Imitators of God

My four-year-old son’s first words the other day, at 6:30 in the morning, standing next to my husband’s side of the bed, “Dad, when we going to mow?” He loves to mow–my son, that is. He loves to work alongside his father. He also loves to work alongside his sister, much to her frustration. What she does, he copies. About every day, I hear her complain, “Mom, why does he always do what I do?” Because, I try to explain, we learn by imitation. We are wired to copy others, and when we are small, we do that indiscriminately.

We are followers–of something. The question is, what? As we mature from baby to child to adult, we gain more independence and choose what we imitate.

That’s why Paul’s words in Ephesians 5:1 are so important, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children…”

Ephesians 5:1

We are made in God’s image, so how better to learn how to portray that image than to copy the real thing? Sin pulls on us from the inside, seeks to draw us away from manifesting that image in its pure form. The world tries to tell us who to imitate: sports heroes, Hollywood, professors, the “in” crowd, rich people…or whoever. Isn’t that the crunch of advertising–you need to live like this, do this, be like this.

What are we imitating?

When we come to Christ, we become God’s dearly loved children. Dearly loved children know who they are loved by, and they seek to love that person back by imitating them. Like my son, who knows he is loved by his father, and wants to be like him.

But imitation is hard work. That’s where the Holy Spirit comes in. We cannot, by our own power, live that life of imitation that God requires of us. Our eyes slip to the world, and our habits quickly follow. We must be drawn back, again and again, to Christ, to Scripture.

We will imitate something; we will follow something. We might prize independence, but we are never truly independent of each other. We are made in such a way as to be influenced by others. Thus, Joshua’s charge to Israel, “Choose this day who you will serve,” is also a charge for us.

Choose this day who you will imitate. If you imitate the ways of this world, you worship and serve the prince of this world. If you imitate God, you will serve and worship him.

The Eyes of the Lord

It came to me in my first wakeful thoughts—that verse: “The eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him.” Over and over, I repeated those words, wondering why they buzzed in my mind with the persistence of the carpenter bees around my shed. I sensed a message for me there.

“The eyes of the Lord . . .”

“The eyes of the Lord. . .”

Was this comforting or convicting that the eyes of the Lord were on me? And where did that verse come from? I couldn’t place it, but I knew it was from Psalms. After a fruitless search, I decided the Lord didn’t want me to know the context, only to bask in those words, “The eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him.”

What did it mean? Oh, I knew what it meant in biblical theology. But what did it mean to me, that day? What was the Lord saying, through his Spirit, right now?

I chewed those words all day. They remained in the forefront of my thoughts, the filter through which I thought all other thoughts.

This morning, when I woke, I remembered those words, and in a heartbeat, it came to me: knowing. The intimacy of the Lord’s seeing me means he knows me. In the moment, I felt utterly revealed before him. He knows my concerns about certain health issues, parenting issues, writing endeavors. He knows the silent grumblings of my heart and my “I wish” thoughts. But more than knowing about them, He has the answers. He has the wisdom I need.

When Nate and I were first married, we had this game where we’d try to be the one watching the other sleep. You were the loser if you were the sleeper. For my early-rising husband, winning was easy. I’d wake to his eyes on me. He’d been watching me, and I’d not even known it.

It’s like that with the Lord. He is always watching, even when we are unaware, and his gaze is one of love. A knowing gaze. There are times we feel like Hagar, the cast off handmaiden who sat down in the desert and sobbed. The Lord saw her, heard her, even when no one else did. At other times, we might feel like we live in the spotlight, seen by all, but not truly known. Even in our closest relationships, we may face times of feeling unknown, misunderstood.

The eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him. He knows.

When the Lord impresses his words on us, we’d best listen. We’d best say, “Thank you. Now have your way with me.” So here’s my takeaway: I am the Lord’s, and he knows me. I am not forgotten or unseen, but known, in the deepest sense of the word. He has things to say to me. I need to pay attention to his wisdom.

What is the whisper of his Spirit to you today? Chew those words. Don’t let loose of them until you get to the why of them. He’ll lead you to understanding.

The Almost

When I read that pregnancy test for the first time, and it said positive, fear sent my pulse skittering through my throat. Life was in me, and there was only one way out. I’ve never be the same again. For a woman who doesn’t like the unknown or doesn’t like pain, the light at the end of the nine-month pregnancy tunnel was blindingly frightening.

But the anticipation wasn’t all fear. There was hope, and excitement, and promise–all wrapped up in my expanding waistline.

I can’t help but draw parallels to our spiritual lives. The promises of God are yes and amen in Christ, but some are still in pregnancy form (metaphorically speaking). We know they will hatch into reality in God’s fulfilling time.

We all go through seasons where our hearts are pregnant with dreams, our minds pregnant with ideas, and our spirits pregnant with the seed of God’s Word. And I even daresay that we are constantly in a time of pregnancy–in some sort of way–because God is a life-changer, life-beginner, and life-fulfiller.

But it’s not always easy when you feel the weight of what you carry. Sometimes almost, is as difficult as, no.

almost

But almost means, soon. And almost means get ready.

I’m in this almost season right now (at first I typed write now). I’ve finished my first novel. I’ll be adding a fiction page to my website. I’m feeling pregnant with my writing. But I’m also feeling the almost of it. The not yet. The more-time-in-the-writing-incubator. Sometimes the birthing process is long and complicated.

Where are you, friend? Is there an almost in your life that is frustrating you? Are you ready to birth the things God has been growing in you?

The Road of Confession

Psalm 51

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your HOly Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me . . . . You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”

Poor David, we think. Such a grand king. Such a great fall. But that’s okay, we assure ourselves. Look at how he confessed. Look at how God forgave him. And we feel better for him, and for ourselves.

Wait. Let’s not dismiss that confession too quick. Confession didn’t buy back God’s favor, didn’t erase the consequences. Rather, confession restored the relationship. The relationship between a holy God and a desperate disciple.

Have we lost our passion for confession? Yes, I think so. And if so, why? Because we don’t want to admit that we are really that bad. That we have broken God’s standard. Because confession is hard work. We must allow ourselves to sit under the Word of God and be subject to it. We must open ourselves to the Holy Spirit’s conviction. It’s far easier just to cry out, “God forgive me. I’m awful.”

But this is not true confession. This is a guilty heart wanting to feel better, not necessarily grieved over sin. Perhaps, this prayer is pity in disguise. True confession is a broken spirit, a heart that is grieved because sin has distanced it from God. A heart that lays itself down in surrender.

Listen to how David mourns his sin, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.” Confession recognizes that God is right, and we are wrong–not a popular idea in our culture of relative morality.

And then, the heart of David’s plea, “Do not cast me from your presence.” Hear the brokenness, the yearning for God.

We don’t confess merely to seek absolution from guilty feelings, but because we are desperate to renew the intimacy with the Lord. David is desperate. The road of confession is one we walk in relationship with our Creator.

David knows he has nothing to offer–no sacrifice that would please the God of the universe. How we want to offer a sacrifice and be done with it, but God doesn’t want our sacrifices. He wants our hearts. That’s why David’s language is imploring and surrendered, “Create in me…Do not cast me…Restore to me…Grant me…”

Friends, we are called to walk this road of confession. It starts with a broken spirit–humility–and it leads to the joy of our salvation. There is no joy in holding in our sin or dismissing it as not that bad. Nor is their joy in groveling in our depravity. There is joy in simple brokenness, a simple cry for the Lord’s renewal of our hearts.

And there is hope. Always hope. David didn’t doubt God could restore him from adultery and murder. So you don’t doubt either. God can restore you. Wants to restore you. Waits for you to be broken before him.

The road of confession is before us. Can you trust it leads to joy?

Road of Confession