I’m a skeptic. Like, a for real skeptic and it seeps over into my prayer life.
I will faithfully pray for something that I don’t believe will happen. I can identify so much with the father who brought his sick child to Jesus and cried out, “Lord I believe; help my unbelief!” in response to being told “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.” (story found in Mark 9)
I believe He CAN do it. I just tend not to believe He WILL do it. More and more I find myself asking Him to help my unbelief. And this weekend, I saw Him answer with certainty. I was in a small group of people when I learned of one of the answers and it took great poise not to announce it to the room. In fact, if I weren’t so afraid of attention I would likely have done it. I wish I had.
Because I’ve been praying VERY specifically for something regarding one of my children, for weeks. Months. There was no indication of a response to those prayers and I kept reminding myself to be patient. But patience is so hard when your child is on the line. It’s natural to want to fix it all NOW. We’re inclined to want God to move TODAY. We aren’t longsuffering in the way He is and we don’t see Him hard at work behind the scenes, laying the foundation for the answers to the prayers we’ve been praying. And yet He’s there, never resting.
When the second answer came in response to a prayer I’ve faithfully been praying for another of my children, I was awed. What a slap in the face my unbelief took.
I’ve dutifully tended to the physical needs of my children for two decades. I’ve fed and clothed them, washed and schooled them. I’ve taught them to read and trained them to work. I’m holding up my end of the deal pretty well with regard to caring for their person but I’ve not always been so attentive to their souls.
I’ve unleashed my frustration in a string of harsh words more times than I care to ever remember. I’ve hushed their childlike enthusiasm in favor of nursing a rare moment of quiet. I’ve brushed aside their cares and wants because mine felt more pressing. And I’ve many times brought them to justice, rather than Jesus, simply because I didn’t care to take the time the latter required.
Lately God has been showing me how glad I am He doesn’t do the same. That He doesn’t parent as I do.
I fall and He forgives. I stray and He calls me back. I’m confused and He gives me clarity. I overwhelm and He shoulders my load. I retreat and He retrieves. He relentlessly pursues.
I’m crushed by the enormity of the reality of sin in this world my children are being raised in. I’m terrified of it and I’m tempted to look for the evil in everything so I can insulate them from it. But the reality is, there is no better way to insulate ourselves or our children from evil than by introducing (and re-introducing!) them to Jesus. And recognizing evil is NOT equal to truly knowing Christ.
My focus is often on the bad. I see one of my children inching toward something slightly tainted by the world and I start to panic it’ll infect them. I launch into full-blown emergency mode and I warn them to retreat without hesitation. I sound the alarms and blow the horns without ever turning to Jesus.
Because I focus so hard on the evil that I fail to look for the Good. But this past year we memorized some of Romans 19 including the verse where it says to be “wise unto that which is good and simple concerning evil“. I keep rehearsing that in my mind as I’m tempted to overwhelm by the sin condition surrounding us. And I’m reminding myself that God is dealing with the same.
His children are all over this planet, and He sees the danger surrounding us. He knows better than we do how deadly it can be. And yet He’s trusting the Spirit to do His work. He’s trusting the sacrifice to tell the story of His love. He’s trusting His mercy to redeem as many as are willing to be redeemed.
My heart this morning is filled with hope that I can learn to live surrendered to the good rather than fearful of the bad. It’s determined to love the filthy without fear of getting dirty because my eyes are on Christ. I’m focused on pointing my children to Jesus instead of pointing out satan at every turn. He doesn’t deserve our attention but he surely delights in it. Like a desperate child who will act out simply to draw some type of response from his parent, satan doesn’t care that we don’t esteem him in word or action, just so long as he’s allowed to consume our thoughts. Because a mind consumed by darkness will eventually fade from the Light.
Today I’m choosing to embrace my calling. I’m choosing to love the childhood of my children more than the calm my carnal self craves. I’m choosing to put myself out there when I’d more naturally retreat. I’m choosing to pray for belief and trust He has answered.
And I’m choosing to look for the good when I’d more naturally drawn to focus on the bad.
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