Can I Desire Personal & Spiritual Growth for My Husband?

I recently came across a question from a wife that was asking if it was ok to seek personal (and to me that also means spiritual) growth for her husband.  She wondered if maybe personal growth (desiring it) should only be for oneself, and if it was maybe wrong to desire it for someone else.

This is a great question, and something I believe God’s shown me even recently through the many lessons He’s taught me this past year of 2015. Not about my husband at all, but it centered around me desiring personal and spiritual growth for people I interacted with who were continually acting sinfully and in ways that dishonored God.  I’m so grateful and humbled that He’s done so much in my life in just this one year, and especially these last few months!

So without further ado, this is the answer I gave her:

Hey (Name Redacted), from what I’ve been taught and believe, I do think you can desire personal growth (spiritual growth as well) for your husband, it just has to be directed in a positive, respectful way, and probably not reminding him of his “goals” when he falls short constantly.

The best thing you can do is to pray for him in this area, but then don’t let it become what you focus on so much that this is what the majority of your time spent with God is about. If you are looking too much at the speck in his eye, and forget the “plank” in your own (not to say you have a plank-sized sin, just to remind you that we ALL sin), that focusing so much on someone else’s sin can be a distraction from our own spiritual and personal growth. Wanting him to grow more can become what you think about too much, instead of focusing on what God wants you to do, how God wants you to grow. I know it can be hard – even with people that aren’t your husband, we want them to change when we see them caught up in a stronghold that’s making them act sinful. It can be tempting to hear sermons and tidbits of wisdom and immediately apply it to them and think “Oh if only he/she was hearing that! Maybe then they’d stop their sinful behavior!!” It’s good to pray for others and trust God to work in their heart, but ultimately God wants you to grow in your own spirit and not be overly bothered by someone else’s lack of spiritual growth.

Satan wants to get you off focus of doing God’s will for your life, so he will use anything to achieve that goal, even good things like seeking personal/spiritual growth for your husband or someone else you wish was behaving differently.

Hope that helps you!

_____________________________________________________

Some more thoughts:

When someone you love, or know and interact with, is acting in a sinful and hurtful way, it can be extremely tempting to want to go in and “fix” the situation and “fix” them, and if we really love and care about them, this comes naturally.  Loving others means you want the best for them, that you want to see them become all that God desires them to be.  Giving them a loving, life-giving rebuke in a kind and gentle way can be extremely beneficial if their heart is humble and open and their spirit is desiring to follow God’s will for their life.  But what if their heart is hard and calloused, what if they mock the wisdom from God in how to treat other people, or mock your attempt to help them change and use it as fuel to further attack you for wanting to help them?

  • You have to step back, and realize if you’re dealing with someone spiritually wounded.  If they are reacting in hate or with mocking behavior, something is very off within their spirit, and they will not be able to receive wisdom most likely at this time in their life.  A reaction like that means they are generally in rebellion to God and against the Holy Spirit (if they’re Christian), and are grieving the Holy Spirit with their words and actions.  This may be because they’ve experienced a dramatic event in their life, immense pain they are feeling, anger, or a loss of purpose and belief that God can use them and their life experiences to further His Kingdom.
  • If they are spiritually wounded, don’t take their harsh and angry reactions or rejections to heart.  Try to see where they’re at and feel compassion and love for them, even in the state they’re in.  When you minister to other people, and especially the wounded and broken, they will sometimes “spiritually vomit” all over you because they are so far from God and His will in how He desires them to act. We need to expect this, and not be surprised when it happens with people who are Christian.  The saved are still depraved creatures, and we all need God desperately.
  • Keep your mind from focusing on their sin too much, pray for them, but have a peaceful confidence that God will deal with their sin – because He will and always has.
  • Focus on God’s will for your life, and doing the important things that He’s already put in your path for you to accomplish.
  • Don’t let other people’s sins become a distraction for you, taking away from the time you need to spend doing God’s work in your life and in the lives of those He’s put in your path to minister to.  Time is our most precious commodity, and how we use it matters so much!  Satan can use another person’s stronghold, your focusing on it, in order to stunt your own spiritual growth and spend your time wasted.  It gives him great satisfaction when God’s children are off track and ineffective.
  • Don’t give in to despair, have good boundaries around how much you allow other people’s sins to affect you.  Acknowledge that you’re only responsible for your own life, and are called to live at peace as much as it depends on you.  You can’t control other people’s thoughts and actions, you can’t ultimately change their minds or hearts to desire to act and behave godly.

 

Advertisements

Trying to Confront a Husband on His Sinful Behavior

This is a GREAT video from the Peaceful Wife!  I love and adore April – how can anyone not love her after seeing her in this video.

Since we’re well into the holidays and these times can add extra stress with family or even our own husbands/wives, this is a great video about responding to other’s sin against you.  No matter who is sinning against you, it is crucial that YOU have self-control, display goodness even toward your offender, display PATIENCE, and LOVE toward your offender.

Listen to April’s words and video (16 minutes), and be refreshed dear, sweet reader!!  She’s got it right, and thank God she is allowing herself to be used in helping others to stay godly, to react godly, and to treat everyone with kindness and respect.

If you feel you are disrespecting your husband though, a video (for singles) that I thought went along with this discussion is also great:

Staying Focus: Having Joy in Spite Of

joyinspiteof

I feel like I’ve learned so many little lessons from not only this Joy study itself, but the many different things in my life during this time.  It’s amazing to experience God’s peace and joy, even in the midst of things that would seem negative, things that normally would rob one of joy or happiness or peace.

This week, we’ve been learning how to practice having joy in spite of difficult or less than desirable circumstances.  This journey over the past few months has truly grown me and stretched me, to where I’m not even the same person I was a few months ago.  I’ve heard so many messages now on what God was pressing on my heart – Staying Focus – and so many gifts of wisdom from people in my life on how to respond in better, more Christ-like ways to attacks and accusations.

I don’t retaliate anymore when I’m tempted to.  I don’t try to fight back in ways that only make matters worse.  I don’t give in to feeling ashamed when Satan uses people to bring up my past failures, things I’ve already apologized for and reconciled with them about.  I know God’s used my past failures to help me learn how to respond better in my life, and that I’m fully covered in His grace.  There is no more condemnation for my past failings.  And I know how to spot Satan’s attempts at stealing my joy – they don’t even work anymore – when he tries to condemn me for things I’ve already been forgiven for.  I know I’m covered in God’s grace, and feel no condemnation!  I still have joy 🙂

Now I actually celebrate and am actually a little excited to see insults and slander, not because of it or the pain it does cause me, but because I have the renewed chance to respond the right way this time.  To do things right.  Even last night, I decided to pray for someone that was obviously acting without self-control… again, and trying to cause harm by what she thought was a good plan at retaliation at feeling wronged.  It was exciting for me to know and decide right then at that moment, that I would not retaliate, and that I would pass that test God was giving me to learn how to deal better with sinful people.

I decided not to retaliate with insults or accusations of her past wrongs, or attacks like the last time I failed this test.  I decided I was going to forgive her, again, pray for her, and thank God for what she was doing and saying.  Sometimes we have to forgive people multiple times because they keep allowing Satan to use them.  But my reaction last night, is a far cry from what I would have done just a few months ago.  And that’s amazing!

It’s something to celebrate!  So I’m celebrating this week, for doing something I never would have been able to do with such grace this time last year.  I’m celebrating for the progress and maturity this means for me.  I’m celebrating because in passing this test, I’ll be able to move to the next level with God and be ready for whatever He has for me there.

So be encouraged readers!!  Have joy – joy in spite of.

Morning Adventures

fall2015 200

Yesterday morning, we went for a walk at one of our old haunts and favorite places.  It’s an outdoor mall in our city that I’ve been coming to for years.  The mall actually had it’s opening day on my birthday back in 2005, and has a rich history of our particular romance & love story.

It was a nice, cooler-than-it-looked day, and the beauty of the surroundings, especially in the late morning lighting, was just captivating to me.  You’d think after so many years, it would feel too familiar, but the familiarity seems to only endear me to it even more so.

fall2015 198

I think it’s good to get kids out to see the beauty of nature, whether it’s hiking, swimming in a lake or the ocean, walking on a trail or the beach, it’s just one of those things that replenishes my own joy and happiness… but seeing them enjoy it – seeing the baby captivated by the different sounds and sights of nature, is really incredible!

fall2015 212

The flowers everywhere still in bloom, the greenery, the vines cascading down from the roofs of the buildings… just a breathtaking place to be in the morning.  Definitely changes one’s attitude or mood if needed.

fall2015 209 fall2015 210

I was talking to a sweet, older gentleman yesterday about how we’re having such a late fall here in Texas.  Everything still looks slightly like Summer, but we’re enjoying the cooler weather, me in particular, getting to wear sweaters and boots finally.

fall2015 217 fall2015 216 fall2015 218 fall2015 219 fall2015 220 fall2015 221 fall2015 222 fall2015 223

I loved seeing this couch with the holiday pillows and wine glasses.  Reminds me of Christmas and cocktail parties that come in December.

fall2015 227 fall2015 235

This red chair, along with the holiday pillow, makes it’s own statement.  So much style.

fall2015 230 fall2015 231 fall2015 232 fall2015 233 fall2015 234

And then we went to our favorite cooking store, when you open the doors, the intoxicating smell of delicious foods overwhelm you for a moment and leave your mouth watering.

fall2015 240 fall2015 237 fall2015 238 fall2015 239 fall2015 254

This woman was in the middle of cooking a delicious turkey meal, giving us some samples of Thanksgiving delights for a quick brunch.

fall2015 243 fall2015 244

We have a special area my older son always loved to go see, it has clocks that tell the time of different places around the world.  We used to love going to the section and staring at the different times, and I’d explain to him what the people were probably doing in that part of the world – sleeping, eating dinner, or just waking up!  It was a romantic exercise 🙂

fall2015 245 fall2015 246 fall2015 247 fall2015 248 fall2015 249 fall2015 250

I’m using my father’s camera now.  My mom thought it was a good idea to give it to me since he hasn’t (and probably won’t) be ever using it again. 😥  It took me a while before even wanting to take it out of the box. It’s a nice camera… but using it was an admission that there’s something really wrong with him, that he’s not the same as he used to be.

It does take better pictures than my old one, and maybe a part of him can be memorialized in the beauty it captures.  But it’s still a tragic change to me.

fall2015 251 fall2015 252 fall2015 253

November Joy

fall2015 181

November might possibly be my favorite month of the year.  It’s just so beautiful, the season of Fall is truly underway, and the delights of friends, family, and food await us by the bucket-load!

Happy November to you if you’re reading this!

When I think of November, I always think of our American tradition of Thanksgiving. This is the month of all months, especially for dwelling on how grateful we are for the blessings in our life.

After deciding to do a Thankfulness journal back in August, cataloging my days with the boys like a diary of sorts, and adding in one thing every night that I was grateful for, I’ve decided this is something I will always try to do.  It’s been so wonderful to look back at the days, see what we did, the little hilarious things that happened, or the sad things and how we got through them, but especially to see what I thanked God for before bed each night.  It’s been interesting to wrap up each day, no matter how good or terrible it was, with the blessing of choosing thankfulness for at least ONE thing I was grateful for.  The days ebb and flow, stretching out and long, or passing by faster than I felt I could keep up, but God’s love remained the same.

fall2015 184

I love the seasons, how each year brings a chance of renewal and remembering what God has blessed us with or brought us through, or what He’s doing right now in our trials.  Recently, our Bible study has switched from studying about the wonder of God, to the joy He wants us to experience.  It’s a strange thing to be studying so much about joy when November, for me, has always been about thankfulness.

I didn’t really realize it, but joyfulness comes extremely easily to me… and this is a gift I should be thankful for!  Ever since being accused of not being genuine – being too happy to be real – back when I was maybe 16 or 17, I’ve wondered why my joy, my genuine happiness wasn’t always perceived as a reality.

Our study guide asked us each to rate on a scale of 1-10, how much joy we have in our life, and I rated it easily at a 9 out of 10.

Joy, happiness, cheerfulness are feelings that come easily to me, but I never understood how much of a blessing this was until doing this study.  In fact, I almost felt a little ashamed at my celebrating the joyfulness of life, afraid that I only looked fake.  I never realized how this is something people sometimes have to work at, and sometimes very hard.  The author of the study admitted she believed her capacity for joy in her life had been only at a 3 out of 10 before searching it out in Scriptures.  I guess when someone is at such a low score of joy in their own life, when they see someone who has a higher level of joy, their first thought is that this person can’t be real, that having that kind of experience must be fake.

“Joy is a gift.

You can be more joyful tomorrow than you are today.”

A huge part of being joyful though, is allowing yourself to enjoy the gifts God’s give to all people in life.  It is also understanding yourself enough to know how to search out and go do the things that fill you back up with more joy when you’re running low or going through a difficult time.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Whatever it is, joy doesn’t seem to be something that is passively waiting for everything to be just right before we can feel it’s pleasure.

JOY INVOLVES A SPECTRUM OF EMOTIONS, ACTIONS, AND RESPONSES THAT INCLUDE GLADNESS, CHEER, HAPPINESS, MERRIMENT, DELIGHTING, DANCING, SHOUTING, EXULTING, REJOICING, LAUGHING, PLAYING, BRIGHTENING, BLESSING, AND BEING BLESSED, TAKING PLEASURE IN, AND BEING WELL-PLEASED.

One of my favorite places to go in the mornings for a walk with the baby.

One of my favorite places to go in the mornings for a walk with the baby.

Make November full of joy for yourself and your family!

Cook up your favorite holiday dishes a little earlier, make some delicious pumpkin pancakes with hot maple syrup for breakfast, go for a walk in nature and really feel the vibrancy of the colors around you.  Curl up in quiet space with a good book and glass of wine, or get up early and wrap up in a blanket on the couch with a hot cup of your favorite coffee.  These are things that never fail to bring me joy.

Promise to do something, to be radiant with God’s love for you, and to allow yourself to search out joy this November, and I wonder if you’ll find yourself also swelling with gratitude in the end.

Men – Don’t Waste Your 20’s Misunderstanding Women & What They Want

When I wrote Single Women Don’t Waste Your 20’s in Casual Sex & Hookups, I was going off of a feeling I have gotten from many friends and acquaintances who feel as though that is what they did.  It started with just seeing examples in my family like my cousin’s experience that I described in that post, and expanded to friends who are older, and has expanded to friends my age that are just “waking up,” and realizing the decade that they’ve missed.

What I never thought of before, at least, not being aware of enough to write about it, was the fact that many men (especially Christian men), feel this same way.

They actually feel as though they missed out on an entire decade of understanding what women want, and as a result, are unhappily single in their 30’s and even into their 40’s.

Feminism told women that being promiscuous was fine.  That it wouldn’t have an effect on their emotions, their psyche, or their future marriage.  They could be as promiscuous as they wanted, and would still be valuable in the eyes of men.  Letting themselves be used, like a cheap whore, was suddenly very empowering.  The thought of a submissive wife that followed her husband’s lead was distasteful, meant that the woman was stunted in growth and maturity, and was labeled as the woman being a doormat or under oppression.  Even the church, to a great degree, has bought into this lie and feels uncomfortable really tackling the issue of wifely submission from a biblical standpoint.

But consider the message feminism sold to you men.

Men were told by feminism that their masculinity was wrong, that manly behaviors were unnecessary to attract women.  Just be Yourself, your emo, socially inhibited, not-good-with-women self and that someonesomeday… would finally see your true worth!  But don’t bother improving yourself!  We don’t want to tell you that!  You don’t need to be macho… in fact, it’s oppression to tell you that (Emma Watson)!  You just wait, hangout with your geeky or nerdy friends and someday, God will drop a heavenly, gorgeous princess into your lap because you’ve been a good boy.  You’ve waited (and remained celibate) for SO long.  God will reward that.

It’s ok to show your more feminine nature, men – those behaviors of showing emotions, being more vulnerable and open are valuable for men to display!

In fact, the man who is truly sure of himself and acts more effeminate, is a REAL man (note the shaming language these women use when saying that word).  Homosexuality is even more preferable and popular than real masculinity.

We can clearly see that the lie feminism sold to women concerning their liberal sexuality not having any negative effects is wrong, but it’s trickier to pin down the lie that real masculinity isn’t what women desire.

But the result of these lies feminism sold to men was creating a male that women wouldn’t be attracted to, at least not viscerally attracted to.  Why does that visceral attraction matter?  Shouldn’t women be attracted to men for more than their sex appeal anyway?  Of course.  But what matters most to men in their marriage?  Respect, admiration, and sex.  Their sex life is pretty high up there in importance, so marrying a Christian wife who’s only barely attracted to them sexually is a recipe for years or decades of frustration, anger, and resentment.

There are many men who are waking up and either realizing they wasted their 20’s being too nice, too sweet, too supplicating to attract a woman to marry, or that they married someone who constantly undermines their authority, disrespects them anywhere she goes and to anyone who will listen, and would rather be doing anything than having sex with him.

These men feel angry when they wake up.  They feel like for most of their lives, that they were lied to, and you know… they were.  By well meaning mothers, by the girls that rejected them, and even by church leadership in telling them in words or through implied messages, to be something that was unattractive to women.  The Single Nice Christian Man… the one who is always rejected, or at the very least, has very few dates.  The one who is always told to “Just Be Yourself,” but constantly gets the feeling that it’s this being himself that is getting him rejected.

Every time he tries to approach a woman, he fails.  It begins an incredibly devastating cycle of desire for a girl he likes, hope that he might be able to get her if he does A-B-C-D, finding his hopes dashed because she’s obviously not attracted to him, feeling the pain of rejection, the feelings of hopelessness, the questions of “what is wrong with me?” or “will I ever be enough?”  And then he is brought back to the desire again when he sees another girl he would like to have a relationship with.

Christian men are especially at risk for this Cycle of Hopeless Dating (I’m terming this CHD).  I’ve written before on how Christianity seems to cripple their young single men, and while I still think some of those points were correct, I’ve come to the conclusion that the problem is much more complex.

I talked about our Christian singles not understanding how to lead a woman (and getting mixed messages that their wives were really leading anyway), not understanding positive masculinity because they didn’t have any ritual or ceremony celebrating becoming a man, and I even touched on some important, albeit minor things that Nice Guys do wrong in relationships, but what I didn’t get down to was the real issue of why they are wasting so much time.

It’s because they just don’t understand women and what they really want from them as single Christian men.

It’s not that they are constantly told to be a certain way and it will all work out fine for them, it’s that they are told by the same women they want to attract who then go on to reject them!  They are constantly and from almost every angle, misled to believe that this is what Christian women want.

Christian women never say what it is they truly do want, because it’s not socially acceptable to place so much emphasis on traditional masculinity or key elements of sensuality.  She may say they want a man who vacuums.  She wants a man who shares the household chores and never makes her feel like she needs to be responsible for keeping the house a home (or tidy).  She wants a man who never challenges her on her beliefs or behavior.  A “servant leader” who isn’t really leading because he constantly asks her if it’s “ok?” on any and every topic he’s expected to make a decision.  He always defers to her, she has the final word because she’s really the one leading.

The problem is… Women don’t really want this… because they can’t respect this, and when they get (or worse, marry) a man like that, they disrespect him either in front of him, to him, or behind his back when talking to other women about his lack of ability or leadership.

Do you want a Christian wife who will put you down to her friends when you’re not around?  … Who will constantly make you the butt of her jokes? … Who will harp on you to take out the trash or do the dishes, but turn you down for sex every night of the week for months on end?  Or worse, give you duty sex where she just lays there because she resents having to do it with you?

Women like this have no concept of reciprocity (meeting his sexual needs) because they take advantage of the push-over men they married whom they don’t respect, much less honor.  It usually doesn’t even cross their minds that their husbands actually deserve something better than the treatment they’re giving them or showing them.  And men trapped in these marriages are at a loss as to what to do about it.

Most men honestly think their wives will repay his efforts, appreciate the work he puts into their marriage, be reciprocal when it comes to rewarding shared household tasks with passionate, loving affection and sex.  Most often not… in fact, a recent study has proven that men who shared equal household chores or did chores that were less “manly” had less passionate sex lives, and fewer sexual encounters with their wives.

A February paper in the American Sociological Review reported that married couples in which men take on a greater share of the dishes, laundry and other traditionally female chores had sex less often than average, which in this study was about five times a month. Yet couples in which men confined themselves largely to traditionally male chores such as yard work enjoyed sex more frequently than average. Taken to the extreme, men who performed all the traditionally female chores would have had sex 1.6 times less often than men who did none of them. The study authors, from the Juan March Institute in Madrid and the University of Washington, arrived at the correlation by crunching data from the National Survey of Families and Households (NFSH), which gathered survey information from 4,500 U.S. married couples. The researchers ruled out any kind of coercion on the part of the “manly” chore-performing husbands by looking at data from the same survey on sexual satisfaction: they found that women from households with more traditional divisions of labor felt no less happy with their sex lives than women in more gender-neutral ones.  …

Displays of masculinity may evoke feminine displays in women, which activates or intensifies sexual charge. Put the man on a rider mower, in other words, and boom—fireworks. Stand him at a sudsy sink, and it’s a probable no go.

Making your husband into your effeminate “partner” that has lost his masculinity is not, apparently, a turn on.  Equal partnership couples apparently have less sex overall.

Apparently, it was reported in the findings of a survey done by American motherhood website iVillage, that most women (including Christian wives) would rather be doing ANYTHING else than having sex with their husbands.  And when you’d rather be doing anything else… you start to find excuses to do anything else.

Here are some of their complaints and confessions about their lackluster sex lives:

Of the 2,000 women surveyed, more than 80 per cent described their sex lives as predictable.

Some 67 per cent said that the position was too repetitive, whilst 56 per cent said the time of day it happened was the same every time.

An alarming 45 per cent could only say at best they were ‘somewhat happy’ with their sex life and

62 per cent said they fantasise about having sex with somebody who is not their husband.

How many husbands live in marriages where their wife gives a constant barrage of excuses for not wanting to have sex with him?

Even when she does give you begrudging sex, keep in mind that by their own admission… 62% of these women are fantasizing about someone sexier than you.

Wake up, single men, that means that the majority of women out there are not that attracted to the man they chose to marry.  They’d rather do house work (something women really hate to do) than spend any amount of time engaging in sex or affection with him.  When housework ranks above sex with her husband, you know something is terribly, horrifyingly wrong.

*

This is the condition of Christian marriages today, not all of course, but in teaching Christian men how to *not* be masculine, how to *not* attract the women who will actually want to have healthy sex lives with them, we are robbing them of their God-given natures, and plans for their lives to be lived fulfilled.  Sexually fulfilled.  Because a married man does not feel fulfilled if he is not sexually fulfilled by his wife.

Let’s really ponder that.

It is rare to find a man who is really leading his family, who’s wife is whole-heartedly submitting to his headship and authority.  Let’s make it not so rare.

The Sin Us Women Easily Fall Into… Comparison-S’merison

I found this great post on April’s The Peaceful Single Girl blog.  April has spent years learning and searching out wisdom and spiritual maturity, especially in regards to the particular temptations and sins women fall into.  She can be found running her Peaceful Wife blog as well, where she graciously takes her time to answer some of our most difficult questions in marriage or regarding submission to our husbands. She’s even, to my surprise, personally taken the time to council me privately in regards to my purpose in life, and what I should take time to focus on more – what path I should take when I’m at this crossroads of confusion about the future.  She is a wealth of information and incredibly generous with taking the time for you, so check out her blogs and drop her a line if this speaks to you.  Get to know April!  I promise you won’t be disappointed!

Whether you’re single or married, I found this to be an interesting post from her friend.

Enjoy!

*

Today’s guest post is by my dear friend (from my church) who is a single sister in Christ and is in her early 30s:

Hey y’all! I’m Krystal, and I’m excited to be sharing on PSG. April has been asking me to write for a while now, but I’ve hesitated because I think the folks who write here are really good and I’m not sure if I will measure up. So I thought it appropriate to start off with an area in which I clearly have a temptation/sin issue. Let’s talk about comparison.

I am convinced that the temptation of comparison has been Satan’s go-to for women across the ages. Look at how he tempted Eve in the Garden: “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 5:6, emphasis mine). It started with her, and it continues today. But before we get to us, let’s take a pit stop just a little to the right of Eve’s story, in Genesis 29 – 30, and look at Leah’s story.

Isaac has directed Jacob to go to Laban, his maternal uncle, and take one of his daughters as his wife. The first thing we learn about Leah is that she is the older of Laban’s two daughters. And the second thing we learn is that she has what has been most often translated to “weak eyes” in English. The meaning of the Hebrew here is unclear, but Leah’s weak eyes are directly contrasted with Rachel’s beauty. So whatever having “weak eyes” meant in ancient Hebrew culture, it probably wasn’t a good thing. Essentially, Rachel was beautiful, but Leah was not. Hello, comparison.

So it’s no surprise when Jacob decides that Rachel is the sister he wants. And not only that, he volunteers to work for seven years to get her as his wife. Then the seven years are up and Jacob has his wedding feast. He goes into the tent and consummates the marriage. And then, “in the morning, behold, it was Leah!” Laban had tricked him into marrying Leah. So not only was Leah passed over by Jacob for her beautiful younger sister, her father thought he had to trick someone into marrying her. Where I live, this is where we stop, shake our heads, and say, “bless her little heart.”

Leah lives in a culture where beauty is highly valued, and she apparently doesn’t have it. Comparisons to her beautiful sister abound. Can you imagine what people say behind her back? “Oh poor, Leah. Too bad she’s not beautiful like Rachel.” What about to her face? “Leah, you should try [insert beauty regimen/workout routine here]. Maybe that would help you get a man.” And imagine what she now has to endure, “Did you hear? Laban had to trick someone into marrying her.”

DO YOU FEEL LIKE LEAH?

I volunteer with the college group at my church, and we were talking about Leah this week with a group of upperclassmen and graduate students. I was shocked as girls all around the room talked about how they identified with Leah. These beautiful girls who I would have definitely considered “Rachels” had story after story of comparisons they make (or others have made for them) and experiences they have had with guys choosing “my friend who is prettier than me.” They taught me this week that in the battle for our minds and in Satan’s tempting us with comparison, we’re all Leahs. We all live in a culture where beauty reigns, and we all feel like we don’t measure up.

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” –James 1:14-15

COMPETING IN OTHER AREAS

Appearance is a super common area of comparison for women, but it’s certainly not the only one. I have a younger sister who has always been prettier, skinnier, cooler, and more popular than I am. I know I get myself into trouble when I compare myself to her, yet I continue to do it.

For example, I just got a fitbit. Today she challenged me to a competition in which the person who takes the most steps during the day wins. I typically go trail running on Saturday mornings but it’s been raining here for a few days so I decided to skip this week and have a lazy Saturday. She had not skipped the gym, so she had over 12,000 steps by noon (that’s like 6 miles). Well, I just could not let her beat me by so much, so I went out to walk for an hour this afternoon. And then I ended up staying out for an hour and a half so that I could pass her step count. Now, going for a walk in and of itself is not a bad thing; in fact, it’s a pretty good choice to make on the surface. But look at my motives; look at my heart. I was out there walking only so that I could catch up to her steps. And then I decided that it wasn’t good enough to just catch up, I needed to win. In the time I’ve been writing this post, I’ve checked twice four times to make sure I’m still ahead. Yikes.

What is wrong with me? The same thing that’s wrong with all of us. We are sinful people living in a world devastated by sin.

Sisters, we are hard-wired for the temptation of comparison. Satan lures us this way precisely because we have a deep desire to measure up to, or more often to be better than, someone else. We must recognize that we are tempted in this way and take action to stop this temptation from becoming sin. As James tells us in those verses above, ignoring temptation and giving in to it will eventually lead to death.

HERE ARE SOME SCRIPTURE-BASED WAYS TO GET OURSELVES OUT OF TEMPTATION BEFORE IT BECOMES SIN:

  1. Identify and keep yourself from situations that tempt you.

I have to admit: this is so hard. Living in the world but not by the world’s standards is so, so difficult. For me, social media provides the biggest opportunity for comparison temptation in my life. It seems like all my friends are getting married, having babies,  buying houses, losing weight, or getting promotions… and the list goes on and on. I found myself living in the middle of all that jealousy and feeling sorry for myself by comparison fairly constantly. So I made the decision last year to get rid of my Facebook account.

Jesus has strong words about keeping ourselves from temptation in Matthew 18:8-9: “And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.”

Wow. Deleting my Facebook account seems incredibly mild and much less of a sacrifice in comparison to this. I’m also much more careful about what movies and televisions shows I choose to watch these days, as well as which books I choose to read. It’s hard enough to be tempted to compare myself to real people; I’m totally setting myself up for failure when I start comparisons to made-up characters. For other people, totally different things may lead you to the temptation of comparison.

Action Step: Write down each time this week you feel the temptation of comparison rise to the surface and what the immediate cause was. Let’s learn to recognize our temptations and take steps to avoid putting ourselves in those situations.

  1. Know the Word.

Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness before his earthly ministry began (you can find accounts of His temptation in Matthew 4, Mark 1, and Luke 4). Jesus overcame this temptation by responding to Satan using God’s Word. In the acute moments of our temptation, it is essential that we have hidden God’s Word in our hearts.

Memorization of Scripture is essential in fighting temptation. I did a lot of memorizing scripture back in my Bible drill days, but I have to admit there’s a good 15 – 20 years since in which I did practically none. I recently restarted this spiritual discipline, and I have focused on memorizing full books rather than verses out of context.

Action Step: Join me in this endeavor. It sounds incredibly overwhelming, but I promise it is not only doable but also a huge blessing and a totally different interaction with Scripture than reading or even studying it. I follow this plan for extended scripture memorization, and I can tell you that it works. Pick a book that you enjoy studying or frequently found yourself drawn to. Ask God where you should start.

Jesus specifically instructs the disciples to “watch and pray” in the Garden of Gethsemane just before His death so that they wouldn’t fall into temptation. They didn’t, and they all fled. Peter famously denied knowing Christ three times before morning.

We must make use of the power of prayer in overcoming our temptation. God hears our cries for help (Psalm 18:6). 1 John 5:14 tells us: “this is the confidence that we have toward Him, that if we ask anything according to His will He hears us.”Fleeing temptation is certainly according to God’s will, so we can be confident that he hears our prayers for help overcoming temptation.

Action Step: Let’s get serious about praying for the Spirit’s wisdom in overcoming those things by which we are tempted. I find it helpful to keep a prayer journal. I write down my prayers, what God tells me, and how I respond to his instruction. This process helps me identify patterns in my life and remind myself of how faithful God is.

SUMMARY

Let me wrap up by pulling us back into Leah’s world. Jacob ended up marrying Rachel too, and he loved her more. In fact, Genesis 29:31 tells us that Leah was hated.

  • But it was Leah who gave Jacob his firstborn son.
  • Leah is the mother of both the priestly (Levi) and the kingly (Judah) lines. Don’t miss this: Christ’s lineage goes back to Leah, not the beautiful sister whom Jacob loved more.
  • Leah, not Rachel, was buried in the family tomb with Jacob, Isaac, Rebekah, Abraham, and Sarah (Genesis 49:31).

God’s plan for our lives is in no way based on our worldly standards of comparison. By worldly standards, Leah did not measure up. But that didn’t matter to God, because He sees us not based on our worldly standards of outward appearance but based on our hearts (1 Samuel 16:7) and His plan is not hampered by our weaknesses (Isaiah 14:27). Let’s pray that He will teach us to see ourselves in His way and that He will help us to overcome the temptation of comparison.

The Best Thing

We were out running errands this last Thursday, when my husband decided to stop by an RV dealership just to look and see what they had since we saw we were ahead of schedule.  He’s had this hint of a dream of owning an RV for a few years now, it started with the desire to be able to travel in retirement, and then grew to the dream of using it for vacations with our children camping around the country.  It is cute, and even though I really disliked the thought of RVs in general, I adore how he is so drawn to them.

We were met by a salesman who wanted to know how to help us, and were up front in saying that we weren’t ready to buy anytime soon, but just wanted to look at the prices and see what they had to get some research on what it’d be like to own an RV.  The salesman didn’t mind taking us around and even offered us the entire property to explore on our own.  As the time went on, him showing us RVs and asking us questions about our life, he started talking about his own family and offering some great advice.

He had married young, and was still a very handsome man, he had 6 children with one wife, and was honest with us in saying that he loved seeing how we acted with each other, and hearing what we were doing and planning to do with our “beautiful” family.  It was such a sweet encouragement.  He talked with me about the importance of staying home with my children while they are so young, how 4 out of his 6 children had that privilege with his wife and as a result, excelled in school and even in college – finishing in just 3 years with their degrees.  His last two children didn’t have that opportunity, as his wife had already started her career, and as a result, were in daycare from a young age and struggled the entire time with their schooling, including college.  All of kids though, were now adults and doing excellent in their own paths in life.  He showed us a picture of his family – it was so sweet, and his wife looked so impossibly beautiful that I actually thought she was his daughter!  Meeting him, hearing him talk about his family, feeling the reassurance of our own paths in life, was a blessing to me personally.

One thing that stuck with me when talking to him while expressing how much I loved being able to be home with my babies, was him agreeing and saying that having a family, enjoying your family and actually getting to be with your kids, was just “the best thing in life.”

The Best Thing.

And it really is.  There are so many times when I can’t believe how blessed we are to have each other, to have our boys, and the excitement I feel for the future paired with the pleasure I feel in just enjoying the mundane moments together.  He encouraged me about feeling so behind on my career, how it was on the back burner.  I was not a woman who didn’t know what to do with my life.  I had a profession in mind when I was only 9 years old, I loved school and especially college.  I was ambitious… I had motivation… I knew what I wanted and was going after it at lightning speed!  😀

I received my Bachelor’s of Science in Biology, and graduated with honors mostly because genuinely enjoyed the difficult classes.  I devoured my education, and loved every last bit of it.  I had the taste of utilizing my degree by working in research and still miss it, miss learning new things everyday, and miss the excitement of scientific discovery.  The salesman reminded me that I was still so young, and that his own wife had waited until mid to late-30’s to even start her career in nursing, and still climbed her track steadily until she became a very prestigious nurse.  It was so interesting to hear him talk about how her particular type of nursing was her vocation, her calling (and very necessary one, giving chemotherapy to child cancer patients).  But he also insisted that raising their children, creating a beautiful family, was also an incredible part of her success.

It was The Best Thing.  Not her amazing job, not how she’s using her talents now, not how she’s able to help children who are dying… but how she raised her children.

Her family, her ensuring that her children grew up to become good, healthy, well-adjusted people, kids who excelled in school, who knew what they wanted in life, was “the best thing.”

Him having a family, enjoying his family while they were growing up in his household, seeing them turn into adults, was the best thing.

*

I know with our toxic environment that is aggressively hostile to the family, especially the traditional, Christian family, it’s hard to feel any encouragement that what we are doing is making any difference.

But if you are out there, trying to do the right thing for your family, if you’re a wife who is working because the income is needed right now, or a stay-at-home-mom who is lovingly teaching her children and faithfully home-schooling them so sacrificially, I just want to encourage you.  I’m thinking of you tonight.

If you’re a husband who’s keeping it together, making the best of your life, and honoring your commitment to your children, I want to encourage you.

It really is the best thing.

Perspective – Reaping & Sowing

I’ve been thinking a lot about perspective … in general, having the right attitude toward life and people, a sense of the long-term as well as being present in the now.  Perspective that births forth the much needed character development and perseverance able to get us through various life seasons.  I’m talking about seasons of all kinds, seasons of growth, seasons of waiting, pain, blessings, loss, and renewal.

Things like infertility, miscarriage, job loss, mental illness, your kids having a hard time in school or enduring sickness, relocations, new jobs, new churches – anything that we may all face in one way or another, or help friends who are in that season.  Do we keep a godly perspective on these things?  Are we prepared to face them when life throws them our way?

Its been on my mind lately, how important it is that we are sowing in the different seasons of our lives, and not sitting stagnantly by in times of hardship, or when our cup is overflowing.  Even in the most difficult times, we need to be actively sowing into our families things that we will eagerly await to reap when the time comes.  It matters so much, what we choose to sow.

Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD And whose trust is the LORD.

For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream,

And will not fear when the heat comes;

But its leaves will be green,

And it will not be anxious in a year of drought

Nor cease to yield fruit.

Jeremiah 17:7-8

What do you want to sow?

In our family, I want to actively sow goodness, faithfulness, hard work, optimism, perseverance, joy, patience, kindness, peace, teamwork, and affectionate love.  I’m always being watched by my children, in a very real way, this knowledge that I’m being watched and looked up to by them in order for them to learn these valuable life lessons through example (my example), keeps me accountable.  I’d better do right by them, they deserve no less!

Its a constant feeling of excitement that God is growing me, maturing me, into someone better than before – better than last year, better than the year before that.  Constantly evolving, having a clear picture of the kind of woman I want to be.  Its not an anxious pressure that I feel breathing down my neck or anything, but more of an appreciative anticipation towards maturity.

You reap what you sow.

“Sow with a view to righteousness, Reap in accordance with kindness; Break up your fallow ground, For it is time to seek the LORD Until He comes to rain righteousness on you. You have plowed wickedness, you have reaped injustice, You have eaten the fruit of lies Because you have trusted in your way, in your numerous warriors, “

Hosea 10:12-13

I love the analogy of reaping and sowing, of planting seeds in soil, even the soil itself matters.  Is it fertile soil?  Is it receptive, rocky, or too acidic?  The soil represents our hearts, and what we sow matters just as much as the purity that is already present in our hearts in order to receive it.  Sowing, in a broader sense, is more than merely planting seeds, its taking the time to tend and nurture those seeds and seedlings.  Its taking care to nourish the soil, making sure it has the right nutrients that it needs in order to be receptive, as well as the seedlings under our care.

Its important as Christians that we are sowing responsibly – spending our time, money, and resources on what is benefiting our personal (spiritual) growth.  Are we going where we’re supposed to go?  Are we engaging in activities that are helping us to become better women of God (or men of God)?  Or are we doing things that are counter to what we desire to be sown?  Are we falling by the wayside and letting our life just pass us by?  What am I personally sowing into my life, and as a result, the life of my children?

There are different seasons of time when you can focusing more on sowing, or reaping … or both….  we’ve entered into a very busy life season, with my son going to an exciting but difficult school, being involved in a sports team way more intense than your average YMCA, raising a new baby, managing home and social life, doing something (hello, anything) with my shop, and planning on getting pregnant again next year.

The school and sports are what are really life changing… this school is difficult, and will take a lot of time, but hopefully will be worth it for him if he enjoys it.  The sports team is also a big change, as they’re going to have practices 3 nights a week.  These people are hardcore and intense, the Y just wasn’t cutting it for him anymore because it was too easy, created a non-competitive environment where even the worst kids got trophies, or only provided unknowledgeable coaching.  We’re waiting to see if the busy schedule will work out well, trying to keep a balance and peace sown into our life is a high priority.

Lots of changes… a very busy life season!  Yet even with all the new change, or the constant spending of our time and energy into these activities, I still need to be aware of what I’m sowing into our life, no matter the season.

As far as school, my son loving it, and having a blast just being there… I told him that i missed him that first day (and again after the first week) and he just said, “Well, Mom, I haven’t thought of you at all!”

YES!!!!!  GOAL ACCOMPLISHED!!!!

I would so much rather he be so involved, so focused and happy there that he forget me and not worry about him missing me.  Even days later though, I still miss him.  I miss his loudness… his happiness… his crazy energy.  Our classroom/game room just is not the same without our oldest in it.  And I really really miss him.

But I am so elated that he doesn’t miss me… not even a little bit!  😀

I’ve spent these past two years pouring time and effort into teaching him in the mornings just to prepare him for going to “big school.”  I’m so proud of him, but I’m proud at what he’s accomplished in the past two years as well.  I’ve spent two years sowing discipline, love of learning, practice of writing, math, reading, a little science and geography/culture, and music, and now he’s more than ready to take on Kinder.  And he’s taking it on with a happy attitude!

He had his first homework yesterday, and he finished his daily homework for Monday within about 1 minute.  I was shocked, but I shouldn’t have been really – it was very easy compared to the level he’s attained with me at home.  He was already doing first grade activities when he was 4 years old.  He was elated that it was so easy, so he went on to complete his packet for the rest of the week’s homework in one sitting!  I’ve created a scholastic monster!

His heart has been prepared, I tried very hard to make sure I made learning pleasant and fun, setting him up for success back then – the small successes – and in hindsight, it was really setting himself up for future success by learning to love school and become a high-achiever.  He enjoys doing homework (hopefully that can last through his teens lol 😛 ).  He seems to be reaping what we’ve been sowing in his heart and mind, and it touches my heart, making me want to double down my efforts and apply this lesson in other ares of our lives.

I want to sow kindness, so that he will learn to be kind.

I want to sow discipline, so that he can learn the immeasurable importance of having discipline in his life.

I want to sow joy in his heart, so that he can carry it into his future and weather the storms that will come.

And so much more.

Discipleships, Mentors, & Spiritual Growth

This past weekend I had a request to write a post about how a young wife can find a Biblical mentor in real life.  It is a fantastic question, and something I wish I knew to do earlier on in my marriage!  We are about to leave on vacation tomorrow, but I just had to get this last post out before leaving for a week.

I remember I had one woman I looked up to in college that was living a beautiful, godly life, one I definitely wanted to emulate. Unfortunately, I wasn’t smart enough or pushy enough to ask her if she would be willing to take me under her wing and guide me along in my choices.  She even tried herself to set me up with another mentor that she thought I would love, but I carelessly threw away the opportunity by procrastinating and never getting in touch with the other woman myself.  It was something I always set on the back burner, and never took seriously.

One may ask why do we have mentors?  Why are they actually needed?  One of the main reasons why we need mentors in our life is to have someone wise and important to us in order to bounce ideas off of, to ask questions to, and to ask for direction when we’re faced with a difficult or confusing situation.  It is not good to allow ourselves to be an island, there is even Scripture condemning various aspects of isolating yourself, or going about battle plans (life plans) without having several counselors in order to ensure your success.  We are not supposed to do life successfully without people to reach out to, with no one to remain accountable to, and no one to subtly keep us in check when we’re straying off course.

We desperately need mentors in our life so that we are continuing to grow in spiritual maturity.  Part of that is having someone who stops you when they see you are doing something counter to achieving your goal of spiritual growth.

I’ve found that not having at least one mentor that you are transparent with is a very dangerous situation to be in.  Personally, there was a time when I got myself into so much trouble that could have been completely prevented had I been confiding in a mentor and allowing that kind of interjection in my life.  I even realized it when I was paying the consequences of making a truly idiotic decision, and it was right then, at about 25 years old, that I decided I needed to be far more intentional about bringing in good women into my life that could help me avoid awful pitfalls from acting without biblical mentorship.  Your goal is spiritual growth, keep that in mind and avoid engaging in activities that reek of immaturity.

Can your husband be your spiritual mentor?

LOL oh how I wish things were so simple.  The short answer?  No.  Long answer?  Yes and no.  Your husband is for sure, a wealth of resources in offering you advice and spiritual leadership, covering you and offering protection, as well as calling out your sin and what you may be doing wrongly to yourself or others.  He has spiritual authority over you, and deserves your respect for his thoughts and advice on what you should be doing.  I’m lucky in that my husband is even capable of teaching me his life skills of how to deal with people, so in this one way, of course he can be considered a kind of mentor.  But as far as female mentorship, your husband is not a woman, he is not a feminine being that understands a female experience, there are many things he cannot advise you on simply because he is not an older woman in a more progressed life stage than you.  Can he take an educated guess and probably do pretty well?  Of course, but it’s my opinion that it would put undue strain and pressure on him to try to advise you in the way a older, wiser, female mentor would be easily able to do.  Why ask him to fill a role that another woman is biblically admonished to do for younger wives?

There have been many times that one of my mentors has subtly challenged me to be a better wife by encouraging me, or to look at a circumstance differently by telling me her perspective on the matter, or to appreciate what I had rather than feel sorry for myself when I was upset over something trivial.  It’s been incredible to be able to have wise women who are trustworthy enough to be so transparent with.  They’ve done life with me, prayed with me over very personal issues – some regarding social media at times when I was being attacked.  They’ve challenged me with this blog, with the people I choose to support or the questions I choose to answer here; there has even been an instance when one has been able to help me see something I was doing wrong – when I was allowing myself (and the blog) to be taken advantage of in her opinion.  One recently suggested that I don’t allow negative comments at all, because she was angry on my behalf that someone from our real life would feel emboldened by anonymity to leave a hurtful comment criticizing my husband and our marriage.  If I didn’t have these women in my life, and truly in my life as far as knowing what I’m up to on the internet, I would have more incentive to sin or act without spiritual maturity simply because of having no real life accountability to keep me in check.

And for women who use social media, accountability seems to be something that is largely missing.  It has become a strange phenomenon for women in particular (though men do, too) to be unduly harsh and hyper-critical when attacking someone online under the guise of anonymity.  They can be the sweetest, most normal person to your face in real life, however, without feeling an accountability to others and to God, they can somehow let out their true feelings about you in a verbal lashing online.  The only good thing that comes from something like that is you now know what they’ve truly thought of you all along.  But the case remains, even online, we all need accountability, having at least one mentor that you spill the beans to meets that spiritual need.

So… How do you find a mentor?

1) Be picky – When picking out a personal mentor whom you’ll confide in and let into your life, there is very good reason to be extremely picky.  For one, you should not value the opinion of just anyone, if you can tell someone has an impure heart or motivations toward you, if they judge you on appearance alone or display a two-faced demeanor, their opinion should matter very little, no matter how old or “wise” they appear (because they do not have a pure heart).  Just because someone is your elder does not mean they are spiritually mature.  Be picky in who you allow to criticize or advise you, not everyone (or even most people) understand you, care about you enough, or know you well enough in order to give you the advice you truly need.

2) Don’t be picky – while I just pointed out that not everyone should be considered a good spiritual mentor, at the same time, you don’t want to be too picky to where you are left with no one at all to mentor you.  To some degree, any older woman that is in a progressed life stage than you (or more mature) may be able to offer you great advice on some things, maybe not all things, or as well as a true mentor would be able to, but definitely some things that you may not yet understand.  Do not only look for someone who is your perfect idea of your mentor while excluding everyone else who is capable of giving out tidbits of truth.  I have found that acquiring many different mentors in my life has been by far the best thing because they have unique life experiences.  One in particular is in her 80’s, so incredibly wonderful and vastly spiritually mature due to her diligence in the Word and her sheer age.  She is the grandmother of my friend.  She has personally helped me to grow beyond my flaws and imperfections – things she herself said she used to have that were unique, we are the same exact personality, and felt compelled to help me grow in personally using her life experience to guide me along.  This kind of experience is invaluable to a young wife looking to grow more spiritually mature.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

What happens when one of your mentor friends sees a glass vase break at your party… she gives you several more for free because she loves you!

3) Look for someone who is living the life you would want to be living.  For a real intense mentorship, it is crucial that you only pick someone that you admire in many ways, someone who’s life you’d like to have someday.  A godly woman who is self-controlled, manages herself well, manages her children and her household exceptionally, and above-all, treats her husband like the spiritual leader of the family.  She must exhibit having a firm grasp on displaying the fruit of the spirit, not acting rashly or immaturely, not behaving in ways that go against godly conduct.  Not being disrespectful to men – strangers or men in her life – is a big thing to watch out for.  I once thought a woman seemed like a worthy role model, completely had her life together, older and from what I could tell, wiser, that is until I saw her tell another man to “**** off!”

Basically, you need to be very careful who you look up to, because you will find yourself repeating their attitude and behavior unconsciously if you aren’t careful.

4) Get yourself out there!  I would never have met any of these women if I stayed shy and insecure in myself like I used to be (I truly was!).  It takes guts to reach out to others, to let them into your life that close so that they can see and know your personal flaws – but there is no better way to live than to let others do life with you and help you overcome your struggles! It has been so refreshing to be loved for myself, flaws and all, to have women who love me wholly, who call me to do better, and who are also friends who pray for me in these things.

Now I’ve had the honor and great pleasure to experience this from the other side – from being a mentor to younger women, and it always astonishes me how hard it is for them to get over that hump to really pursue mentorship for themselves.  They want it so bad, know they need it in their life, but it is hard to take that final step of making it a reality.

5) Be intentionally growing in the Word yourself.  You should be reading God’s word daily, seeking out His advice each morning or night, going to Bible studies with other women and female leaders where you can find future mentors.  You cannot expect to have wisdom, maturity, or a great mentorship just fall into your lap from the sky, you need to be intentionally growing on your own as well.

Some key points I learned from our sermon last Sunday regarding discipleship:

  • You should be persistant in your faithfulness.  This means that you always obey, always do what is right, whether in the presence or absence of a spiritual leader (your husband) or mentor.  This means that you feel accountability for your actions done in secret, that you are obeying all the little tugs of the Holy Spirit, continuing to travel in a direction God wants you to go in, and stopping once you feel it is time to stop or turn the other way.  This means that you are not anonymous, you represent Christ to the world because when you speak, you are one of His representatives.
  • You should be making intentional effort to obey and do what is right.  We are called to “work out our own salvation” in Philippians, which means to grow ever deeper in spiritual maturity.  Part of this intentional effort is to go where there are women’s Bible studies, seek out women to mentor you or pray with you.
  • You should have a radical reliance on Christ to finish the work He started in you. Part of working out our salvation in fear and trembling is allowing the Holy Spirit to convict and grow you – relying on Him to do this because He is faithful.  If you desire spiritual growth at all, you need to realize that is something God has given you as a gift.  We are constantly referred to as gardens in the Bible, with God being the Gardener.  Different people may water us, tend to us and help us along in our growth, but only God causes the growth to occur by working in and through us.
  • You should be seeing a Christ-like Transformation in yourself.  You need to be reflecting the attitude and character of Christ.  “Do everything without grumbling and arguing so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God, faultless in a crooked and perverted generation….”   It was ironic that when Christianity was first starting, the people of the movement were mocked and called “Christians” which literally meant “little Christs.”  People loved to mock them for representing someone so good, so perfect, and yet so far from what they could ever actually achieve.  Something that was meant to deride and mock these first Christ followers, was actually a true compliment and turned out to be a good thing.  We should be “little Christs,” we should look like Him, reflect Him in our attitude.
  • People should be able to see an obvious difference.  The end of the former mentioned verse continues like this “… so that you shine like stars in a world of darkness.”  We should be unmistakably bright, brilliant, shining out from others like stars in the night sky.  Unmissable, unmistakable.  A holy race, a chosen people, a royal nation.  But we also shouldn’t look at the darkness with disgust or disdain… we must look at it with compassion because we used to be that.
  • Ending thoughts: Your spiritual transformation is more reflected in what you do secretly on Monday-Saturday, than what you do on Sunday.  You can’t grow yourself, trying to be like Jesus without letting Him guide you is missing the point.

“We proclaim Him, warning and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ.

I labor for this, striving with His strength that works powerfully within me.” Colossians 1:28-29 HCSB