Subscribe to Life of a Happy Mom Subscribe to Life of a Happy Mom's comments

Posts tagged ‘surrender’

I’ve been reading the book When God Writes Your Life Story, by Eric & Leslie Ludy, and I am just blown away. I’ve known for a while that the Christian life is surrender, but somehow the depth of it never hit me until last night as I was sitting in bed, waiting for my husband to finish an after-hair-cut shower, reading a few pages.

They went to the lives of several spiritual giants from the past–Hudson Taylor, Dwight Moody, Oswald Chambers, among others–and shared how these men had all come to the point of realizing that their religion was powerless and empty. At the point of desperation, they realized that they were still in control of their lives, that God was merely their hired servant, coming to fulfill their bidding, to carry out their plans. And they made the choice to give all, to surrender entirely everything they were.

I would like to quote from the couple of pages that struck me the most:

So how did this amazing transformation happen for these men and women of God? Just what is the secret to a victorious Christian life that each of them discovered?

It was an exchange.

An exchange of the most dramatic and life-altering proportions.

They gave up their very lives in exchange for the very life of God. They allowed their bodies to be taken over, like a town surrendering to the invasion of a foreign power. They allowed their being to be possessed by a Spirit so holy, so pure, so righteous, that any remnant of selfish sin was burned away with the fire of God’s perfect presence. They relinquished complete and total control of their lives to their King, for Him to dispose of as He saw fit. They invited the most divine Guest into the center of their existence and said, “Make this humble stable your princely palace, O holy Lord!”

They each made an exchange. . . . They exchanged life as they new it for life as God knew it should be.

They exchanged the right to do with their bodies however they saw fit for the life of a servant who only does what the Master requests.

They exchanged their dreams and ambitions for God’s great and dramatic plan for their lives.

They exchanged a life ruled and controlled by sin for a life victorious over sin, clothed with joy and triumph.

Such is the secret of every great man and woman of God. It’s the solemn exchange of a humble human life for His majestic holy life. 1

Listen to how Walter Wilson, a respected young Christian physician from the early 1900s, expressed his surrender:

Lord, I give you my this body of mine; from my head to my feet, I give it to You. My hands, my limbs, my eyes, my brain; all that I am inside and out, I hand over to You. Live in and through me whatever life You please. You may send this body to Africa, or lay it on a bed with cancer. You may blind my eyes, or take me with Your message to Tibet.  You may take this body to the Eskimos, or send it to a hospital with pneumonia. This body of mine is Yours alone from this moment on. 2

I finished the chapter just as my husband came to bed, and as he turned out the light, I rolled out of bed and knelt to pray. As I knelt there before God, the words I had just read started running through my mind, and I realized that the life I have been seeking had just been described–and it was a life of slavery. Being a bondslave of God forever.

In the Old Testament, there was a ritual mentioned about a servant who wanted to stay with his master and never be free. Normally a servant would serve for 6 years or buy his freedom. But a servant could freely choose to remain with his master forever–meaning until he died. As a sign of this, his master would take an awl and bore his ear through onto the doorpost of his house. This hole in his ear was a symbol of his submission for life to his master. See Exodus 21:2-6

There is no Biblical account of any servants ever making this kind of submission to their masters, but the story is there for a reason. You see, there was One whose ear was pierced, symbolically.

Mine ears has Thou opened . . . I delight to do Thy will, O My God: yea, Thy law is within My heart.

The Lord God hath opened Mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back. 3

It is obvious from the context that both of these verses are speaking of Jesus. What is not obvious is the connection to the ear-piercing ceremony. Strong’s Concordance tells us that the word “opened” in these two verses means “pierced.” Do you see the implication?

Jesus was a slave of God. He sought only His Father’s will, not His own.

And He is our Example.

All of this flooded over me last night and I knelt before God. And suddenly I realized I had to get up and write in my prayer journal. I wanted to keep a record of what was going on in my mind. Here is part of what I wrote:

I am to be a slave, with no will of my own.

Paul called himself a slave of Jesus Christ. This is what I must be. A bondservant. My highest aim must be His will.

Wow. That means I consult Him about every decision. This doesn’t mean He will always tell me what to do. He is my friend and calls me a friend, not a slave. But I must make no decision on my own.

Am I willing to take this plunge?

I guess I liked the word “surrender” better. Slavery seems so final. But this is what I must do. I must have my ear opened, or pierced, as Jesus did, and learn to delight to do my Father’s will.

Am I willing?

I want to–but I am afraid. Why? Because it is so … final. Being a bondslave is not something one could ever get out of. It lasted until death.

But I should rather focus on the joy that this surrender brings. Especially when I consider that Romans 6 teaches that we are all slaves–either to Satan or God, sin or righteousness. We cannot serve two masters, but we certainly always have one.

Which means that when my master is self, it is really Satan.

And that means I am bound for hell.

Lord, if I do this, You will have to remind me frequently. I am not in the habit of seeking Your will moment by moment. But You have begun a good work in me, and if I cooperate, You will finish it.

All right. I am Yours. All of me. Take my body and do with it as You will. Take my mind and fill it with love for You and zeal for Your Will. Take my hands and use them to minister Your glory. Take my feet and send them where You will. Take my tongue and bridle it. Tame it, that it may only speak words that will glorify Your name. Take my heart, cleanse it, and come dwell in me. Take my eyes and ears, that they may only see and hear what will honor You. Take my appetite and subdue it. May I let only what You permit pass my lips. Take every last piece of me. I am no longer my own. I am bought with a price. Praise be to God.

Can you sense the struggle? I have surrendered so many times, but it seems that in the back of my mind, many times subconsciously, there was a caveat, a condition that I would have the option to go back to the old way if it didn’t work out. But I had tasted the old way, and I was tired of it. I wanted something more. But as I wrote those words of surrender, a peace flooded over me. I put the book away and quietly went to bed. And I woke this morning with a hunger for God. And I felt led to write out this testimony during my quiet time. I wasn’t sure why at first–normally this isn’t something I would do during my devotional time–I rarely use the computer and try never to use the Internet. But now I understand. Something about going over it again has strengthened my desire, deepened my decision. I have yielded myself to the King of kings, and I will serve Him from this day forward. Praise the Lord!

 

1. Eric & Leslie Ludy, When God Writes Your Life Story, 68, 69

2. V. Raymond Edman, quoted in When God Writes Your Life Story, 70

3. Psalm 40:5, 8; Isaiah 50:5

I think I have finally figured out the secret to parenting.

Okay, when I say “figured it out,” I don’t mean that I have a 100% perfect understanding of it. But I think I have enough of a concept to apply it and to share it.

And it wasn’t my original discovery. It comes from the book Parenting Your Infant/Toddler by the Spirit by Sally Hohnberger. And “it” is the parenting pyramid.

In my own words, this pyramid means that God is at the top, desiring to communicate to my child and me. Because I am the parent, I need to open up the lines of communication–two-way communication. I need to make sure my heart is fully surrendered in the moment. And let me tell you, lack of surrender on our part is a big reason why we fail to bring our children to true obedience. Just try making a child obey cheerfully by yelling at them!

The second aspect is that God also wants to communicate directly to the child. However, the rebellious, tantrum-throwing two-year-old isn’t listening. So we as the parent, now surrendered to the Lord, will communicate to them, and direct them to listen to what God is saying to them. Then we lead them to surrender as well. Once they surrender, the lines of communication are open between both parent and child and God and child.

Now, that’s good in theory, but let me make this practical with some illustrations from my life today.

It was time to pick up the toys and get ready for worship. But neither of my children wanted to pick up the toys. Manny tried to throw a tantrum and Gislaine started to cry. Because I couldn’t deal with them both at once, I sent Gislaine to her room and told her to wait until I called her. Then I told Manny that he needed to surrender his heart to Jesus and put the toys away. I said, “Let’s pray,” but he jerked in defiance. So I took his hand and said, “We need to go for a run.” We ran the length of the house and back. Then I knelt again and asked him to pray with me. He knelt, folded his hands, and closed his eyes. Then he repeated after me. “Dear Jesus, please help me to put my toys away happy. Amen.” Then I showed him the toy, and repeated my instruction. He put it away. At first he was just compliant–putting it away under protest. But as I directed him to put more and more away, his heart softened until by the time he was done, he was a cheerful, happy little boy. And Daddy noticed later, after I had gone to the gym, that he was the happiest, most obedient, surrendered little boy that he had been for a long time, and commented on it to me when I got back.

Once he was busy putting his toys away, I called his sister out. We knelt and I led her in a similar prayer. Then I asked her, “What is Jesus saying to you?” She said, “To obey.” That just warmed my heart! Jesus was speaking to my precious daughter, and she recognized His voice! I said, “That’s right. Now please put the dolly’s bed away.” And she did. She also helped her brother put some things away. And she was happy when it was over.

And so was I!

Yes, it took extra time to do it, but the end result was happiness for everyone, and peace in the home.

Yes, this is the secret: a connection with God, listening for His direction, and following His guidance. Most of the time, we won’t know for sure if the ideas that come to our minds are from Him or not, but we are to test the spirits, and move forward in faith. But being surrendered ourselves–to take our toddler’s hand for the grizzly run (because they are too young to run by themselves), even when we don’t feel like running–makes all the difference. Because we certainly cannot bring our child to surrender if we are not surrendered ourselves!

I’m reading this book through for the second time. I can’t say I’ve read enough recently to do a proper review of it, but I would still highly recommend it. And all the other books in the series.

Yesterday was not a good day. At least, that’s how it started out.

First off, I woke up late. Not terribly late, mind you. Probably only an hour late. But on a Friday, that’s just asking for trouble. Sundown shows up at the scheduled time no matter what time I rose in the morning.

Not to mention that I have been making a commitment to spend time with God each morning. Now, if I get up early, that isn’t so hard. But if I get up late, then I am under pressure.

By More Good Foundation on Flickr

Another problem with getting up late is that it seems whenever I sleep in, I feel more tired than if I had gotten up earlier. Maybe this has something to do with the fact that I have more time to really connect to God’s strength when I get up earlier, but all I know is that for the past few months whenever I get up late, I have a worse day. Of course, if I go to bed late, it doesn’t help at all!

So I was tired. Really tired. The I-can’t-focus-on-anything kind of tired. I found myself not knowing what to do next and grabbing my iPod to check email or my to-do list (usually both) more often than I really should have. That made me get more and more behind, until I realized it was 10:00 am and the breakfast dishes weren’t even done. At that point, I began to slip emotionally as well.

Of course, emotions are harder to control when one is tired. And mine were just all over the place. I fought hard to control my attitude and not fall into negative thinking, but it was so hard. I would find myself saying things like, “Why am I so tired today of all days? I mean, I got to sleep in this morinng. Why am I always more tired on days when I sleep in a little?” Or, as I lumbered up the stairs to change a diaper, “Why am I sore? I’ve been exercising at least every other day for the past couple of weeks, and sometimes more. I shouldn’t be sore. It’s not fair.” Or, “What is my husband doing on the computer on his day off? Why doesn’t he come help me?” [I knew the answer–he was working on essays in his attempt to get some scholarships to get his Master’s–but you know how the mind tends to focus on the negative anyhow!] Then something would go wrong, and I would whine to myself about it.

But as I sensed my spirit becoming negative, I also sensed God calling to my heart to surrender the feelings and thoughts to Him and to focus on something positive instead. Several times I turned my thoughts away from the negative direction they had been going toward something positive, claiming a promise or counting a blessing.

Finally, a little after noon, I just couldn’t go on. I had put Manny down for his nap, and I decided it was time for me to take one too. My husband was planning on going to town soon, and said he would take Gislaine with him. So I went to try to take a nap. Manny wasn’t asleep yet, so I put in earplugs, just in case.

I had just started to drift off–I know because my thoughts suddenly made no sense when Manny’s crying woke me up. Glancing at the clock, I figured I couldn’t have been asleep more than a couple of minutes. As his cries escalated, I decided that I might as well feed him; it was a little early (he’s on a two-meal-a-day schedule right now, partly since he takes his nap around noon and wakes up late in the afternoon, and partly because it gives his irritated digestive tract a bit of a break). So I got him up, much to his delight, and tried to fix him a lunch.

I say tried, because I was only slightly refreshed from the 2-minute nap. I still couldn’t focus. I had cooked him a sweet potato for breakfast, and planned on giving him the leftovers for lunch. But I needed a little more to make up the meal, so I cut a few slices from an unused sweet potato and started to cook them. Then I started toasting rice in a dry pan to make Spanish Rice for today’s lunch and seasoning beans I had pressure cooked earlier. Those two things took all the focus I could spare, until suddenly it dawned on me that the sweet potatoes were not bubbling in the pan behind the rice anymore. So I lifted the lid.

Sure enough… the pan was black inside.

And since I had sliced them thin–only about 1/4″ thick–I was able to salvage very little.

I forgot to mention that I had burned his sweet potatoes at breakfast too–not as badly, but still, the pan had blackened.This time was much worse. And I still hadn’t cleaned the pan from the morning. So now I had two blackened pans to clean.

It was just too much.

I didn’t think I could take it anymore.

Not to mention that my husband still hadn’t gone to town. Was he going to go or not? I had forgotten to put a book I sold on eBay in the mail box, and now it was too late; if it didn’t get to the post office, it wasn’t going out that day. And it was supposed to go out that day. Of course, I didn’t bother to consider that what my husband was working on was something he wanted to go out in the mail that day too.

Then the pile of dishes was starting to look overwhelming. And they were all dishes that had accumulated after the breakfast dishes had been washed. Sure, a few things hadn’t been washed after breakfast–my daughter had helped and hadn’t been able to handle them. And I had made teff milk and soy milk and still needed to make nut milk with the nuts soaking in the window…

I had a sort of headache, and noise was bothering me. I found myself starting to snap at the kids. Knowing that I needed divine strength, I dropped to my knees behind the kitchen island and pleaded for help. I actually did this several times throughout the morning. When I found myself dwelling on negative thoughts, I made a point to stop and ask for grace to change, and more than once I had knelt to pray. Somehow, those prayers gave me strength to fight back the tears  that would come up and helped me change my focus.

But after the sweet potatoes burned, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I went down to the office where my husband was working and my iPod was charging and sent a text to one prayer partner and a Facebook message to another, briefly describing my exhaustion and out-of-control emotions and asking for prayer

.

After that, I went back to lunch prep. I soon had Manny fed and sat down to eat myself. By the time the meal was over, I was feeling better. I got everything done just in time for Sabbath, and after worship went down to walk on the treadmill, reading a chapter from The Gift while I walked. This refreshed my body and my spirit, and I felt so much better the rest of the evening. Of course, I made it a point to go to bed early!

What did I learn from this day? Several things. First, our thoughts direct our emotions. The things we allow ourselves to think on affect what we feel. If we think negative thoughts, we can work ourselves up into tears very quickly. By the same token, if we resist the negative and focus on the positive, we can change the course of our emotions.

The second thing I learned is that it is important to firmly resist temptation. I had to choose to change my thoughts. Of course I asked God for help, but He couldn’t choose my thoughts for me. He could only point me in the right direction. The choice was up to me. Refusing to break down in tears–even when they were welling up in my eyes–was very hard and totally foreign to my nature, but I did it in Christ’s strength. And when the devil realized that I was determined to choose Christ, he got tired of trying and relaxed the temptations–no doubt planning the next one, but at least giving me a break for a while.

The third thing I learned is that I need the prayers of those I love. The temptations didn’t begin to lessen until my friends started praying. Now, I know they pray for me every day, in a general way, but on days like this if I ask, they can pray specifically for the trial I am in, and that is even more powerful.

So thank you, prayer partners!

Have you had a trial lately that you found victory in? Do you have a prayer partner that you exchange requests with? Please share how this has been a blessing to you.

Yesterday I shared some of the things I did to fortify myself against failure in the Christian walk. Besides making the obvious commitment to daily Bible study and prayer, I chose a prayer/accountability partner to encourage and pray for me, and to help keep me accountable in certain areas. I feel this is important because, as I shared, sin thrives in darkness and concealment, but loses much of it’s power in the light (See John 3:19, 20).

Today I want to share how the Lord took me deeper. You see, it was good that I stopped resisting Him. But just saying “Lord, take my life” is not enough. There must be a continual surrender to God’s will. Here is where my past failures came from. I would say, “Lord, take my heart.” But then when He would ask me to give up some cherished idol, I would resist. And that resistance would sooner or later separate me from God.

So within a day of my initial surrender, I began to sense the Lord asking me to lay some things on the altar. Things like how much time I spend on the internet. (Yes, with it in the house, and especially with the iPod, it is a very real and powerful temptation again.)

So I asked my prayer partner to help keep me accountable and pray for me in this area.

Next I realized that I had let my eBay business take over my life. I needed to spend less time on it and more time working with my children. So I laid that on the altar as well.

Now don’t get me wrong. I still struggle with my time online and to an extent with eBay (some days it is more of a challenge than others); but I am trying to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s call to my heart, telling me when I’ve done enough or need to do something else. It’s nice to be able to make some spending money, but I cannot let the love of money (or even the need for it) control me.

Another area, related to the one, is the issue of how I use my spare time. I am beginning to realize that how we use our spare moments says a lot about who we are.

There is this blog that I was reading. It was funny and mostly harmless, but I had become somewhat obsessed with it. I wanted to read all the archives (over 2 years’ worth of almost daily posts), and had only a few months’ worth to go when the Lord brought it up to me. He pointed out that not only was I not learning anything of eternal value there, but it occasionally had content that was not really appropriate for a Christian to view–content that I would be embarrassed to be caught viewing if Jesus were to walk into the room. Since I had so few posts left (relatively speaking) to finish it, at first I thought I would just look at a post here and there in my spare time. But I began to see the negative effect of even moderate viewing (as opposed to sitting down for an hour to read a couple months’ worth, like I had done), and the Lord called to my heart again.

This time He asked me to surrender the whole blog, to be willing never to go there again. And at the same time, He also asked me not to check my email every time I had a spare moment–or my texting program, or whatever other little innocent thing that I might do with my iPod when I had a few moments to myself. Not that I could never use a spare moment to check my email, but I realized that I needed to try to use the majority of them for something of more eternal value. Like read a Bible promise, or take a moment to pray for someone or something, or read a couple of paragraphs from an inspirational book. So I surrendered the blog and the use of my spare time. And I have found that doing this has led me to love the things of the Lord more. It also is helpful to keep my mind focused on the Lord, and to make up for a not-as-long-as-I-would-have-liked quiet time in the morning. And I don’t miss that blog. Not one bit. I don’t think I’ll ever go back.

One side benefit (if you could call it that) of guarding my spare moments has been an increased sensitivity to the Spirit’s voice speaking to my conscience. As I open my heart up to God, inviting Him into more and more of my day, I begin to hear Him speaking to me in a very personal way. For instance, the other night I was typing this very post on my iPod, and when the time came to turn it off and go to bed, there was a temptation to just keep going with it under the covers, where it wouldn’t bother my husband. After all, I was doing something spiritual, not just reading stories like I had done in the past (yes, under the covers, late into the night, I am ashamed to say). But the Lord called to my conscience. He reminded me that even a good thing late at night was a bad thing. And He asked me to surrender and leave the iPod on the nightstand. I surrendered. And even though I didn’t get to sleep for at least an hour, I stayed firm to my resolve, and I didn’t regret it. I knew I would be able to pick up my train of thought and finish the post without any problem. And I did. I doubt you can tell where exactly I stopped. (Hint: It was in this paragraph.)

As I continue to spend time in God’s Word, and to listen to God’s voice directing me, I will be come more sensitive to His leading in my life. But if I choose to go against what I know to be right, then I will let go of God’s hand and be right back where I was before. Or worse. I don’t want that to happen again!

There is so much more I could write in this series, but I think this is a good place to stop. Thank you for reading. I pray you have been challenged.

Tomorrow I will share about another book that has made a big impact on me spiritually. So watch for that post.

By Michael Cory on Flickr

Yesterday I shared how I found myself resisting God’s love, and how my heart had become hardened as a result. But then I made the choice to read a book that revealed His love in a way that had a very powerful drawing effect on my heart, and finally I chose to surrender. But my fear of failure was still there. How could I be sure that I would not turn back as I had countless times before?

As I looked at my life, I realized that I had somehow kept myself back from close friendships with other women. I had moved a lot, and with two small children to care for, I had not taken time to find a close friend–not even one. There was no one to ask me, “So, how are you really doing”–no one I was that close to. I thought of things I had heard on a woman’s radio program about having an accountability partner, and I realized that if I had had one, I would have had someone to call and get encouragement from. I had thought of doing it many times in the past, but I shrank from being vulnerable, from letting anyone see inside my heart.

You see, sin thrives in darkness. Concealed sin is very powerful and really impossible to break away from. But bring it out into the light, and it loses much of its power. I knew this, but for years I had hesitated to take this step.

But somehow this time it was different. Oh, I still shrank, but somehow my fear of failure became greater than my loathing to be vulnerable. So I wrote one of my friends from a few moves back, and asked her if she would be my prayer/accountability partner. It turned out that she was looking for one too, and so it was settled. I gave her permission to ask me searching questions as she felt impressed. There is nothing like knowing that such a question could come at any time to motivate one to do what is right! And it also gave me someone to call when I needed encouragement, or just to text, “I’m having a hard time now. Please pray for me” when I needed it. And of course it works both ways. I can be there for her when she needs it, too. We can hold up each other in prayer. This gives me a ministry and a way to reach out right at the outset.

The other thing I have committed to doing is to take time every day for devotions. Now, this may sound basic and obvious, but it is an area that I have struggled with lately. I know part of the problem is that I have been going to bed late, making it hard to get up early and be alert enough to focus. It is hard, because my husband is gone almost all day, so evenings are our only real time together. He is gone 12-13 hours every day–sometimes more. So I have to get his breakfast, lunch, and supper together before he leaves between 7:00 and 7:30. Once that is done, the kids are up and my day is in full swing. Stopping for an hour of Bible study and prayer is out of the question. And it doesn’t help that everyone tells me it’s the season of life I’m in, that it will be easier as my kids get older (especially because I’m not sure I’m done having kids!). If I don’t get up at before 5:30, I won’t have time to sit down and have any kind of devotional time at all before I have to start breakfast by 6:00 (especially because I often take a shower to wake up so I can focus!).

I will be honest. I haven’t figured this out yet. I’m working on it. Just not sure how it’s going to work out. But I have found that 10 minutes with my Bible and prayer is better than nothing at all, so I am focusing on taking whatever time I possibly can, regardless of when I got up. I have also found that deliberately getting up early even when I was tired often resulted in special blessings that gave me extra strength during the day–as incredible as that may sound.

Tomorrow I will share how the Lord took me deeper in my surrender. So stay tuned!

In the last two days I have painted a picture of how I felt during the time that I was, essentially, trying to hide from God. I knew I was lost; I doubted that I could ever make it; I feared that any attempt at surrender was doomed to failure sooner or later. Of course this was denying the power of God, and I knew it. But I had no evidence that this time would be any different. I wasn’t able or even willing to walk by faith.

During this time of struggle, I opened up to one lady from my church, and she encouraged me to read the book Seeing With New Eyes, and loaned me her copy. This book takes a look at Jesus and His love in a way that grips the heart. It presents Christ’s love in a most attractive way. Most of the information was not exactly new to me, but it was still it began to soften my heart.

You see, I had become almost desensitized to the sacrifice of Christ. I had heard the story so many times that it didn’t move me like it had at first. This worried me greatly. I would read things like the following, and I would almost become depressed:

They [referring to the self-centered] forget the Man of Sorrows, who was acquainted with grief. The sufferings of Jesus in Gethsemane, His sweating as it were great drops of blood in the garden, the platted crown of thorns that pierces His holy brow, do not move them. They have become benumbed. Their sensibilities are blunted, and they have lost all sense of the great sacrifice made for them. They can sit and listen to the story of the cross, hear how the cruel nails were driven through the hands and feet of the Son of God, and it does not stir the depths of the soul.” 1T 155.

That statement could not have described me better if it had been written by someone who could read my heart. I knew it, and it terrified me.

But gradually I realized what was the problem. This passage gives a clue:

The sinner may resist this love, may refuse to be drawn to Christ; but if he does not resist he will be drawn to Jesus; a knowledge of the plan of salvation will lead him to the foot of the cross in repentance for his sins, which have caused the sufferings of God’s dear Son. SC 27.

Looking back, I can see that I was resisting. I thought I had a good excuse: I was afraid of failing again. But praise God, Jesus’ love was stronger than my fear. As I read that book Seeing With New Eyes, I began to see something of the beauty of God’s character, the awesomeness of His love, the depth of His sacrifice; and as I made the choice to behold, my heart began to soften.

As I felt my heart softening, I began more and more to feel the drawing of God upon my heart. And little by little I began to yield. One morning I woke up with the sense that God was calling me to come spend time with Him. It was almost an audible voice, speaking to my heart, saying, “Lisa, please come spend some time with Me. I long to spend time with you. Won’t you please get out of bed, get your Bible, and find the blessings I have prepared specially for you?” I was tired, but I couldn’t resist such tender pleadings. So I got up. And I found myself surrendering to the Lord.

I was still afraid of failure, but I simply couldn’t resist any longer. So I took the first step and said that I would let God be in charge of my life.

Tomorrow I will share two of the things that I did to fortify against the failure I so much feared–besides continuing to behold Jesus, of course! I want to continue doing that for the rest of my life!

By SamHastings on Flickr

Yesterday, I shared in part 1 how my life has been a series of spiritual ups and downs, characterized by trying to build walls to make others think I was good, while inside I was a mess.

Well, a few weeks ago I just sort of hit bottom. I had been trying to escape reality with compulsive kinds of actions, like reading for hours on end, playing computer games, etc., while my family deteriorated around me. I didn’t know what to do, and I hated myself for the way I was and the way I had allowed things to become. The bad habits of my youth were now maturing into very nasty character flaws that I could see being mirrored in my children, and I began to realize that I had to make a choice.

But I was loath to do it. Make the choice, I mean. Because I basically had two alternatives. Either surrender to God and let Him change me, or reject God and give up on everything I believed. I just couldn’t stand staying the way I was. The problem was, the latter option was just too horrendous to contemplate. And besides, being a Christian was so ingrained into my identity that I would find myself turning to God automatically when in difficult situations–like when I turned into my driveway too early and almost went over edge of the road into a tree!

But surrender scared me.

Why did it scare me? It wasn’t because I was afraid of surrender itself. I had experienced full surrender in the past–at least, as full as I knew at the time. I remember almost having an accident, and actually not getting an adrenalin rush because I had such peace with God. I longed to have that kind of relationship again. But I was afraid of failure. I had tried so many times, and just as many times I had failed. Turned my back on God. Let go of His hand and basically said, “I’m going to do it my way.”

Then I would read verses like Hebrews 6:4-6 and wonder if maybe I was a hopeless case.  But then I knew that any yearnings in my soul for God meant that I had definitely not committed the unpardonable sin, and that meant there definitely was hope for me. (I have stored up a lot of head knowledge over the years, and in times like this it was both a comfort and a torment.)

But I still feared failure. I didn’t want to turn my life over to God and then take it back once again. I wanted to break the cycle of up and down. After talking to my friend from church that I mentioned yesterday, I got in touch with one of my old friends from several years ago and began to pour out my heart to her. In an email, I wrote this:

I realize that to surrender to the extent that I did as a youth isn’t enough anymore. In proportion to the light that I have I must yield, and I have more light now than I did then. So my surrender now must be deeper than it has ever been.

As you can see, I knew what I needed to do. I needed to surrender. But I was afraid. What if I failed again? I didn’t think I could bear it. All my head knowledge told me that God would accept me just as I was, that He would forgive me and take me back with rejoicing. All the promises of His keeping power that I had memorized kept surfacing into my consciousness; evidence of His love was everywhere I looked if I just chose to see it. I began to sense things coming to a climax. I realized that it was only a matter of time before I did make a surrender. But still I hesitated.

Looking back honestly, I think that it was deeper than just my fear of failure, even though that was a very big issue. I was also unwilling to surrender certain things. It’s a lie of the devil, the idea that if you surrender to God, He will take away the things that make you happy. I know by experience that He only takes away the things that make us miserable. But I didn’t want to let go of some of those things. And some things I wondered if He would make me give them up, when in reality He wasn’t so much interested in my things as just in having me. And as I began to take that reality to heart, I began to soften.

I realize that I may not be communicating my thoughts very well. There were so many levels to my situation that I don’t know how to explain it with words. Maybe if you try to feel with your heart what I am trying to  convey, you will understand. I’m sure if you’ve ever been where I am, you can understand. I hope by the time I finish this series, those of my readers who are in the same situation I was will have some answers. That’s my goal, my reason for opening my heart to you. Not that I have all the answers yet. But I have a few. And maybe one or two of them will help.

Tomorrow I will share some of the steps that helped get me out of this dark hole I was in. So stay tuned.

By Matthew McVickar on Flickr

Have you ever built up walls around yourself to hide who you really are? Have you put up a front just to try to make people think that you are better than you really are? I have. Over and over. And I think I’m not alone in this. I want to share a little of my experience of the past few weeks with you, dear readers, but first I need to give you some background.
I was raised as a Christian. So for me, conversion didn’t happen suddenly one day. It was more like the sunrise in the north–slow, gradual, gentle. As a young teenager, I had a passion to know God’s will for my life.

Now, I had ups and downs even then, but after I became an adult, they became even more pronounced. Habits that I had formed in my youth began to bear fruit in my adulthood–fruit of which I was not proud. At times I hated myself for being the way that I was, at the same time desperately trying to build a wall that would make me look good to those around me. I did not want anyone to be lost because of me. So I tried to be a good example on the outside. On the inside, however, I was a mess. And it just kept getting worse.

And then there were times of revival. I would get disgusted with my life and would read about Jesus and feel drawn to Him. But it never lasted. Old habits die hard, and unless they are given up entirely will often come back to haunt one.

So a few weeks ago, I was in a real mess. I have been seeing my bad character traits mirrored in my children–especially my 4-year-old daughter. It’s one thing to get frustrated once in a while and bang something and just yell at everyone to “just leave me a lone!” It’s another thing to see one’s daughter doing the same thing. It was a sort of wake-up call for me.

But I was afraid. I had tried so many times before, and every time I had failed. You know what I mean? You say, “This time, Lord, it’s for real. This time I’m going to go all the way.” And then a few weeks–or days, or hours–later, you are right back where you started–or worse off than before. Well, that’s where I was. I was trying to dull the pain by a series of obsessive actions, I guess you could call them. I would get a book from the library, and then couldn’t put it down until it was done. You know, a big, long book that should take a week or two to read. I’d finish it off in a day and a half and go back for another one. I wasn’t getting anything done except basic meals and dishes and sort of the laundry. Then I’d get disgusted at my laziness and try to change. Then it was something else. And then something else. And all the while my children were suffering from my neglect.

After a while I realized that I had to do something. I had to talk to someone. I didn’t know who to talk to. My husband was showing evidence of the stress, and I didn’t feel like talking to him about it. I wanted to talk to another woman. An opportunity came up one night and I talked to a mature Christian lady about what I was feeling. She loaned me a couple of books, which helped some, but I think she missed what was really going on inside. Not that I blame her. I didn’t even understand what was going on.

I can’t say that I fully understand even now, but I am beginning to. What I have learned over these past few weeks is what I want to share with you. I am going to break it up into several posts and post it throughout this next week. And don’t think this has nothing to do with Christmas. It does. As we near Christmas, we need to remember the Reason for the Season. Jesus came as a baby; that’s what we’re celebrating this time of year. But He came for a reason. That’s what I’m going to be writing about.

And just maybe something I say will strike an answering chord in your heart and be a blessing and a help to you. If so, my purpose in writing this series has been achieved.

By electroferver on Flickr

I don’t know about you, but I struggle with the Internet. The computer is in a very prominent place in our house; I walk by it all the time, and it is so tempting! That will change once we move, but that doesn’t mean that my character will change. If my goal is character development, I need to deal with this problem now, today, and not wait until we don’t have Internet and the computer is in an office at the end of a hall that I may not walk down every day.

Especially is it difficult for me when I want to use the computer for my personal devotions. It’s connected to DSL, so it’s got Internet as soon as it starts. And it’s so easy to open a browser. And once it’s open, I can see how many new email messages I have in the bottom corner, and all the places I like to go everyday are bookmarked at the top in toolbar.

So when I wanted to get on the computer to research a topic (I don’t have any resources for doing this offline–the few I do have are already packed), I knew it was going to be a temptation. As I showered (finishing with cold to wake me up!), I prayed about whether I should really even do this study during my quiet time, or try to do it another time (which rarely happens). When I felt that I needed to do it, I then prayed that He would give me the strength to resist the temptation. After all, He said in His Word:

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

James 4:7

I submitted to Him and asked for His strength to not open the browser (because I could do all the research I needed in offline programs).

Shower finished, I started up the computer, praying again for strength. I opened the program and began my research. But as I tried to focus on the topic, my mind kept drifting to the Internet. I wonder who has sent me email. I wonder how many page views my blog had yesterday. I wonder if I’ll have time to post to the Works For Me Wednesday page, or if it will be too late… I kept dismissing the thoughts and bringing my mind back to my topic, but they kept returning. After doing this several times, I was about to get frustrated. But I realized that although I had to put out some effort, the battle really wasn’t mine, but God’s. I had done all I could. So I prayed, “Lord, please rebuke the devil and all these thoughts and help me to focus. I believe You want me to learn something from this study; help me not to be distracted again.”

And you know what? He did. After about 5 minutes, I suddenly realized that my desire to open a browser was gone. Absolutely gone. And I was able to finish my study without further distractions.

So what about you? Please share how the Lord has helped you in your struggle with self recently.

Consider this thought:

But what do we give up, when we give all? A sin-polluted heart, for Jesus to purify, to cleanse by His own blood, and to save by His matchless love. And yet men think it hard to give up all! I am ashamed to hear it spoken of, ashamed to write it.

God does not require us to give up anything that it is for our best interest to retain. In all that He does, He has the well-being of His children in view. Would that all who have not chosen Christ might realize that He has something vastly better to offer them than they are seeking for themselves. Man is doing the greatest injury and injustice to his own soul when he thinks and acts contrary to the will of God. No real joy can be found in the path forbidden by Him who knows what is best and who plans for the good of His creatures. The path of transgression is the path of misery and destruction.

Steps to Christ, 46

How true this is. When I let go of the Lord and do things on my own, I am truly miserable. But when I hold onto Him, I am blessed and safe. What a blessing this is!

In view of this, what is worth holding onto, other than Jesus?