Life is a journey not a competition.
In a competition the focus is on performance. The winners are the ones who break the records, and go home with the trophies – all the others are merely participants.
For a good part of my Christian life I subconsciously viewed my walk with Christ as a competition. In my estimation, my performance resulted in God’s acceptance of me.
I spent a lot of time trying to impress God and compete for the trophy of His approval.
No matter how hard I performed I was not breaking any records, and I was most certainly NOT going home with a trophy. I kept failing at being who I was supposed to be.
I was merely participating. I tried so hard to live the Christian life.
I was defeated!
The Christian life is not a competition it is a journey.
The Christian life is a journey where God uses the obstacles and difficulties of life to draw me closer to Him and to change me and make me more like Christ. It’s not a competition! The focus is not on my performance.
When I view life as a journey of being conformed to Christ and “knowing Him”; Christ becomes the focus!
I’m not sure why it took me so long to learn this – this fact that my life is not about me but about HIM – but I must say that most of my Christian life has been lived in defeat because I did not understand this concept.
When you try to perform the Christian life – you fail.
Now, if God was handing out grades for effort in trying to live the Christian life, I would surely have gotten a passing grade.
No I would have made the honor roll!
I worked so hard to be doing what I was supposed to be doing, looking like how a Christian should look; and talking like a Christian is supposed to talk. It took a lot of effort!
Through the years, one of my greatest desires was to be the mom and wife that I needed to be. After getting married and living day in and day out with my husband I could see things in my life that were not what they should be. (Married life has a way of revealing the ‘real’ you!) Then we started having children; I was given even more opportunities to see even more of the ‘real’ me.
It wasn’t a pretty picture!
So I set about to change what needed to be changed. For my lack of organization - I implemented schedules and checklists. For failures in tidiness and piled up laundry - I studied homemaking books and put to practice the practical tips I found. (All of these things were good and brought about change.)
However, while I was seeing victory in these outward things, I was brought face to face with the attitudes of my heart and no matter how hard I tried I could not conquer these!
I was often irritable, easily angered. No matter how well I implemented my schedules – these attitudes would still appear. Then there were the offenses that had been committed against me from others – no matter how hard I tried my feelings were still hurt and I battled bitterness. (After years of marriage, a husband can offend you plenty of times!)
These wrong attitudes of the heart plagued me and it became more important for me to get victory over my sinful attitudes than to conquer the disorganization in our home and the full laundry baskets in the closets!
I set about to change me – the real me.
I posted quotes on the fridge about a meek and quiet spirit.
I read through the passages talking about the role of a mom and wife.
I committed to reading Proverbs 31 everyday for a year; and tried my hardest to become the woman I spent so much time reading about.
As to my irritable and angry spirit, I decided that I needed to be quick to apologize and own up to every harsh word I said. (I surmised if I had to eat humble pie often enough and long enough I would learn my lesson).
Still the wrong attitudes continued.
I committed to listening to preaching messages over and over again on anger and frustration. I concluded that if I changed the way I was thinking and had messages on how detrimental and damaging these attitudes were, then my behavior would change because these messages were fresh in my mind. Every morning I would spend time listening to these messages before the kids were getting up for their day.
While there were some good things I saw from these endeavors; I was always brought face to face with the reality that whenever the right buttons were pushed, or if I was tired or sick I would still respond in a sinful fashion despite all the efforts I was making to change those attitudes and actions! It was my default mode.
No, it was ME!
The years continued and I kept trying!
I went forward in church services when I grew convicted about my spirit and begged God to change me. I cried and prayed and had my devotions. I decided to have my devotions longer and set aside more time to read the Bible morning, noon and night. (I figured if I was in the Word more that I would see changes.) I kept Christian radio and music on to help my spirit to be calm and focused on what I needed to be doing day in and day out. I had hoped that all of these things would bring about victory from these sinful attitudes.
They didn’t. None that lasted.
I was defeated. I had tried. I had failed. I had repeated the cycle. I had strove to do better the next time - only to find the cycle to repeat itself. This happened over and over again!
I blamed autism.
I laid claim to the amount of children we had that was making me respond this way.
I surmised that it was ministry and the stress that went along with ministry that kept me from being who I wanted to be.
Perhaps my upbringing was the root of this problem.
However, in the bottom of my heart I knew that the problem was not any of these things - the problem was ME; and no matter how hard I tried - I could not change the problem.
I could not change me.
I decided that if this was what the Christian life was all about, this trying with all your might to do what God wants you to do, only to fail over and over again, it was a most miserable existence on the face of the earth. It was impossible! I lost hope.
It was during a church service that I heard something that made me sit up and start to think. The message was on appropriating grace. It was explained that grace is God’s enablement (power) to live the Christian life in the strength of Christ and not with our own efforts. As our Pastor was preaching he concluded that it was not possible to live the Christ life in our own strength. We will fail every time.
I sat up and really was paying attention when he mentioned failure – it pretty well described exactly how I was feeling and the results I had been seeing through all my efforts.
He said that there was power to live the Christian life the way that God wants us to; but it comes from taking hold of grace. He explained that a lot of Christians think that the power to live the Christian life is automatic; but it’s not, it’s something that is taken in faith.
I remember sitting there thinking, “Could this be what I have been missing my whole life?”
He said in moments of weakness; when we don’t know what to do, or are tempted to do something wrong the power is there to make the right decision or to ask for wisdom in how to respond; but it has to be appropriated ( to take possession of). He asked how many of us when we are brought to a situation where we are tempted to respond wrong stop and ask God for the grace (divine power) to respond rightly to that situation.
This thought had never occurred to me! On a day to day basis when I grew frustrated I would try really hard to respond correctly. I had several things I would try to do. Sometimes, I would count to 10 (or even 100 if it was really bad!) ; or other times, I would walk away from the trigger point situation. If I was not too frustrated I would remind myself of how I wanted to be good and think about how the Proverbs 31 woman would respond if put in the situation I found myself at that moment. Almost always, I would quote a verse or two from Proverbs on anger or a hasty spirit, only to be filled with guilt when just seconds from after quoting the verses I was responding in anger to my family members.
I sat and thought while he continued preaching, “Have I actually thought to ask God to give me His patience to respond to the situation?” I had to admit in my heart that I had never tried that; and I secretly I wondered if what our pastor was saying was sounding just a bit superstitious. (I could almost hear the theme song from Disney playing, see pixy dust falling, and hear Cinderella breaking out in song about wishing on a star and dreaming about how wonderful she wanted her life to be.)
It sounded too good too be true - too easy to really work. It had to be harder than that!
Something happened during that message, though. I started thinking about this grace, this power of Christ and I started studying it out. I read in first epistle of Peter where he told the Christians during hard trials that surrounded them at that time, that God had given them everything they needed to live the Christian life – even in the difficulties they found themselves in.
“If it was true for them was it not true for me?”, I reasoned. Having lots of kids under one roof, homeschooling and throwing autism in the mix were some of the trials that were making my life hard. Had God given me everything I needed for these trials like he had those Christians form years gone by? I started to remind myself of truth: God wants me to be peaceful, loving and kind. God wants my children to have a happy Mom that is cheerful and joyful not irritable and frustrated. Then according to the passage in first Peter, He has given me the ability to live the way I am supposed to live.
Hope started to grow!
I didn’t have to live in defeat!
Then, I started to read through Romans six and meditate on the word “yield”. Could it be so simple as to ask God to give me what I was lacking (patience, love, wisdom, etc) and upon my request God would give me my request the moment I asked for whatever it was I was lacking?
I pondered the verses about the power of prayer and asking in God’s will. (John 14:4: “If ye shall ask anything in my name, I will do it.”) I started to connect the dots together:
God did not want me to be frustrated or irritable, or defeated. He wanted me to be happy to respond graciously and kindly and to show the love of Christ to my children as I responded to them day in and day out. This was God’s will for my life. Then, if I took God literally, He had promised to answer my prayer by giving me the things I needed to live in His will!
I got excited; but I could not shake the thought that this concept seemed to good to be true and something akin to wishful thinking. I finally got brave enough to mention my thoughts.
Pastor smiled and said that it was wishful thinking if I was asking in unbelief. If I was saying the words “Your wisdom, Lord” as one does an incantation – the power would not be there; but if in faith I asked God for His patience and believed that God gives us those things we ask for if we ask in His will the patience would be there to respond correctly. I need only pray. The prayer was depending on God to provide what I was lacking.
Hope began to grow in my heart. I purposed in my heart that I was going to try this the next day! I was going to depend upon Christ’s power when I was lacking my own.
The last years as a Mom have been some of the most enjoyable that I have ever had! I’m not trying to change me –that’s a job that I cannot do.
I am no longer tying to be like Christ; I am keenly aware that I cannot make myself like the One whom I most want to emulate. I’ve tried that – and failed.
Only Christ can make me Christ like!
However, God delights when I come to Him completely needy and depend upon Him to give me what I need. When I come to Him in dependence upon Him to give me what I am lacking He always provides what I need. My walk with Christ is exciting and alive!
He is here, with me, every moment of every day to give me what I need and when I depend upon Him - He does the work! I only need to yield to Him in my weakness.
As a Mom, all the patience I need each day to teach my children with a joyful and cheerful spirit is available to me. Every time I am frustrated or tempted to be angry – Christ’s patience and gentle spirit is available to me. I only need but ask Him for it. It’s an awesome gift!
I finally have realized that I can be the Mom that my children need – when I depend upon Christ to give me what I am lacking. The wall of bitterness can be knocked down when I ask God for His unconditional love and forgiveness to be given to me towards my husband when he does something that has hurt my feelings.
In the yielding – I am allowing Christ to work through me.
It is not my patience – it is His!
It’s not my love and forgiveness – it is His!
When I am lacking love towards one of my children, I can (at the instant of my unloving thoughts) pray and ask God to give me the love I need at that moment for that child. He, in turn, gives me what I need and through me HE loves my child in a perfect way!
It has been a glorious and wonderful journey since I started understanding how much I have in Christ. Do I make mistakes? Yes. Do I get irritable and respond incorrectly? Unfortunately, yes; but it is not because God did not do what He said He would do – it was because I did not appropriate from Him what He was offering to me at that moment! That is what is so wonderful about this journey. Even when I make a mistake, I am reminded again just how needy I am for His power and working in my life. Even my mistakes and sins are tools used to draw me back to the Lord. I need Him – every hour – and He is always there and knows just what I need at that moment – all I have to do is yield to Him and ask Him for that which I am lacking and He is always there to provide everything I need!
How thankful I am as a Mom that God is concerned with my everyday life.
How about you, Mom? Frustrated with you children at times? Irritable? Is bitterness causing tension between you and your husband? If you are child of the King He is nearby waiting to give you just what you need to be the Mom your kids need. He can make you the wife that your husband needs! You just have to ask Him for it! Depend upon Him to give you what you need. He is a rewarder of those that seek Him! Try it!
It makes the Christian life come alive – because it no longer is about US – it’s about HIM!
When I stopped competing and trying to perform for Christ;
and started walking with Christ –
life became a journey.
It’s a beautiful journey where I am walking with Christ and resting on Him to give me what I need each step of the way.
You see, a race is about me – this journey –
It’s About Him.