By Grace Alone

The real life struggles of a Christian mom

Mediocrity August 21, 2007

Filed under: spiritual growth — Marissa Henley @ 9:14 pm
Tags: , , ,

I am a nerd, but I love reading the articles in back issues of R.C. Sproul’s Tabletalk magazine. (Click here to subscribe–I highly recommend it.) This week, I’ve been reading one from last September titled “Proud Mediocrity.” In R.C. Sproul’s article, he writes about striving for excellence. He says:

“It is God who calls us to labor to the highest level of excellence and achievement of which we are capable . . . The legitimate motive for excellence is to seek achievement for the end to glorify God. That is the chief purpose for which we are created, to bear witness to His glory. One thing that does not bear witness to the glory of God is a human addiction to mediocrity, a smug satisfaction with the status quo. Rather, the Scriptures call us to seek a high calling–the high calling that is ours in Christ Jesus. Such a high calling cannot be achieved when we wallow in sloth. Slothfulness and laziness are twin vices that are roundly and soundly condemned by sacred Scripture. The biggest reason we fail to achieve excellence is that we are unwilling to work to such an extent that excellence can be achieved. No one achieves excellence in any worthy enterprise without diligent and disciplined labor.”

At the same time that I was reading the article, Michael W. Smith’s song, “Lord, Have Mercy” came on my iPod. (Click here for the lyrics to this song.) It was as if God didn’t want me to miss the fact that He was calling me to repentance for my laziness and slothfulness. I used to be highly motivated to achieve excellence in school and at work–but seldom do I desire excellence in housework, parenting and loving my husband.

How can I do laundry for the glory of God? I’m not sure about the laundry, but I am called to serve my children and husband by striving for excellence in the management of my household. I am to labor diligently in the parenting of my children–playing with them, teaching them, encouraging them and disciplining them. I am called to have a vibrant, growing relationship with my Savior from which to minister to my family and friends. I am not to be satisfied with merely making it through the day with my sanity somewhat intact.

I often settle for mediocrity. I struggle with laziness. Some days, it is excruciatingly difficult to drag myself out of bed to start another day of housework, refereeing fights over toys, and thoughtful, consistent discipline. I crave sleep, comfort, and time for myself, and I hit the snooze button until the last possible minute when I’m forced to start my day. But if I look at the example of the Proverbs 31 woman, she rises while it is still night and her lamp does not go out at night. And Proverbs 20:13 says: “Love not sleep, lest you come to poverty.” I may be going to far, but I think that in my case, my love of sleep that causes my snooze-button addiction is sin. If I’m going to strive for excellence in what God has called me to do tomorrow, I’m going to need that extra seven minutes.


Forgiveness August 2, 2007

Filed under: parenting,spiritual growth — Marissa Henley @ 3:40 am
Tags: , , , ,

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.


A brief note about marriage June 19, 2007

Filed under: marriage — Marissa Henley @ 12:44 am
Tags: ,

I was listening to a R.C. Sproul series on marriage today, and I was reminded of a lesson that apparently I’m going to have to learn and re-learn a thousand times. He was talking about the marriage relationship and how the two become one flesh. He said that marriage is to be a duality, not a dualism. A dualism is two things that are in inherent, relentless conflict with each other–good and evil, light and darkness, etc. The word duality, however, comes from the words dual (two) and unity. So a duality is a plurality becoming a unity. It struck me that I feel like a dualism with Noel much more than I feel like a duality. So often, I think it is me vs. his work, my interests vs. his interests, my free time vs. his free time. I’m constantly battling him, trying to extract from him the kind of love I think he should be giving me to meet all of my needs. What if God could transform my thinking so that I put my interests aside and joined Noel as a teammate, not striving for my own comfort and happiness, but working together with Noel for the glory of God and the good of our family??

So how do the two become one? R.C. went on to talk about the end of the story of the creation of Adam and Eve. Genesis 2:24-25: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. ” Now don’t be nervous, I’m not going to get into physical nakedness here. That’s what the verse is referring to, but I think the application goes beyond that. What if I were to be completely “naked” with Noel in the sense that I let him into every back corner, every bit of ugliness, every aspect of my emotional life, spiritual life, pain, guilt, and fear? As R.C. said, this kind of vulnerability is only possible when we stand before God clothed only in the righteousness of Christ. And that truth of who I am in Christ allows me to let Noel in, knowing that he’s promised not to leave no matter how ugly it gets. This is definitely an area for improvement in my life, even after almost 9 years of marriage. (9 years?!? Have I even been an adult that long? How bizarre.)