A couple weeks ago, I bought a new cookbook. Cooking is one of my favorites (which is a good thing since it is a rare night that I cook for less than 20!). But this cookbook was not just a cookbook. When I started perusing for inspiring recipes, I found tips on health, tips on fitness, tips on decorating, tips on beauty, tips on homemaking, tips on relaxing, and lots more tips. As I glanced over the tips to get on to the recipes, this author’s worldview began to emerge. The author had clearly discovered God’s common graces. She believes that a solitary marriage commitment is more satisfying than uncommitted unmarried relationships. She has learned to enjoy the beauty of creation and incorporates it into her home as a homemaker and cook. But she has also learned to carefully surround her life with these graces so that she can find such satisfaction and comfort from the creation that she is left without a need for the Creator. And she writes a book to help others achieve the same!
I’m not planning to throw this book out as heresy. I’ve already enjoyed making some of the recipes and have even applied some of her “tips”. But this cookbook has been a helpful evaluator for me to ask where I go for satisfaction and comfort. God has given so many natural blessings, that those blessings (my amazing husband, my precious children, encouraging friends, yummy food, stunning nature, a cozy bed, comfy living spaces next to aromatic candles…) could all become replacements for my greatest blessing and object of worship—GOD!
How do His gifts morph into vices so easily? How does my enjoyment of quiet intimacy with my Lord quickly become a demand for uninterrupted privacy? Before I know it, I’ve twisted the gift into a need. I’ve been deceived into believing the lie that I will be happy if…
Yet, God’s Truth gives a different picture. God assures us that HE is our most peaceful place when we keep our minds on Him and trust in Him (Isaiah 26:3). God promises to restore our souls as our Good Shepherd (Psalm 23:3). Jesus promises that His sustaining peace far outweighs the world’s temporary substitutes (John 14:27). This is the Truth.
How does this relate to my life in the jungle? Right now, we are on school “holiday.” That means that 25 of our family members who were at boarding school are home for a month. I always gear up for this intensification of life with extra prayer. I’m more keenly aware of my need for God’s grace during “holidays” than any other time of the year. The last couple of days, our church has hosted a youth conference. This means that these kids packed their bags and participated in the event (meals included!). So I was left at home with my 6 to cook for (4 of them attended the conference, but showed up at home at mealtimes!). Yesterday, as I was cooking (a couple additional families still needed meals), the house was so quiet that I only heard the humming of the fridge, and for the first time, I heard the ticking of the clock. It was a luxury of quiet privacy. I almost felt giddy, not knowing which uninterrupted sermon to listen to first as I chopped away. But instead of chopping in a carefree, peaceful environment, a new fear had emerged. A thought of dread entered my mind: In a day and a half, they will all come home and this quiet will be shattered! (Extroverts, these are the secret thoughts of us introverts). Now, I don’t want for a minute for you to think I don’t enjoy being mom to 44 kids in my home. I really do—most of the time. But the pressures usually feel like too much. So when I experienced a break, I acted like Peter who began to sink in the water, I can’t do this. I’ll sink! And that’s when he started to sink…until he looked up at Jesus.
Since yesterday, the Lifter of my head has turned my eyes back to him and has given me three reminders I want to share with you:
First, the life God has given me is God-ordained. I would never have dreamed of such a full plate, but these are the works God prepared beforehand for me to walk in. So who am I to resist my Creator’s plan? Instead, I want to be “zealous for every good work” (Titus 2:14). The caution is to make sure the good works are His, not mine. He will provide for His work, not the extra projects I invent.
Second, the danger of having the manageable life I daydream about is that I will lose my dependent mindset. I would be able to float through my day, tackling one list after another without the desperate cries to my Father that my current situation necessitates. While my flesh would love 5 minutes without giving first aid care to a child or neighbor, each “interruption” is an opportunity for me to whisper for help to serve the least of these—and hopefully is chiseling off a little more of me so I can look a little more like my Master.
Third, the reality of God’s presence is not preserved for a quiet, clock-ticking day in the kitchen. God’s presence is available in the midst of the crowds. It is real when I’m reaching over people for ingredients in the crowded kitchen. It is real when I’m refereeing conflicts while counseling another person’s tears. Since Christ dwells in my heart through faith, I am always in God’s presence. And in His presence, there is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11). In His presence, I can hide (Psalm 31:20). I don’t have to hide from the chaos to find His presence (though I do each early morning), but I can stay in His presence in the midst of the chaos.
Will you pray for me to stay in God’s presence? Will you pray for me to be mindful that God is with me always and will provide each minute’s strength and wisdom? Our house is packed until school starts again on September 16th, and even then, I don’t want to lose my sense of God’s presence. I want to be godly—practicing the presence of God in each moment, whether quiet or noisy! I don’t want to run from the chaos. I want to run to God.