One of my favorite parts of life during this stretch, when it would feel easy to think that having five children and being a homeowner makes me old and wise, is having women who truly are wise (and maybe on the other side of forty) in my world. I can’t imagine doing life without women, hungry for God, who’ve been hungry a lot longer than me, teaching me — by their stories — about their own pursuit of Him. Today I’m giddy about one of those women, writing right here. Susan Yates is a seasoned voice in the writing world, a sage with years — and an ever-growing-reach-for-God to prove it (and she so happens to be married to my husband’s childhood pastor — how cool is that?!). Read …and receive.
When I was a young mother with five small children I got stuck. Most of the time, I simply felt like a failure. I wasn’t living up to my expectations of myself as a Mom or a wife or a ministry partner. With colicky 2 month old twins, 2, 4, and 7 year olds, I was sleep deprived. We’d recently moved; I had no friends, and no local family. My husband was in his first job as a Senior Pastor. He got up each morning excited about his day. I woke up just longing to make it through the day.
For almost 2 years I prayed, “God make me a better Mom and wife. Please give me peace and joy in this season.” Only silence answered back. I felt like I’d been put on hold by the Lord. I was stuck.
I continued to pray for Him to make me a better Mom and wife. But I was not seeing any progress.
One morning I read a passage in Jeremiah 33:3 and I finally heard an answer.
God said through Jeremiah, “Call unto me and I will show you great and mighty things that you do not know.”
Thinking about this promise I changed my daily prayer. Father I’m stuck on praying about my issues. Please show me something that I don’t know. I just need to see your hand at work.
As I opened myself to God’s showing me something new He began to reveal to me that I had lost perspective. I was evaluating my life from a wrong assumption of God. I was acting as if God approved of me when I was successful but in my season of life there was no visible success. I had to realize that God didn’t love me because I was a good mother, or good wife, or doing great things for Him. I wasn’t. He loved me because I belonged to Him. Period. But there was an even deeper lesson. As I read the words of Jeremiah I realized that in my misery God had something “other” to teach me. I call this the “Principle of the other.”
This little principle has had a huge impact on my life even though I still get stuck sometimes.
Recently I was on a plane returning from speaking oversees. I was exhausted and scrunched in a middle seat next to a snoring man. In my miserable state I began to think about my kids. They were adults now but I couldn’t wait to get my feet on the same continent as theirs. As I thought about one particular child I began to imagine a problem this child might have. The more I thought about the child the more the problem grew. I’ll read my Bible and that will help. It didn’t. OK, I’ll pray. The more I prayed about the issue the bigger it grew. Finally I cried out to the Lord, “help.” While I did not hear an audible voice what came to mind was unmistakably from Him. Two words that were to impact my life once again: “Remember Me.”
What I realized was that I had let my concern over a child become bigger in my head than God was. I needed to begin to focus more on how big God is than on whatever issue is on my heart at any given moment.
Whatever season of life we are in we all get stuck and we all have issues-a child, relationship, financial need, marriage or singleness. It’s so easy to grit our teeth and try to trust God with the issue. But walking with Christ is not gritting our teeth. It’s focusing on His character traits—filling ourselves up with who He is and then our issue will be seen from a healthier perspective. It won’t completely go away but it will be less likely to control us.
I still get stuck but I have learned to use the “principle of the other” from Jeremiah to call on God and ask Him to show me something unrelated to my current issue. Knowing that He has something special to teach me gives me hope. It generates vision within my shriveled heart. I become expectant. My view of God is enlarged and I am refreshed because I look forward to seeing Him do something new in my life.
To help me focus on God, I begin each day asking Him to give me one character trait of His to meditate on throughout that day.
When no one else can understand me or my situation, you do-completely Oh Lord.
“Great is the Lord and mighty in power, his understanding has no limit.” (Psalm 147:5)
I find that when I discipline my mind to think about who He is instead of focusing on my current issue my joy is greater. In His presence is fullness of joy.” (Psalm 16:11)
And so I pray for each of us:
Lord, as we get into this new year open our eyes to see the “other” things, the new things you might teach us that will broaden or understanding of How Great Thou art.
If you would like to begin the habit of focusing on one character trait of God you will find some that I have used and you can sign up to get them in your inbox twice weekly at www.susanalexanderyates.com.
Susan is mom to five children (including a set of twins) and grandmother to 21 (including a set of quadruplets!). Susan has been married to John for almost 45 years. She’s written 13 books and speak on the subjects of marriage, parenting, and women’s issues. Some of her books include And Then I Had Kids; And Then I Had Teenagers; Barbara and Susan’s Guide to the Empty Nest (with friend Barbara Rainey) and Raising Kids with Character That Lasts (With John). She writes regularly for the blog: MomLifeToday.com, sponsored by Family Life.