A Blog by Jennifer Aulthouse

A heart for those who want more of God. A desperate plea for those who don't.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Changing Battles

There are some prayer requests that you know God will grant you every time.

Of course, they’re usually not the ones we instinctively hope for, like safety, health, wealth, and happiness. He does grant those requests without fail, however. He grants them spiritually. He’s all too eager to lavish those spiritual promises onto anyone who sincerely prays for them, and scripture reminds us of this all over the place. But I suppose I’m suspicious regarding whether they are really the prioritized cry of a desperate heart for most Christians. Most of us would likely prefer the promise of physical health, safety, and provision over the probable pain included in having an awareness of spiritual wealth cultivated in us.....usually because we cannot know spiritual treasure without having something of the tangible world that we treasure removed from us, at least for a time, in order to give us the impetus to search for Treasure that cannot be taken away.

What I’m discovering is that prayers that are always answered are the ones that come from the truly broken person, desperate to grow closer to God before all else, in godly character purely out of a desire to know Him more, and see His will prevail regardless of the pain endured, without any conditions on how God should choose how to develop these things. I don’t think God can resist granting such requests. It’s what He desires more than anything from His beloved creations.

I’m seeing evidence of this in my own life, and it’s more than a little unsettling. Oh, how this battle between the new creation I am in Him and the desire of the dead flesh rages on and on. I’ve found myself over the past year praying with more and more fervency for a desire to know God in waters that are over my head, to be used in ways that necessitate me coming out of my comfortable suburban bubble, and that lay all my abilities to use on the altar regardless of the personal cost, whether in material, or emotionally or egotistically vulnerable ways. Each time I have done so, He’s been so quick to show Himself at work, and while this thrills me in spirit it terrifies me in flesh. But I again remember that “the purpose of life is not to arrive safely at death” (Mark Batterson, “Wild Goose Chase”). It is not to blockade ourselves against being hurt. And it is not to anoint ourselves warriors in the passionate battle against whatever forces block the fulfillment of our wills.

Daily, this is the battle I am lured into joining. Daily, though, stronger grows the nagging voice in my soul calling me to that which is most unnatural, and that is to a life of total abandonment to His will and His will only. The ideas that have flooded into my mind over the last year are decidedly not me in character and yet an indescribable yearning grows to see the come to fruition; they are all anchored by an intense pursuit to have every aspect of my life entirely devoted to His uses for me and my family.

A few times, I’ve harnessed the strength deposited in me and vocalized in voice and spirit to God the desire for these to be infinitely more than just Christian-sounding longings.

These prayers, I am certain, will be more than merely heard....

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

On Writing II

Like many other parts of me, I feel like my writing is way too flabby. It just wants to lay on the couch and be non-productive out of the sheer exhaustion of not being used, and yet I have absolutely no idea how to get it the continual exercise and training it needs to be in shape and ready to turn literary cartwheels should the opportunity arises. I suppose in most cases, I would tell myself that this is okay, I am a mom to young kids and I serve in many other ways, too, and I shouldn’t feel badly that I can’t devote whatever time and energy is needed to this writing thing. And there are nuggets of truth in this, but the fact is, even though the timing makes extremely little sense to me in this stage of my life, I’ve received a calling and somehow, it all needs to fit together.

So my writing has been laying on the sofa doing nothing, and this is a problem for many reasons: the biggest in my mind is because I have a word marathon coming up in the form of a speaking opportunity, and I need my writing to get its uninvolved behind off the sofa and put in the miles I need it to in order to present a good race. But there just aren’t enough conscious hours in a day left for me to tug and tug on its arms and get it off the sofa and prod it out the door and see where it goes.

Thus, I am beginning to panic. No, that’s not true. I’ve been panicking. Well, I’ve been alternating between panic and denying that I’m in panic. And there’s also a bit of euphoric delusion thrown in with the idea of having it come to me, say, the night before and just gleefully going in rogue, as opposed to having it written and practiced and polished until every last syllable is perfect.....my very vocal left-brained side had it all planned for it to play out this way. But I hear my heart remind me that God hasn’t called me to be a polished speaker......He’s called me to be an authentic communicator. That doesn’t excuse me from being unprepared, but it does require me to wait for His message to come and present it in the manner He wants, and if that’s raw and unencumbered by the desire to appear flawless, well, I have to submit to it.

So I will continue in prayer for the words to come, give as much time in front of the laptop as I can in anticipation for them to come, and also pray that I can rest knowing that God will not fail to provide. As well, I will force my lethargic writer persona to snap out of it and run some laps, in whatever manner I can.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A Plea

“Good for nothing.”

My son thrust a piece of paper at me with these words on it, etched by his own hand, tears in his eyes, speaking of himself.

He’s 7.

I pulled him down to where I was sitting on the sofa and asked him to please tell me what caused this to come out. Not feeling like he’s as good at things as he should be; feeling like he’s always in the way when he just wants to help; feeling like he makes too many bad decisions.

This isn’t about parental guilt. I certainly took the time to reflect on what messages I’m sending him with my attitudes and responses. There are things to adjust and repent of, for sure. But this broken-hearted outburst wasn’t directed at me. Rather, he was coming to me desperate to know that what he’s hearing internally from the darkness in the world isn’t true.

As best as I could, I tried to give my boy both a soft place to land in his pain and the assurance of his worth, which I found myself more desperate to give than I think he was desperate to receive. We talked about the remarkable ways he’s gifted, how as he grows he’ll discover more things about himself that reveal God’s plans for him, and that there is certain to be things he’s just not going to be very good at but that this is okay. We also talked about intentionally doing something that bothers or hurts someone else and understanding that the reaction he receives because of his actions is based on those actions, not on his worth as a person. That if someone says or does something mean just to hurt him, it’s because she isn’t feeling very good about herself and making someone else feel bad is the only way she knows how to feel better. And that, unfortunately, we all do those things.

He felt better. He walked away smiling. I told him he needed to come back and do something with the paper he had written on: rip it up and dispose of it.

I sat there thinking about how a kid as bright and loved and gifted as he is can question such things; while he’s had a small handful of relational stinkers in his young life, he is surrounded with love.

A little while later, he said he wanted to give me a gift to show me that he loves me. He asked if I wanted some of his (still-not-finished-yet) Easter candy or if he should buy something for me. I took his face in my hands, and what I found myself saying to him was that “the best gift you can give me is for you to believe you are loved”.

Because if he believes it so, he won’t question my motives when I tell him not to do something that he wants to, or say something to him that in his mind contradicts what he understands to be true. He won’t wonder if I really have his best interests in mind, or if I’m carelessly dismissing how important something is to him even though maybe I won’t let him have it. When he hears adversarial messages telling him that he’s “good for nothing” and isn’t worth taking two steps for, he’ll know that those messages don’t have a shred of truth to them and that their origins are of darkness. He’ll know that when he has acted out of selfishness and rebellion, the discipline meted out to him is because I love and believe in him too much to let him think for one moment that this destructive behavior has anything beneficial to add towards producing the fruitful life, rich in character and spiritual abundance, that I envision he could have. That there’s a greater plan that’s bigger than his wants, and while maybe it’s hard for him to see why what he does is of any significance one way or the other, he’ll believe it so and order his life accordingly.

And because I’m human, he’ll know that when I fail to put committed parenting as a priority over something else that shouldn’t be, it’s because of my sinful choice, not his failure to be lovable.

He bears the responsibility to believe he is loved. I can tell him non-stop of my love, night and day, in countless ways, but he must make the decision for himself to be purposefully aware of what’s surrounding him. Including the unseen. Even if he can’t understand at the moment how any of what’s happening could possibly be out of love.

“The best gift you can give me is for you to believe you are loved.”

I don't think that came from me.