that my child, and later my other children, should benefit.  I do it imperfectly, and often I falter on the way.  It's not that I haven't had selfish moments.  Like everyone else, I contend with my flesh.  And my children have heard their mother utter "I'm sorry" more times than I can count.  But overall, the overarching desire of my heart has been that my children should know Christ and make Him known, and that they would see Him most clearly through me.  Whether I have succeeded in this daunting task remains to be seen, but that has been my prayer.
At the same time, I admit I struggle with being a bit of a control freak in recovery. It is one of the areas of my life where I see the Lord most clearly at work in sanctification.   I recognize God's providential hand in history, and that He is in control, causing all things to work for the good of those who love Him.  But sometimes I struggle to let go and rest fully and completely in that trust.  I struggle to remain silent and let Him do His work in other hearts, when I think I can see so clearly (ugh, such pride) what HE is doing, and how much FASTER and BETTER it would go if only I could TELL them what I see.  I know how foolish that is when I say it out loud, but in the moment, it is so HARD to watch another falter when you feel that you could help them to avoid pain.   The truth, however, is that there are seasons and times for ALL things.  As it says in Ecclesiastes,
"To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven:

 A time to be born,
    And a time to die;
A time to plant,
    And a time to pluck what is planted;
A time to kill,
    And a time to heal;
A time to break down,
    And a time to build up;
A time to weep,
    And a time to laugh;
A time to mourn,
    And a time to dance; 
A time to cast away stones,
    And a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace,
    And a time to refrain from embracing; 
 A time to gain,
    And a time to lose;
A time to keep,
    And a time to throw away;
A time to tear,
    And a time to sew;
A time to keep silence,
    And a time to speak;
A time to love,
    And a time to hate;
A time of war,
    And a time of peace." (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)

I can see more clearly, at this season of my life, that so much of life is more about discerning what "time" it is, and behaving accordingly.   Too often I am silent when I should speak up, and speaking when I should remain silent.   Too often I am holding on when I should be releasing, and releasing when I should be holding on.  There is a rhythm to life, it seems, and a method to what can appear to be chaos. 
Soon, in my daughter's life, will be a time to step back.  Actually, I can say it has already begun.  It has been a gradual process.  My role is changing.  For a while,  I have been like a coach in a game, intensely involved, giving commands and sometimes training her through drill practice to prepare her for what life will throw her way.  But now, I must fade.  I must decrease.  Now is the time to step back and let prayer be my primary focus, to see the hand of God at work.  I must let go and begin to become less of a coach and more like a devoted, faithful fan, cheering her on from the sidelines,  grimacing at her challenges and cheering her in her triumphs. Still giving what wisdom I have, but only when and if she seeks it out.  Allowing her to experience more fully the consequences--good and bad-- of her decisions and actions.  I must trust in the hand of God to lead her and guide her, independently of myself.  This new phase is going to be challenging for a recovering control freak like myself, but it gets easier the more I KNOW the God I serve.  After all, theology is life.  What I do often speaks more of what I believe than what I say.  So I will consider this truth when I am tempted to hold on.  I will pray not just for my daughter, but for myself.  That when all is said and done, she will see GOD's hand at work in her life, and praise HIM.  Not me.  If at the end of life, everyone says what a great person I have been,I will judge that to be failure.  Because I am not great.  I am merely a servant of the ONE who is.  THAT is what I hope my children see. 

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