Reclaim, regain, recover, recapture….these words have been on my mind lately. Most new year’s resolutions look forward, to the (hopefully bright) future. But this year, bucking tradition, I am looking backwards. My reason is simple, really.
There is some lost ground that I need to regain.
As I prepared to write this post, the phrase, “three steps forward, two steps back” kept coming to mind. It may be hard to observe (because the time spans months or years), but I wonder if Christians are guilty of viewing their sanctification as this type of journey. Leaping ahead with fervor and passion only to slowly slide backwards as time moves along and circumstances change. Convictions lose their strength and half-hearted excuses slowly give way to a state of willful ignorance where our unbiblical thoughts and actions become normal to us. Perhaps we’re a little better than before, but not by much. We’ve slid the two steps back.
Now, you may have noticed that I’ve been re-posting a number of my old blog articles lately. And while it is helpful to have a three-year cache of personal thoughts to pull from when life gets hectic and I need to publish something, that hasn’t been my chief reason for sharing those particular posts. Rather, those are the entries that I have been reading myself over the last few weeks. Let me tell you, the words from the Liz of three or four years ago have been super convicting! (And it’s really strange to be scolded by yourself. Honestly, the Holy Spirit must get a kick out of this sort of thing : )
All this delving into my past may seem odd to you (and all this re-conviction…I mean, why would anyone do that to themselves!?), but there is a good reason. As you already know (because I’ve said it so often, like, here and here) this last year has been overwhelming. That’s not to say that previous years hadn’t had their share of craziness, but I’d developed a kind of spiritual truce with the common frustrations of my life. I knew that the kids would drive me nuts, Paul’s schooling would give me ulcers and my various jobs/ministries would continually challenge my sense of self. Sanctification happened with unsurprising regularity since these were my go-to problems. I was used to them and their particular brand of “crazy.”
But then last year a totally new type of “crazy” dropped into my lap. “Hey,” said Paul one day last December when we were congenially engaged in one of those fun conversations where you try to map out the next five years of your life, “what do you think about going active [in the Air Force.]?” And with that question, everything began to change. Suddenly, the road of my life included the possibility of dramatic hairpin turn.
This new type of frustration, the idea of changing our lives so drastically, took up alot of my time and energy. Trusting God became my daily, spiritual conflict. And thankfully, I won most of those battles. I am utterly confident that God wants Paul to be a Chaplain in the US Air Force. Not a doubt remains.
But having this new form of crazy in my life didn’t mean that those everyday, mundane struggles simply disappeared. Those unbiblical thought patterns remained, sneakily hidden, ready to rear their normal ugly heads whenever life circumstance presented them a juicy chance to wretch some havoc. Under normal circumstances, I was equipped to fight these battles and (usually) win! But since I was investing so much spiritual energy in that one big conflict with fear and worry, these smaller skirmishes caught me unaware and I lost many of those battles. If you asked (please don’t) I’m sure that my husband and children could verify this claim. I lost battles with things like anger, impatience, discontent and pride. Yes, my guard was up, but only for that one huge, scary issue. (Apparently, I’m not a good multitasking soldier of the Lord.) Thus, over this year I have been slowly, slowly sliding back into old patterns of thinking about marriage, children, my body, friends and my purpose in life. They were my two steps backwards.
You know what though? I am God’s child, saved by his grace. And as God’s child there is a promise he made that, though uncomfortable, he started fulfilling in my life. He began to rescue me from my sin. Sin that would harm me (and eventually harm my family.) He began to chastise me. In love, he used his fatherly influence to call me to repentance (Heb 12:5-6). Giving me a mental shake, God used his word to grab my attention. “Listen to yourself!” he said. “What in the world are you thinking? Don’t you remember what you determined to believe a long time ago? Don’t you remember all my promises to you? Don’t you remember that blog post that you wrote about this very issue?!?” (I don’t know if God would use so many explanation points, but it seems appropriate here : ) So I read the words that I myself had written and the conviction in my heart continued to grow until I submitted to the truth. I needed to pay attention. I needed to repent. Spiritual maintenance was required. You see, I’d cleared the ground years ago, but some nasty, quickly spreading thorn bushes had taken root and were silently starting to spread. I needed to reclaim the land.
I John 1:9 gives the audacious claim that those who turn away from their sin and ask for forgiveness are met by a Father who says, “yes! You are forgiven because of Jesus! You are my children whom I love.” So that’s what I’m doing in 2016. Relearning. Revisiting. And I suspect (since we are all human and all have new and unexpected circumstances thrust upon us) that some of you might need to do the same type of thing. Wouldn’t it be lovely if spiritual lessons, once learned, never needed tending and that our sanctification was always a smooth, upward trail? But it’s not, is it? Lessons that I learned while the wife of a graduate student with two young children, close family and a thriving church ministry need to be relearned now that I am the wife of an Air Force officer, with three young children, no close family and limited church ministry. My circumstances have changed, that hairpin curve has been made. I need to make sure that those beliefs that were so clear and strong back then are just as vibrant in my life now.
So, over the next few weeks I’ll be writing a short series on the areas of my life that need some spiritual upkeep. So far the list includes that way that I think about myself (body issues), my husband (marriage issues) and my job (identity issues).
What in your life need some tending? What are those sneaky beliefs that have wormed their way back into your habitual way of thinking? Maybe 2016 is the year take out your spiritual gardening gloves, grab the spiritual shears and do some serious spiritual landscaping. Pull out the weeds and push back the overgrowth. Start regaining lost ground.
If you enjoy this blog I’m asking you to do something for us. You see, Facebook (where I normally announce new posts) is a little frustrating. So in the new year we are going to start moving to an e-mail subscription program as our primary method of interacting with you, our readers. With that in mind, can you please add your e-mail address to our list by using the subscription tool on the sidebar of this page (up under the author section)? We usually send one short, non-threatening email only once a week – just to let you know what has been posted recently. Hopefully we can slowly stop relying on Facebook. Thanks so much!