Wednesday, May 18, 2011

My Father's Delight

The Lord delights in those who fear Him, who put their hope in His unfailing love. (Psalm 147:11)
The Lord your God is in your midst, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you; He will quiet you with His love; He will rejoice over you with singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)

What an astonishing mystery, that God truly delights in me! He does not love His children out of obligation, but out of His delight in loving. He has no regrets about loving us, but is glad to work Christ’s life into ours. His is not a reluctant grace, but an eager and selfless love which cherishes us as His own.

How does God’s delight affect my life? For one, it reminds me that in spite of all the sin He knows lives in me (and He knows it more completely than I do), in spite of my smallness and His infinity, I bring Him pleasure. I hold that treasure in my heart like a sunlit smile, confident that no matter what the day may bring, or how unlovable I may feel, my God joyfully loves me.

My Father’s delight also fills my heart with delight in my own children. Because I can trust His love for me, my heart is open to God’s work in me. In the same way, my delight in my children opens their hearts to trust me and the Lord who works through me in their lives. Even as I educate them in academics, or teach them from God’s Word, or model Christ’s character for them, in the end, all of those things will be fruitless if I do not delight in them!

Soil made hard by neglect will never sprout even the healthiest seed; it will remain dormant in dry dirt. But when I pour out my love into my children’s hearts, soaking them with my joy in who they are, their hearts grow soft and hopeful. My delight in them (and in my God) prepares their hearts to receive the good seed of God’s Word and His ways. When they are secure in my love, they can experience God’s love more fully, too.

My favorite columnist, Andree Seu, wrote about delight:
Delight covers a multitude of parenting shortcomings. You may be too strict or too lenient and still come out all right, if you delight in your children. They will know it, for delight cannot be hidden. It finds excuses to ooze all over the place. It seeks a getaway vacation with the beloved when it's not convenient. It asks different questions than duty. Duty says, "I should." Delight says, "I want to." Duty is efficient. Delight tends to be anything but.
What is less efficient than the story of mankind? If it were about efficiency, God would have wiped the plate clean and commenced with more promising subjects. The Bible in its entirety is a love story, a tale of unquenchable delight — His for us, and finally ours for Him. (Sept. 22, 2007, World magazine)
Even more precious than Seu’s wise words is the Word of God Himself:

Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. (Micah 7:18)

He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
He drew me out of deep waters.
He brought me out into a spacious place;
He rescued me because He delighted in me. (Psalm 8:16 & 19)

. . . the Lord takes pleasure in His people; He crowns the humble with salvation. (Psalm 149:3-4)

The Lord delights in the way of the man whose steps He has made firm.
Though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him in His hand. (Psalm 37:23-24)

May God’s delight fill you today with a rich happiness that overflows onto those around you.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Mother's Day Gifts

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17

Mother’s Day always sort of stuns me. As I look back over the past 25 years, I shake my head in wonder.

Age 22: I was single, selfish and unhappy, bitter over my parents’ divorce. I strongly believed: (first) marriage is not "happily-ever-after" but "by the skin of your teeth" and you never win in the end and (second) children interfere with marriage, and then pay dearly when their marriage fails. Loneliness and hurt, hidden under hard layers of anger and bitterness, cast a dark shadow on the idea of marriage and family. I would never marry, let alone have children!

Age 24: When I wasn’t paying attention, God grabbed my attention (and He hasn’t let go since)! Once I knew Jesus for Who He was, I turned quickly to Him. When I told one friend the story of my conversion to Christ, she commented, "so you chose to follow Him from that point on." I corrected her: does a starving woman, sleeping in a sewer, having been offered by the most gracious benefactor a warm bed with clean sheets and regular meals, really choose to move?! It was a no-brainer: I ran to Jesus, to the life and light of His mercy and truth, and never looked back.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

Age 27: I had dated a couple of Christian men, but I was still reluctant in my heart of hearts to trust the concept of marriage. Still, getting to know God, I knew His ways were far better than my own. Then I started getting to know Frank. Finally I actually could envision marriage, desire it, and trust that God would take care of my fears and doubts in due time. We married. But when he talked of children and me staying home to raise them, I was quiet. I still couldn’t picture a family.

Age 29: Unrelenting pain led me to several doctors before the problem was remedied through two surgeries. During my weeks-long recovery time, I had a lot of time to pray, meditate on Scripture and think about what had happened. It was possible that I would be unable to have children. Spending that intense time with the Lord, He did something unexpected: He clearly showed me the selfishness of my thinking regarding children. He said they are a blessing and an inheritance from Him! Who was I to "decide" that I didn’t want any part of His blessing? I was humbled and changed in my attitude very quickly.

Age 31: After actively trying to get pregnant for several years, we finally were both tested to see if there were any obvious problems. We both heard bad reports: it was highly likely that we would ever conceive naturally. We were stunned; we grieved. We went to the elders in our church, who prayed over us, per James 5. As much as we did not want to use any kind of medical technology, we figured we’d meet with the fertility specialist and discuss what the options were. So we waited for our appointment to arrive.

Age 33: God gave us a gift we did not anticipate or deserve: the gift of Matthew (whose name incidentally, means gift of Jehovah). I learned I was pregnant only days before our appointment with the fertility specialist. The prayers of our elders and our hearts were answered with the gift of a son! I remember even feeling somewhat regretful when I discovered I was pregnant, because I had doubted God’s care for us and had not proved faithful in trusting Him! Looking back, I understand the timing better: God was giving me what I did not deserve and in no way had earned, whether by my own strength or faith or patience. He was giving me a son, having already given me His own Son, the ultimate gift, which I had in no way earned or deserved.

Age 47: So, Mother’s Day is somewhat stunning to me, even with Matthew now age 14 and Ben age 11. From never wanting marriage or motherhood, to desiring it but being told it wasn’t possible, to God giving us these two remarkable boys. From living my life in hopeless bitterness to living in the nourishing strength of God’s love (and the love of His people). He changes hearts in ways we could never imagine, through circumstances we would never ask for.

And He gives priceless gifts that we could never earn, all for the sake of His glory and pleasure.

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! 2 Corinthians 9:15