Dwell in Me

Seeking God in the Every Day


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Relating to God in 3 Basic Steps

A couple weeks ago we went to Colorado with my family. I don’t know what it is about mountains that reminds me so of God’s majesty. But I mean, wow! Love.

  
Which leads me to Trinitarianism. This was one of the courses I took this summer (and school’s out for a couple of weeks now!). This class has changed the way I think about God on a level I can’t even fully articulate. Talk about a God who wants to be in relationship with us! During one of our classes, while we were discussing this God in three persons, one of my classmates asked, “When we think ‘God,’ then, are we thinking of the Father?” And my professor replied, “When we think of ‘God,’ we should be thinking of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. That is who God is.” 

This is, of course, the logical conclusion of Trinitarianism–but I hadn’t ever connected it that way. 

And it’s changed how I relate to him–a God who is deeply relational in himself, a God who made us for relationships because he made us in his image. 

So that brings us back to a question I asked a long time ago (just shortly before our little man was born): How can we be in a relationship with God? What does it involve and how do we do it? How do we keep our relationship with God growing and fresh, flowing and not ebbing too much?

I think the first thing we need to realize is, by his grace, he wants to be in relationship with us. He wants this deeply and has gone to extraordinary lengths to make it possible. 

We can’t make it to God because we are so flawed in our fallen state and fallen nature. But God knew this and so he came to us. He became flesh and joined together with us in our humanity and offered us a way back. 

So step one to relationship with God is and always will be belief in his Son. And this isn’t some emotional feeling but a mental decision to trust that Jesus indeed was and is who he declares himself to be in Scripture and that his work on our behalf on the cross and in the resurrection has secured forever a path to salvation and relationship with God. 

But then what? 

It’s easy to take that first step and then keep on living like nothing has really changed. Or even to change your life by the power of the Holy Spirit but without taking it to a relationship level. 

Relationships are challenging. They do require a certain amount of work. And although God will never leave us, we certainly can do a pretty good job of forgetting that he is there. 

So, step two and three in our relationship with God are prayer/worship and Bible study. I don’t know for sure which I would put as two and which as three because they seem to go hand-in-hand. Both are necessary. In my life I know I have gone through phases where I emphasized one and then the other, but I believe it’s important to strive to incorporate both of these into our daily lives. 

We pray and worship as a form of communication with God (and to give him the honor and glory he deserves). Ideally, we should be telling God about ourselves (even though he knows everything already) as well as praising him and honoring and glorifying him. Our prayers should be a way to connect to God as we connect to other people we know and love. We want to recognize his involvement in our lives and let him know our thoughts too. And I would encourage you to spend time in prayer even telling God your anger, fears, and doubts, as well as your triumphs and joys. He is a big God and he can handle hearing about our disappointments. The Psalms are full of raw emotion being poured out to God. Is there anything keeping you from pouring your heart out to him? I’d encourage you to address that and work on getting to a point of authenticity in your prayer life. 

Bible study, I believe, is important in helping us get to know God better. Who is God? What has he revealed to us about himself through his Word? Scripture is such a gift from God and we should want to know all we can from it. 

Imagine if you were hanging out with someone and all you ever did was tell them the goals you have, what you want or need, your preferences and dislikes… But you never once stopped to find out anything about that other person. Would that be a relationship? You may as well be talking to a goldfish. 

We can do the same in our relationship with God if we aren’t careful. And while this won’t change his love and care for us, it is far from ideal. I think we can do better. I think a relationship with God can be the most rewarding and meaningful relationship in our lives–if we let it. 

So, to recap, we have three major steps to help us as we are relating to God: we need  to put our faith in Jesus, pray/worship, and study the Bible. I hope at some point to talk a bit more about what prayer and worship might look like and about good methods I’ve tried for Bible study (and maybe some others I’ve heard about). I talked a bit in a recent post about what it means to put our faith in Jesus.   So, in a meandering sort of way, maybe we’ll end up with some kind of series on relationships after all. Haha 

Enjoy the remains of summer. I’m enjoying my little break, too. And in two weeks: Hebrew! I’m really stoked about it, and maybe just a little scared. 


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Looking Forward to Forever

People are eternal.

Have you ever thought about this? About the implications? Or about whether that’s even true?

It seems self-evident that we all have an eternal yearning and that, therefore, something drives us to strive for an eternal existence.

I started thinking about this in the throes of infertility as I sought to grapple with why it was so important to me to have children. And I finally realized that we see children as a legacy, a way to continue, a way to exist beyond this life–at least in some form.

I would argue that all people make some attempt at eternity.

The powerful do this by building monuments or statues to themselves. It’s as if they believe–perhaps subconciously–a bronze statue set up in the middle of the square will forever remind people of who they were.

But statues come down.

And the inteligentsia preserve themselves through great discoveries and inventions, or great works of art and literature. And for a time these things remind us of their creators. So we recognize and remember the names of Marie Curie and Vincent Van Gogh and Harper Lee and even Galileo or Socrates.

A Lucille Ball look-alike poses at Universal Studios, FL, with my sister and me

Lucille Ball lives on in our memories and even in people who dress up like her at Universal Studios, FL–at least for now.

But there are many who have contributed to our understanding of the world and of beauty whose names are long forgotten: who wrote Beowulf? And who devised the alphabet? Or recognized addition?

The great achievers are so often forgotten, and perhaps all will be forgotten in the end.

And the regular folks among us–we strive to carry on through a name, through a child (and later a grandchild, a great grandchild, and so on). My father-in-law is an only son (he has two sisters), and my husband is his only son. When our son was born, DH’s grandmother remarked, joyfully, that the family name would continue one more generation. While this urge to bear children may not be a conscious attempt at extending our presence on earth, I believe at least subconciously, that is part of the motive.

But sometimes, family lines end. A family has only girls (a strange phenomenon in our culture that girls don’t carry on names and lines–but that’s another topic entirely). Or a person never meets “the right person.” Or a marriage does not result in children for whatever reason.

But either way, there’s this clear drive to go on in some form or fashion.

I believe this drive for eternity we see exhibited in so many ways is present in us because people are eternal. People are created to live forever.

But how?

If statues and inventions and even children don’t get us there–how do we live forever?

We know we’re going to die. People die.

But I believe we were made to live. To continue.

Beyond the earthly realm, we hear about many ways to a sort of everlasting existence. The quest for eternity appears in many of the world’s religions. A Buddhist seeks nirvana–a sort of eternal bliss state and reuniting with the universe from what I understand. Hinduism teaches reincarnation–a continuing on of the same spirit of a person ad infinitim. Judaism professes an eternal existence that takes different forms depending on which interpretation one follows. And Islam and Christianity both preach heaven–although the path to heaven differs for each.

I would argue that there is a certain impossibility built in to all of these faith traditons. Even those that don’t put their faith in some way in a perfect and holy God teach that the path to eternal existence is based on discipline, good works, perfection of some kind. Hinduism teaches that there are consequences for the life we live: A bad life leads to a less favorable next life–karma directs destiny. And Buddhism teaches that people need to rise above the world in some way, usually portrayed through some kind of self-discipline. And Buddhists I have had the opportunity to speak to acknowledge that the likelihood of ever reaching nirvana is very low. Only a handful of people are considered to have done it. Judaism focuses on living a righteous life. And Islam requires both belief (in Islam) and a balance of more good deeds than bad deeds.*

The problem is, no one is perfect. We all yearn for eternity, but none could earn it. We all fall short. The Bible says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) Sinning, and falling short, means we put ourselves in opposition of a perfect God. And, “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Great. So for even one sin we earn death. We are made for eternity, but we earn death the first time we fall short of God’s standard. And we don’t really have a way, in ourselves, to go back and undo even one bad deed. We earn death, and we can’t unearn it.

It sounds pretty dire.

But, God loves us. And God wants us to be with him in our eternity. The Bible says, the Lord “is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Since we can’t live up to God’s standard, we can’t get to God. But God knew that, so he came to us. His Son took on flesh and lived a sinless life–something only God could do. He died a gruesome death on a cross and paid for all sins for all people. He paid the wage we have all earned. And he rose from the dead. This resurrection shows that God accepted the sacrifice made on our behalf and that Jesus defeated death once and for all.

Jesus paid for all of the sins of all the world. But we have to choose if we want to accept that free gift. We have to be able to accept it, and recognize that we cannot earn it. Attempting to earn our way to God will fail every time. Statues fall down. Inventors get forgotten. Family lines die out. There is no way for us to make ourselves eternal on our own. But the Bible says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Believing this truth is what is meant by having faith. And the Bible says, “For by grace you have been saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

If we trust God, we have the everlasting life we are all wired to desire. And we can be assured of it, because it is based on something that God does for us and not something we are working toward or trying to do for ourselves. Jesus says, “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me [God the Father] has eternal life and will not be judged but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24). I urge you to notice the present tense here: believing in Jesus means you have eternal life. No need to work for it–which is good, because working for heaven would leave us falling short.

One who believes the good news of Jesus Christ can be assured an everlasting life–thus resolving the urge and fulfilling the yearning ingrained in us because of our eternal nature. This doesn’t mean we don’t still seek to make a noticeable difference in this life, or to have children–but perhaps it can meet the heart’s need for life that continues, making the accomplishments and desires of this life less pressing.

This truth is something I believe with all my heart and something I’d stake my earthly life on. It got me through the hardest parts of dealing with infertility and it will get me through this life with the ups and downs we are going to deal with. It’s the hope that I have. And it’s about time that I made that clear here.

If you’ve read this and chosen to believe in what Jesus has done to grant you a life that does not end, I encourage you to talk to someone about your decision. If you want to talk to me about it, please let me know in the comments or send me an email at dwellsinme (at) gmail (dot) com. I would love to talk to you!

By that same token, if you’ve read this and don’t know if you want to believe, or have some questions, or think I’m way off base here, and want to talk about it–well, shoot me an email. I’d love to talk to you, too!

*I’m not an expert on Islam–or any world religions–but found this article helpful in understanding an Islamic view on salvation compared to the Christian perspective.


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How Do We Relate?

There are so many stages in our relationships. Some never get beyond the introductory parts, while others continue growth in intimacy throughout a lifetime. Have you ever looked back on an important relationship and remembered that first, fresh, getting to know you phase? Sometimes it can be awkward and it’s often difficult, in my experience, to get from there to a deeper and more intimate stage of growth. Other times, relationships begin full of excitement and expectations, but never do progress beyond early stages.

Wedding RingsWhen DH and I first met, we had a little background knowledge on one another; we’d had mutual friends and seen each other around campus. We had an economics class together. My roommate was constantly suggesting that we’d be a great couple, but I had no idea how right she was. The first phase of our relationship consisted mostly of him asking me to help with his homework, and me returning, confused, to my roommate and telling her, “I don’t get it. He understands this stuff. He doesn’t need any help.” I was clueless (it all seems so very obvious now!), but it can be difficult for two people to take a relationship from the starting point to, well, wherever it’s going.

This isn’t true only in marriage. I’ve seen it in some of my friendships as well. When we first moved to Texas, I remember spending quite a lot of time pondering how one is supposed to make friends after college. I honestly didn’t know where to begin. We’d meet people at church or Sunday school, but how did you go from knowing someone’s name to actually having a friend to confide in or spend time with? I don’t know what the answer is supposed to be, but I kept coming back to some vague idea of shared experiences. Somehow, before intimacy and true friendship develops, you need to be able to get out of the crowd and do things together–but how?

I have a dear friend here in Texas who happened to walk into Starbucks one day last spring while I was working on my Bible study homework. She and I had met in Sunday school, but this was the first time we’d seen each other in another setting. She had some free time and sat down at my table, and we spent a long time talking. At the time, we were getting ready to start the infertility treatments we needed, and she was going through a difficult time as well. Our conversation became deep really quickly and we’ve never looked back. The other day, she mentioned that this was the first time she had gone to that particular Starbucks, and that she hasn’t really been there since. I can only thank God for establishing that friendship!

There’s an ebb and flow in relationships, too. In different relationships it has different intensity. There isn’t a lot of “ebb” in my marriage, because, well, we’re together. Even when we’re busy, we’re both coming back to the same place nearly every night and the relationship keeps going. I have some friends I only spend time with or catch up with occasionally; most of them live in other parts of the country. But that ebbing, while it changes the relationship, is still, somehow, part of the relationship, too.

I’m not a relationship expert by any means. It’s not a field I’ve studied in depth. But I know that God said, very early on in this whole story of life, that it is not right for man to be alone. We have been created for relationship, and I’d like to spend some time exploring the concept.

The most important relationship in my life is between God and me. He’s never distant, but sometimes I am. He’s never losing touch or hard to get a hold of, but sometimes I am. He’s never the one dropping the ball or forgetting our dates or standing me up; when these things happen, it’s me. He’s never the one who needs forgiveness, but I’ve been angry with him before. He’s always on time, always available, and always interested; even though I’m not.

In the next few weeks, I’d like to write about how that relationship develops, how it changes, how it ebbs and flows, and how we can grow closer to God. I think it should always be a stepping forward, but in my experience, there’s often some backtracking, some unnecessary ebbing, involved. It’s not that I have any answers to how to make it better, but it’s something I want to explore and think about. The thing about important relationships is that they can often be the easiest to take for granted. How can we avoid that?

Are there topics related to this that you’re interested in exploring with me? How do you keep your relationship with God fresh and growing? Or what makes it most difficult for you to be intimate with him? Let me know in the comments; I’d love to explore these things with you.


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Didn’t I Already Learn This?

I’m constantly amazed at my ability to falter in my faith.

Our house is officially under contract; we did come to terms agreeable for both us and the people who are planning to move into our house, and our closing date is set for September 29. In case anyone is wondering, yes, that is in 25 days. And no, we don’t have a house to move into (or even one we are seriously interested in looking at in the neighborhood in which we’d like to live).

We'll be saying goodbye to our little house

Throughout this process, I’ve been great at talking the talk. Whenever a person came to see the house and didn’t like it, it was easy to assure my husband that God had the perfect buyers for our house and that he knows where we are going. But now it’s time to walk by faith and trust that God has a place for us, and I find myself faltering.

I wonder why we put our house on the market in the first place (even though we had plenty of reasons, chief among them DH’s very long commute).

I find myself secretly (or not so secretly) hoping our buyers will decide to exercise their option and break the contract. We could sell the house at a more convenient time.

I worry: how are we going to get everything packed and moved? I have more than enough work to do for my classes with nothing else added on. DH is preparing to take the first CFA exam this winter and keeps reminding me that he’s terribly behind in his study timeline. Oh, and have I mentioned that I am really, really, really (and that’s not enough emphasis–seriously!) terrible at packing and moving? So, we will hire someone, but that means we need to find someone.

Did I also mention that DH is in a wedding in New Mexico the weekend before our closing date? One which we are both planning to attend (and for which I still don’t have a plane ticket.) Don’t worry: we’ll also be out of town the two weekends preceding that one. As in, this weekend is the only one that has us in town between now and closing.

And when DH’s car broke down on Tuesday morning, bringing the “someday we need to replace your car” to a more urgent “what car are we going to buy and how long can we hold out before we have to do it?”–well, I think that was a final straw for me. And I’m sorry to say I spent most of yesterday succumbing to fear and worry and unable to focus on my studies.

I like to think I was doing okay with the whole thing. That I was trusting God and expecting everything to go the way it should. But I think maybe it hadn’t all sunk in yet. I think I was in denial. And I was quite happy there.

The ridiculous thing about this whole situation is that I thought I had learned these lessons. In fact, just a few months ago, on this blog, I was asking God if I had learned enough yet. And here, too.  I was ready to move on from not being pregnant. So ready.

And here I am, still learning the same things: Trust me. Don’t fear. Don’t worry. Wait on me.

But my gracious God has changed my circumstances. Instead of battling infertility today, I’m dealing with doubts and questions over where we will live and how things can be done in the time that we have. And how our finances are going to work between moving out and (hopefully) moving in and buying a car and paying for movers and flying to New Mexico
and . . .

While I let myself get hung up on the circumstance, on the day-to-day, and on the things about which I have limited or no control, I haven’t been trusting like I should. Yet God is good. And he is calmly whispering to my heart: I’m still here. I’m still trustworthy. I still know. Remember the battles you’ve been through before? I carried you through those, and I’ll carry you through this.

So I’m glad for the wake-up call. This isn’t really a trial: it’s an opportunity to put my faith in practice. I’ve not done so well the past week, but by the grace of God, I can do better today. And tomorrow.


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Faith Lessons from a Steak Knife

I have written most of my essays for seminary. And though I’m not finished, I’m not feeling so overwhelmed about it now. I think I need to visit the campus before I’ll be able to finish one essay, and the remainder is resume stuff that I can do in fits and spurts: what areas of Christian leadership I’ve been involved in, campus activities I was part of in college, and my employment record. And then, I’ll submit it. Oh my!

In the meantime, we are really just feeling overjoyed and excited lately. There is so much to be hopeful for. I suppose there always was, but we had lost that excitement of trying to conceive and now it’s back–for the moment. I hope treatment works and works quickly! And we are so very grateful that God has given man this ability to research and find ways to overcome medical challenges. I am so glad he has not withheld from us even these good gifts of medical science.

Last Thursday we had small group to our house for dinner. I love hosting our group (we take turns), but last week was a busy week and I was feeling frazzled. This time I had started early and I was determined to have dinner ready by 7:00. I had from scratch tomato soup in the crockpot (best recipe ever), butter melting on the stove for a roux to add creaminess to the soup, and an assembly line for baked grilled cheese sandwiches (on gluten-free bread for me!) with avocados, tomatoes, and bacon laid out on the counter. The stove had just told me that it was preheated and ready to go. With about twenty minutes before small group was supposed to start–and with my husband still not home from work–I started chopping a frozen stick of butter with a steak knife to fit it in a small bowl to melt so it could be spread on the bread. And then–OUCH! I am not sure why the knife slipped, but I felt the injury before I suspected anything was amiss. I looked down to see a bloody gash on my left index finger.

Now, I can give a shot with expert precision and usually not even feel it. I’m perfectly comfortable reading biological research papers on gamete development, reproductive anomalies, surgical procedures, and hormone functions. I can discuss with doctors all manner of surgical procedures, results of blood work, and what they may be looking for. But friends–when I saw that blood on my finger, I about passed out. The room started spinning and I felt so very hot and I knew I had to snap out of it and get moving.

I ran to the sink and held my finger under cold water for a while. I pinched it together to close the wound, but as soon as I let go, the blood just kept coming out.

I managed to move to the bathroom, where I cleaned the wound properly and bandaged my finger–probably a little too tightly–to stop the bleeding. I called DH and fussed a little about it, because I knew he’d talk me up off the floor and get me back to the kitchen. He did.

By the time I got back to the stove, my butter was burned. I dumped it and started over. And dinner was a bit late. Well, a lot late. We didn’t sit down to eat until 7:40. I love my small group. They didn’t mind. Didn’t bat an eye at the tardy meal, and we had a great meeting anyway.

Later that night, I unwrapped my finger, cleaned it again, and changed to a bandage that wasn’t cutting off the circulation of my fingertip. I checked it and felt sure I didn’t need to go to the emergency room or anything.

As DH and I were snuggled into bed Thursday night, after we’d prayed together, I lay there a moment thinking to myself, huh… we didn’t pray that my finger would heal. And I knew why I didn’t ask God to heal my finger. It’s because I trust, and have no doubt whatsoever, that my finger will get better. That’s part of God’s design for us–cuts can heal themselves. What an amazing thing. And this is something I have taken for granted. I thanked God for healing my finger and fell asleep.

In my prayers, I often want the quick fix. The miracle fix. The supernatural fix. And maybe sometimes that means I’m missing out on what God is doing in the natural, how God is changing my circumstances even without any drama or fanfare.

The next day–really the next few days–my finger was sore. It was painful. And I expected it to be. Although I knew God would heal me, I didn’t wake up Friday morning or Saturday morning or even this morning and find that my finger had  been magically put back together without any time or waiting or effort. I am typing this now with a little medical tape still wrapped around the finger, giving it a little protection from the keys and the germs and keeping it from splitting open again while it is still vulnerable. But even as I am waiting, I don’t feel any less sure that my finger will be healed.

And I think this is faith. I have faith that my finger will heal. And I don’t know if I have that kind of faith for everything. But I want to. I want to have this kind of faith–this certainty, really–that what God has promised will be. I have this faith for my salvation. I really have no doubt that I am forgiven. But I don’t know if I feel as sure about the things that aren’t as straightforward as cut skin or the gospel message. Do I believe God is using me for his glory today? Do I believe that he has ordained my path for a reason? Do I believe that he is working all things for my good?

Some days are better than others.

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)


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Choosing God over His Promises

Well, so much for getting back to posting several times a week! I miss it so much though. And there are so many things I want to write. And today I realized that we are three days from the next action and there are things I want to write about before that happens. I don’t know if I’ll get to say all the things I’ve been wanting to say in the next few days. The fact is that my to do list before we go to my parents’ house for Christmas is very long and I don’t know where I’m going to find the time. But know that this is where I want to be. And I’ll be here when I can!

I have things I want to write about before the next steps because I know that whatever happens on Thursday is going to affect my perspective. And I want to be clear that I am saying that whatever happens on Thursday, I’m trusting God with this. If it was worth doing or if it wasn’t. If something happens that I can’t or haven’t yet imagined. If anything, in every scenario, I’m trusting God with this.

And this is why: Because I don’t have the answers, but he does. Because my ways are not his ways, but his ways are higher than mine. And because, at the end of the day, I want to know God and give him the glory more than I want anything–and I’m willing to give him the child that I hope for and that I desire. Because if God doesn’t want me to be a parent, I’m sure it’s because that is best for me. BEST. Not an acceptable outcome or something I’ll learn to deal with, but absolutely God’s best, his most excellent for me. Because I trust that he is working all things for my good. And because only he knows what is coming up and where we’re going.

So, God, I’m saying to you right now: Take it. Take all of it. I will not withhold from you even the dream of a child. I don’t have a living child to offer to you, but I give you the dream.

There’s this story in the Bible–a completely heart-wrenching, heart-aching, heart-breaking story in the Bible. God decides to test Abraham. The test he gives Abraham–the exact test–is not replicated in the Bible except by God himself. God asks Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. The only other time in scripture that God requires a father to sacrifice his son, God is the Father.

It’s in Genesis 22:1-19. God comes to Abraham and tells him to take Isaac to a place he will show Abraham and sacrifice him as a burnt offering. A few chapters earlier, when God told Abraham that he was about to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham interceded for the towns, asking God to spare them if there were as few as 10 righteous people present. And God agreed to do that. He didn’t show any displeasure with Abraham for asking. But here, when God tells Abraham to sacrifice his son, Abraham doesn’t argue. He doesn’t beg. He doesn’t ask for a reprieve. He just does it.

He wakes early the next morning and takes all that he needs for the sacrifice, including the wood, the boy, and two servants and a donkey to carry his provisions. There are parallels throughout this account to the sacrifice Jesus makes on the cross. I was especially struck by the fact that the Genesis account is largely shown through Abraham’s perspective–giving us a sense, perhaps, for how God himself suffered to see his own son hung on a cross. The parallel of Jesus at Gethsemane and to the crucifixion is more from Jesus’ perspective. I encourage you, if you’re interested, read the scriptures and pay attention to the parallels.*

And Abraham comes so very close to sacrificing his son. He has Isaac on the proper mountain, bound and laying on the wood. As he holds the knife and extends his hand over Isaac to finish the task, he is interrupted by God. The Lord speaks to him and stays his hand. Isaac is, symbolically, resurrected, and God alerts Abraham to a ram trapped in a nearby bush. The ram is sacrificed in Isaac’s place.

Here’s the thing: God promised Abraham he would have Isaac. He promised Abraham that Isaac would have many offspring, and that through Isaac, Abraham would have so many descendants they couldn’t be counted. In other words, without Isaac, there was no promise. There was no heritage. There could not be more descendants than stars in the sky or more descendants than sand on the seashore. To sacrifice Isaac was to say to God, thanks for the promises you offer, but if I need to choose between you or your glory and the promises, I choose YOU.

I think it’s amazing that Abraham takes the test and he doesn’t seem to resent it when it’s over. And I was touched at the idea that God is using this test of Abraham both to refine and strengthen Abraham and to share with him something about himself. Abraham dies long before Jesus’ is born on this earth, of course, but it is as if God is reaching down and including Abraham in this story and giving him a glimpse of the sorrow, the struggle. But as Abraham shows God that he truly does love God more than anything–and that he would choose to have God even if it meant losing the promises God had made him–God showed us through Christ’s sacrifice that he loves us more than anything. He loves us so much that he did not withhold even his son, his only son, from us, but instead gave him as a sacrifice to pay for our sins.

And it is because he loves us so much, and because he is who he is, that we can trust him with this.

In truth, there is no choosing between God and God’s promises. For when we are faithless, God is faithful, for he cannot deny himself (2 Tim. 2:13). It goes against his character for God to break a promise. It cannot happen. But what do you choose?

I choose God. And his glory. And I don’t know if he’s promised me children, but I’m willing to give them up. I’ll give it all up. Because I want God’s best for me more than I want my best for me. I just don’t trust my own judgment. I trust God’s.

Whatever happens next–whatever outcome–this is in God’s hands. Thanks be to God for whatever he has planned for us. I can’t wait to live out this excellent life for his glory.

*Look, for example, at the length of the journey, carrying wood, a donkey, the substitute, a crown of thorns . . . There are other things that parallel but that is a good start.


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A Father’s Love

There’s this song on the Christian radio station I’ve always kind of disliked. But this morning it hit me in an entirely different way.

It’s a song by Plumb called “In My Arms,” and it starts with this verse:

Your baby blues, so full of wonder
Your curly cues, your contagious smile
And as I watch, you start to grow up
All I can do is hold you tight

I find the song mildly annoying because it always stirs that little piece of discontent in my heart, that piece of me that won’t stop shouting, begging, pleading for a baby of my own. That piece of me that is always there but which I can usually keep pretty quiet.

On the surface this song is all about a parent’s love and her desperate desire to keep her child safe in a totally messed up and fallen world.

But today, as I was driving in the middle of a heavy rainstorm on I-10, it spoke something different to me.

Instead of changing the station when the song came on (yes, I normally do), I listened to the words. And in the chorus I got a mental picture I wasn’t expecting.

Knowing clouds will rage and
Storms will race in
But you will be safe in my arms
Rains will pour down
Waves will crash all around
But you will be safe
In my arms

I had a quick thought first that changed my perspective. Mothers can hope to protect their children, but no amount of holding them in their human arms will truly keep them safe. But we are safe in the arms of God. I believe that fiercely and I needed to hear it today.

As I pictured God as a loving Father, which is how Jesus encouraged us to think about God, I saw him holding me through this current storm. And I felt this great relief. An unburdening I can’t really express.

In another line in the song, she sings, “My heart is torn just in knowing / You’ll someday see / The truth from the lies.”

And I wonder–does God think that about us? Does he watch us as children, knowing yet dreading the decline of our innocence?

And he [Jesus] said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:2)

Does he look at the landscape that is before us and grieve over the consequences of living in a fallen world, the storms that will rage in our lives?

Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come! (Matthew 18:7)

He knows the storms will roll in, and when, and how hard, and why. He knows that we can’t see through the darkness to the other side of it or to what glorious future he has planned for us. Does he feel sorrow over it? Over this human mess we’ve made that we’re slogging through in this world by our own choices?

Jesus wept. (John 11:35)

I’m not saying that infertility or other pain we struggle with in this life is a consequence of personal sins in our lives, as I don’t think it is. I think there are consequences to sin that are specific and affect the person who sins, but I also think there are general consequences of sin, of living in a fallen world. These consequences strike who they may.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

And as God watches, and sympathizes with us, he is also working these most painful and most challenging trials for good in our lives. Not that the bad things are themselves good. But that good will come of it. And so he gives us hope to endure the trial.

For we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

I love that God can speak to me even in the midst of a song that I didn’t like. And that he can use someone else’s words to give me a picture of who he is and how truly, madly, deeply he loves me as his own child. As much as I know God is indeed working through infertility in my life for my good and for his glory, I don’t think he intended or desired for me to go through this trial. But since he knew it was coming, he’s making me better for it.