Do you ever have a song from your childhood just echoing in your head? I had an old Imperials’ (lyrics here) song that came to mind today. I’m not completely sure I can explain why, but I feel like God put it on my heart. Reviewing the lyrics, thinking about the Biblical truths that surround them, felt like answers to some prayers I had for some dear friends of mine that I was preparing to fellowship with this evening.
Take a moment, picture your heart as a home. What does it look like as a home for Jesus?
Is it dark, dirty, cobwebs in the corners? When I close my eyes and pictured my heart, I pictured a small cabin like room, clean and bright in the center with the warm glow of a lamp on a table stretching out into most of the spaces, but darkness lurking in the corners, gathering around the edges. God is cleaning up my heart, has made a huge difference, but I’m still a work in progress. Not many of us would like to describe ourselves as an old man’s rubble (listen here), but the state of our hearts might be just that.
“Are you living in an old man’s rubble
Are you listenin’ to the father of lies”
Today these words came to my head when thinking about some of the people I see just held down by sin, struggling with life. I wondered why do they seem so stuck? We all have times of trials, difficulties that are part of being Christ-like in a sin drenched world, but the issues I’m talking about are like the sloppy mud that sticks to your boots, the dredge of sin being tracked into what should be the newness of your walk with Christ. If we’re caught up by Satan’s lies, our hearts are the rubble of a crumbling shack. We need to build our hearts on the foundation of Christ.
24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
Today, I’ve been thinking about the struggles of motherhood and how do I communicate God’s truths to my child in a clear, consistent, loving way. And I thought back to just a few years ago. I was raised in the church, a physical building and in our home, but had been living for myself most of my adult life. From the outside, worldly view, I looked normal, rebelling against my strict upbringing, or even looked like a Christian at times, but I didn’t get it. I used to read a friend’s Facebook posts about God, Christ, being saved and thought, “sheesh, would you give us all a break already?” “Does every post have to be about God?” I was so hardhearted that my darkness couldn’t stand the redemptive light of Christ shining through her.
“Are you trying to live by your emotions
Are you puttin’ your faith in what you feel and see
Then you’re living just to satisfy your passions
And you better be careful, ’cause you’re being deceived”
I was using my emotions as my yard stick for my decisions, trying to fill the God-shaped hole in my heart with partying, friends, men, fun, and just kept feeling emptier and emptier.
This weekend we did a disappearing experiment at my daughter’s science themed birthday party. A huge box of packing peanuts, a small bottle of acetone, a 15 oz. empty can. I put the acetone into the can (slyly) and began to stuff packing peanuts into the can. They almost instantly disappeared. We were all shoving handfuls into the can just as fast as we could and they were dissolving. The kids were amazed and it was lots of fun, but the image of that bottomless hole, the empty can that can never be filled feels a lot like what my life was like in my days of serving self.
I was listening to the Father of Lies, the darkness in me was definitely winning. Then one day, God reached into my heart, and I almost physically heard a click, like someone turning on the lights. The world changed for me in an instant. All of a sudden, I could see my husband struggling against his own demons instead of seeing him as the demon destroying what I wanted for my pretty little life. I ached with compassion for him instead of resentment and anger.
I saw everyone with new eyes, God’s eyes. I was able to offer love, encouragement, to serve strangers even in a way I’d never had the heart for before. I understood what Love God, love people meant. When we’re full of God’s love, we simply do for others, whether it be our friends, family, husbands, children or complete strangers.
1 John 4:7-8 7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
All of a sudden, I understood why I kept fighting the same battles and never getting anywhere. I was trying to do it with my own power, just by my own will.
“Are you puzzled by the way that you’re behavin’
Do you wonder why you do the things you do
Are you troubled by your lack of resistance
Do you feel that something’s got a hold on you”
I couldn’t. No amount of wishing to be nice, or kind, or gentle or good enough was making any difference. I would try so hard. I would be determined not to yell at the kids or nag my husband, but could barely make it a single day, if I even ever did. I felt like I was bloody from clawing and scraping to be a better person, but I could only hold out for so long before I was serving myself again. It all felt hopeless. I thought I was getting it, serving God, but I was following the external rules. I hadn’t let God just break into my heart and run away with me.
“Well deep within’ you there’s a spiritual battle
There’s a voice of the darkness and a voice of the light
And just by listening you’ve made a decision
‘Cause the voice you hear is gonna’ win the fight”
The difficulty here is Satan’s voice sounds a lot like our own, sounds reasonable, logical. In fact, the only way I know whose voice I’m listening to is when I am absolutely sure it is God’s voice. Reading and studying His word helps me know what He sounds like. And He is faithful to answer me when I ask for direction or clarity, or what do I need to see or learn. I almost always get a nearly immediate mental shift in perspective, a calming hand redirecting me.
If you are feeling stuck in the mud, are you standing your ground with Christ? Telling God, “I’m not going anywhere. I am going to follow you.” Beg Him to reveal Himself. He will. His timing is not ours, but He will. I definitely found I couldn’t unstick myself. I would get caught up in anger, telling myself I deserved better than whatever I was facing. That attitude got me nowhere, except nearly divorced, half crazed by the time I reached up for God’s grace and turned full force towards Him, refusing to listen to Satan’s pretty little lies anymore.
I’m not done healing yet, and I still have days or weeks that I slide back into old ways of thinking, but I feel God nudging me, reminding me that I don’t have to live in the muck anymore. I can usually climb out of it quickly, simply by remembering to turn my eyes and heart towards Him.
“If you’re living as a new creation
If you’re listening to the Father of light
Then you’re living in a mighty fortress
And you’re gonna’ be clothed in power and might.”
You may ask how is this entry about parenting? Because the first step I had to take toward truly parenting for God wasn’t about parenting at all. It was about refusing to live in the Old Man’s Rubble anymore. Until I could see that I needed to let the Holy Spirit batter my hard heart, break down my arrogant walls, and rebuild a humble heart, I wasn’t getting anywhere. I was living with a pretty face covering a roiling, fetid interior. I could be nice at the front door, but turn with rage onto my stepsons, daughter, or my husband in an instant.
Once the Holy Spirit began to convict me, piece by piece, of the hardness in me, of the sin in my life, I was able to change like shrugging off a lead coat because I wasn’t putting on a front, God’s grace and redemption was (IS) teaching me the truth about who I am in Christ. I am a prized child of God. Jesus paid my debt with his body and blood. I don’t have to be a slave to my sin anymore.
Colossians 3:9-10 Living Bible (TLB)
9 Don’t tell lies to each other; it was your old life with all its wickedness that did that sort of thing; now it is dead and gone. 10 You are living a brand new kind of life that is continually learning more and more of what is right, and trying constantly to be more and more like Christ who created this new life within you.
And I’m finding it easier and easier to shed the selfishness that bound me in sin; the great mystery of how the Holy Spirit works in us is that we’re whittled away, peeled like an onion, layers and layers get stripped away. Piece by piece, we change and yet also grow to see how far there is yet to go.
If you’re struggling, feeling at your end, reach for your Bible, seek God in everything you do, let Him come into the hidden places, let Him see the rubble you’ve been living in, let Him help you clean it up. It won’t be instantaneous, although the shift in your heart might be. It will take a lifetime of growing closer daily for His work to be complete in you, but those in your life will see the beautiful masterpiece. Because we can’t show our children how to have hearts that are palaces for Christ if we don’t first build a home for him in ourselves.