Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Pursuit of a Person

If I set out to become a better mother, the internet would have no shortage of advice for me. I wouldn't have to look far to come up with an exhausting list: things to stop doing, things to start doing, things to do differently; what to think, what to say, what not to say, how to connect, how to discipline, when to teach, where to teach--you get the picture.

But my role as a mother is not an abstract job title. The fact that I can be called a mother at all is a function of relationship. My approach to motherhood cannot be an impersonal strategy; it is intimately connected to two living, breathing people.

So while strangers on the internet, or expert authors, or even trusted friends and family, can give me helpful insights and wise counsel...the single most important priority in the pursuit of "becoming a better mom" is the pursuit of Elijah and Jude. To grow in motherhood means to move toward my sons. It happens as I spend time with them, listen to them, observe them. It happens through intentional efforts to know them better, through building shared memories and learning how to meet their needs. I become a better mom only so far as I deepen my relationship with my sons, only so far as I love Elijah and love Jude.

*     *     *

Sometimes in our efforts to avoid legalism, we drive into the other ditch, believing that any earnest effort to obey God smacks of self-righteous attempting to earn God's favor. Hebrews 12:14 corrects us:

"Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord."

To strive is to run hard, to chase after, to pursue. "Run swiftly in order to catch...holiness!" And the command is accompanied by a warning: "...without which no one will see the Lord." These are sobering words. The pursuit of holiness is not optional; it is essential to the life of faith. It is not the means by which we are accepted by God, but it offers evidence that we belong to Him.

But I think the core of this call to pursue holiness is best understood as a call to pursue a Person. The way to avoid self-righteous legalism is not to avoid the striving. It is to clarify what--or rather, WHOM--we are chasing.

We would have no reference point for "holiness" apart from God. He is True North; He *is* holiness. "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty." Holiness comes from Him and is defined by Him. Our call to holiness is always rooted in His holiness: "You shall be holy, for I am holy." 

Holiness is not a set of attitudes or behaviors, an abstract state of being. It is the essence of His character; it does not exist detached from Him. So to pursue holiness is to pursue Him. Strive to know Jesus. Draw near to Him. It's not about a list of qualities you attain to or exhibit; it's about a Person you love and resemble. 

Take, for example, the practice of reading/studying/meditating on God's Word. All Christians know they are "supposed to" do this. But WHY? Do we read the Bible as part of a checklist of "good Christian behaviors," something we do to accrue points? Does time in Scripture give you a higher "Holiness Score"?

No--we go to the Word to see Jesus. To know Him. This is where He is most clearly revealed, where He speaks to us. We read and study and meditate as a way to pursue Christ--a way to see His glory, to understand His heart. With this foundation, holiness is not about us. It's about looking like Him. We admire our Elder Brother, and we imitate what we see. We become what we behold.

By all means, pursue holiness. But don't merely strive for an abstract state of being. Chase after a Person--not just any person; our Redeemer and Savior! Our ultimate goal is to be near to Jesus because without HIS holiness, we have no hope of seeing the Lord. It is His perfect record of righteousness that makes us fit to enter the King's presence. Without holiness, no one will see the Lord. But because Jesus' blood makes us holy, we have the privilege of striving, pursuing, running hard after Him--desiring to be near Him and so becoming more like Him.   

Monday, June 06, 2016

Multitude Monday, Take 359

"...if you let something steal your thanksgiving, you let something steal your joy, and if you let something steal your joy, you let something steal your strength. ...we will give thanks to God not because of how we feel, but because of who He is." (Ann Voskamp)

Thanking God for who He is and for gifts He's recently given, including...

7867. a little boy in Honduras with the same birthday as Elijah--now connected to our family through Compassion International

7868. Elijah's excitement about writing his first letter
7869. tres leches cake
7870. an afternoon to sit and talk about deep stuff with a dear friend
7871. a holiday weekend with my mentor and her wonderful family
7872. their famous pepperoni rolls

7873. hilarious doubles game of ping-pong
7874. authentic Chinese food
7875. wisdom from a mom further along in the parenting journey
7876. the privilege of watching her boy grow up over the last 13 years
7877. my boys dogpiling on top of the big kid they adore

7878. the testimony of a teenage boy in our church, rescued from rebellion and saved by amazing grace
7879. an envelope punchboard, generous gift from a sweet friend
7880. giant salads
7881. conviction from His Word
7882. a sweet, deeply encouraging letter from the Kenyan boy we sponsor through Compassion

7883. bushes bursting with hydrangea blooms in pink, purple, blue and white
7884. Christmas gift from Grammy and Pops: Beauty and the Beast tickets!

7885. Jude every five minutes: "Mom, was that real?" "Is that real?!"
7886. Elijah's loud laughter and enthusiastic applause
7887. fond memories of singing "If I Can't Love Her" approximately 47,000 times with our high school show choir
7888. a morning walk around the neighborhood
7889. Book Bingo for the library's summer reading program

7890. grace to "beat my body and make it my slave" for a change
7891. eyes to see the gospel so clearly in Ezra
7892. twenty women gathered to study God's Word together
7893. Steve's simple but moving Scripture meditation on Psalm 117
7894. dinner with a friend tonight, long overdue chance to catch up