Have you ever had one of those “ah ha” moments? One of those times when something that was not quite clear suddenly became crystal clear? You know, one of those times when the light comes on. Well, that is how this past week has been for me.
I remember quite vividly two years ago when I made a quite profound statement to my husband. It was in February, I can recall it clearly. Rachel was still sick and we were still trying to figure out what was wrong and how we needed to help her. We also were trying to keep up with the daily grind that our normal life held in addition to the added weight of having an ill child. We also were in the midst of special meetings at our church and had the added running and commuting from all of that. I remember getting into the vehicle, closing the door, putting my purse and bag down next to me and looking at my husband and saying, “I can’t do this anymore. It’s too hard!”
Something broke that day. I gave up. I gave up trying to get it all done. I gave up trying to make sure I looked the part, acted the part and played the part. You know the “part”. For me it was the part of being that Christian Mom who had her act together.
The Mom who had all of her kids looking good and sitting up straight in church.
The Mom who never got frustrated and mad at her kids.
The wife who was always sweet and kind to her husband.
The Christian who always has a smile on her face and an encouraging word to any who came past her.
The Church member who was faithful at every church service and loved to attend every special service offered by the church.
You see, the trials that we were facing were more than I could handle. I had tried to make sure I played the part. I had tried when I got frustrated to make sure I kept my emotions under control. I had tried when I was tired to be sweet and kind to my husband when he came home from work and asked me to get him something. I had tried to be faithful at ever church service and to make sure that anyone who asked me to do something for the ministry was greeted by an enthusiastic “yes, I would be glad to!”
I had tried and tried and tried.
I also had failed and failed and failed; and on that evening I realized I had nothing left to give.
When I closed the door to the van that day, I gave up. Yes, we attended the special meetings that evening. We brought the kids home tired and wondered where we were going to get the money to pay for the extra gas. There were added doctor appointments, other Christians criticizing our treatment plans for Rachel, school papers to be graded and a special needs child that seemed out of control because of our life was out of control. When I went to bed that night the feeling continued. I could not do this any longer. If this was the Christian life – it was too hard. I had tried to live it – and had failed. There was no more strength. There was not even time to read my Bible much less be a good Christian. I just could not do it any more.
Little did I know, that was exactly where I needed to be - exactly where God wanted me. I would not find that out till more than a year later.
I began reading the biography of a missionary who had felt the same way I was feeling. Rosalind Goforth had felt that way too; and as I read her life story I taken in by the accounts of her failures and strugles. I could relate to her when she said that she too kept trying; but failing. Then I went on to read her husband’s biography. I was challenged. I was convicted and I was starting to see something. They could not do it either. They had tried and failed; and through their failures they had learned that it was God who enabled you to live the Christian life. The truth was starting to faintly be seen. However, the picture was still hazy. When you live your life one way for almost 40 years it is hard to just see something differently and change completely overnight.
God started teaching me through His Word and through the literature that I was reading that while I was a Christian that was not the only thing I needed in order to live the Christian life. Colossians 3:6 tells us, “As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him.” I had memorized this verse at summer camp when I was in high school; I would understand it fully as a middle aged Mother.
I received Christ by faith. One December afternoon I realized that I needed Christ’s work on the cross to take care of the sin problem I had within me. The afternoon, I placed my dependence upon what Christ did for me on Calvary. That was the day that I received eternal life. Not by anything that I had done; but by depending upon what Christ had done. The verse was telling me that I was to live the Christian life in the same way I got saved: By depending upon Christ to enable me to do it.
I guess, all of my life I felt that the way I lived the Christian life was to keep trying to do what was right. To keep trying to live life the way the Bible says I was supposed to live it. I was trying. Galatians tells me I was placing myself under the law. In Romans the Bible tells me that the law brings wrath. Human beings are all sinful. The law was given to show us the perfection of God. The law was sent to show us what is right and wrong. To show us how perfect God is and how sinful we are. So, why did I find myself frustrated and tired as I tried to do what was right? Because…
It is impossible for me to be able to DO the law. Impossible for me to DO the Christian life!
Fact: Trying to accomplish something that is not possible to do leads to frustration and anger.
Ahh, this is where I had found myself. I had been deceived into thinking that living the Christian life came about automatically because I was a Christian. The verse in Colossians tells me that simply is not true. Just like salvation does not automatically come because someone believes that Jesus died on the cross to save sinners; the Christian does not simply start living the Christian life because He has been forgiven of his sins. Both require faith in order to activate. Faith is dependence. In order to be saved I had to depend upon the power of what Christ did for me on the cross. In order to live the Christian life I have to depend upon the power of the Holy Spirit living within me to be able to live like a Christian.
This was a new concept for me. One that has taken a little while to grasp a hold of; but I am getting it. I am seeing it and the Christian life has become so new, so fresh, so exciting.
I have realized that I do not have to TRY to be a good Mom to my kids. I did not have to try to act like a Christian Mom. I can not do that. (If you do not believe me – ask my kids!) My husband will irritate me and disappoint me and no matter how hard I try to keep my emotions in check when that happens I will fail. Guaranteed!
I CAN NOT LIVE THE CHRISTIAN LIFE!
In other words, I was right that day when I got into the van. I could not do what I was trying to do. I knew I could not – I had been trying for years. I knew that I had tried and tried. I had not missed a trick or technique that brought me success. It was not a matter of not repenting enough after my failed efforts. For I had tried everything I knew, everything I had read, and I had felt truly sorry every time I had failed. I had purposed in my heart to change my ways, my environment, my mindset. All had failed. Because:
I CAN NOT LIVE THE CHRISTIAN LIFE!
The Christian life can only be lived by Christ. It is His life; and I am not Him. Then, the truth started becoming clearer. That’s right I am not Him; but His Spirit lives within me. Ah, and here is the key that I had missed.
I must place my dependence upon His Spirit in order to live the life that I need to live.
This works out in day to day living – not just church attendance. That means, when the children are out numbering me and I feel quite overwhelmed I can go to Him (He lives within me) and I can ask Him to give me wisdom to know how to handle my day. When my husband disappoints me and frustrates me, I don’t have to stay there. I can ask God to give me His love and His forgiveness. When I ask God for these things the book of John tells me that whatever I ask in His will HE WILL DO IT!
God wants me to be a good Christian Mom and Wife. So, when I am in a situation that is causing my flesh to want to rise up and lash out, I can go to God immediately and ask Him for what I need and I am guaranteed that I will get it right when I ask (if I ask in faith believing that He will answer my prayer!). This is powerful. This makes the Christian life ALIVE because suddenly I see Him working through me. It is miraculous to be able to watch it happen!
Last week, I was trying to get the kids going with our school day. There were phone calls that were hindering that from happening. There were two little ones that were running through the house, two older ones who were stalling and trying to keep the school day from actually starting. There was also housework that I was seeing that needed to be done that I did not see the time to accomplish that day. It was 8 in the morning and I already felt behind. I was irritable in my spirit and I could tell that the frustration was rising. To make matters worse, I had gotten up late and not been able to get my Bible reading in that morning.
Then I felt the quiet leading of His Spirit for me to come apart and spend a few moments with Him. I corralled the kids into some constructive quiet play and went into my room. As I closed the door, I said out loud, “God I need you to quiet my spirit. I am so frustrated!” Then I opened my Bible to read in John 15. I read how the Word cleanses and purifies me. I read how I needed to abide in Him, and He in me. I read that when His words abide in me I bear fruit. Then the verse came out of the page: “If ye shall ask anything in my name I will do it.” It was as if the Spirit was saying to me, “You need me to quiet your spirit? Consider it done. You need patience with the children? Done. You need wisdom on what to accomplish today? Here you go…
There was a peace that filled my heart that I can not explain. I realized again that I can not live the life; but He can. When I go to Him in dependence upon Him for His power and strength – then I will have what I need to live the Christ life. It is not me that does it – it is Him that does it through me. He has become alive to me. He is my friend. Someone who is there with every thing I need for today. All I have to do is ask – and He will supply EVERYTHING I need.
So, this weekend, I have looked back on the past couple of years and I am so thankful that I gave up that day. I am so thankful that I admitted the truth. I could not do it anymore. I am so thankful that He is teaching me. Living the Christian life through Christ is much easier than trying to live it in the flesh.
The arm of flesh will fail me – every time. “It’s no longer I who liveth; but Christ who liveth in me!”
“And the life that I now live in the flesh I live by the FAITH of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”