when differences are many - 5 years of marriage

He runs past me, racing from the kitchen to the back deck of grills (seriously, we have three out there), #1 Dad spatula in hand. “Three-minute timer as soon as I walk in the door,” he calls as he slams the door behind him. Timing is essential in these culinary endeavors, and if I’m to be of any help at all, I must make sure the timer starts when that door opens again.

 

My husband inspires me. As he spends hours and energy and pays careful attention to every detail imaginable to create a delicious meal, I find myself in awe. Not of him, per se, but of the way God has wired my husband to lead me to worship Him.

 

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When God joins two people in a covenant of marriage, it’s highly likely those two people will have their differences: differences of preference, of opinion, of tastes, of ideal days and vacations. Different interests, values, aspirations, and perspectives. Different thoughts on ways to be restful and restored and different vantage points on the way of seeing the world. God is gracious in this way, not only in using the other to sanctify us, but also to let us see more of Himself.

 

These differences help us appreciate God's creative wisdom in His workmanship (Ephesians 2:10). God provides glimpses of Himself in each human being He creates. When we grow in appreciation of His creative expression in another human being (especially one we've come to know intimately), our capacity for worship of our Creator increases.

 

Ben is quite opposite from me (cue the chuckle of agreeance from those who know us). Ben is a man of strong opinions, thick skin, and quick wit. He lives with a drive for excellence, a yearning to experience, and a heart to serve anyone and everyone. Nothing is too intimidating for him, and he is especially enamored by those things that give him a challenge.

On this day five years ago, I woke up before any of my bridesmaids and spent time praising God in His Word and soaking in the beauty of the moment. We had a lovely breakfast together, a time where I intentionally shared how each one of them had shown me a glimpse of who God is, and a relaxed time of getting ready, giggling, and talking about my new last name. I'm not sure exactly what Ben did all day, but somehow, it involved ping pong (this information, I found out on stage before saying, "I do.") Our officiant said he'd never seen a groom more relaxed in the hours before wedding his wife.

But this is Ben. Confident, strong, relaxed, welcoming a moment with the highest amount of fun his creative mind will provide.

I remember filling out our pre-marital counseling homework. We had to write our top five hobbies/interests. When the wife-counselor read through them, she said, “It looks like you don’t have much in common. This may lend for some difficult times in your future.” In my naiveté, I think I giggled with no worries, happily consigned to join Ben at the hip for any of his hobbies.

 

As time wears on, her words come back to me. They dangle over the difficult times born from great differences. They whisper to me the deep need of my heart. When yearnings for shared interests and desires for greater intimacy sprung from a common love create tension in my marriage, these words testify to the need for something greater, Someone greater to hold us together.

 

During each challenge we’ve faced, God has drawn me more into Himself. When differences surface and these yearnings and desires threaten to outweigh my commitment to love my husband with Christ's love, God empowers me to love beyond my desires with a fresh glimpse of the most unlikely pair – the LORD Almighty and me, His own creation.

 

This God, who abides in redeemed sinners, He teaches me that enduring love involves great cost.

 

Jesus, the Holy One—utterly different and set apart from man—humbled Himself and put on flesh. He became like us in every way with great purpose. He entered in; He made Himself low; He removed every barrier that separated us from Him.

 

This is the God we serve and the example we follow.

 

If God graciously chose to enter covenant with His own creatures, with us who sought rebellion over sonship, then hope remains for man and wife in covenant who live with plentiful differences. Hope not in the shaky foundation of common interests and shared hobbies. But hope in something sure and steadfast, unshaken by the aches and pains of sinners living in close relationship with one another.

 

Hope in the God who laid Himself down for His friend. Hope in the God who entered in, walked with, and cared for those He loved. Hope in the God who forsook glory and gave His life away for the good of others.

 

The grace that binds our marriage together is that we love because He first loved us.

 

When we deny self and follow Christ, when we lose our life to find it in Him, when we lay our life down for His glory, we create the room needed to take in with our eyes and our hearts a glimpse of the wonder of God's love. And we receive a greater treasure than any human relationship this side of heaven could ever offer us: God Himself.

To love is not simply to share a bond over similarities; to love is to lay down your life. To love is not to have the same preferences, but to seek another’s good above our own. To love is not to be served but to choose the road of lowliness with intent to honor the other. To love is to sacrifice. To love is to bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, endure all things. 

 

When we fight our flesh to love in this way, with abandonment of self-interest, it's here that God pushes us outside of our finite agendas and makes room to show us more of Himself.

When I choose to overlook offenses instead of carry them in my heart, I feel the weight of Christ's costly love.

When I surrender to my husband's preferences with intent to enter into his joy, I experience a piece of the upside-down Kingdom.

When I seek his honor rather than seeking my own acknowledgment, appreciation, or praise, I connect more deeply with the lowliness of the Servant King and receive the poor in spirit's blessing.

When I get outside of myself to understand his heart, God makes room in my own for compassion, grace, and appreciation.

When I believe that God, in His kindness, says that Ben in all of his differences, is His very best for me, my heart responds with humility and rejoicing, both of which make love abound.

 

The gift, then, is to love those who are different from us (and isn't everyone?). Our hearts become exposed of its need for a greater love than we can conjure up ourselves. When we confess this need to the God who delights in unity and proves it in blood, inviting Him to inspire and empower our love, the Kingdom comes in both our hearts and theirs.

 

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I have come to appreciate our differences. My husband's ways of thinking and doing regularly dislodge the wishes of my kingdom. Entering his world and pursuing his heart require a dependence on Jesus that might be absent if he was like me. And in setting myself aside, I gain the privilege of knowing him in a way that brings the awe where I first began - this awe of God's creative wisdom that compels my worship.

 

Ben has this way of making meals worthy of remembering. He labors tirelessly in this craft, and his culinary creations tend to evoke this sense of awe that presses you beyond the food itself. His efforts create an experience for those who taste, an experience with potential to compel worship of the One who created him.

 

He inspires me. Though my gifting is entirely different, as you might have guessed, I take note of this moment. Father, may I work as diligently as Ben does in the calling that You have given me so that others might praise You when I have given You my best in writing.

 

As he watches the pizza dough bubble perfectly on the grill, I get the timer ready and whisper to Harper how I have just seen a new glimpse of our Creator in the culinary ingenuity of her daddy.

 

Happy five year anniversary, sweetie. I adore you.

grace & peace,

Lauren

a question for our sadness

The insight hadn’t left me all day. I grew desperate for the light of His Word as I searched the values of my heart and attempted to understand how this passage applied to my unsettling sadness.

 

It was the narrative of the rich young ruler in Luke 18. I’d seen him before. I’d seen the way Jesus looked at him and loved him in the Gospel of Mark. I’d seen the way riches can have a hold on us, offering to us a false refuge of comfort and security. What I hadn’t seen was the rich ruler’s emotive response.

 

And when I saw it, I saw a little more of myself.

 

 

What is valuable to you?

 

What would be really hard to let go of? Or better yet, to intentionally give up and give away?

 

 

As this paragraph in Luke 18 crept into the crevices of my heart, I pondered these questions.

 

18 And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 19 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’” 21 And he said, “All these I have kept from my youth.” 22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 23 But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. 24 Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!
— Luke 18

Surrender.

 

Surrender comes naturally to no one. Our first parents soiled the gift of unhindered intimacy with God through their desire to be like Him. Their want to possess more authority than what was deemed good for them began a ripple effect of rebellion, of living un-surrendered, of which no one has escaped.

 

This is the invitation Jesus offered to the young man. Jesus invited him to surrender.

 

There's a lot to this passage, but this invitation is what drew my attention. The ruler sought eternal life. Yet he sought it by the means of his own morality, and if eternal life can be found outside of Jesus Christ, then perfection is the requirement. Thus, Jesus tells the man that he must keep the commandments. And surprisingly, he responds that he has.

 

But when Jesus, gracious as He is and wanting no man to perish, shows the ruler that he falls short in one way, He extends this invitation:  sell all that you own and give to the poor, and in exchange for your surrender, you'll receive treasures in heaven and fellowship with Jesus.

 

Look at the ruler’s response:

 

“But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich.” Luke 18:23 (emphasis added).

 

His response of disobedience wasn’t something rote and devoid of emotion like, “Yes” or “No” or “Okay” or even, “Let me think about it.” His response was sadness.

 

Jesus, in His kindness, had touched a place where the ruler’s affections were tied.

 

The sadness he expressed had life and death consequences. The young man’s misplaced affections kept him from entering the Kingdom, and our misplaced affections surely keep us from receiving more of the Kingdom.

 

Affections are part and parcel to our worship. They include things like desires, hopes, fears, treasures, delights, sorrows, joys, and more. Our affections signal to us what is worthy of worship in our eyes. They tell us what or who to trust with the depths of our hearts, and they prompt our subsequent actions.

 

When the rich ruler responds with sadness rather than the elation of a child to the invitation of surrender offered to him, the treasure of his heart is exposed.

 

The sadness I felt that morning I couldn't name. There was nothing particularly wrong. Just a lingering sense of being down. I examined the feeling in light of my current set of circumstances. The day began tougher than others with an extra middle of the night feeding and a bright-and-early cutie pie riser. Family dynamic changes were in the works: a husband with a new job, with a new schedule, new pressures, and new equipment covering the house, all of which left me desiring both to learn how to support him and also to establish a little more order than presently appeared (visually: the house felt crazy, and relationally: our marriage felt a little like, wait, how do I do this again? in this transition).

 

Nothing seemed worthy of my sadness from the outside looking in. But the view from the inside looking out told me that I had placed my hope, my desires, my delight in something other than the sovereign reign of the King.  My affections revealed my worship.

 

And it was about this time when the center of Luke 18 began examining me.

 

In God's sovereignty, my sadness collided with the rich young ruler's, and though I couldn't put my finger on it, I knew God was leading me to make the connection.

 

I wondered if perhaps Jesus was asking me to release something, something that my affections were tied to, something that would let me down if I put my hope and trust in. I wondered if He’d pressed on an area of needed surrender. And I wondered if perhaps, I responded with sadness to His invitation.

 

 

Jesus' invitation to surrender is to let go of that which fails us, that which tells us we can have life apart from Him. Because the other side of His invitation is this:

 

"…and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." Luke 18:22b

 

The exchange for our surrender is treasure imperishable and intimacy redeemed. The exchange for our surrender is the Kingdom, which begins and ends with the freeing-reign of the humble King.

 

The sadness I felt triggered an awareness to my selfishness. I firmly believe that not all sadness is of this nature. Sadness naturally follows loss, and loss, as we all know, is endemic to this fallen world. But I know that my sadness sprung from selfishly desiring the comfort of a routine day without new or additional challenges.

 

My hope and delight were not being found in Christ and His wise authorship of my day, but in the façade of control that would serve me and my little kingdom best. So Jesus, in the same way He graciously offered the rich ruler the more lasting and steadfast place for his hope, offered me a similar invitation.

 

His invitation always involves two sides: let go and receive. Give away and gain. Repent and follow.

 

The pain of the former is far outweighed by the generosity of the latter. When I surrendered the values of my shakable kingdom (my comfort, my order, my control), I received those things which could not be taken away: grace and joy in the Lord to strengthen me for the unforeseen challenges. This invitation offered to me, I found, was for my good and my growth in both knowing more of the King and receiving more of His Kingdom.

 

Because the Kingdom comes when I’m physically weary from waking up several times a night but spiritually renewed from the additional time spent in prayer and meditation. The Kingdom comes when I acknowledge that I don’t have enough energy or wisdom to press on to serve my husband and daughter, and the Spirit does a better work through my weakness than I could have done apart from Him. The Kingdom comes when I look not for ways to establish my order and control, but for ways to make much of the King through serving and laying down my life. Because when I do, the greatest treasure of all has become mine: intimacy with the King.

 

My sadness is thwarted because I have surrendered perishable for imperishable, brokenness for whole, created for Creator. And the Kingdom comes a little bit more in my own heart because I confess with my surrender that I believe God is withholding nothing good from me. That in fact, He gives His very best to me, His Son.

 

 

Now, any time I am struck with sadness, though it doesn't apply every single time, I have made it a habit to ask myself this question:  Is Jesus inviting me to surrender something too valuable to me so that I might receive more of His Kingdom?

 

grace & peace,

Lauren

Five Truths on Rest - Lessons from a Newborn

I haven’t had more than a six-hour stretch of sleep in almost five months (potentially longer with pregnancy’s frequent middle of the night bathroom breaks). The six-hour stretch has only happened twice that I can remember; mostly they come in three-hour increments.*

 

And with all the lack of shuteye, it’s quite like God to teach such a sleep-deprived mama about the deeper reality to which sleep points: rest.

 

                                                                       (the cute reason for my current lack of sleep)

                                                                       (the cute reason for my current lack of sleep)

 

 

 

Being a mom changes a person in ways she never could have expected. Whereas once I had the (gracious) ability to hit the pillow and be asleep within five minutes, I find it much more difficult to go to sleep these days. Something about functioning as a sustainer of a small human being has done this to me.

 

Ironically, I find myself ready to go to sleep around 8pm (though I’ve always been considered a bit of a grandma when it comes to bedtime, it was never this early!). And sleep I may need, but without rest, sleep has no power to restore the soul.

 

 

                                                                                    love this little wide-eyed girl

                                                                                    love this little wide-eyed girl

 

In this season of new motherhood, God has graciously shown me a bit more about rest, both through relationship with my daughter and through His gentle exposing of my heart.

When I use the term rest, I use it as a concept much bigger than the physical act of sleeping. Though I believe sleep to be a part of this, Biblically, rest involves both the body and the heart.

So whether you're a new mom or not, I pray the Lord would use something here to make His invitation to rest in your current season of life deeply appealing.

 

1. Rest requires humility.

When we lie down, whether we consciously acknowledge this or not (and it would be better if we did), we are enacting this truth: we are not God.

As I lay down for a nap the other day (a nap in and of itself is an act of humility for me; I can count on one hand the number of naps I took before Harper was born), God seemed as if He were pressing this truth deeper in me. The very fact of lying prostrate signals to us our finiteness. The world marches on without us, not waiting until we open our eyes to continue its agenda.

With high-tech monitors, ample online reading material, and the luxury of highly involved, ultra-caring, tell-all babysitters (read: grandmothers), the idea that we can be all-knowing doesn't seem all that impossible.

Many a time, my desire to know comes cloaked in good intentions. I want to know how best to shepherd my baby. I want to know what makes her upset and what helps her express herself. I want to know how her time was spent when I was away, and I want to know all the potential ways I can help her when things get challenging.

I believe all of these things are good and full of grace from the Lord that I care and am concerned for my baby's well-being. But when I find it impossible to fall asleep or be away because I need to know the status of my baby, I have fallen prey to the temptation that rest is found in omniscience.

 

And because I am not God, omniscience (the quality of being all-knowing) will always be out of reach.

 

Jesus invites us to come to Him for rest, to take His yoke upon us. This yoking is an act of submission, an act of casting off our resistance to authority and humbly being led by the gentle King. Humility reminds me that only God is and can be acquainted with all her ways (Psalm 139) and that ultimately because He is, she is in much better care than I could ever provide with all the knowledge I could acquire.

 

(super thankful for Hannah Anderson's book, Humble Roots)

                                                                                       morning stretches :)

                                                                                       morning stretches :)

 

2. Rest calls for an active faith.

It’s hard to separate the two. Humility enacts faith, and faith feeds humility; they are never fully expressed without the other.

But even with that caveat, I will make a small nuance of what the Lord has shown me in this season about how rest requires active faith.

The spectrum is wide with temptation:

On one end, anxiety rules us, and the only way we can silence the never-ending thoughts of our minds is to chase its agenda, block it out, or check out with whatever we believe will bring us rest.

And on the other, the idea of a nap hovers in our minds with visions of how much better we'd be if only we could get that nap, because after all we deserve it for all our middle of the night faithfulness (see what I mean about not being able to get away from humility).

But rather than live at the extremes of "I can't rest at all" or "I love rest too much," faith calls us to the middle ground. To rest is to actively bring our cares and concerns to the altar of God, to repent of trying to be Him, and to grow more in intimacy with Him and in awe of His character. To rest is to seek wisdom, not fixes. To rest is to desire God-ordained good, not perfection. To rest is to become poor in spirit, to ask for help, strength, and bread to sustain us for this day, and to trust that His power brings life when we lay ours down.

 

3. Rest is a gift. 

And still, most of us know this scenario all too well. We lie down to sleep, feeling it a desperate need with all the lack of it, and thirty minutes, forty-five, an hour later, we have found sleep to be elusive and the back of our eyelids a closer friend than before.

 

The ache of restlessness tells us that sleep is not the water that will satisfy our thirsty souls.

 

Rest that cures the ache of restlessness comes from the rest-Giver. Rest is an invitation to be received. And if one is to receive rest, she must rid herself of what hinders receiving: a subtle pride. So the first two points connect deeply to this one and when rest feels distant, I must repent and return to the One who tells me to come.

 

                   pictures with her eyes closed are few and far between - even as a newborn! she loves to be awake :)

                   pictures with her eyes closed are few and far between - even as a newborn! she loves to be awake :)

 

4. Rest is something to be cultivated. 

I’ve had the privilege of shepherding several women in engaging the concept of Biblical rest and how it changes the way we live as a whole. (I loved learning about Sabbath from a doctor who when faced with the problem of evil, read all the major sacred texts of the world, including the Bible, and became a Christian over the age of 40. Check out his ministry here.)

In our sin nature, we resist the rest we were made for. We look for counterfeits in the form of escape, indulgence, and the pursuit of ways to preserve our life (in the way that Biblically is not commended, as opposed to losing our life/laying it down).

So if something doesn't come naturally to us, baby steps are in order. As Harper progresses from lying still to moving her limbs to rolling on her side to…well you get the idea. No growth happens overnight; it happens little by little. Learning to rest well is a process, and it's a process so that we don't miss the joy of knowing Jesus, the Securer of our Sabbath rest, in the midst of it.

Babies love routine (so I read:)), and thankfully, I do, too. As I establish rhythms of play, learning, engaging/interacting, I also work to create rhythms that soothe, cleanse, and quiet. These rhythms prepare her to rest well and rest better than the times we stay out too long, leaving her overstimulated and in full on tears on the way to nap time. In both cases she needs rest, and both scenarios are a part of life (that's why my last point can't be overstated), but rest prepared for and intentionally cultivated typically makes a deeper impact than trying to operate as an on/off switch.

 

5. Rest is a desperate need for the state of the heart.

Few realities of God have comforted me more in this season of motherhood and all of its newness than these:

 

I know, and I am with you.

 

More than any other season in my life, I realize how out of control I am. Though I can follow a book, make wise decisions, and genuinely try to do what is best for my daughter, I simply cannot control what happens in her life. Early on, I found myself fretting after every nap with this question, "Why is she waking up early?" For a while, I gave myself over to this concern, but at some point in my quest, God graciously gave me pause. He gently pressed me with this truth: "What if you considered that I know when she lies down and when she wakes? That I ordain those times for her good and your sanctification?" Humbled, my heart repented of seeking to find rest in a controlled environment and set of circumstances.

 

And my heart must repent time and time again when things get beyond my façade of control.

 

When my dog tries to open the door with his head where she's sleeping in search of his ball.

When my husband wants to go out to eat after church.

When moments of ministry require additional sacrifice and extend longer than I anticipated.

 

When I feel myself growing tense, it's here that God is teaching me more about rest of the heart. I have the option to sin against Him with frustration, despair, anxiety, or bitterness. I can pretend to let go of my plans when inside I'm recounting the ways things could have gone better. I can pretend to be fine when things turn out to be harder that day, likely due to the changes, but inside I'm full of pride, blaming another for "messing up" the ideal day.

Or I have the opportunity to receive the King's invitation to surrender and allow God to be God in that place.

I have the opportunity to release my grip on what I think will bring peace and comfort and humbly choose to engage the circumstances He's ordained for me to receive more of His Kingship in my life and less of mine.

Because by taking matters into my own hands, the life and security that I deeply long for will always be beyond my grasp. But when the King reigns in my heart, rest becomes the state from which everything else flows.

 

So when my dog hits the door, I comfort my crying baby and trust that God knew this would happen and is with me now to supply me with the additional strength I need to press on.

And when my husband wants to eat out during "nap time," I surrender and let my husband lead, and I trust that God knows and stands ready to supply me with grace and patience when I humble myself before Him.

And when ministry requires more of my time and investment, I remember my King's sacrifice and patience, and I praise Him that I get to appreciate more of these qualities of His, and I plead for His eyes and heart so that I don't miss an opportunity to love well and make much of Him.

 

And when anything else "interrupts" my intended plans, I lift up my eyes and seek to discover more of the God who tells me these truths: I know and I am with you. For it's in living in these truths I remember who I am because of who He is, and my heart finds the grace it needs to rest.

And I believe the ribbon that ties them all together is grace.

As I calm her cries with a slow walk and gentle song, I think about how all these things work together through grace. Humility bids her to submit to my authority as I submit to His. Faith compels me to put my hope not in my wisdom-led, cultivating efforts to soothe her, but in God's will for this moment. So if He wills that she does rest, I respond with gratitude for this gift. And during it all, I surrender, receiving rest of heart - believing He knows and is with me - so that I don't miss an opportunity to hear His voice, receive His peace, comfort, and joy, and know Him more.

 

grace & peace,

Lauren

 

(*a lot of this content came in the throes of sleep training, and I am thrilled to report that I have since gotten my first 8 hour stretch of sleep!!! God is gracious!!)

 

when burdens + pain get heavy

“And it’s just so hard,” he said to me.

 

I had only known him for a week at this point, but he humbly opened up when I asked how he was doing. He shared his heart and the struggles therein. Not in a complaining sort of way, but in a weary, despairing, can you help me sort of way.

 

                         image by Joanna Sue Photography, view more of her beautiful images here

                         image by Joanna Sue Photography, view more of her beautiful images here

Heavy burdens always have a way of exposing our need. Though our preference is to walk through life handling everything that comes at us, finding a solution all our own, or trusting in our own measures, abilities, intelligence, or will-power, one thing keeps us from succeeding in our independent ways: we were created. And by very nature, we are dependent creatures.

 

In our sin nature, we oppose this reality, this truth that tells us we aren’t sufficient in and of ourselves. We fight it and we hide it. We’d rather not express our neediness, not unless it gets us something we want (i.e. pity, attention, affection, etc.). Even then, we expose what is true of us – that we aren’t the source. Our worshiping hearts crave what we think will give us life or joy or peace. We crave what only our Creator can supply.

 

Because what will give us life won't be found within ourselves.

 

Our need for dependence, when seen through the lens of Scripture, is actually a gift from our loving and good Creator. He intended that we’d never live apart from union and communion with Him. That we’d find fullness of joy, abundant life, and transcendent peace – in infinite measure – simply in relationship with our God, knowing and being known by Him.

 

But our sin separated us.

                                                          another beautiful image by Joanna

                                                          another beautiful image by Joanna

 

No longer does man look to God but to lesser loves, to the gods of our own making and fashioning, to our own selves, to the man or woman to our left or right, a created being, just like us. We think maybe they will be the one to tell us who we are, to save us, and to give us life.

 

And in the midst of our separation, in the midst of our running, we find ourselves in a wake of pain with burdens that are heavy.

 

In our quest for independence, we formulate ways to deal with our pain.

See if any of these look familiar:

 

·      Ignore and hide it.

·      Dwell in it to the point of depression.

·      Protect it, whether by lashing out, justifying it, or simply believing that no one could ever understand.

·      Treat it as if nothing is wrong.

·      Just get through it.

·      Medicate it with anything from drugs to Netflix to fantasies to work to perfectionism.

·      Get angry, grumble, complain, or despair.

·      Project it onto someone else.

·      Make sense of our lives based on the pain we’ve experienced.

·      Live in fear and anxiety.

 

 

 

And we pick up things to carry as we go.

 

We pick up identity statements:

I’m not worthy because I disgraced my family and myself.

I’m worthy because I’m good at this.

I’m not worthy because I don’t measure up here.

I’m worthy because I haven’t messed up.

I’m not worthy because I've been told I’m nothing or treated as nothing by another.

I’m worthy because I have received the praise of man.

 

We pick up our pain and carry it around, either bottled up, not to be touched or exposed and open to the world to contaminate.

 

We hold onto our experiences, whether good or bad, because they are the witnesses to the life that we have.

 

We bear our problems and we take on the problems around us.

 

We latch onto things we think will be our hope. We grip them with our worshiping hearts, and before we know it, idolatry turns to slavery, and the shackles grow heavier and heavier.

 

With no one to help or save us, we bear the weight of our circumstances, our families, our occupations, crippling under the demands that each require.

 

And maybe the heaviest burden of all, we attempt to lift and carry whatever will make us right with God. We desperately want to be acceptable, desirable, deserving, and worthy (whether we realize it or not), so we make sure to do all the right things until we live either with a stench of self-righteousness or in the pit of despair.

Because the burdens of religion can feel like crushing stones on our consciences.

 

Heavier and heavier, our pain and our burdens keep exposing our weaknesses, our neediness, our created-ness. And our hearts cry out in desperation for Another to come and give us rest.

 

                                image by our dear friend, Christine Farmer. Check out her work here.

                                image by our dear friend, Christine Farmer. Check out her work here.

 

Then, the most gentle, loving, humble, servant King comes to us.

 

He is speaking to us: the burden-bearers, the heavy-laden, the weary.

 

He wants something from us. We are surprised because He does not want our better efforts, our record of attempts at godliness, or even our explanation of how we’ve tried.

 

He wants our neediness. Our misplaced identity that breeds oppressive shackles of pride and shame. He wants our burdens we’ve tried to bear. Our pain we’ve unsuccessfully dealt with. Our confession and repentance of trusting in anywhere but in our Creator to give us life, hope, peace, joy, and rest.

 

Aaah, rest. The appeal is strong to the heavy-laden one. But this is not the best part of the invitation.

 

 

 

Come to Me.

 

This is the good news. The chasm of our separation has been overcome. Our ultimate pain has been carried to the Cross, and the Resurrection testifies that our temporal pain will one day end. Our burdens have been exchanged for light, and we have the opportunity to be yoked to our God once again.

 

When Jesus says, “Come to Me,” He is making clear to us that we won’t find life apart from Him. We won’t find rest, joy, or peace apart from Him.

 

No longer can we stay the same. Though our independence still allures us to deal with our pain on our own and carry burdens by ourselves, we’ve tasted the wine and milk and bread without price (Isaiah 55). We’ve savored rest that isn’t fleeting or earned. And we’ve gotten a glimpse of this beautiful King who, before uttering those precious words, “Come to Me,” humbles Himself to come to us.

 

And although we have trouble believing this goodness, this grace, this redeemed union with our God to be true, we know that nothing else can give us life.

 

So the invitation to come is to come as we are. Not hiding our pain or gripping tightly to our burdens. And in receiving the invitation to come, we surrender – over and over – our sinful preferences for independence.

We learn that the way to deal with our pain is the same way we enter in – to confess our neediness, to cry out for our Savior, and to walk in step with Him, yoked to the One who bears our heavy load and gives us His rest in exchange. We keep our hearts soft, though pain and suffering would tempt us to harden our hearts in self-protection or bitterness. We refuse these false refuges and in remaining sensitive, we receive His ministry to us - the One who came to bring good news to the poor, to bind up the brokenhearted, to set the captives free, to tell those who sit in darkness that their light has come. We express our poverty of spirit to Christ the Suffering Servant and thus cultivate intimacy with Him in this pain, Him who is acquainted with grief and a friend of sorrow.

 

We learn to surrender our burdens to the only One powerful, caring, and wise enough to carry them, and we learn to receive the rest that comes when He leads and we follow.

 

Vastly summarized, I mean neither of these to say that our pain instantly goes away or our burdens become any less obvious. They may linger in this life. But the invitation is here. The King has come. And He gives the kingdom to the poor in spirit. So let us press on to surrender and confess our neediness – the thing that is actually true of us. And let us confess it to the One who came to save us, to give us life in being united with Him once again.

For He came to transform our pain into joy and our burdens to glory.

 

Lent Video Week 5

Friends, only a few more weeks of Lent! We pray this video encourages you to press on in your fight against sin and in your greater enjoyment of God in your everyday moments that encompass this thing called life!

Let us know if you have any questions or feedback in the comments or email us at wordsworthnoting@gmail.com!

 

grace & peace,

Lauren

Lent Video Week 4

Welcome to the end of week 4, Lenten friends. Can we just say, we are so grateful to be walking this road together with so many of you. The road to the cross is a hard and exposing one, and we are glad for the company.

Emily shares this week of the grace that is ours in the midst of the God-ordained hard in our lives. We pray you are deeply encouraged to press into Christ and receive His life and victory to sustain you and give you joy in your wilderness.

grace & peace,

Lauren

Lent Video Week 3

Welcome to the end of week 3 of Lent! We pray the Word is bringing light to your heart - both to reveal sin and to point to the life offered in Jesus and His victory over temptation. This week we studied part one of the second temptation, and I hope this explanation and exposure of my own run in with this temptation will help you as you work through it in your own life.

Because the road God calls us to walk will be filled with temptation. But praise the Lord, these roads are also filled with the opportunity to trust Him more deeply, know Him more personally, and experience Him more intimately if we walk them with surrendered hearts.

Pray this video is a blessing to you!

grace & peace,

Lauren

Lent Video Week 2

Water in the Wilderness friends-- it's hard to believe we have now completed week 2 of our Lenten Study. We have been so encouraged by your posts, comments and messages about what the Lord is teaching you. Thank you for sharing! We are praying for you as you study the Word, grow more into His image by the Spirit, and love others around you.

Each Saturday, we are (Lord willing) sharing some reflections from the week's study. Today, Emily Guyer is sharing about the challenge we receive when Christ is our daily bread. Grab a cup of coffee and let's grow together!