Sunday, January 11, 2009

Confessions and Repentings of a Recovering "Virtuous Woman"...

A few mornings ago, I woke up very early with a lot of thoughts and feelings stirring round and round in my heart. I finally decided to get up and start writing. It was 3:45 a.m. and 4 hours later I was done. I decided to go ahead and share here most of what I wrote... it's long and personal. I feel like somehow God helped me to put into words what has been going on inside of me for some years now. It helps me to see it in black and white. I also feel like in the last week God has been moving me to repeatedly refuse my own wisdom and strength, and choose Him! I welcome questions and comments.

Isaiah 30:15
In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength.
It’s not because of what I’ve done, but because of who You are, God, that You have dealt so bountifully with me.
When you potty train a child, you reward them with a treat when they manage their task. The treat is not because they did it, but to teach them, to confirm - "Yes, this is what I mean, you are catching on, continue in this way."
When God rewards us for diligently seeking Him, He does the same thing. He is not saying, by blessing us, "You are to be congratulated for seeking Me." He is in effect saying, "Yes, seek Me, love Me, this is the way for you to live. Keep coming - keep seeking - keep discovering what My life in you means.
All my life I have wanted to be who God wants me to be. I have practiced godly virtues because that’s what godly women do, right?
Be hospitable... Be submissive... Be frugal... Be industrious... Be patient... Be content... and the list goes on.
I did not realize that these virtues are not a means to an end. They are a fruit. I thought by being each of these things, I would more closely be a godly woman. I practiced these virtues. Honestly, I think I succeeded quite well and enjoyed feeling virtuous. I grew up in such a way that it wasn’t that difficult for me.
But all things that do not have their origin in Christ come to an end. At some point our natural strength and ability (by the grace of God) comes to an end.
Many times as I neared exhaustion, wondering how much more I could take, I would cry out to God for help. I realized I must be doing this in my own strength, because God’s doesn’t come to an end. In His grace and mercy, He would renew me as I looked to Him and I would pick up where I left off.
But somewhere this cycle had to end. God’s mercy has to be severe at times. God allowed circumstances in my life that hedged me in to Him, where there was no way I could rely on myself.
It has been quite a journey, taking one step at a time in obedience, working out my own salvation with fear and trembling. I have had to let go of my desire (shocker!) to be a virtuous woman, and desire only Him!
I have had to realize that part of my desire to be a godly woman was motivated by a desire to be seen and known as a godly woman. Right there pride enters and we know how God feels about the proud!
I have had to learn that the way I led my "godly" life was actually feeding my fleshly self, the old creature in me, on anything but a starvation diet! I was indeed, the very definition of "self-righteous".
All the while, I looked good, lived right, and fit in with other Christians, was even admired to a certain extent. Meanwhile, God was leaving me more and more to my own "godly" devices (vices?). I was dying a slow death on the inside.
One of the thoughts that stands out to me, that God began using to get me to see my need was this.
At the wedding in Cana, Mary instructed the servants, "Whatever He says to you, that do."
An author I read said it this way, and it stuck. "Whatever He says to you, that do. No more, no less. Mine is the doing, when He says the word. His, is the bringing to pass."
By the grace of God I began to live by this simple thought. Jesus said He did nothing of Himself, only what the Father said. (His word is life.)
It led me to having to die to myself, my godly reputation was also not left untouched. In requiring my complete love, submission and obedience to be towards Him, God had to wean me from my other loves/motivations, godly virtues though they may have been. He brought me to smell the stench of my own self-righteousness, to repent of putting my hand to His ark, (Are we not the temple?) even my own self.
God did not send His Son into the world, so that men and women could lead clean, virtuous, holy, pure lives. Jesus came to restore us to the Father. When we live and move and have our being in God, He flows out through us. He is the Author and Originator of virtue.
I had to "diet" from being and feeling virtuous. Believe me, God knows how to slowly and surely reveal to us our need of Him, our desperate need!
It is a long story. A moment by moment, day by day, often agonizing journey that I think is probably something like an alcoholic goes through when he quits drinking.
The prayer of my heart is always, "Search me, O God, and know my heart. Try me and know my thoughts. See if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."
Even this telling, confessing, is a part of the process of refusing any righteousness but Christ’s.
I hear and see so much in the Christian scene that tells me I am not the only one. We are even taught to be virtuous. There’s much information on what virtuous looks like, sounds like, and how to’s.
God simply desires us to draw near to Him, to let go of our reputation, desires, identities, everything, and turn to Him. He wants us to be to Him, a people, so that He can be God to us. If we doggedly endeavor in ourselves to serve Him, we miss the point.
My favorite verse since I was a teenager has been, "We love Him because He first loved us." Such a simple verse, but so profound! I now know God is saying to me, everything must originate from Him, or it is of no value, no matter how good or godly it seems. He even keeps astonishing me by showing me more areas. It is such a joy to keep discovering God to be sufficient for all. Like the old hymn says, "Jesus Christ is made to me, all I need."
In my life, that looks like this:
- Choosing dependance on God for training my children in His way. I don’t turn to child- training books. They are His children and it is delightful to experience Him working in them. He turns our hearts towards Himself together. God, by His Holy Spirit teaches us and He has instruction for every type of child, and all the situations the child training book didn’t cover.
Most times it seems like He deals with me first. As I lay down my life to Him, His hands are untied to work mightily, once mine are out of the way.
- Choosing dependance on God in home-schooling my children, for me means trusting God has a plan for each of their lives and will direct and guide me in all aspects.
- In housekeeping, the simplest way to put it is to keep house for God. Sometimes that means leaving the mess and clutter and reading a book, even though that doesn’t feel virtuous. It also means God knows when unexpected company is coming, He can have you all prepared, everything tidy.
Warning: He also knows if you are finding identity in being a good housekeeper, or if you care a lot what others think.
We just have to keep our heart turned to God. He is very efficient and organization is a snap to Him. If you do what He tells you, He’ll tell you what to do.
- Shopping - this is an area God has made Himself known to me in, over and over. The times I’ve bought foods I don’t usually buy (or quantities of it) only to have unexpected guests and the menu was simple easy and yummy because of those very items. (There is so no agonizing over being organized and being prepared in the event of...)
The simple thought and request to God, "Please lead me and be for and in and through me what I need."
- Loving my husband - This one’s a biggie! If your heart is submissive to God, He will not fail you. God knew my heart and our future when He led us in writing our vows for our wedding. I covenanted my life first to my Lord Jesus, and then to my husband.
In being obedient to God, He has asked things of me that went against my husband. In fear and trembling I laid down my life, trusting God to steer me right. We have had hard water go under our bridge, but God has amazed me with how He knows all and works in deeper and more far-reaching ways than I could imagine. In being chaste to God there is power. In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.
God has been working in our lives. If we had to choose a scripture to portray what He’s working on, it would be this one: "Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it." I labored many years, protecting the relationship we had, when eventually God helped me see I needed to let go, so He could give us more. God is no shoddy builder! Praise You!
- Friendships - That’s a scary one for me! Like Michael Card’s song says, "Only a friend can betray a friend, a stranger has nothing to gain."
Jesus Christ is our Wonderful Counselor. Our government shall be upon His shoulders. I must let Him govern me! To be a true friend one must be true to Christ and love the truth. Only in being nothing, and Him, everything, can I really love anyone truly. He will steer us through the rocks of superficial friendship to the real mcCoy of laying down our lives.
So many subjects, so much need of Him - yet He is sufficient!
He is enough, and I am in Him.
So today, God... as I sit here writing, daylight is dawning. This is Your day. What should I do today? Please lead me. Thanks for sermons in a kernel of corn, for beautiful shiny counter top that inspires me to clear it off... Thanks so much, Daddy God, for knowing me and caring, for bringing me York mint patties like my earth Daddy did, in all aspects of my life. I’m forever grateful.
Today, please show me how to express that gratitude through my actions. Teach my girls, too. They need You like I do. I choose this day, to be Yours. I want to spend the day before Your throne, at Your feet. Let the alabaster box that is my life be broken for You. I have no other gift. May the love that You have given me, rise back to You like incense.

After writing this, I went to read in a devotional, "Springs in the Valley" by Mrs. Charles Cowman and was amazed at what I read. If you have the book, it was Jan.7. If not, and you want to hear it, let me know and I'll copy it in another post. Needless to say, it directly addressed what was happening in my heart! I love it when God does that!

1 comment:

Coriander said...

Thanks for the encouragement! The Lord has been speaking similiar words to me. Good to hear!