Fighting the harness

I have celebrated a lot of my victories as I write here. Today a defeat is heavy on my mind.

I prayed for years to be put behind a plow for God. I prayed as I wept by the bedsides of children I did not bear that He would give me children of my own so that I could walk this incredible journey I watched parents walking. It is something I literally begged God for. And He said, "Yes, my child", and gave me four children in four years! God's blessing is bountiful when He pours it out on us. In the midst of walking the path of young motherhood...truthfully, just past the threshold...I began to wonder if I had been "called" to this after all. What if it was all a mistake?? What if, instead of allowing a blessing, God had allowed one massive test to enter my life? I pictured the scene in heaven, God telling Satan, "No, don't give that woman children. She is a perfectly good nurse and that is what I have called her to do."

[Enter the pitiful wails and flailing about of my faulty human spirit and hormonal young womanhood.]

God tips His ear my way, and says, "Hmmm. Well, if she really desires it, and yes, it WOULD be a good test for her. Alright, Satan, have at it! I promised to be with her, and I will. She will cry out to me, and I will draw nigh to her. Let's give her the test she asks for."

Do you have a "blessing" in your life that feels more like a trial most of the time? Do you wonder if you misread your "call"? Do you resist the harness of the plowhorse, feeling as though perhaps you were bred for sprinting, not 12-hour days cutting the ground into furrows? Do you wonder if the grass is sweeter at the race track, or the pasture where a loving family keeps you for occasional riding use? Would you rather work in the mountains, perhaps, or see what it is like to work down in sunny Mexico? This has certainly been my battle of late. Here I am, plowing the furrows that are my children. At least eighteen years of work lies before me. And it is not just the mantle of motherhood that I have bucked and worn askew, and occasionally tossed on the ground and stomped upon! It is the particular type of mantle God has called me to now wear! Stay at home?? Keep my children in home school?? Sew and can and weed a garden and make a home and do laundry?? Is this really what I was "called" to do, God?? What about my shriveling intellect, the very brain and wit and desire for knowledge you planted as a seed in me in my mother's womb? What about my nursing knowledge and ability to help families navigate some of the most difficult health care decisions of their lives? Doesn't that have merit? What am I to do with it? Cast it aside for an archaic, Biblical archetype that is almost impossible to envision in the current bounds of our society and culture?

[Enter somber doctor with lab report, medical record and pathology. In short, enter cancer.]

Young woman, if it is you reading this, lay down your struggles. I beg you to lay them down sooner than I did. Don't push God's limits with your questions and your struggles and desires for self. Lay your self down willingly at His feet! Pray about it every day, as I did not. Ask your husband to help you, as I did not. Ask an older woman for counsel, as I did not. Pray some more. Why struggle to the bitter end, digging your nails into the last shreds of your dignity and selfhood as they are gently and inexorably pulled away from you? Don't you see it is YOU who are shredding it? God asks you to hand Him the garment of your old self - and promises to hand back, in return, a glorious new garment. "...put off the old self with its practices, and put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another, forgiving each other; And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony." (Colossians 3:5-14 exc. ESV)

Do not sell your soul for the paltry pittance your culture will offer you! My self, that intellectual bauble I too easily praise, is not worthy of a second glance when my Savior and His tasks lie before me! Instead of narrowing my depth of focus to self, wondering if I'd misinterpreted God's call and made a mistake to ask for these children, why not look up at the landscape before me and trust that this view, this vista...this is what God has planned for me. If it is before me, it is my call. My self - yes, created by Him, yes, valuable in His merciful, Fatherly eyes. But worthy of worship? Worthy of sacrifice? Do not let feminism turn your body and your mind and your contribution to society into something that it is not! You were created to praise God, not self. You were created to serve God, not self. Do not be a fool, as I have so often been in these past five years! A wise woman builds her home, but a foolish woman tears it down with her own hands. (Proverbs 14:1)

Today I am praying for lasting change. I don't want cancer to be the proverbial blip on my screen. I want it to be changing me forever. I want to trade my slow connection with God, the one that I have accessed only in times of greatest need, for high-speed, the type that is constantly exchanging information. In the world, cancer turns people inward as they focus on improving their healthy lifestyle to maximize their days on this earth. That is not my goal. I want to maximize my soul's harvest in heaven. That is my focus. I repent that I only heard this lesson through God's megaphone of cancer. I repent that I neglected the soft whispers of His loving, Father-voice in my soul while I held my delicious babies close. I repent that I was deaf to the voice of my compassionate husband, who desires the best for his family and wishes to make me a queen in my own home. I repent that I struggled so against the harness of my plow. Now that it is lifted off my shoulders, I see the deep furrows and scars in my soul where I have struggled. Where God desired serene beauty there is now a battle-worn heart. When He put peace and understanding in my reach, in plain sight, I turned away and cried bitter tears I never had to cry. I chose suffering instead of peace; flailing instead of resting; this life instead of the next. Please don't do it! Learn from my mistake.

The God who is ever uttering himself in the changeful profusion of nature; who takes infinite years to form a soul that shall understand him and be blessed; who never needs to be, and never is, in haste; who welcomes the simplest thought of truth or beauty as the return for seed he has sown upon the old fallows of eternity, who rejoices in the response of a faltering moment to the age-old cry of his wisdom in the streets; the God of music, of painting, of building, the Lord of Hosts, the God of mountains and oceans; whose laws go forth from one unseen point of wisdom, and thither return without an atom of loss; the God of history working in time unto christianity; this God is the God of little children, and he alone can be perfectly, abandonedly simple and devoted. The deepest, purest love of a woman has its well-spring in him. Our longing desires can no more exhaust the fullness of the treasures of the Godhead than our imagination can touch their measure. Of him not a thought, not a joy, not a hope of one of his creatures can pass unseen.

Life is no series of chances with a few providences sprinkled between to keep up a justly failing belief, but one providence of God; and the man shall not live long before life itself shall remind him, it may be in agony of soul, of that which he has forgotten. When he prays for comfort, the answer may come in dismay and terror and the turning aside of the Father's countenance; for love itself will, for love's sake, turn the countenance away from that which is not lovely; and he will have to read, written upon the dark wall of his imprisoned countenance, the words, awful and glorious, Our God is a consuming fire.

~ George MacDonald, The Child in the Midst