“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” – Galatians 2:20
One of the interesting things about Peanut’s quickly growing vocabulary is that we get more glimpses each day of how she is processing the world around her. A recent favorite activity is to point to photos around the house and pictures in books and identify the particular person or object. Despite my correction, there are two people Peanut insists are “Mama”—Lisa, a cute African-American girl in one of her favorite books, “Corduroy,” and Tutankhamen, the old Egyptian pharaoh, whose illustrated photo appears in a lift-the-flap “Questions and Answers” book. I love these exchanges when I turn to Cadence and explain, “No honey, that’s not Mama, but that looks Mama, doesn’t it? That’s Lisa (or Tutankhamen).” She looks at me, smiles, then looks back to her books and points to the pictures and again says “Mama.” “Dada” has not been so fortunate. He has been commonly associated with a picture of a cow in one of Peanut’s books. I wish Peanut could explain that one to me.
For some reason, these repeated exchanges have made me think a lot about identity—not even mine as much as Peanut’s. I’ve wondered how she will see herself. She is half Caucasian and half Indian, and in our surrounding communities, bi- and multi-racial babies are becoming more and more common. And then as I get this far in my thinking, I stop myself. Wait. Why in a question of identity, is race one of the first things that comes to my mind? Where is that coming from? The world defines us and answers the question of “What is your identity” based on a host of external characteristics—the sorts of things about which people engage in small talk. Where are you from? What’s your background? What do you do? Where do you live? Did you grow up around here? Where did you go to school? How many kids do you have?
Jesus and the Word turn this question around of “What is your identity” and base it on an internal reality that has nothing to do with me or you. Galatians 2:20 is not a subtle suggestion but the boldest possible characterization of the identity of a Christian: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” This means that Christ IS my identity. Apart from Christ, I am dead. Because of Christ, I am alive. Galatians 2:20 takes the question of “What is your identity” and in reality, completely alters the question to “WHO is your identity.” When I look in the mirror, what I am supposed to treasure and value is the person who lives inside of me. This is not to suggest that my background, the things that I do, the places that I have lived and currently live are of no significance. Those are all a part of me and God’s story for my life. But my identity? How I characterize myself? How I should view myself in the morning, at night and during every waking moment? That should always be based on Christ, because it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.
I was particularly helped by an old John Piper sermon on Galatians 2:15-21, entitled, “I Do Not Nullify the Grace of God,” with this particular excerpt on verse 20:
What then remains? Verse 20 puts it two ways. First, “Christ lives in me.” Christ remains. He rose from the dead, and he took over where the life of pride and self-direction had died. The great and awesome mystery of the gospel is “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). . . . A Christian is a person who has died with Christ, whose stiff neck has been broken, whose brazen forehead has been shattered, whose stony heart has been crushed, whose pride has been slain, and whose life is now mastered by Jesus Christ. “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me!”
But verse 20 puts it another way, too: “And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” There is a new “I”—I do still live. But look who it is. It is no longer an “I” who craves self-reliance or self-confidence or self-direction or self-exaltation. The new “I” looks away from itself and trusts in the Son of God, whose love and power was proved at Calvary. From the moment you wake in the morning till the moment you fall asleep at night, the new “I” of faith despairs of itself and looks to Christ for protection and the motivation, courage, direction, and enablement to walk in joy and peace and righteousness. What a great way to live!
What a great way to live indeed. There are so many questions that we seek to resolve about ourselves. And if you’re like me, you so easily and quickly run to several sources except for the One that matters most. It is such a joy to know that these questions truly can be resolved by one simple answer. And in the end, that is all that really matters.
When I was younger, I remember seeing a video of Martin Luther King, Jr. on TV and I asked my mom, “Are we the same as him?” I can’t really remember my mom’s answer on that one apart from a correction and clarification. I wonder if a day will come when Peanut will look in the mirror and ask, “Mommy, what am I?” Because of Galatians 2:20, I know I will answer, “You are God’s,” and I am hopeful that I can also remind her that Jesus has made his home inside of her and that’s who matters.
Wow! The beginning of summer has definitely caught me off guard…and definitely caught me post-less for sometime now. Interestingly enough, this post is not going to be of the usual sort, but a plug to check out my wonderful friend’s blog and the story of our Peanut’s birth which happens to be on it!
My friend Nell runs a fantastic blog at Whole Parenting Family and she also happens to be the one that helped me get this blog started. She publishes a Birth & Parenting Series as part of her blog and was gracious enough to share our story of our little Peanut’s surprising and yet God-driven-every-step-of-the-way arrival. Writing Peanut’s story allowed me to experience such a flood of thankfulness for God’s sustenance and faithfulness through it all.
So, for this week, rather than spend time at Mom of My Word, check out “Blessed Through Preeclampsia.” We are excited to share our story with you.
A couple of weeks ago, I was watching Peanut flip the pages in her books, walk around with toys in her hands, and babble—either to her toys or about her toys. I took the moment in as it may have appeared on the outside. There was nothing out of the ordinary about this encounter with Peanut. She had done and continues to do a lot of these things on a daily basis. I felt content as I watched her, but I most certainly was not rejoicing in these ordinary moments of the day. I know that it was my heart and not the mundane nature of it all that caused me not to rejoice during that time because there are countless ordinary moments during which Peanut just completely takes my breath away. I am overcome with love for her and I can’t help but giggle away myself as we go through our daily routine at home. On these days, I am appreciating this huge blessing in my life. I am rejoicing over what my Father has given me, recognizing that such an ordinary day is no ordinary day in his eyes—and it shouldn’t be in mine.
I can so easily be driven by what I would call “the next high.” Some days, I find myself anticipating the next event or milestone. When my husband and I were engaged, the next milestone was getting married. After we got married, the next milestone was . . . no, not a baby. A dog. After we got a dog, the next milestone was being pregnant. After I was pregnant, the next milestone was the day Peanut was born. Every subsequent milestone ensued in the months that followed—when Peanut first smiled, first laughed, first sat up, ate solids for the first time, crawled, stood up, said her first words, walked, and reached her first birthday. On the days when I was driven by these events as highs, on the surface it may have appeared that I was savoring each and thankful for each day. But I knew there were days when I simply had my heart set on the groundbreaking excitement to come. I don’t know much about addiction, but it seems that with each subsequent high, more is required to achieve the same effect.
There seem to be a couple of different interpretations of this verse, at least according to Matthew Henry’s commentary on it. On one hand, it could be in reference to the Sabbath day—a holy day in which we rejoice in serving the Lord, a day set apart from other days. But a broader interpretation suggests that it could be a reference to each day because the Lord has made each day, “a continual feast, which ought to be kept with joy.” I remember a friend of ours recounting a sermon he had heard in which each breath was described as grace. That made me realize how ignorant I am of God’s daily grace in my life, in my husband’s life, and in Peanut’s life.
On that same day, that very same ordinary day, God showed me how wonderfully spectacular he causes ordinary moments to be when our eyes are opened. Peanut generally lets out a few chuckles and laughs during mealtime, but during dinner on that particular day, Peanut had a laugh attack—with food in her mouth—that went on for five minutes. The best part besides the hearty laugh of my sixteen-and-a-half pounder was her very clear and expressed intention to also make us breathless with laughter. We still replay this video often at night when Peanut is sleeping and we miss the warmth of her daytime presence. There is never an ordinary day with our little Peanut.
I do not want to covet these moments but I want to be thankful for them, rejoice over them. I want to rejoice over the moments when my chin rests on Peanut’s head and I can barely hear remnants of “Canon in D” that accompany Peanut’s very own composed tunes on the piano. Over the daily rides in Peanut’s tricycle as she is overjoyed about fire hydrants and parked cars. Over Peanut pointing to animals in her book and mimicking the sounds of our voices as we read them aloud to her. Over bath time as she proudly makes baskets by her tub or tries to drink soapy water out of her bath cup. These moments happen every day and I know they are not meant to be overlooked.
I regret that I am so often ignorant of how enveloped I am in God’s grace. But I am thankful for a patient, kind God who seems to be opening my eyes more each day so that I may see what he is doing around me, to me, for me. Perhaps we have days that outsiders would label “ordinary,” but we have an extraordinary God—one who daily pours upon us the richest of blessings. I have a front row seat to Peanut’s life, which in reality, means I have a front row seat to daily mercy and grace at work from our great God.
Well here we are! I certainly have been busy chasing my cute little walking Peanut all around the house. That, and I’ve been busy going on dates with my husband. Does it count as a date if what we do is go shopping for a pair of shoes for Peanut? It was one of our favorites! At least it ended with some frozen yogurt. Here is the continued list of ways our sweet girl has made me reflect on the Christian life:
5) The daughter looks like her father.
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27
Even if Peanut and her father were on opposite ends of the same room and you saw each of them separately, you would know she was his. If my husband was an Indian baby girl, he would be Peanut. Peanut looks like her father in almost every way. Soon after she was born, we even noticed that she has exactly the same lips. Peanut is the spitting image of her father, and no matter what, she will always be his.
It is stunning to me that God would make us in His image—that we would be so loved and significant that we would each reflect aspects of His image that demonstrate His beauty and majesty. We may not enjoy the physical, visual proximity that Peanut and her father enjoy, but yet, as we grow in our love and affection for him, we are able to reflect the Father in ways that it becomes simply undeniable that we are His. We can look so much like Him, and we also have the capability of looking very different from him. We are indeed his sons and daughters. So let us strive to be like him!
6) The daughter is amazed by all that surrounds her.
“My heart is steadfast, O God! I will sing and make melody with all my being!” Psalm 108:1
I think Peanut could enjoy herself just about anywhere. She loves watching people, taking things in, being outside to stare at the trees, leaves, sidewalks and birds, and everything else in between. She is wide-eyed and captivated by everything before her, above her, behind her. I think the picture that accompanies this post captures that pretty well. It is amazing how easily pleased she is by watching and observing. It is also amazing how much she is moved by the simple sight of Mommy or Daddy or any other familiar face after even the briefest absence.
Psalm 108:1 is the life verse we picked out for her because it is our daily hope and prayer for Peanut. And really, it should be our daily hope and prayer for ourselves. If only we were as wowed by our surroundings and everything the Father has created as Peanut is. How much more would we reflect the beauty of our Creator by enjoying and expressing thankfulness for all that he has created! God has used Peanut to open my eyes to the wonders that surround me. Walks with Peanut have become more than just opportunities for fresh air. Storms, snow, the ordinary sidewalks and tall trees have all become wonders to my eyes. Even the lights in our house and the ceiling fans at Grandma and Grandpa’s amaze me. Most of all, as I see how much Peanut is enamored with us even during the ordinary play times and meal times at home, I feel such a growing desire to love the Father the way Peanut loves us. She is at peace and feels the greatest joy in our presence. That’s how I want to be.
7) The daughter can sometimes be unlovable…but is met with unconditional love even in those times.
“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
Peanut turning one has come with more than just walking and jabbering. It has also marked the beginning of expressions of will—know as the occasional temper tantrum. Sometimes she does not even realize her own strength or the targets of her flailing arms or legs. Usually they are triggered by something she wants that she is not getting, or something she is trying to reach. But sometimes, like a couple of days ago, it is inexplicable. For a few minutes I occasionally get anxious. But then I just talk to her, even in the midst of the crying or screaming. I tell her how much I love her even when she is mad at me. I’ll hold her if she will let me. Then as she calms down I give her big hugs and kisses, and remind myself why she is a gift to me.
Unlike the anxiety I feel sometimes in the midst of a tantrum, not knowing what to do and what Peanut needs, God has no anxiety. He knows each tantrum we throw better than we do. But he loves us anyway, and knowing full well what we are capable of at our worst, he died anyway. He died for the unintentional sins and the intentional sins of the whole world —those times when we know God is our target and we choose to flail our arms and legs anyway. The beautiful thing about that verse in Genesis which describes that we are made in God’s likeness is this: Christ died for us even when we looked the least like our Father—in our most sinful state in contrast to his ever perfect, never-changing holiness. Such great love.
8) The daughter endures hardship and perseveres to the end.
“But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” James 1:25
It is just so amazing to watch Peanut walk. Besides the fact that she is probably the smallest walker ever at a whopping 16 pounds, she is non-stop action. She loves doing laps around the main level of our house. When she first started, she would make it about ten steps, plop down, and then stand herself up. Every time she plops down, she gets right back up again and continues to go around and around. The plops don’t even phase her—it’s almost as if she understands that they are part of the natural course of walking. And now that she is used to walking and standing up on her own, she likes to make it more of a challenge by carrying weight along in the form of some of her larger stuffed animals. Count on Peanut to brave the journey and intentionally make it more adventurous.
What does it look like for the Christian to persevere? I think it looks a lot like Peanut walking. We proceed through our lives, with the same destination in mind: heaven. We know we will endure suffering and fall multiple times—the Word promises us these things. What is it that the Father wants us to do? He wants us to persevere. Endure to the end without wavering in our commitment to reach our destination. Embrace what it is that He places before us and know that we will be home soon.
Friends of mine know this well, but one of my favorite books is “Edge of Eternity” by Randy Alcorn. It is an allegory of heaven and hell and simply fantastic. Peanut’s voluntary entrance into the challenges of walking makes me think of this allusion to bearing one another’s burdens in the Christian life for the sake of the gospel. The travelers of the Red Road Home are given a message from the Woodsman: pick up rocks and carry them in their sacks. They are told, “In the morning, you will be both glad and sad.” What is intriguing is that the travelers who pick up many rocks as they can discover that their sacks feel lighter than those who pick up few. What is even more intriguing is their discovery in the true “morning”: when they arrive in Charis, they empty their sacks and discover that beautiful gems have replaced the scraggly rocks that had made their home in the sacks. Those who had gathered much were glad, and those who had gathered little were sad.
Let us be inspired by Peanut! Let us persevere with gladness and pick up numerous sacks along the way. We will surely rejoice and be glad when we hear those sweet words at our destination: “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
Phew. It has been quite a month! Between Peanut’s 1st birthday and the stomach flu for our entire family, we have had our hands full! But now it’s time to jump back into blogging. My most recent post, “The Father,” was my most popular post yet so I thought I would do a related post, inspired by the one and only Peanut. There have been so many sweet reflections of Christ in the fathering of my husband. But there have also been many sweet reflections of a faithful believer in the life of my little one—how she looks to us, how she communicates, how she takes things in. I have been really encouraged in my walk with Jesus through seeing how Peanut interacts with us and constantly seeks us out. I came up with so many parallels that I had to split this thing up into two posts. So look forward to Part 2 sometime soon!
1) The daughter ensures that she is in our presence and she prefers our company over anyone else’s.
“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11
Two words can characterize Peanut’s experience in the church nursery: separation anxiety. As she has joined the 1-year-old club, we have found ourselves getting paged just about every Sunday. The brief 10-15 minutes Peanut spends in the nursery are followed by tears and then choked up smiles as soon as she’s in Mommy or Daddy’s arms. I found myself disappointed, frustrated and sad, wondering if I was doing something wrong, something that created an unhealthy attachment to me that rendered periods away from us challenging. But I’ve gotten some great encouragement from friends whose children also went through this phase for several months. And, as I’ve reflected on it more, I’ve been thinking, maybe this is happening because I’m doing something right. My daughter wants me so much that she always wants to be around me. I’m so wonderful that she thinks, why settle for anything less when I can have Mommy and Daddy? Even when we are at home and she’s playing on her own as I do chores around the house, she will get a surge of energy and quickly crawl out of the room. But then she will peak her head around the corner to make sure she can see me. To make sure I’m there. And I always am.
The separation anxiety will disappear in a few months but the beautiful picture I have of constantly seeking the face of the Father will last the duration of my life. God wants us to keep ourselves in His presence. He wants us to continually seek Him, ask Him for wisdom, communicate with Him without ceasing. He never forgets us and He never wants us to forget Him. I find this incredibly challenging. But I recently felt very encouraged by our pastor who shared that he has an alarm set on his phone to a worship sing every hour so he doesn’t get lost in tasks but that the tasks may get lost in Jesus. How can I be cognizant of the Father when I have so many things to do? Well, do I think that some tasks are less spiritual than others? Everything can be connected back to God if we are in fact walking in His way. I always want to be in His presence, peaking around the corner to make sure I am in His keeping. If it is in His presence that there is fullness of joy, well, that’s where I want to be.
2) The daughter seeks comfort from us when she is scared or discouraged.
“I, I am he who comforts you.” Isaiah 51:12
As Peanut has been on the move exploring her surroundings, she has been facing more dangers: higher falls, sharper corners, more options for things to eat besides what Mommy gives. With more abilities and things to explore come more opportunities for pain, sadness, frustration and tears. All of her new adventures and ensuing disappointments have shared one thing in common: she finds her greatest comfort in my arms, even in the moments when I bear ultimate responsibility for a bad bonk. In the midst of tears, Peanut throws her arms up for me to hold her and kiss her. She seeks comfort in my arms, and she finds it.
God has not promised us an easy, pain-free life. To the contrary, He promises one filled with tribulation and hardship. But he does promise one thing—Himself. Peanut’s road ahead is full of all sorts of dangers and that is hard to admit for a control freak like me. I may not be able to protect her, but I can comfort her when she falls. The better news about our Father is that not only is He the one who comforts us in our pain, but He is the one who ordains every event in our lives, and we know from Romans 8:28 that He means all things for our good. If Peanut can find comfort in her flawed Mommy, how much more should we seek and find comfort in our flawless Father!
3) The daughter loves us.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” Deuteronomy 6:5
If I ever doubted how loved I am by God, I never can now. How could He not love me when He has given me such a precious gift in Peanut—a gift whom I love and one who loves me more than I could have possibly imagined. Some days, the strength of that love causes me to fear the day when she starts school or grows up and no longer lives at home. But most days, that love causes me to rejoice. As you may have gathered from previous posts, Peanut is pretty obvious about the strength of her love for us. Not only does she become a wet noodle when we walk into the room, but she’s taken it up a notch. Now she turns into a limp noodle. If someone else picks her up and she wants Mommy or Daddy, her body will go limp in protest. And then at the moment when one of us grabs her, she clings on and smiles. She pummels us with hugs and kisses. She crawls to us and holds onto our pants to pull herself up. She will walk towards us with a big smile on her face. The day when I was particularly ill with the stomach flu, she didn’t see me most of the day, which is obviously a big change for her. But then there was a moment when I walked down the stairs as she played in the living room with Daddy and Grandma. She set her eyes on me and smiled one of the biggest smiles I have ever seen. And then she proceeded to charge forward like a baby rhinoceros, head down and moving quickly with her hands and knees to get to her intended destination: Mommy. Her smiles, laughs, tears, hugs, kisses, holds and movements all communicate her love for us. If Peanut didn’t look like either of us, you would know that she belongs to us, and we belong to her.
As with keeping myself in God’s presence, this is something I often fail at. Is the theme of my day love for my Father? Does it pour out into everything I do, think, say, am? On most days, I would say no. But if there is anything Peanut has done in my life, it has been to set me on fire for the Lord and love him with all of my heart and all of my soul and all of my might. I want His love to emanate from every part of my being. I want to seemingly reject the love of others in comparison to the height and width and depth of my love for our God. I want to hold onto Him with all of my strength when I doubt the reality of His love for me. I want to look like my Father because of how occupied I am with His companionship.
4) The daughter seeks to please us.
“So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.” 2 Corinthians 5:9
Peanut most certainly knows the word “no.” That and “don’t touch” and “that’s yucky.” Most times, she will turn away from whatever she is doing or thinking about eating or touching and move to something else. Her growing brain is able to process and understand things that are good and things that are bad. But her little heart does not always want to do what is good and not do what is bad, just like us. Sometimes she will go after the same thing multiple times. She looks at us after we say “no,” as if she is processing and understanding. And then she does the same thing again. Other times, she takes it really hard when we firmly say no. She starts frowning, and then sometimes the frowns are quickly followed by tears. It is hard on her because she wants to please us. We’re not sure how much she understands of what we say, but we always remind her that Mommy and Daddy want to keep her safe and healthy and God gave her a mommy and daddy to help direct her in living her life.
Both my husband and I can be people pleasers to the max—and I say that as a negative thing, not a positive one. But when the pleasing is directed towards God rather than man, this turns into a beautiful thing. It turns into what we were made for. It is good that we seek to please God. Sometimes it is hard on us when we ask God for something and He says “no.” But He knows what is best for us and we can please him through our obedience whether or not we understand what He is doing. He is and should continue to be the primary object of our deepest, most committed affections. Why should we not delight to please the God of the universe when we seek to please those whom we love? If our love for God is infinitely greater than our love for any other, how much greater should our desire to please our God be! The best part about God’s perfect love for us is that we do not please to earn God’s love. We seek to please because we already are loved. More than we will ever know on this side of heaven.
It’s funny to recall how much I wanted a boy before we found out we were having a girl, mainly because at the time, I liked the boy’s name we had picked out a little better. As was evident on the day Peanut was born and throughout the first year of her life, I am incredibly overwhelmed as I slowly begin to understand that God’s ways are higher than my ways and His thoughts are higher than my thoughts. God knew how much she needed us. He knew how much we needed her. And most of all, He knew how much we would cling to Him, having her as our daughter.
My type-A personality generally does not cater to flexibility, even in how I write these posts. But I also have a little type-B personality in me, so I’m changing things up a bit. I’ve been watching Peanut with my husband a lot lately—more than normal, and I’m not sure quite what inspired it. I’m so glad that I have though, because I love watching these two together—how they play, how they cuddle, how they walk, and how they enjoy each other in everything. I’ve been fortunate to witness just glimpses of how great the Father’s love for us truly is, just through watching my husband with Peanut. There were a few scriptures that came to mind as I thought through different aspects of their relationship. No commentaries, sermon links or book references in this post! Just good ole Scripture.
1) The Father teaches us how to walk.
“Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth.” Psalm 86:11
Peanut has really been taking off over the last few weeks. She is practically running, but only as she clenches tightly onto her Daddy’s fingers or mine. My husband has really been great at teaching her how to walk. They do laps around the main level of our house, and as he has been teaching her how to take steps on her own, he speaks words of encouragement, challenges her, and encourages her to go farther and farther each time. He never expected her to just get up and start walking on her own. He has really loved teaching her, and she knows that she is not alone in the lesson of how to walk.
God does not expect that we ourselves know what is true, who he is, and how and why we live the Christian life. So he has done at least two things for us. First, we have his very words. He has written a book, and we have constant access to it. Second, he has given us the Holy Spirit, who teaches us what his words mean, who teaches us the way we should daily go. We can constantly talk to God and ask him for help and for wisdom, and he is always available to us. As noted in a favorite frame of mine at my in-laws’ house, prayer is the world’s greatest wireless connection.
2) The Father keeps us in his grasp.
“The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.” Psalm 121:5-8
The picture accompanying this post was taken during a really incredible storm over the summer—one with dark clouds, wind, and the smell of hot raindrops on the ground. The only thing I enjoyed more than watching the storm that night was watching Daddy hold his daughter close as they watched the storm together. They were so enamored with each other’s company that the storm didn’t seem troublesome to Peanut at all. And she was so unaware of her surroundings, including the Mommy that took this picture and went unnoticed—the same Mommy that makes her go wild on sight.
Though storms come, God is near. In fact, if we continue to run hard after him, we experience companionship with him in ways unmatched by other seasons of life. I know I can say that about my own life and I know that I am not alone in that. Peanut couldn’t even think to be scared because she was being kept by her father. She was probably even quite unaware that what she was experiencing with her father is something we call a storm. She was in safe hands, as are we. We are kept by a mighty God who clings tightly to us. And he wants us to cling tightly to him, especially in the midst of a storm.
3) The Father daily feeds us what we need.
“Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” John 6:35
You wouldn’t know it by looking at our little Peanut, but she loves to eat. We’ve had to figure out more Peanut-specific cues for when she is done during a meal because she generally doesn’t turn her head away when she’s full. We were recently at a wedding of friends of ours, and I was not the least bit shocked when my husband came back with a full plate for Peanut—chicken breast, potatoes, and carrots. She finished it all and may or may not have had seconds. Okay, she had seconds.
My sweet hubby generally wants me to be able to eat first or occasionally I am making dinner for us if we don’t end up eating with Peanut, so he is often the one cutting up her food and putting it on her high-chair tray for the taking. I love watching them during meal time, especially as she has learned to eagerly sign “more, please” for Daddy to place more before her.
Our dog, Deuce, did some pretty bad things in our house as a puppy. One of the victims of his mischief was my very first Bible. As one of my friends cleverly put it, I appeared “hungry for the Word” from the looks of my Bible post-Deuce’s handiwork. It is pretty amazing how God designed our physical bodies to need tangible things that ultimately point to spiritual needs of far greater significance—hunger and thirst that can only be satisfied by the One who designed our bodies. What also fascinates me is that he has made the food, and he is the provider of the food. He will give us as much as we could ever want to be truly satisfied. I hope that Peanut’s hunger for food and our dog’s hunger for my leather-bound Bible are reflections of the hunger that Peanut discovers can only be satisfied by Jesus. Forever.
4) The Father’s voice is the one that guides us.
“The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” John 10:3-5
Peanut has ears that could easily pick out the sounds of our voices anywhere. As soon as she hears Mommy or Daddy, her ears perk up and she quickly turns her head to spot us. If we are in a different room, she will quickly crawl over, pull herself up to stand and hold onto our pants, and then cling to them with all her strength. A stranger’s voice will not turn her head or otherwise have any effect resembling this one. But she hears our voices, and she will follow us wherever we go.
Are your ears tuned in to the voice of the Father? I know my ears often are not—when my ears are tuned in to the voices of the world, the voices of strangers. I desperately want Peanut to faithfully listen to and follow the voice of the Father, even in the wilderness. But I also want that for myself. And now I have a beautiful visual of it.
5) The Father gives himself up for us.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” John 10:11
In the midst of Peanut’s hard teething days, we have been putting her down already asleep. This usually requires some period of rocking or bouncing until we see closed eyes and an open mouth. My husband is usually the one who graciously does this for bedtime to give me a break after doing it for Peanut’s naps. He has been having some back problems, but he bounces away anyway. During a 3-week period around the holidays when Peanut was waking up in the middle of the night and needed to be bounced back to sleep, her father was the one to do it. He sacrificed sleep. He was tired at work. His back hurt. But Peanut would have no idea. All she knew was that Daddy was with her. I knew the back story—he was giving himself up for her.
Parenthood has been more life-giving than either of us would have imagined. But the joys we have experienced in the life-giving have been so sweet. Despite the physical and spiritual separation Jesus had from the Father, it was his joy to lay his life down for his sheep in the most costly way. And so through small things, we have the opportunity to taste and experience some of that joy, and also to stand in awe as we take in the reality that Jesus literally gave up his life for us.
We have this really fun routine in our house for when my husband gets home from work. As he pulls into the garage, I exclaim, “Daddy’s home!” Peanut gets so excited and after I pick her up, we run to the door and stare out the glass as I repeatedly chant, “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, Daddy!” As her father walks through the door, I excitedly repeat that Daddy is home, and Peanut reaches out for Daddy’s arms as he reaches out for his daughter. What is different about this routine from our relationship with the Father? We never need to exclaim that Daddy is home, because he has made his home inside us, and he never departs. He never returns because he never left. Daddy is already home.
“Be still and know that I am God . . . The Lord of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our fortress.” Psalm 46:10-11
There is a reason aside from Christmas that has rendered posting somewhat of a challenge over the last couple of weeks: teething. Our little Peanut is on her way to getting her first tooth, and it has been a rough ride for her. There have been hard moments, but there have been sweeter moments still. Peanut would want to keep sleeping after waking up in the morning, but she didn’t want to sleep in her crib. She wanted to sleep in my arms in the rocking chair that sits in her room. So over the last couple of weeks, we have rocked and snuggled. One particular morning, she curled up in the fetal position and rested on my chest. Eventually she shifted her body to my side, almost as if she were curled up in a sitting position beside me. As she began to wake, she tilted her head back and stared at me. Even in the darkness of early morning in her room, her eyes caught mine and mine caught hers. Our eyes locked for several minutes and then she smiled. She wanted to know that I was near. And I was. She wasn’t in a hurry to get anywhere. So we sat together and rocked, and we gazed into each other’s eyes. In the midst of teething pain, she was completely satisfied knowing that I was there. That’s all she really needed.
Peanut teaches me so much about the Christian life and she doesn’t even know it. What a lesson in stillness for me! It is something I am awful at, and yet God has forced me to learn it through motherhood. I am so focused on my to-do list and e-mails, my never-ending list of phone calls and chores, that it can be easier than I would want to admit to be still and know God is God. In fact, it can be easy to forget about God completely and just go about my day. By myself. Stillness is an incredible challenge for me, and I suspect, not just for other moms, but for everyone.
Relying on these verses, the Dictionary of Bible Themes defines quietness as “a calm, peaceful and restrained attitude to life and way of approaching God frequently commended in Scripture even in adverse circumstances. It is also a condition experienced by God’s friends and enemies when confronted by his majesty.” Ultimately, our stillness is a reflection of trust in God regardless of circumstance. It is also an acknowledgement of his power and sovereignty over all things. As Matthew Henry describes it, “he is present with us and president over us.”
To me, verse 10 in particular has a double meaning. Being still causes us to know God more: by being still, we find our peace, rest, and satisfaction in Him because we aren’t bustling about, trying to work out our circumstances in a way that gives us temporary, fake peace. Our peace and rest become less shaped by what I like to call “white noise”—the sounds of the world divorced from God. On the other hand, knowing God more helps us to be still more and more because we have enjoyed the fruit of what it is really like to cling to Jesus as our closest companion. So, we want more.
John Piper is one of my favorite preachers because I find that he regularly challenges my daily way of life, and always gives me a broader perspective on Scripture in relation to the Christian life:
One of the reasons we invest our lives in some insignificant ways is that we never become still enough to let the great realities hit us. We are always on the move. Always in a hurry. Or when we do stop, we flip on the radio or the TV and let somebody else’s hurry fill our minds.
What (Psalm 46:10) says is that the life-revolutionizing impact of God’s supremacy in the world and his inevitable triumph over the nations, and the coming of his glorious kingdom of righteousness and peace—the impact of this awesome reality doesn’t hit us and hold us and shape us unless we become still, and quiet before God. GOD hits home in the stillness. If you want your life to be significant, you’ve got to stop running, and stop scurrying about, and turn off the TV and the radio, and get alone, and be quiet, and let the mammoth realities of human lostness and eternal judgment and never-ending joy and God’s universal triumph take hold of you and change your life.
Then I have translated what he proceeds to say next in this awesome sermon from 1991. When I die, what do I want to leave behind? I want to leave behind God-centered children; I want to leave behind the sweet aroma of Christ in everything I have touched and seen; I want to leave behind writings that reflect the love of Christ; I want to leave behind efforts to serve both the spiritual and tangible needs of the world; and I want to leave behind a written testimony to the truth of God, and the supremacy of God, and the beauty of God, and the worth of God in all of life. And to that end I want to keep my life free from the love of money, and the praise of men, and the power of position, and any impurity that would dull my delight in God.
What does this mean for me, and hopefully, anyone else reading this? Stillness through teething. Stillness through tiredness. Stillness through disappointed expectations. Stillness through failure. Stillness through pain. Stillness through time slipping through our fingers. Stillness through hard choices. Stillness through raising children to not need us but need Jesus. And stillness through the huge world beyond my daughter. Stillness through the wonder of what will happen to the elderly, homeless man I see in -20 degree weather. Stillness through the weighty conflicts that plague our world. Stillness through the statistics of children dying of malnourishment that invade my mind. Stillness through stories of persecuted Christians. Murdered Christians. The thing is, I don’t hold Peanut’s life in my hands. I don’t hold the world in them either.
What happens to me when I’m not still? I think sometimes I get so used to the sound of my own voice and thoughts that I forget to deafen my ears to myself and open them up to God. As far as teething goes, I have surrendered my schedule for Peanut, my to-do list and anything else that hinders my stillness in the quiet of the early mornings before the sun begins to rise. I thank my Father for these moments, and I discover sweet moments of companionship not only with my little Peanut but even more with the One who gave her to me. Peanut is still because I am Mom, and I am still because God is God.