When I Pondered My Love as a Mom

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I pondered my love for my son.

I thought about how just looking at him makes my heart swell with love.  How he can be in his own little world, not even knowing I’m watching him, and my heart skips a beat.  He can bring a smile to my face when he isn’t even trying.

I thought about how I want to protect him.  To care for him.  How I want him to come to me when he is hurting or sad or scared.

I thought about how I take care of him.  I feed him, I play with him, I comfort him.

I thought about how much I just delight in him.

And then I thought…..is this Your love, God?  Is this how You love Your children?

This post is amazing.  So powerful.  So true.

As I wrestled these questions, I began to ask God the thing I really wanted to know for so long: “Why do You love me?”

Imagine your child asking you this. It would be a baffling, heart-paining question to any mother or father. “What, do you mean, ‘Why do I love you?’” But your child’s face is earnest; they really don’t know what you thought was obvious all along.

“God, why do you love me?”

And at last, He answered,

“Because you’re Mine.”

And suddenly all the doubts and fears and striving for perfection are all—gone. I am His. And for the first time, I know it. He has pledged Himself to me. He has made a way through His Son Jesus to atone me. To cleanse me with His blood. To make a way. Not because of what I have done, but because of what He has done. He has made me His own. And no one can pry me out of His hands. Ever. When He sees me in the End, seeing Him, He will look at me and shout, “Mine!”

“She is Mine.”

 

She points out Isaiah 49:15, “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?  Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.”

The thought of forgetting my child is….impossible.  For one….his cries would quickly remind me.  But on top of that….he is the son of my womb.  He is my baby.  My child.  My sweet precious son.  There is no way in the world that I could ever forget him.

I belong to God.  I am His.  As inconceivable as it is for me to forget my son….it is even more so for God to forget me.

Part One Part Two Part Three
Part Four Part Five Part Six
Part Seven

-Bonnie

When the Love of my Husband Spoke to Me

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I began pondering the love of my husband.

His forgiveness.

His grace toward me.

His complete and utter acceptance.

I had realized that before and been blown away at various points in time.  But I started to think about it again.

I sinned toward him.  A lot.  I have snapped at him, thrown jabs and barbs at him, and been selfish.  Countless times.  Over and over.

And yet….he never got mad at me.  In our three years of marriage, I can think of only a few times that he has ever raised his voice.  And even then it was mild.  He did not jab back.  He did not find those little moments to insert a harsh comment.  He didn’t snap.

And when I came to him and asked forgiveness?  He gave it.  Every time.  Every single time.

He told me he loved me.  He told me that nothing I did would ever change that.  I couldn’t hurt him so badly that he would give up on me or want a break from me.

Is this the love of God?

Is this what it is like?

Yes.

And more.  If my husband can love me so powerfully….so unconditionally….God’s love is just that much greater.  God is love.  He is the epitome of love.  He is love in perfection.

I held onto this truth and filed it away in my heart.

Part One Part Two Part Three
Part Four Part Five Part Six

-Bonnie

The Struggle

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After about a week of just quietness and resting, I started to turn to music.

I was desperate for comfort, for hope, and for truth.  I started listening to some amazing Christian songs.  Raw.  Gritty.  Real.  Songs that are almost organic in how they dig down into the angst and struggles that sometimes come to His people.  Songs that reached into the struggle.  Songs that were real.

I love what Randy Alcorn said in If God Is Good.  “Laments make up more than one-third of the psalms.  The contrast between Israel’s hymnbook and the church’s says a great deal about our failure to acknowledge suffering.  If we don’t sing about suffering and struggle, why shouldn’t our people feel surprised when it comes?”

Enter The Struggle by Tenth Avenue North.  I don’t know how many times I listened to it.  Lots.  It is still one of my favorites and often brings me to tears.

“Hallelujah!  We are free to struggle.  We’re not struggling to be free.”

For quite a while, that was the only part of the song I could remember.  I sang it over and over.  Finally I pulled it up on YouTube and watched the lyrics video.  I remember one day that I sat on the couch, hands lifted, tears pouring from my eyes.

This.  This.  We are free to struggle, but we’re not struggling to be free.  Hallelujah!

“Your blood bought and makes us children.  Children drop your chains and sing!”

And then I realized.  That was me.  I was that child whose chains had been broken.  And yet I was living as if I was still shackled.  A clear image came to mind of me sitting on the ground, weeping in deep anguish, slashing the air like a mad woman, chains rattling and clanking every time I moved.  And then I saw it.  Those chains binding me were severed.  They were not attached to anything.  I had picked up those chains and I was holding them myself.

God had freed me.  His Word is truth.  Because I confess with my mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in my heart that He rose from the dead, those chains do not bind me.

Or to go back to the analogy of drowning from my first post….I have been sputtering around, thrashing wildly, clawing at the rope…..while sitting firmly on the deck of the boat.  I wasn’t drowning.  I was safe.  I was secure the whole time.

Wow.

Wow.

I didn’t dissect.  I didn’t try to start running ahead and putting other pieces together in my head, based on what I already knew the Bible was saying.  I waited.  I held on to this truth.  Clung to it.  And waited to see where it would take me.

Part One Part Two Part Three
Part Four Part Five

-Bonnie

 

Learning to Unlearn

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And so I stopped.  I stopped thinking.  I stopped analyzing.  I stopped reading my Bible.

I know that this part of my story especially might be cause for alarm for some people.  “The Bible??” you might say.  “That is the very thing you NEED.  Don’t stop….keep reading!!”  And in answer….I honestly have no answer.  I cannot explain how much I needed to take a break.  I was not turning my back on God.  I was not rejecting the Bible.  I just couldn’t handle it.

I didn’t like when I read the Bible or people gave me “godly advice.”  It felt like a band aid on a severed limb.  Or salt on an open wound.  I knew it.  I knew that Bible passage.  I knew the truth.

I loved this post.  I was surprised and so very encouraged to know that I wasn’t alone in this.

Perhaps instead of rebuilding another structure of spirituality to replace the one I lost, this is a time for living without the structure. A time for learning to unlearn.

 

That is what I needed.  I needed to unlearn.  So I stepped back and hit pause on all of my searching, yearning, and striving.  I needed to detox from the Bible that I thought I knew so well.  Detox from religion.  Detox from the guilt.

In the next few posts I will share a few of the things that really spoke to me.

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Part One Part Two Part Three
Part Four

-Bonnie

The Death of Trying

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I was so weary.  Just plain weary.  Would it ever get better?  Could it?  How could I make changes?  How could I get out of this….mire?

As I mentioned previously, it all ended up coming to a point when my Christian world came tumbling down.

So much of what I thought I believed came into question.  In actuality, some things had slowly been changing for years.  My beliefs on all sorts of things, such as modesty, courtship, and music had changed drastically.

But I thought that I was pretty evenly balanced.  God had radically changed my beliefs and been convicting me that life is truly just about pursuing Him.

So I was surprised….no, shocked….when I realized God wasn’t done yet.  I started realizing so many ways that I had been believing lies.  Big lies.  Little lies.  About myself.  About God.  About Christianity.

I felt like I was in a tailspin.  How in the world do you process stuff like that??  How do you deal when everything is changing?

I went to the doctor.  I was evaluated for Post Partum Depression.  But I didn’t want a label.  I didn’t want medication.  I wanted my soul to be at peace.  (Note: I definitely think that PPD is real and legitimate and I do think that there is a proper time and place for medication for depression.  However, I felt that, for me, even if I did have PPD, my bigger problem was spiritual.)

The tipping point was one night when my husband and I were talking after our son had gone to bed.  I was in tears yet again, pouring out my anguish and desperately pleading for the truth.  My husband spoke the gospel to me.

“I know.  I know that.  I just….what if I’m not saved though?”

I’ll never forget what he said next.  “There’s nothing more I can tell you.”

My heart broke.  I was stunned.  I felt so alone.

And then I said, “I’m done.  I’m done trying to figure it out.  If I’m not a Christian, so be it.  If I am, so be it.”

And that ended our conversation that night.

Within a few minutes of saying that, I felt…..calmness.  Peace.  But I didn’t think about it.  I didn’t think about anything.  I just waited.  I knew that I could not let myself start immediately analyzing like I had done in the past.  I couldn’t get caught up in “figuring out” if it was genuine or false peace.

I stopped trying.  I stopped everything.  I determined to just live my life and see what happened.  I wasn’t going to analyze.  I wasn’t going to dissect.  I wasn’t going to try.  I backed off.  I was just….resting.

I let myself be real.  I dropped the pretense.  I owned who I was, sins and all.  I became more real than I think I have ever been.

And then I realized….that conversation with my husband…wasn’t discouraging.  He was right.  There was nothing he could do for me.  I knew that if anything was to be done, it could only be the work of God.

I knew that even though I had absolutely no idea what was going on or how to think or process…..God knew.  God knew my innermost thoughts, even when I was confused by them. God knew my heart.  He knew the true status of my salvation.  I did not need to scramble around like a mad woman, trying desperately to piece things together.

In a way I felt like I had shut my brain off.  But in reality….I was just resting.  I trusted that somehow God would continue to lead and guide me to the truth.

And then I waited.

Part One  Part Two  Part Three

-Bonnie

The Stealth of Legalism

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One time we were visiting at another church and the Sunday School class teacher was speaking about legalism.  I found some of the statements interesting.

The teacher said things like, “Legalism is about a checklist instead of reaching the heart.  You bristle under conviction.  You have rules rather than pleasing God.”

One of the class members spoke up and she said, “They never talk about love, grace, or forgiveness.  They just sit there heartless.”

We tend to think of the Pharisees as if they were hardened machines, and any legalists today are following in their footsteps.  While sometimes that is true….I think that a lot of times legalism can look a lot more innocuous.

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Sometimes legalism is because you are trying to reach your heart.  Sometimes legalism is because you are under conviction.  Sometimes legalism is because you are desperately trying to please God.  Sometimes it is because you are so desperate for love, grace, and forgiveness.

I think that legalism can originate from right motives.  It isn’t always a pious, haughty “holier than thou” type of thing that is in your face.  I also tend to believe that legalism and judgmentalism don’t always go hand in hand.

Looking back I realize that I was legalistic.  All of my trying so hard to be a good Christian….that was legalism.  I was so desperate for the truth, so desperate to honor God, so desperate to do the right thing…..that I was legalistic.  Trying to maintain my right standing before God = legalism.  But just because I was trying so hard does not mean that I was looking down on other people or judging.

I desperately wanted a clean heart before God.  When communion time came I would feel so guilty and scared because what if there was some secret unconfessed sin? I would wrack my brain to try to think of everything and worry that there was something I was missing or something that I wasn’t even aware of that I couldn’t confess.  I would apologize over and over for the same things, waiting and desperately hoping that I would feel forgiven.

Sometimes it translated to other, smaller things, like in college when I was attempting to do the assigned reading.  I would read and re-read each page.  If I knew my mind wandered, I would read and re-read again, just to make sure I soaked in every word, thereby doing all the reading so that I could mark off in good conscience that I completed it.

It was terrible.  I hated it.

I apologized frequently to my husband for things.  “I’m sorry.  I’m sorry.”  And I don’t know how many times he told me, “Stop apologizing for things you didn’t do.”  I was so used to assuming that I was at fault and in the wrong because I spent so much time thinking and analyzing.

It was bondage.  It really was bondage that I was under.

After I had started to come out from this burden I placed myself under, I read this post.  It is beautiful and absolutely amazing.  Please take the time to read it.

Part One  Part Two

-Bonnie

 

 

Drowning in the Questions

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I knew I was a Christian.  After all, the Bible says, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”  (Romans 10:9)

And, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”  (John 3:16)

I knew that.  I believed that.  And yet I doubted.  I struggled.  I worried.  I was absolutely terrified.  I felt horrible, weighty guilt.

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I don’t know how many times I cried to my husband, trying to articulate what I was thinking and feeling.  And I don’t know how many times my sweet husband explained the gospel to me.  Over and over.  Speaking truth to me.

“Are you a Christian?” he would ask, after telling me yet again what the Bible says.

After a long pause, I often responded, “I hope so.”

Even typing this, my chest is gripped with that fear and weight.  I do not wish that kind of doubt, guilt, and fear on anyone.

So I was stuck.  I knew what the Bible said.  I believed the Bible.  So I knew I was a Christian.  And yet my sin plagued me.  How could a true Christian keep on sinning?  How could a real Christian keep on sinning the same exact sin?  How do I know that that last sin didn’t push God over the edge?  How do I know that God didn’t regret saving me?  How do I know He isn’t tired of me?

I tried.  I tried so hard.  I wanted so desperately to be a good Christian.  I spent hours thinking and analyzing and dissecting my thoughts, trying to figure out how to do better.  I tried to pray.  Pray hard.  I tried to pray for myself.  I tried to pray for others.  I tried to try hard to pray.  I tried to read my Bible.  I tried to read books by Christian authors. I tried to believe harder.  Love harder.  Have faith harder.  It all quite often just intensified the mental fog and thus the discouragement.

I hated disappointing people.  Nothing can tear my heart up more than knowing that someone is disappointed in me.  It breaks my heart to see the look of sadness on someone’s face and knowing that I caused it.  It tore me up to disappoint.  How can I be a good wife when I do x, y, or z?  How can I be a good Mom?  Friend?  Christian?

Don’t even get me started on faith vs. works.  I knew they went hand-in-hand…you can’t have one without the other.  But how does it work?  How do you have good works without…trying?  At what point do you know that your trying has become artificial works or legalism?  How do you strive without striving?  How do you work on your sins, faults, and blind spots, without it becoming an attempt to pull yourself up by your bootstraps?

I didn’t know.  But I hated it. I hated thinking. I hated trying to think.  I was so overwhelmed with trying.  And failing.  I became so discouraged.

I knew the answer was in the Bible.  I knew that His Word would point me to the truth.  But at the same time…I couldn’t read the Bible.  I definitely did not feel as if it was “living and active and sharper than a two-edged sword.” (Hebrews 4:12)  It wasn’t “working.”  I felt like any sermon I heard went in one ear….and either got lost in all the muddled confusion in my brain….or went straight out the other ear.  I didn’t know how to think.  I didn’t know how to process.  I didn’t know how to retain.

I looked back with longing at the years of my life that flourished spiritually.  Why can’t I have that again?  How do I get there?  How do I attain that again?

There were moments of peace.  Of joy.  It was absolutely amazing.  But then….how do I know if it’s real peace?  God’s peace?  Maybe I was deceiving myself and it’s false peace.  And the guilt would set in with a vengeance.  The fear.  The fear of relying on false peace was terrible to me.  I wanted genuine peace.  How do I know if it was genuine or false?

It all came to a point when my Christian world came tumbling down.  My next post will talk some about that story.

Part One

-Bonnie