Friday, December 26, 2008

Where is the path?

At New Year’s time it seems there are countless magazine articles with titles like the top 50 ways to improve your life in the new year.  I picked up one of these hoping to flip to number one and have it say in big bold letters, “PRAY”, or “Develop/Improve your relationship with Jesus”, but no, instead there are suggestions like, eat more broccoli and blueberries, watch less T.V., stop using antibacterial soap, stop counting fat grams and start counting calories (which, by the way, next year will be switched to stop counting calories and start counting fat grams!). I got my hopes up when I saw #34 “Read a life changing book”, but again I was completely amazed when none of the recommended books were the Bible. Many of the magazine suggestions are good things, but they will improve your life by such a small fraction of the magnitude that Jesus can! As I think about the impact a relationship with God has had in my life I am always blown away. Proverbs 3:5-7 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight."  There are so many things I can look back on and know without a doubt if I had relied on my understanding instead of praying and relying on God’s guidance, my paths would have been disastrous.

I was raised in a dysfunctional family. My parents had a terrible marriage. You name it, it was there – infidelity, addiction problems, boughts with mental illness. They fought horribly through all of my childhood. It wasn’t until my teen years that I realized that it wasn’t a normal way for families to function and I learned that my mother had grown up in a similar home. I was determined not to continue the cycle so my understanding of how to handle my life differently was to never get married and certainly never to have children and put them through what my brother and I had grown up with. Things got so bad at one point that I left home and lived with a friend and her family for a month. Finally, one day my junior year in high school, my dad packed up his things when no one was home and moved out without telling us goodbye.

So how could my paths be straight after such a childhood? I can tell you, only by the sheer force of God. Through a youth group beach retreat one summer in my early teens I learned what it really meant to have a personal relationship with Jesus and began having a daily quiet time. Over time God showed me that I was His child and that he would empower me to stop the cycle of dysfunction that had been passed down to me through generations of my family. Ephesians 1 v 5 &6 say, God, “chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love, He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the kind intention of His will.” Instead of living out the legacy of my earthly family I could live the legacy I had as a child of God! I did not understand exactly how God was going to salvage my life, but I was learning to lean on him.

Shortly before college I met the guy I would later marry, but we went away to different schools and it was my understanding that because we had been directed to opposite sides of the country, we must not have been right for each other. We dated other people but kept in touch and saw each other when we could. After a couple years of that, God revealed to me that I had already met the person he created for me, but I still didn’t understand at the time why he allowed us to be so far apart geographically. Now, I see so clearly God’s perfect work. During those college years He grew me so much as a person and allowed me to have many different friends and experiences that I no doubt would have missed out on if I had been in college with a serious boyfriend. When we graduated and got married, the time apart while dating made my husband and I treasure just getting to spend time together.  At my wedding reception God reminded me of how he had set me free from the dysfunction of my childhood when a long time friend of the family, put her arm around me and whispered, “You have your own family now.” I know that was God speaking to me through her that day.

I chose to begin my career with a technology consulting firm that had a reputation for hard, challenging work but also quick promotions for those who performed well. I still didn’t see having children as something for me and set my sights instead on having what I understood to be an “important career”. A few years later when we did decide to have a child I did not believe that I was the stay at home mom type. Throughout my pregnancy I prayed for God to show me the right choice as I agonized over the decision between my job or staying home with my child. Even though there were several signs along the way that God was leading me to quit work, in my stubborn mind I believed I could do both, be a superstar at work and a great mom, so I kept putting the decision off. Finally as my maternity leave was nearing its end I spoke with a manager of a project for my company who said if I came back he wanted me on his project working for a client in a different state. He thought this would be great news to me, times were lean at the firm and getting put on a project was a privilege. But for me this would mean traveling 4 nights every week when I had a 3 month old at home! I thanked God for making the decision so clear and being so patient with me all the times I ignored His more subtle messages! Now, nearly six years into my career as a stay at home mom with three kids, a husband, a dog, and a house to look after, I have never been busier, happier or more fulfilled. I had no idea that I’d love being a stay at home mom, but God did!

I really don’t want to think about where I’d be if I had relied on my own understanding in life rather than leaning on God. Occasionally, though, I get discouraged with my current position when it seems like our household is a combination of the before footage on the T.V. shows Super Nanny and Clean Sweep! Have you seen these shows? One begins with out of control kids and the other with a house full of way too much junk. Yes, really the only thing good about our house is Jesus, but that is everything we need. So this year I’ve narrowed my resolutions to one, cling tighter to Jesus. He will take care of the rest!

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