By Grace Alone

The real life struggles of a Christian mom

More on “Calm My Anxious Heart” March 2, 2008

Filed under: spiritual growth — Marissa Henley @ 11:11 am
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I’ve been reading more of Linda Dillow’s book and really liked her chapters on being content with my role and with my relationships. It is so easy to always be looking ahead to a point in time when I think my life will be easier or better–when all my kids are dressing themselves and taking care of their own potty-related needs, when Noel cuts back on his hours, when I start to really love working out and hate eating sweets (yeah, right!). Before I was married, I wanted to be married. When I didn’t have kids, I wanted a baby. And now that I have preschoolers, I want them to go to school (and on my more insane days, I want another baby). I have a tendency to think that surely having a 2-year-old and 4-year-old is about as tough as it gets, and when they get a little older, then I will be able to pull myself together and be the kind of wife, mom, friend and Christian I want to be.

I started to realize the truth of my need to be content with what my role is right now when I had a single girlfriend over for lunch a few weeks ago. I was feeling jealous of her life–her nice clothes and car (the kind that doesn’t seat 8), her important job that brings her into contact with actual adults every single day, all the freedom that she has to do what she wants when she wants. It was the week before Will’s birthday party, and on my kitchen counter was a to-do list full of things, most of which I was dreading. Mop floors, clean bathrooms, dust living room, make treat bags, bake and decorate cake, etc. My friend looked at my to-do list and exclaimed, “I wish I had this to-do list!” I was shocked, but I shouldn’t be. It is so easy to take what we have for granted, to get weighed down by the mundane tasks — to lose sight of what a privilege it is to clean up after these little treasures God has given me and plan their birthday parties and teach them about Jesus.

In a discussion of maturity, Dillow writes: “We grow up when we see our life and our role from God’s perspective . . . when each morning we ask, ‘God, how can I glorify you today in my given role?'” She writes about Christ as an example. His role was to humble Himself, serve others, and give His life as a ransom for many. (See Mark 10:45 and Philippians 2:5-8) My role is to glorify God by serving my husband, my children, and others around me. My role is to mop floors, fix peanut butter sandwiches, change diapers and read books. My role is to train, discipline and teach my sons to love God and each other. My role is to pray for my children and about the decisions we make that impact their lives. I want to be a real grown-up and glorify God in the role He has given me today rather than waiting for Him to give me a more glamorous job.

In Dillow’s chapter on contentment in relationships, she focuses quite a bit on forgiveness. This is a fairly new topic for me, one that I’ve been thinking about more in the last year and realizing that it is something that I struggle with. (See previous post on forgiveness.) This is also a topic that came up in last week’s BSF lesson. I know God is trying to get my attention when He’s teaching me the same thing through two different avenues!

My BSF lesson and part of Dillow’s chapter on relationships examined Matthew 18:21-35, the parable of the unforgiving servant. In this parable, the king forgives his servant’s massive debt (roughly $15 million in today’s terms) and then the servant goes out and refuses to forgive another’s minuscule debt against him. Likewise, in Christ, we have been forgiven for a debt that we could never pay: the penalty for our sin. If we fail to see our need for the Cross, we will view other’s sin against us as great and difficult to forgive. If we have a proper view of our sin and how much we have been forgiven, it will be a natural reaction to forgive the much smaller offenses that others commit against us.

Studying this passage made me realize that if I’m keeping a mental list of the ways my husband has let me down or harboring resentment toward someone who has offended me, it should be a red flag for me that I need to turn my attention back to the seriousness of my own sin against God and grace I have been shown by His forgiveness. When those thoughts of “I’ve been wronged” start to trickle in, I need to consciously turn my thoughts to the Cross. This could really transform some of my relationships where I continue to hold on to past hurts and disappointments.

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Forgiveness August 2, 2007

Filed under: parenting,spiritual growth — Marissa Henley @ 3:40 am
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As I picked up an old issue of R.C. Sproul’s “Tabletalk” magazine last night, I looked at the topic–The Freedom of Forgiveness–and expected a nice reminder of how I’ve been forgiven by God in Christ. I’ve never thought that forgiving others was something I struggled with. I haven’t been sinned against or betrayed in any major way, and I generally live at peace with people close to me. (Or so I thought.)

As I read the words of various authors in the magazine, God brought this thought to my mind: Have I truly forgiven the people living in my home as I should? I realized that I have not forgiven Christopher for exasperating me, disobeying me, and generally making my life difficult by being a stubborn 3-year-old who requires almost constant training and instruction. The familiar verses from Matthew 18:21-22 took on new meaning when seen in this light: “Then Peter came up and said to him, ‘Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.'”

I’ve never thought that there was anyone in my life who would require this kind of extravagant forgiveness. But now that I think about, 70 times 7 sounds just about like the number of times my kids make me want to pull my hair out on any given day. And I realized that the way I respond to Christopher when he disobeys is usually as though it is the 489th time he has disobeyed me, and my frustration and resentment has been building with each infraction.

What would it look like to truly forgive Christopher for each act of obedience? It would mean that my response would be as though it was the first time he had EVER disobeyed. All previous offenses would be completely forgotten. I believe that response would look very different from the one I typically display. The same applies to my marriage–what if I responded to Noel as if it were the first time he had ever let me down or failed to meet my needs? What if I didn’t just roll over all the previous hurt and bitterness and apply it to every new time he offends me?

How can I possibly do this? In Matthew 18, Jesus goes on to tell the parable of the servant who had been forgiven a massive debt, but failed to forgive another person who owed him a much small debt. I can forgive my kids and husband seven times seventy times because I have offended God infinitely more times than that. In fact, I was an enemy of God, and He still loved me, pursued me, redeemed me, and adopted me as His daughter, all because of the blood of His Son shed on the cross for me. This amazing truth frees me to forgive and requires me to forgive.