This week marks the last week I have “on my own” before my kids get out of preschool for the summer. Next week is the final week of school, but I’m heading out to Asia this weekend and so, when I get back, they’ll be home! This is huge for me as it’s the first time ever I’m going to have the chance to spend this much time with my kids.
Not being a stay-at-home mom has been a struggle for me – mostly a struggle because I have felt so guilty for feeling grateful that they had school so I could go to work (in Colorado) or pursue my passions and figure out my heart (since moving to Texas). But now more than ever I see how God’s hand has been in this, and finally – finally – when it’s almost over (at least for a season), I am certain that they have been where they needed to be and so have I.
Because this year that I’ve walked through (which has been very far from a cake-walk) provided me with the opportunity to come face-to-face with what I truly believed about myself and about God. It’s interesting to grow up a Christian and to dedicate your life to ministry from a young age, and then get here to the 30s and realize how much performance-based identity living in that “Christian paradigm” has created inside of you. Have any of you ever been through this? Here in this year of upheaval, though, I just could never live up to the expectations I had of myself (and which I thought others must have of me, too), and I discovered how much I had been living with lies rooted in me, lies that said I was only enough if I was doing enough, only valuable if I was achieving what society, the church, and myself expected of me.
And it’s literally taken this whole entire past 15 months to reprogram my mind, but I think that finally, finally, I am really beginning to not just believe with my mind, but also know in my heart, that the only label that really matters, the only “achievement” that has any whit of value is this: I am a Child of God.
I could be evangelizing to a stadium full of people, or I could be sitting on my couch reading a book – and my value to God would be the same. I could be playing all day at the park with my kids, or sitting in a Starbucks writing in my journal while they’re at school – and His Love and affection toward me would stay constant. I could be making a completely organic, fully nutritious meal for my family, or I could be popping a frozen pizza in the oven – and God’s delight in me would be gushing like a fountain. I could be volunteering at a church outreach or choosing to stay home for a night in – and the Lord’s thoughts loving thoughts toward me would still be numberless. The value He places on who I am has absolutely nothing to do with what I do, and as I grab hold of this reality, this TRUTH, I am becoming FREE.
Doing good is good, but doing good to earn God’s Love is totally unnecessary. And it can be a trap, a trap that causes us to run in circles and fall under a condemnation that was never ever meant for us as children of God.
I’m working on memorizing Galatians, which – tbh – was always one of my least favorite epistles. But now as I have to focus on every word to commit it to memory, I’m realizing what a freaking Galatian I have been (excuse my language – but seriously!). Paul was completely confused by the Galatian Christians. The Gospel had been made so clear to them, and yet they kept falling into the trap of trying to abide by law in order to become right with God, in order to please Him. Paul responded to this striving by asking:
How foolish can you be? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort? Have you experienced so much for nothing? Surely it was not in vain, was it? Galatians 3:3-4, NLT
We in the modern church age have created our own unwritten “laws” that we have become convinced me must abide by, living under rules about how a “good Christian” should live and use her time. Volunteer at church whenever possible. Don’t say no to people who ask for help. Be involved in ministry. Do right by everybody all the time. Put others first (even if it means taking care of yourself is never a priority). As a Christian mommy, these parameters can be even more overwhelming – discipline your children THIS way. Spend as much time as you can with your kids. Put your passions aside while your children are young because you only get this chance once. I don’t know about you, but I became so caught up in all of these things that I began to weigh every single action and day against this back-drop of expectations. And while so many of these things are good, they are absolutely not what makes me valuable, nor do they affect how much God Loves and cherishes me. In fact, living in a way that says, “My actions increase or decrease my value or standing with God,” is a sin, and it will hurt us.
Rather, I am a sinner if I rebuild the old system of law I already tore down. For when I tried to keep the law, it condemned me. So I died to the law—I stopped trying to meet all its requirements—so that I might live for God. Galatians 2:18-19, NLT
I don’t want to sin like this. I want my faith in Jesus and the fact that that has made me right with God to be enough…so that I might live for God. To me, living for God in this sense means that I don’t have to strive to meet anyone’s expectations (including my own). Instead, I can just live for Him, the One who Loves me most and knows me best. Out of this understanding of His Love and the knowing that I have been made right with Him through the Loving sacrifice of Jesus Christ flows a deep freedom and sense of purpose that is pure and holy. This sense of purpose is urged and moved forward by His Grace – His sustaining power and ability working through me to do what I am created to do – unquestioning, unhindered, full of joy, and free – for:
My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20, NLT
Now all of the sudden, I’m entering into a season of joy – a joy in motherhood that I haven’t been able to enter into for a long time because I’ve been so caught up with and concerned about “doing it right” and “doing right by them” that anything that looked outside of the ordinary made me fall into condemnation. I forgot that where He leads me is always good, even if it looks to be outside the norm or outside of pre-conceived or society-created ideas about what “right” or “best” is supposed to look like. And “best” for me and my family has been having my kids in childcare while I worked and while God worked on me and brought me to a place of truly understanding how valued and loved I am as Gabi – just Gabi – not the perfect wife, the perfect mom, the amazing writer, the selfless minister of the Gospel, the sweet friend – just Gabi, the Child of God.
I have come to understand that living for God is really just an outflow of a simple childlike faith that says, “God is my Father, and He is sovereign, and He loves me without condition.” God’s promises to guide my steps are TRUE, and now He’s guiding me home to rest and laugh and play with my kids, and my heart could burst from the freedom and joy I feel for this chance. It’s all a miracle. Everything is a miracle in Him.
Remember that you’re Loved, you are beautiful, and you are so so valuable to the Lord – your Father – and nothing can separate you from this Love.