I’ve felt a weird distance between God and myself lately…and I don’t like it!! I know it is me, not God, because He’s promised that He will never leave my side. I know why the distance is there, what I’ve done to create it, but what I haven’t been able to figure out is how to draw closer to Him again.
I attend an AMAZING church. I came in tonight with a lot my mind, my thoughts scattered, and trying to get myself focused on the wonderful worship going on around me…and with the beginning of the first song, the hardness in my heart melted away and God opened me up to fully praise Him, the way He should be praised, and to listen to and receive His Word with full attention.
So this blog entry is about how this single sermon changed something inside of me. Dave, I’m sorry if I steal quotes from your sermon 😉
The sermon was titled “What Children Need” and it came from Proverbs. When our pastor introduced the sermon I thought, “haha, that’s kind of ironic, parenting is where I’m struggling. God works in funny ways sometimes.” But just like God always does, He uses something intended to teach me about my relationship with someone/something else and teaches me about my relationship with Him.
Proverbs 29:15-18 – The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother. When the wicked increase, transgression increases, but the righteous will look upon their downfall. Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart. Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law.
Discipline is a scary topic for me. I’m afraid of it – not of receiving it, but of giving it. But children need discipline and delight. Discipline without delight makes a child feel rejected and unloved (I know this one from experience). But delight without discipline leaves a child lost in a world with no boundaries. I mean, think about it, if you don’t discipline a toddler/young kid now because you think they’re just too cute/free-spirited/whatever your excuse, what makes you think it’ll get easier as they get older. I love my children, that’s why I need to discipline them. I need to teach them and show them about the world. I need to teach what they can and cannot do. If they don’t learn that it’s dangerous to run out in front of a moving vehicle, what’s going to stop them from doing it?
But in teaching children about dangers in the world, I need to be careful not to make them fearful. Isaiah 41:10 – Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. My children also need boldness and caution. They need to know the dangers of the world, but they also need to know that they can, prayerfully, take the right safety precautions and face those dangers head on. Life is hard. We love in a broken world. But God is good and God will make straight their paths if they walk with Him. If they walk with Him, He will help them to navigate this scary world. I want to give my children a boldness that tells them that, with God, they can do anything, for nothing is impossible with God. The end goal of parenting is to move my children from dependence on me, to dependence on the Lord.
Children also need holiness and mission. As a parent, I need to protect my children and remind them that God wants to make them holy as He is holy. But God also wants them to be going out and inviting others in to the amazing celebration that happens when you follow Jesus. Be generous. Help those who are stumbling or hurting.
It’s my job to discipline my kids, but I need to pray for guidance. Ultimately, what my kids need is Jesus. God uses parents as the primary vessel to bring Jesus to children. I need to make sure my kids realize that I can’t do this on my own. I can’t do anything without Jesus.
So here is where I also learned something about my relationship with God: I am a child of God and He loves me with an unconditional love that I cannot fathom. But being that I am a child of God, I need realize that He disciplines those He loves. God’s discipline is an amazing guiding tool. God wants what is best for me, and He knows a lot better than I do what that is. If God disciplines me because I am going down the wrong path or doing something dangerous to my soul, I need to follow His guidance and turn from whatever I’m doing. God delights in me. God tells me that I don’t need to be afraid because He is with me and He will strengthen me. But He also says, Deuteronomy 6:16 – You shall not put the LORD your God to the test. God wants me to be holy as He is holy. He wants me to be separate and different from others. But He also wants me to be sharing His love with others. My theory: once you’ve felt the full force of God’s love, mercy, and grace, you physically CAN’T keep it to yourself.
But back to my distance from God for the past week or so. I’ve had family in town and been preparing for Robert to leave for a school a few weeks. I think that it is largely in part of these two factors (a few smaller ones may be included though) that I’ve started to turn back to the thought that I can do things with Him. When things get hard, my natural human instinct is to run and hide from the world and lock everyone out. But God tells me that I need to pray. Philippians 4:6 – Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done (I really love how the NLT words this verse).
The moral of my story: We are God’s children and He will discipline us as such. He will never abandon or forsake me. God is always there. Even when I stray, He still forgives me and welcomes me back with open arms…that’s the beauty of grace!