“The unfolding of Your Words gives LIGHT; it gives understanding to the simple.” Psalm 119:130
I had the opportunity to hear Sally Clarkson in Dallas a month or so ago. It is the third year I have been able to get this “shot in the arm” and I have loved and needed it each time. There aren’t many people I have traveled to hear time and again, but every year I always come back with new inspiration, new vision, and loads of information waiting to be processed, pondered and assimilated. As I weigh many opportunities, I find this worth the time away from my family. This year was no different except that my spirit resonated with almost EVERYTHING that was said. I am still processing several issues addressed and the one I will share here is something I will ponder, from some angle, for the rest of my life.
The mystery of walking in the Spirit has always intrigued me in the sense of, what is the balance of my allowing Him to live through me and my making intentional choices everyday? Can I even separate the two in a question? How much of it is my effort and how much is His Spirit’s power and direction? Can I use the word “effort” and “Spirit” in the same sentence? Do I have to put forth effort to walk in the Spirit? Even if it is just the effort of thinking of it or should it just spill over without my even knowing? Mysterious, definitely. However, the concept is key to all I want to see change in my life and the phrase was used many times at the conference regarding marriage, parenting and motherhood. Much of my mothering is intertwined with teaching the children, so, in this season, I process most things with that package in mind.
Along with the “walking in the Spirit” phrase, a verse that is significant to me was mentioned a few times, as well. Zechariah 4:6 “Not by might, not by power, but by my Spirit,” says the Lord. It is the verse the Lord “gave” me morning number one of home schooling making very clear to me this new endeavor wasn’t about me and it wasn’t something I was to attempt by myself. This odd thing was to be about my relationship with the Lord and with Julia and Brighton. “Very clear” seems to cloud over quite often as I forget whose agenda I am accomplishing and whose stamp of approval I am after. As “but by my Spirit” was “unfolded” at the conference, I was challenged many times causing me to see this verse in a whole new light—or maybe the bulb was just changed.……..with a higher wattage or maybe with that new fancy kind.
Not by might. Not by power. Not by my usual, comfortable, habitual ways. This life I want to live is not about my happiness, my fulfillment, my accomplishments or whether I get my 1 hour, 14 minutes and 27 seconds to myself every day. This home life and this education I want to give my family is not about the standards set from who knows where. It is not about how much they know or how well I taught them or how well they behave in public or how many Bible verses they know. It is about accomplishing His purposes. “But by my Spirit”. I think my “calling”, for lack of a better word, to home school would be unique somewhat and as I continue to do it, I often picture myself covering my ears or with my arms jutted out in front keeping certain standards, voices, expectations or even really good ideas at bay. My driven personality would like to do every brilliant idea that floats into my ear and cover every subject that intrigues me. I have to remember, for me, it is not about all of that. With a brief 2 year stint of home schooling under my “jumper”, I realize there is a significant learning curve with almost every new sunrise but I think the most valuable thing I have learned is what the “by might” and “by power” areas are for me and can be somewhat of a default, an easy plunge for me to take —a curriculum that dictates my every school minute, rushing through an activity, comparing myself to other families I find amazing, a schedule so full that we have no time to cuddle up and read great books, and the worst, doing it isolated. All of those are relationship killers. I’ve had days, maybe weeks, that I have either dipped my toe in or dove head first into those no-no’s. Not pretty, I assure you and not surprisingly, exhausting and FRUITLESS. “Not by might, nor by power………”
Paraphrased and (a bit) embellished from the conference: Depending on my flesh will eventually humiliate me. Depending on formulas will confuse and disappoint me. Acting out of fear will send me (and my kids) to counseling one day. Acting out of faith in an almighty and good God will not always be easy, but will always satisfy. Do I believe that? As much as I believe He closed my womb in order to bless me beyond my expectations. As God thought about my children’s future even before they were conceived, He thinks about them now and has a specific plan for them that one day will most likely have nothing to do with me, but for now, He wants to use me in that plan. Sometimes, obeying God can seem mundane, or it can be an exhilarating thrill ride, or it can look nothing like you ever thought it would. My children and I may do almost everything right and, yet, the fruit of obedience may look as I never imagined it would. God’s will could be for purposes that I cannot understand or maybe for purposes I even find difficult to accept. Scary? In my flesh, you bet. As a parent, do I want to be walking in the Spirit? As much as I want to breathe my next breath.
Not by might………..but by my Spirit. Giving myself over to the Spirit is freeing in the sense that He WILL accomplish His plan. Nothing can thwart His purposes for my kids. Not my tendency to push-a.k.a. accomplishing a big agenda. Not my indecisiveness. Not my inability to add more beneficial extracurricular activities. Not even my independent streaks. Mrs. Clarkson told a great story about her oldest son who decided at 20 something to try auditioning on the piano for a very prestigious music school. The first thing out of her mouth was, “But Joel, you have only had 6 months of piano instruction!” Long, wonderful story short, he was accepted after writing his own classical composition. Mrs. Clarkson had lamented the whole time as they awaited his acceptance that she hadn’t made more of an effort to provide better musical training, but quickly realized it was God’s plan all along and what she did or didn’t do, hadn’t mattered in this situation. As a mother, that is a humbling AND freeing thing to realize. If I believe Romans 8:28, I can say as my children bend the knee to Him, He will accomplish His purposes for them. He’s way more concerned about it than I am. I just need to be sure I am along for the ride……..in the right car and in the right seat. “….but by my Spirit,” says the Lord.
A better bulb? A higher wattage? A fancier kind? Something. I see things differently. Walking with Him has everything to do with me and nothing to do with me……..all at the same time. Freedom is illuminated more clearly. Freedom relieves the pressure……….from all the sources. All I have to do is to step where the LIGHT shines.