Yesterday, while driving to see my aunt Becky, I listened to a teaching CD by Joyce Meyer on the justice of God. It impacted me for so many reasons and it stays on my heart today. She is such a wonderful teacher and communicator of the grace, mercy and love of God. She openly stated on the CD that she was challenged to teach on God’s justice because it isn’t always what people want to hear.
I get that. When you love Jesus, when your relationship with God has changed your life, you want others to have the same. When you see people hurting and caught up in destruction, you want them to know that God’s love is boundless…He is forgiving and extends mercy…no matter what…no matter how many times. What challenged me, personally, in listening to Joyce speak about God’s justice is that so often we “pet” sin in our own lives or the lives of others because we don’t want to really make the changes or because we fear offending someone. I cringe when I ride by the churches with the signs that say “Turn or Burn.” I don’t like it because the Bible says it’s God’s kindness that leads men to repentance, so I’m not suggesting we all get in each other’s faces about sin or holy living. What I pray, however, is that we don’t skip over the last part of that verse…God’s kindess leads to repentance. For a meaningful, life changing relationship with the Creator to grow we must have a contrite heart…we must see our choices as willful sin and not just a “mistake” or “bad habit.”
Here is a “being real” example from my life….and I know I have the blessing of my parents to share it.
I was screamed at a lot growing up. I had to walk a very fine line. I bore the brunt of some of the issues my biological parents, as wonderful and imperfect as all parents can be, had not yet ironed out in their lives. I was deeply loved and always knew that, but it did not stop the damage done to my mind and heart growing up. So, as I became a mother and my oldest grew into a little person with a mind and will of her own guess what I began to do? I found myself, on occasion, screaming at my oldest girl. There would have been nothing she could have done to warrant the kind of screaming that I did. I felt helpless and afraid. I felt like a failure. I knew exactly how she felt as she snubbed in her breaths with a face wet with tears. What I didn’t know was how to stop. Honestly, my husband and I had yelled and screamed at each other for years…it was not fun and it damaged our marriage…but it was the fruit from an unhealthy root in both of our lives. We have lived in this same house for 10 years, for all of our married lives, and for many years it was downright oppressive inside these walls. Because we were evil people? Not at all. Because we were broken people stuck in sinful patterns. We were full of wounds and pain and insecurities and we didn’t know what to do with them except keep demanding the other person fix us. Now, I longed for a healthy marriage but I can tell you in all honesty there was no way I could live with poisoning my children with the angst I was carrying around on the inside. And that is what I was doing…letting all of my pain and frustration rain down on the most defenseless person in my life…the place I had the most control. Here is the catch of it all…even though God knew every detail of my life and He understood the “why” in my behavior, it was still sin. Every time I engaged in yelling matches with my husband, regardless of the reason, and every time I blew my top with my daughter, it was wrong. The point I am sharing is that even when we have reasons for the behavior in our lives, even though God extends His understanding and compassion, it’s still sin that must be addressed. Sin stifles our relationship with God. God absolutely has forgiven me but I have still had to walk out the consequences in the relationships. Jesus has lovingly held my hand every step of the way and is restoring my marriage and the emotional security my girls need. But the bottom line is that it doesn’t happen without repentance. It doesn’t happen without a recognition in our lives that our choices are not just “mistakes” but they are sinful. Not so we can be condemned or judged! But so in our repentance God can come in to begin the work of restoration in our lives. And it is work. And it requires obedience. There is a sacrifice…it’s one of having our own way and handling things the way we want to. But there is no other way. And all that you hold onto, that you are so afraid to let go of, is not remotely comparable to the blessings God wants to bring to your life. There is nothing more precious than peace. Peace with God. The peace of God. Peace with yourself, your past, and peace with others. Sin separates us from the presence and fellowship of God; sin shatters that peace. Yet, as 1st John 1:9 says…If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. God wants to forgive us and cleanse us; He wants to be in relationship with us. He wants to heal and restore us, to guide us, to fill us. If only we’ll get real about where we stand…if we’ll only stop petting and excusing sin in our lives. If only we’ll trust that it’s because of God’s love, mercy and compassion that He convicts our hearts of sin…so we can be cleansed of it, every time, and continue getting to know Him. He is a loving Father and He is Holy. If we really want wholeness and healing in our lives then we must trust our loving Father and respect His Holiness. God is just, or fair, and there is always a penalty for sin. There is also restoration in repentance.
This is kind of a long post. I guess I have had some things churning on the inside of me and then yesterday I listened to that CD and it was right on for me. I am not a perfect mom now. I haven’t “arrived” but I don’t scream and yell and go bananas at my kids or my husband anymore. I know that if I do God will forgive me and help me pick up the pieces but I am recognizing that I will still deal with the “aftermath” of my choices. The reason, plain and simple, that my relationship with my girls and my husband is healing is obedience. Simple, but it costs. And it has been a sacrifice of all sorts. Let me share a verse…at the end of 2nd Samuel David sins against God and He wants to build an altar to sacrifice to God in repentance. He wants to do it on this guy Araunah’s threshing floor and offers to buy it. Araunah says King, you can have it!! And listen to what David says in 2nd Sam. 24: 24 No. I’ve got to buy it from you for a good price; I’m not going to offer God, my God, sacrifices that are no sacrifice.
My heart…my marriage…my mothering…my purpose…everything about me…is being affected because I reached a place where I stopped expecting God to “do something” when all I would offer Him were parts of me that were easy and convenient to give. I wasn’t really wanting God, I just wanted Him to fix my life. When I reached a place where I was willing to give Him something that cost me…my pride and time, mostly…and begin to respond to Him in obedience, even if I didn’t like what He told me or it didn’t make sense, then He began to rain down in my life. The sweetest drops heavy with life and healing, wet with joy and peace, have been soaking my family for months now. It doesn’t make us perfect by any means. But there is peace now. And once you experience real peace, you realize there is no real cost in obedience.
I travel this road of obedience and yielding as a novice. Thankfully, God has placed a person or two in my life who is further down this road so I have an earthly example. And as I live in more of God’s peace, as I know Jesus more, I realize just a little more every day what I am willing to give up to know Him. See, there is nothing you could sacrifice that would out-do what He wants to replace it with.