This is my ninth blog post for the Write 31 Days challenge, which I signed up to four days late.
Isaiah 32: 19 – 20 (The Message)
The forest of your pride will be clear-cut,
the city showing off your power leveled.
But you will enjoy a blessed life,
planting well-watered fields and gardens,
with your farm animals grazing freely.
As my energy reserves depleted, I had less and less energy for both my home and my work life. One day, after an incredibly challenging and tiring day at work, I came home ready to throw in the towel. And yet I felt guilty, as if I was failing God by making this decision. So, I bowed my head in prayer, asking Him to show me that it was okay. I turned to three separate Scriptures that appeared to speak in confirmation and yet I sat there doubting it all, wondering if it was all wishful interpretation on my part. But as I sat there thinking this, an email fell into my inbox, an email from a friend who told me that God had placed something on her heart: the need for her to surrender all to enable her to rest. This spoke right into my own situation. The tension within me released, as I sat down to write my letter of resignation. On the day I handed it in, I woke to read my One Year Study Bible and the words of the commentary spoke of the need to sometimes lay down the gifts we are given, when God requires it.
In the coming days, weeks and months I would come face to face with my own pride, as many of those around me questioned my decision to give up something I had fought so hard to become. Yes, it was a career path that had cost me and my family a lot through the years. Two weeks after giving birth to my first daughter, I had sat back in the lecture theatres of University, leaving my daughter to the care of my mother-in-law, I had rocked her to and fro in the baby Bjoern as I wrote my essays, I returned to part-time work and study after a short summer break and completed my teacher training with my second child growing within me, accepting my diploma a few short weeks before giving birth. However, it was also a career I loved with a passion, being able to encourage children to discover and develop their gifts.
But in giving up something I loved and had fought so hard for, God was uprooting me from a life of exhaustion. This uprooting hurt, as it meant coming face to face with both my own and others’ disappointment and even shock. Slowly, God opened my eyes to see just how much my position as a teacher had come to define my identity. I saw how what I did as a teacher had become rooted in my own pride. I had decided to stick it out to do “good” works, to be seen as someone “good” when I had no energy left. Rather than doing all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13), I had begun doing all things in my own depleting strength. And as my strength waned, my anger to control what was slipping from me grew, those closest to me bearing the brunt of it. Needless to say, my loving husband, who saw its detrimental effect on both me and our family, was very supportive of my decision.
Recently, I sat back down to re-read portions of Kara Tippetts’ Big Love, a book that has greatly impacted how I see and parent my children. Kara describes perfectly the kind of life I was leading and sadly, still fall into when I look to myself and others in what I do, rather than rest in God and let Him lead (p.242):
I am at heart a doer, a server, a wear-myself-out-for-love kind of person. Doesn’t that sound so noble? Here’s the truth about that: it’s pride, and more than that it’s control. It’s a control that says I don’t need help … I was close to being utterly depleted and burnt out in my efforts to please. This living left me absolutely exhausted, empty – able to do, but not really live. My heart ached for something real, but getting off the game of pleasing is not easy … Our culture teaches us that strength is a measure of success – what a lie. It’s a lie that our abilities are the reason we are loved. This is not living in the truth of the gospel, but this is where I spent many years living. When I lived like this I wasn’t loved for my heart, not really, I was loved for my ability … It left people without knowing me, my heart, my need – just my doing.
As my striving ceased, much like in the worship song In Christ Alone, the much needed rest came (Psalm 23: 1-3, The Message):
GOD, my shepherd! I don’t need a thing. You have bedded me down in lush meadows, you find me quiet pools to drink from.
And as I started drinking from the “quiet pools”, my heart began to take root in His Love and Strength, rather than my own.
How have you experienced humbling in your journey of faith?
In what way was it painful and how did it root you more deeply into the LORD?
I’d love to hear your stories.
John 15: 4 – 5 (The Message)
Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me. I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant.