Our family just returned from a week-long vacation to the Northwoods of Wisconsin where we attended family camp at Fort Wilderness for our fourth year. It was wonderful! The weather was perfect, the speaker delivered timely messages, and I spent time with God in prayer and Bible reading everyday- for the first time in months. My kids had fun, we ate ourselves into food comas daily, and I was able to spend quality time with both my husband (long overdue) and some of my favorite women at camp while there.
When it came time to leave, I felt refreshed, renewed, and ready for life back at home. I felt a little afraid, too, of not being able to maintain the spiritual availability that is so much easier to achieve away from life’s daily responsibilities, but I knew in my heart I had been changed- that God was renewing my mind and transforming me into His image.
Until I got home.
These past two days have been so much harder than I expected. The kids have reverted to their normal ways: fighting, shouting, making messes everywhere, begging for things, talking back. And, I have reverted to my normal responses to these behaviors: martyrdom, anger, shouting back, feeling frustrated and disappointed in myself. What happened?
I am still reading God’s Word and praying. I want to be peaceful and patient, loving and kind, just and merciful, but I feel like an exhausted, raving lunatic. I know God wants to change me into His likeness. When I was up north, the Holy Spirit impressed on my heart the great responsibility I have to model transformation to my children, to live out authentic Christianity so that they will desire it and pursue it- rather Him- for themselves. I was convicted that I hadn’t been living a surrendered life, especially in some specific areas, and I offered them up to God.
Tonight, after a long day, I finally got to my quiet time, and read My Utmost for His Highest, my all-time favorite devotional. Oswald Chambers has been speaking God’s truth to me for 10 days straight now, and tonight was no different. Here is what he wrote:
Never quench the Spirit, and do not despise Him when He says to you — “Don’t be blind on this point any more; you are not where you thought you were. Up to the present I have not been able to reveal it to you, but I reveal it now.” When the Lord chastens you like that, let Him have His way. Let Him relate you rightly to God.
“Nor faint when thou art rebuked of Him.” We get into sulks with God and say — “Oh, well, I can’t help it; I did pray and things did not turn out right, and I am going to give it all up.”
I realized that God is sanctifying me, in my own home, in my relationships with my husband and children. I cannot give up because it is hard, two days in from vacation! I must continue to surrender myself to Him: my impatience and frustration, my angry outbursts and unkind words, my resentful thoughts and selfish ways.
In his sermon today, our new pastor spoke about his philosophy of pastoral ministry. He talked about how effective (biblical) teaching comes from long hours of ongoing study of the Bible. He shared that the average tenure of pastors today is three years and that perhaps it is due to the fact that, after three years, those pastors have exhausted their personal biblical resources (and testimonies) and have to move on to a new church. They have not continued to devote themselves to the transformative study of the Word.
He was not just speaking of pastors, though. His words apply to every Christian. In an earlier devotion, Chambers talked about being a sentimental Christian, one who lives on memories. “Beware of trying to patch up a present refusal to walk in the light by recalling past experiences when you did walk in the light.” He said our testimonies sound hard and metallic when they are not living and active. Sanctification is a daily surrender of ourselves to God; it is only completed once we reach Heaven.
I have spent many months refusing to let go of personal sin, avoiding God’s Word, shirking prayer, and indulging in the messages the world has to offer (not all of them terribly bad, just not centered in Truth). I haven’t had a testimony to share with my children because I wasn’t living one out.
In light of all I have heard and read, I choose not to be discouraged or to give up because of these few, hard days of transition back to “real life.” Instead, I choose to answer Chambers’ concluding question from today’s reading with a resounding “Yes!” and allow God to do His work in me over the long haul.
Am I prepared to let God grip me by His power and do a work in me that is worthy of Himself? Sanctification is not my idea of what I want God to do for me; sanctification is God’s idea of what He wants to do for me, and He has to get me into the attitude of mind and spirit where at any cost I will let Him sanctify me wholly.
Is there anything in your life that is holding you back from being transformed into the likeness of Christ? Are you prepared to let God do His amazing, beautiful, painful, loving work of sanctification in you?