By BARBARA LOWNSBURY
When my kids were little and they weren’t making the best choices, they wouldn’t look me in the eye right away. I would take hold of that pudgy little hand, give a gentle squeeze, and ask my child to look at me. Those little eyes would dart to any direction but the right one. Sometimes I would even gently take their chin in my hand and quietly but firmly say their name, but still those eyes would struggle to land on my face.
I’ve realized I can do the same thing with God. I’m holding His hand and we’re walking along together, Father and Daughter. But there are times I sense Him asking me to stop and look up at Him, to “look him in the eye” and engage with Him. And for whatever reason, I don’t. I’m too busy or too distracted. Or, I don’t really want to deal with the mess I find myself in and just like a child, I don’t look. I know if I do, I have to face up to the consequences or the lessons He is trying to teach me. I circle all around God, praying for others, doing all sorts of godly activities. But I resist stopping and really engaging with Him.
I can be a lot like Martha, busy with the preparations for her guests that were coming to hear Jesus teach. Jesus was right there in her midst, but she was distracted. Those distractions were actually good things, but her focus wasn’t on looking at her Father and learning. Mary chose to sit at Jesus’ feet, listening and learning, even if it meant some of the other tasks didn’t get done, and Jesus commended her for it in Luke 10:38-42.
In those moments of distraction or guilt, I have to remember the heart of the one calling me to look. Jesus’ face is one full of compassionate love. His is a face that looks upon me with acceptance, patience and kindness. His heart is always out for my good. Even when I’m worrying about my choices, He’s already found solutions and ways for me to grow through them. So, in those moments of wanting to let my heart, mind and soul dart in million different directions, I force myself to take a deep breath. Stop. And make the choice to look at the author and perfecter of my faith: Jesus. (Hebrews 12:2)
For me, I’ve learned that when I do slow down and engage, especially when I feel resistant, I always feel SO much better afterwards. The enemy knows if I look I’ll be relieved and refreshed, so he does all he can to keep me looking elsewhere! Paul’s words in Ephesians 1:18-19 really help me with this:
“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.”
It’s hard for me to grow in wisdom and revelation, or receive enlightenment and hope when I’m not looking to Christ to grow me! Next time, when you and I get caught up in busyness or guilt and notice we’re circling all around Jesus without really looking at Him, let’s make a simple decision: look.
PRAYER Papa, thank You for Your patience with me when my eyes dart around looking at everything but You. Remind me to slow down, to remember what’s important, and to put You first. Help me to remember You always greet me from a position of kindness and love, even if I need correcting. Your love and grace are so lavish, so rich and so deep—help me to comprehend that more and more, and to keep reaching for You. I love You, Papa. Amen.
By SARAH DAVIS
The one thing I’ve learned about forgiveness is this: the notion that all are deserving will challenge the convictions that you claim to hold. If I believe that God’s pardoning grace is for all, does that truly mean “all,” or just the ones I’ve determined to be worthy enough of fitting into that category? We as human beings are so limited in our perspective and understanding of life, human behavior, and such a vast and complex God. If we are not careful, we can fall into the trap of presumptuous black and white thinking. Not just because of factors like our upbringing or environmental influences, but in the aspect that our minds are simply incapable of fully grasping the knowledge of God. “Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” 1 Corinthians 13:12 (NIV).
I am not suggesting that God exists somewhere in the gray, but rather that He rules over it. He isn’t gray in His thinking, like maybe He isn’t sure or has to phone a friend or get back to us at a later time. His mind is made up: “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” Romans 5:8 (NIV). Before I even realized that I was the offender. Before I became aware of my brokenness and the hurt I was inflicting on myself and others through my own choices. Not by any conscious effort that I put forth on my part. No pre-existing conditions or criteria to meet, or hoops to jump through. When I am having a hard time forgiving someone, I remind myself that I, too, received grace and mercy that I did not deserve. And I’m still receiving it, and until I’m made perfect in Him, I will need it.
I decided once to deliver flowers to the doorstep of someone I needed to ask for forgiveness. It was no heroic measure on my part and was long overdue. As I sat in the silence of that car ride, I looked out the window and clung tightly to the vase in my lap, feeling the weight of the brokenness that we all have, the offender and the offended one. I felt the burden of all that God sees and knows, and how much He loves us in spite of it all.
When Jesus was executed in John 19:30 and said, “It is finished,” it was like God’s declaration of a peace treaty offered to humanity that we couldn’t live without. Even though He was not the offender, there was no other option for him. There was no plan B. No contemplating or counting all the reasons He shouldn’t because we chose what would separate us from Him who is the embodiment of benevolence and kindness and all things good. He didn’t want a world in the here and now or a future one to come if it meant you and I would be estranged from him in it. His is a love that runs towards us. It shows up on your doorstep with a bouquet of flowers and an offer of forgiveness and a promise to fight for you over and over again–even when you are the one who should be delivering the flowers to Him.
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT Maybe there is someone you are holding bitterness and resentment towards today. Perhaps forgiveness is balled up tightly in your fist, and you don’t know how to let go of it, or if you even should. Maybe the person you need to forgive the most is the one looking back in the mirror. I know how that feels. I’ve been there. May the God of compassion and limitless understanding meet you in that space today. May He bring healing to your wounded heart and the courage to release yourself and the person you can’t forgive.
PRAYER Father, thank you for loving me enough to send your Son to make right all the wrongs that separated us. Thank you for the grace that I can’t earn and didn’t deserve, but you give so freely anyway. Always you are good! May I remember how much You’ve forgiven me so I can have the grace to give and receive grace, too. Amen.
I had an upcoming work opportunity recently that didn’t turn out as planned. I mean, I had asked everyone I knew to pray for blessing and opportunity. For months. I walked in full of faith and eager expectation for God to show up and bless mightily. I waited … and waited. And waited some more. Nothing. Nada. Not only did He not come through, it was one of the worst turn-outs for a work event I had experienced. I mean crickets. Chirping. LOUDLY. Ugh!
How do you handle the moments where you feel God has let you down? For me, that process has evolved. I used to feel defeated and deflated. I used to wonder why A LOT. Why had God bailed on me? Did I do something wrong? Had I lacked faith? I worked hard, so was God just mad at me or punishing me or something? Was there some hidden sin I wasn’t aware of that was blocking me? Why was He treating me this way? Me, me, me! I was very focused on ME, like all blessing was completely contingent on my behavior, or like my formula of pray/work/pray harder should be a slam-dunk for success! Tears, anger, fear and lack of self-worth would dominate my thinking. It pretty much sucked.
Somehow, it’s different now. Yes, I still have to wrestle through some emotions with God. Yes, I can still have moments where my lack of worth and fear can muddle my thinking. But it just doesn’t bother me as much. I have seen so many blessings come from God; so many instances where His timing wasn’t my timing, yet ended up with an outcome better than I could’ve imagined. I guess I’ve learned to relax into my faith and let God do His thing in His timing, knowing His ways always work in the end. Even when I don’t understand. Even when I’m faithless.
God is always faithful. That’s His promise to me AND to you (2 Timothy 2:13). Just knowing that comforts me. Looking back at the blessings, reminding myself of what is “true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise,” (Philippians 4:8) pulls me through to a better, different space.
So if, like me, there are times you feel like God has left you in the dust, remember His faithfulness. Remember His deep and abiding love for you that never changes. Remember that faith is trusting that God has your back even when you don’t feel it, and that His plans are always for your good (Romans 8:28). The sun may not rise or set in your or my timing, but if we remember to look, the gorgeous colors are still there lighting up the sky.
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT: Have you had a time where you thought all hope was gone, only to have God bless you? Or had cool blessings in your life that you knew you didn’t deserve? That’s God doing His thing in your life. I’ve learned to write those things down so I can pull them out in the moments when my faith is wavering. Today, consider writing down the blessings in your life. That way, you can pull them out when you need reminding of what is true, noble and beautiful in your life. I’d love to hear what you come up with so please post below!
PRAYER: Lord, how faithful you are! I know Your thoughts are not my thoughts, and Your ways are not my ways. Help me to trust You when I can’t see the path ahead, or when my circumstances aren’t what I would choose. I know You love me, and Your blessings aren’t something I can earn. Thank You that You allow the sun to shine on us all, and that you always work for my good. When my focus is on me instead of on You, gently and lovingly remind me to fix my gaze upon You again, the author and perfecter of my faith. Amen.
By BARBARA LOWNSBURY
Hello! Gosh, I’ve missed you. Sometimes I don’t always realize what I most value until it’s gone. I’ve missed writing. I’ve missed our back and forth, and hearing from you! I have much to share.
First of all, I’ve gotten engaged <insert HUGELY grinning emoticon here>! On my vision board I crafted in January, I felt the Lord prompting me to focus on developing a personal covenant relationship this year. I fought Him at the time because it felt selfish somehow to focus so heavily on my heart’s desire, but I dutifully made my vision board. I thought I might maybe meet “my guy” this year, but was blown away when I not only met him, but developed a rich, God-centered relationship that I am SO excited to enter into!! Who knew? God did!
Honestly, I’ve felt overwhelmed A LOT this year, as in far more than what is normal. It’s not that I was trying to carry the weight the Lord was meant to carry for me; it had more to do with too many responsibilities and not enough time to carry out any one thing well. While the recovering perfectionist in me cringed, the woman of faith learned to lean into God to realize that even when nothing is completely done well or right, God still loves me and carries the outcome in His arms. We had our first pilot class using our new video series, our second women’s retreat with almost 3 times the attendance of the previous year, and our first ever fund-raising event for The DF. Despite the waves of emotion and the occasional dropped balls, God still brought on abundance, as is His way.
Still, after a lot of prayer, advice and thought, I will be doing life a bit differently moving forward. As the Bible says, “Careful planning puts you ahead in the long run; hurry and scurry puts you further behind” (Proverbs 21:5). I’m tired of hurrying and scurrying, and I’m convinced busyness is the scurge of our modern age. It doesn’t make anyone more important; it just robs us of our precious moments, few as they are. Finding what matters most and investing my time in what brings joy is an investment worth making!
To that end, I’ll be writing more. You’ll hear from me every week again. Yay! You’ll also be blessed by another DF writer each week. We have such talented writers who do such a great job! I know we’ll all grow a lot as we listen and learn from each other’s journey’s. We’re looking to post on Tuesdays and Saturdays – sort of like week and weekend additions for you to ponder over. Our focus will stay on bringing you weekly doses of encouragement for your journey because who doesn’t need that?! Hope you’ll continue to pass us on to your friends 🙂
So, true to Dented Fender form, I’ll still leave you with a closing application and prayer below. But I can’t leave without a big THANK YOU for your patience with me as I’m learning what to juggle and how to juggle it well. I appreciate you! And as always, feel free to reach out to me with any prayer requests. It is my privilege to pray for you!
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT Psalm 39:4 says, “Show me, Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeing my life is.” Is there anything in your life you’ve been holding onto that God is calling you to let go of? What is keeping you from releasing it into His arms? Start praying for God to help you prioritize your life so that you can experience greater joy in the moments you’ve been given.
PRAYER Lord, remind me that my days are like a mist, here one day and gone the next. Teach me to number my days and use my time on this Earth wisely. May I make you my #1 priority today. May my choices honor Your presence in my life. Thank You for loving me so well and teaching me to become more and more like you. I’m so grateful for Your loving presence in my life and for knowing I am never truly alone. I love You, Papa! Amen.
It has been my pleasure to write this blog and share stories of faith and transformation. I’ve tried to share as honestly and humbly as I know how about the power of God to heal and to help everyday folks like you and me; to remember that we don’t have to be rock stars, we just need to listen and trust God because He is! After much prayer and thought, I am taking a brief hiatus from writing and posting. Honestly, I am long overdue for some much needed R&R so that God can recharge my batteries. And I’m falling in love. I think these things are worth taking a short break for.
I plan to come back the beginning of September with fresh content, a fresh look, and a slightly different format to our writing team. We will have a few less postings (2-3 per week) with a different rotation of our writers, and we will also be creating a space for guest bloggers—maybe you! What won’t change? The depth and realness of content you have come to expect.
Mostly I want to thank you for your loyalty and ongoing support, and for your comments and honest feedback. We have grown from that initial group of just 20 or so folks to a group of over 500 subscribers and nearly 3000 readers a month—and growing! My prayer is that when we launch the new format, you will love our new look and continue to share about us with your friends.
And as a reminder, if you’re looking for some inspiration in the meanwhile, you can always access our archives for some really rich content. You are sure to find some real spiritual gems there! Sending blessings and God’s love your way as I continue to lift up the DF community in prayer.
From one Dented Fender to another,
By MARY GEISEN
Is rest just another four-letter word? Do I allow myself to rest or treat it as something I should avoid at all cost? When I slow down, am I fully present in the moment?
Growing up, I remember the lazy days of summer. Each day there was a smattering of play and pool time, and mixed in were long periods of cloud gazing, reading, or just hanging out with the neighborhood kids. There were no schedules and the best part of the day was when dusk descended and all the kids emerged from their houses to play Kick the Can or Ghost in the Graveyard.
Rest was my friend, and I relished the chance to move from one activity to another with no agenda. I am not sure what age this all changed but rest no longer came easily and it reared its head as more of an enemy than a friend. The summer days of childhood are now long gone and instead, I let my to-do list take over my days. Somewhere along the path, I lost my way and in the process, I forgot how to slow down and rest.
Now, as I make my way through the middle part of my life, I find I am seeking rest on a more regular basis. It all has to do with presence and the chance to not miss a moment of life that happens when I am with those I love the most. I describe it as being where your feet are. But the more I look for that elusive rest, the more I crave it, just as the more I seek God and relationship with Him, the more my appetite increases to taste and see the goodness of the Lord (Psalm 34:8 NLT)
God promises us rest in Him (Psalm 62:5) When we are weary and burdened, God is still there to give us rest (Matthew 11:28) There is nothing God won’t do when we feel overwhelmed and overcome by daily life. He desires to carry our burdens for us (Psalm 68:19)
Rest is not the enemy. Rest is the restorer of our souls and God is the Great Provider. Let’s give ourselves permission today to slow down, lose the to-do list and rest our weary bodies.
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT If rest is the restorer of your soul and God promises rest, then what would it look like to turn to God for a deeper and richer restoration of your soul? When the loss of presence with those you love takes over quality time, how will you recognize the loss? If your to-do list becomes more important than being with the people you love, what will you do to reverse the effect?
Let’s work together on giving ourselves grace for those days that are just going to be busy. After extending grace, take time to reflect on one thing you can change that will provide you the space to do something that fills your soul–quiet time, reading, walking, or taking a nap. I give you permission to try it just as I give myself the blessing to do the same.
As you are making the space for rest, try releasing all distractions from sight or in your mind the next time you gather with friends and/or family. The gift of presence is soul-filling and heart-expanding.
You are worth the time and effort it takes to lose the to-do list and let God lead your days.
PRAYER Father God – Thank you for the promise of new life in you. May I recognize my need for rest and choose the space to work it in each day. As I wake up each morning, point me away from busyness and draw me closer to you. Show me how to be fully present each day as I release all distractions to you. Thank you for knowing me better than I know myself. You are a good, good Father! Amen.
You can connect with Mary Geisen in the following places:
By SARAH DAVIS
Shame has a way of spreading through the soul like mold spreads through a house. Shame is different than guilt. It isn’t just feeling remorse or regret about an event in your life, like when our internal moral compass tells us we are in the wrong and indicates a course correction should take place. Shame is the feeling that you are bad and that there is something inherently wrong with you.
My husband encountered a recent disaster on the job site of a large and beautiful home in which he was working. There was a knob that broke off of a sink, followed by substantial volumes of water sprayed at high pressure. Picture a fire hose opened at full throttle in your Pinterest version of a refinished laundry room. The water damage was extensive, leaking through to the ceiling of a finished basement and requiring the ceiling to be ripped out and dried for hours upon hours with industrial fans. Without going to the length of ripping out the ceiling, there was a strong likelihood that mold would spread quickly in the dark and concealed spaces beneath it.
I have come face to face with shame in my own life and have fought my way through the trenches of rediscovering my worth. I had to take a painful look at what was growing beneath the ceiling of my heart. It has been a long journey, and through that process, I have learned to identify shame in the lives of others because pain recognizes pain.
I want to be that reminding voice to others that even though you have made some mistakes in life, you are not a mistake.
In Luke chapter 15, we see the story of the prodigal son who has left home and disgraced his family. When he comes to his senses and returns home, his father sees him coming from a long way off and pulls up his robe and runs to him. The father knew that if someone else were to get to his son first, they might beat him, send him away, or publicly humiliate him. He ran to his son to spare him the shame.
We have a father who runs to us. We have a father who will stop at nothing to restore you to your position as the beloved. He tears down ceilings and runs to get to you first so He can absorb the shame.
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT During that time of confronting shame in my own life, I had to learn that if God is capable of forgiving me of my sins and past mistakes, then I could learn to forgive myself, too. When your perception of God is one that believes the lie that He is still holding your past against you, it naturally causes you to distance yourself and to turn away from Him rather than to Him. This reminder in the story of the prodigal son has been deeply healing in my own life of how the Father demonstrates His love for us even when we’ve made a mess of things. When you’re feeling unloved, unworthy or rejected, picture God running toward you, arms wide open, ready to love you through to a better place.
PRAYER Father, thank you for running to us. Thank you for absorbing the shame so we don’t have to. Help us to be people who do the same to those we encounter in life. Help us to love so radically that it heals and transforms and silences the shame. May our lives tell this love story written with each of us in mind.
By BARBARA LOWNSBURY
Leadership is a heavy mantle that sometimes we wear too lightly. While I never want my role as a leader to feel overwhelming, or worse, carry it as if it were mine to bear, I view it with sober judgement. As a ministry leader, I carry people’s hopes, fears, dreams and devastations in my hands. It doesn’t matter if I am dealing with them directly or indirectly. Whenever I assume the role of “leader,” my words and my actions carry more weight, whether I’m speaking to a crowd of thousands or passing by quickly in the hallway. Yes, everyone (usually) knows I put my pants on the same way they do – one leg at a time. Still, there is no denying the impact a leader makes, whether for good or for bad. And sometimes both, simultaneously.
Two scriptures immediately come to mind. The first, by the Apostle Paul, comes after a long, long list of his sufferings for Christ. He wraps it up in 2 Corinthians 11:28-29 by saying, “Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?” Paul doesn’t think, Ah, well. I tried. They’re accountable for the own actions before the Lord. I don’t need to care or worry. It is clear he loves the people he is serving, and takes ownership of their spiritual journey with the heart of a father towards his children.
The idea of not just caring for those within your sphere of influence, but caring deeply, can quickly get overwhelming to me if I don’t immediately place it in the context of the next scripture: 2 Cor 2:14-17: “In the Messiah, in Christ, God leads us from place to place in one perpetual victory parade. Through us, he brings knowledge of Christ. Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation—an aroma redolent with life. But those on the way to destruction treat us more like the stench from a rotting corpse. This is a terrific responsibility. Is anyone competent to take it on? No—but at least we don’t take God’s Word, water it down, and then take it to the streets to sell it cheap. We stand in Christ’s presence when we speak; God looks us in the face. We get what we say straight from God and say it as honestly as we can.”
The victory in people’s lives rests firmly in God’s hands. My job is to fully lean into Him, remembering it is He who directs my steps and guides me, and to keep my heart sincere before Him. As I share and move and be, God is shining through. My love for others, the words I share and the actions I take then stem from a position of humble and faithful obedience. I don’t have to “perform.” Rather, I serve with humility and compassion, leading from a position of meekness. It’s like one beggar sharing a piece of bread with another beggar. It’s the bread that matters. Whether the other beggar accepts it or not—embraces the Lord or not—is out of my control. Jesus is the bread of life, not me. When I remember that, the unhealthy pressure dissipates, and I can continually offer the bread freely with a sincere heart.
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT While you might not think of yourself as a leader, the truth is we all wear that title in one form or another. Whether it’s with your family, your friends, your children or your co-workers, there are people who look to you for guidance and direction. Spend some time today reflecting on your leadership roles and how God can grow them.
PRAYER Lord, I am humbled that you choose to use me, flawed though I am. Help me to remember that it’s not up to me to make things happen. That’s Your job. Instead, help me to focus on giving my best effort to honor You, knowing Your grace covers the gaps in my leadership, and help me to continue to grow to become more like you. May I reflect the aroma of Christ as I go about my day to those around me. Amen.
By KRISTAN DOOLEY
Running in a new place can be rough. In unknown territory, adjustments have to be made. Over the miles a runner learns her route. She knows when the path dips, how it turns and where it gets rocky. The known foundation underneath her pounding feet welcomes her consistently. It’s freeing to know where you are. Freeing in a way of energy conservation. To the runner, a known path is an easier path because she can direct her energy on what is ahead and not what is below.
We are on vacation, which means this morning my running routine was different. New place, new space, new foundation. Instead of the often cold, hard running trails in Ohio, I found myself on the soft, sandy beach in Florida. Total upgrade, I know! Only, instead of breezing through what should have been just a beautiful run, I found myself struggling tremendously. Where I had easily completed six miles at home two days ago, today I struggled to complete three!
The terrain was different. Instead of the normal blacktop, the soles of my feet were met with fleeting sand. Each time my foot connected with the sand underneath, it sank, making it a lot harder to pick back up again. Not only was I struggling to connect my stride, but the ground was uneven, causing one side of my body to overcompensate and throwing me off balance throughout the duration of my run.
I thought about stopping when I sensed God speaking.
“Slow down, take a deep breath. This is a new place. The ground here is different. Today, you are going to work new muscles into your old routine. You won’t be able to run as fast as you could at your old place and that’s okay because look around you. Don’t allow the new terrain and the pain of what you don’t know distract you from the beauty surrounding you. You’ve never been here. It’s beautiful. Enjoy it. Learn it. Get used to it.”
Isaiah prophesied about the struggles the Israelites would have coming out of captivity. Though the new scenery surrounding them would sing of freedom and adventure, they would find themselves wildly concerned with the unfamiliar terrain. Focused on the unknown, they would struggle to move forward.
“This is what the Lord says— He who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, who drew out the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements together, and they lay there, never to rise again, extinguished, snuffed out like a wick: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:16-19 NIV)
With so much still ahead of them, they couldn’t waste energy dwelling on things behind them – even the good things. God is the God of today – but He is also the God of tomorrow and because of that we can keep going even when it’s different.
I kept running on the beach and eventually the sand solidified under my feet and became a place of consistency. It still wasn’t as comfortable as my everyday run at home, but it was more beautiful than what I was accustomed to. Running in new places is about adjustment and alignment. It’s about allowing ourselves the space to slow down and the grace to readjust and the time to realign. In the grand scheme of things being a runner is about learning to run in lots of new places as well as the comfortable old spaces.
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT If the new land you are running (or walking) on is hard – slow down – because your pace is not as important as His work. He is laying a new foundation that your feet will eventually learn just as well as the old. Look up. Look around. Take in the new scenery. Smell the air. Breath deep.
PRAYER Father, make me a celebrator of the new. Help me to have open hands concerning the way you’ve moved in the past, keep me holding loosely to the land around me. Empower me to walk forward into the unknown. Keep my head up so I don’t miss the beautiful scenery around me. Adjust my step to the new foundation underneath me. Thank you for the unknown. I celebrate what is coming! Amen.
By SARAH DAVIS
My heart absorbed the moment as I listened to my husband’s words to our son, “You are made for so much more. You are meant to be a voice on the earth.”
It had been a long and emotionally taxing day after receiving a phone call from my mother-in-law. Her voice on the other end was regretful and apologetic as she told me that my son had gotten in trouble. Though it was a little thing, it had potential to become a big thing that if not diverted now. Fear of a negative trajectory for his life seized my heart with fear.
I sat heavy in my seat on the car ride home where I knew he was waiting for me and dreading my arrival at the same time. When I walked into our home, I found him sitting in the kitchen with his elbows resting on his knees, and his head hung low. I sat across from him, and our eyes met for a moment before the tears pooled in the corners of his eyes. I had to fight the urge at that moment to be the rescuer.
Discipline is more painful for me as his parent than for him as the recipient. Not because he asked numerous times over the next week for his phone privileges back. Not because he fatigued my ears and my will by asking, “How long?” It’s painful for me to inflict punishment because I know that it doesn’t feel kind to him. I remind myself that love without discipline is not loving at all. If I save him and don’t allow him to experience the burn of touching the stove, he will likely continue on a path that will hurt him more in the future. He will not learn the crucial lesson at hand. My heart feels the soberness of this wrecking truth: If I in all of my best efforts at being a good parent feel this pain, how much more does God when we are suffering because of our own choices? Does He feel that ache in His heart when His children that He loves more than life experience the discomfort?
In Judges 16:10, it says this: “Then they got rid of the foreign gods among them and served the LORD. And He could bear Israel’s misery no longer.” (NIV)
There was never a single moment in the aftermath of it all that I didn’t want to draw near to my son. Truth is, that car ride home was painfully long. I couldn’t get to him soon enough, and not because I wanted to scold him. I think about this as we walk through a crowded field a few days later at an independence day event. He lagged behind, much like me in my non-celebratory mood, my heart still felt heavy from the week we had faced and the concern I felt over him. Yet, even in the moment of receiving the phone call and even when I was listening to him make excuses to justify his actions and avoid punishment, I only wanted to be near him. In spite of it all, I only wanted his presence and his smile and his humor.
Perhaps our incorrect view of God causes our tendency to hide, to withdraw, to isolate, and attempt to cover ourselves when we feel like we’ve messed up. But we have a Father who only wants us to come closer. He is the One who pursued us first. He is the One who loved us even in spite of us, and who searches us out in our fleeing and our hiding.
That’s what the Father does when we draw closer. Never shaming or condemning. He never reminds us of all of the ways we have failed or fallen short. Does He allow us to experience the pain of our choices? Absolutely. As a good Father should. But He also reminds us of who we are and what we are made for. He tells us that we are made for so much more and that we are meant to be a voice on the earth.
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT I know firsthand in my life that discipline is a painful thing to experience. What made it even more painful at the time was the shame that was attached to it. The feeling that I had disappointed God or that He didn’t want relationship or closeness with me because I had failed. Proverbs 3:12 says, “Because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.” Just as I want the best for my children, the Lord also knows that discipline is good for me. He allows it because He loves me. He also knows the end from the beginning and promises, “that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus ” Philippians 1:6 (NIV). If you are in a season of discipline, never forget it comes from a place of love for you and a desire to allow your voice to be clear and true on this earth until we move on to the next one.
PRAYER Father, help me to be a parent who reflects Your love and discipline because it is the loving thing to do, even when it doesn’t feel like it. I pray that the perfect love of the Father will be reflected through me. In my own moments of failure, help me to turn to You rather than distancing myself from You. Thank You for Your love and patience. Amen.