This week, you and I have the privilege of hearing again from Margaret Austin. She shared a post with us in June entitled Motherhood as Ministry. If you missed it, make sure to click here to check it out. Today, she shares with us again from the trenches of motherhood, so if you are in a tough spot and need some encouragement, pull up a chair, and enjoy Margaret’s wisdom, wit, insight, and bold love. Just to give you a recap on who Margaret is and how we know each other, I met Margaret five years ago when she had just moved to Houston and was pregnant with her firstborn. Her husband, Thomas, played for the Houston Texans, but Houston was only blessed enough to have Margaret and Thomas here for a year before they moved again. In the past five years, they have moved ten times because of Thomas’ career in the NFL, and Margaret birthed three babies in that time period – Adam (4 years old), Isaiah (2 years old), and Hazel (4 months old). After watching and admiring Margaret, I’m pretty sure NFL wives are just as tough as their husbands! In the past year and a half, Thomas has transitioned from playing football in the NFL to coaching football at Clemson in South Carolina. Yet through all of the moving, transition, babies, and change, Margaret has remained…Margaret. She is beautiful, bold, never afraid to tell you like it really is, but never afraid, either, to obey the Lord and walk in obedience that path He has for her (even when it hurts). Over the past five years, Margaret has made God more real and beautiful to me, and I know she will do the same for you as she shares encouragement straight from her heart and straight from the trenches of toddlerhood.
Margaret Austin here again, writing to you from the youngest years of motherhood. It has taken me over 2 weeks to complete this post because every time I sit down, someone needs a snack, wakes from a nap, needs to nurse, cracks their tooth on their stick horse, or jumps from the coffee table onto the couch for the 1000th time. So when I say I understand how the little years are, I promise you, I understand.
Drum roll, please!….Waiting on the Lord is ready for presale today! Click on this link to order your copy from Barnes and Noble, and don’t forget to share the link with your family and friends as well! The link is also available on the Bible Studies page of this website.
Consider hosting a small group at your house this Fall and going through Waiting on the Lord together. Or use it as your personal devotional material and go through the study on your own.
Remember that when you purchase a copy, you will have access to a code in the back of book to download all of the audio sessions that go with the study for free. Click here to check out the audio sessions that are available with the purchase of the book.
But whether you work through Waiting on the Lord by yourself or in a group, my prayer is that God uses it in each of you to draw you to Himself and to show you that He is worth the wait, whatever it is that you are waiting for.
“My soul waits in silence for God only; from Him is my salvation.” Psalm 62:1
It’s that time of year again. It’s the time of year when summer slips away and school stands front and center. It’s the time of year when schedules go to ninety from nothing, from staying up late and sleeping in to hearing the alarm go off to get everyone out the door for school at an hour in the summer when I was just shifting sides on my pillow. It’s the time of year that is so jam-packed-full for moms that by noon we’ve answered more texts, run more errands, organized more piles, filled out more forms, attended more meetings, and made more decisions than we have in the previous three months combined. It’s the time of year when my brain hurts and my body tells me that if I hear my alarm go off one more time at such an unholy and unhealthy hour, I will hurt somebody, prayerfully not my children. The funny thing is, I keep seeing commercials and videos of parents leaping around in glee, ecstatic at the fact that their children are going back to school, presumably because it gives them so much more time to themselves to linger by the kitchen sink to drink a cup of coffee.
What planet do these parents live on? And how can I get there? Back to school in this house means an increase of craziness, not a diminishing. And while I am looking forward to the structure and rhythm that school brings, I am already looking forward to the quieter, slow pace of…next summer.
But in the meantime, school starts today, and I want to figure out a way not to just survive the school year but to thrive in the school year. Heck, thrive is a big word. Let’s face it. I would be satisfied with just getting through the school year without any major meltdowns. I’m just going for progress. Yes, that’s the word. I just want to see progress this school year – in myself, my children, and in my home.
So what does progress look like? I began asking myself that question at the end of the school year in May because last year, I didn’t see much thriving or progress in myself. It was a surviving kind of year. The kind of year where we adopted a seventeen month old from China and were learning how to be a family. The kind of year where I added a child to our home school model, so two days a week, my three oldest children attended school on a traditional school campus, two days a week, I homeschooled all three of them here at home, and Fridays were “free.” Free to go on incredible, exploratory field trips and experience first hand about culture, museums, and the wonders of God’s creation, free to take extra lessons and become an expert in another language or a world-famous ice skater or equestrian, or free, like us, to lay on the couch and recover from the previous four days. At the end of the school year, after adding a third child to our home days and a toddler from China who could barely crawl, didn’t know a lick of English, and enjoyed making meal times super fun and enjoyable by gagging and hoarding food in her mouth, I was worn out. Worn. Out. Many of you know how much I love to read, and if this tells you anything, this summer, I think I read one book. My brain couldn’t take anything more than that. I simply rested. And my girls rested too. We didn’t do one math problem, or review any flash cards or phonograms. We all rested. Because we all needed it.
And I had lots of time to think about progress. And this is what I came up with. Progress never occurs without the Word of God in my life applied by the Spirit of God to my life. No Word, no progress. No reading the Word, memorizing the Word, meditating on the Word, understanding the Word, and surrendering to the Word, no progress.
So if I wanted there to be any hope of progress over the next school year, I needed the Word of God in my life. It was that simple.
So this is what I did. Beginning in June, I started to really think through the sin patterns in my life from the past school year. In other words, I tried to really think over the times I lost it – lost patience, lost kindness, lost self-control, lost love – and started grasping for control through controlling anger or fear. As I really thought through specific incidents, I began to recognize certain patterns in myself and in my children.
For instance, during times of the day or times in the school year of transition when life became really overwhelming, like the beginning of the school year or end of the school year, or like the end of the school day when my kids walk through the door to a calm, quiet, clean house and begin to talk, show me papers, ask me to sign things, tell me they’ve signed me up to bring things, and leave of trail of half-eaten apple cores, sticky nutella containers, backpacks, lunch boxes, water bottles, and dirty knee high uniform socks all over the house, I start to stress out. I know I am supposed to enjoy these moments of children overflowing into every part of my calm, quiet, space, and I can hear my mom’s voice in my head saying, “You are going to miss this one day,” but so often, I don’t respond to the chaos, I react. And I always end up regretting my reactions later.
So to work on my responses to seasons of transition I know are coming up in my life, big or small, I memorized and meditated on Psalm 90:1-2, 10-17:
“Lord, you have been our dwelling place
in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth,
or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God…
The years of our life are seventy,
or even by reason of strength eighty;
yet their span is but toil and trouble;
they are soon gone, and we fly away.
Who considers the power of your anger,
and your wrath according to the fear of you?
So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom.
Return, O Lord! How long?
Have pity on your servants!
Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
and for as many years as we have seen evil.
Let your work be shown to your servants,
and your glorious power to their children.
Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
and establish the work of our hands upon us;
yes, establish the work of our hands!”
When I start to feel anxious about all there is to do at the beginning of school or end of school, when I start to feel like things are spinning out of control and I need to grasp to gain control, I think on the words of Psalm 90, I pray them back to the Lord, and I remember that God is my dwelling place; He is the stability of my times; He has been around before the mountains were born and the world was created, and He will be around long after I am gone. My roots go down deep into Him, and nothing can move me or pluck me out of His Hand, not even four kids descending on a calm, quiet house. And if I am asking Him to help me number my days, to give me a heart of wisdom, to establish the work of my hands, He will do it. What doesn’t get done, doesn’t get done. As one teacher at my daughters’ school said, I am to prepare, but I am not to lean on my preparations; I am to lean on the Lord.
As I continued to reflect, I also realized I can react out of fear, control, and anger with my children when I feel as though I haven’t accomplished in a day what I set out to accomplish or thought I had to accomplish for it to be a successful day. I start measuring myself, my home, and my children by someone else’s standards that define “perfection” to me, and when perfection isn’t attained, I can start to feel like a failure. And when I start to feel like a failure, I can begin to, unknowingly, take it out on my children.
So to help me with that struggle, I memorized and meditated on Ephesians 5:14-21:
“Therefore it says, ‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’ Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
When I start to feel like a failure, particularly at the end of the day when dinner, baths, piano practice, leftover projects and school work, plus my stack of to-do’s that hasn’t even been touched during the day all lies before me, I cans start to sink. And I can start to want to numb. Numb through eating or drinking. Numb through thinking about the Netflix video I want to watch later. Numb through texting or talking to a friend instead of engaging in the reality of the present around me. But Ephesians 5 says don’t sink. Sing. Make melody in your heart to the Lord. Give thanks in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ. It says don’t numb. Feel. Be Present. Surrender. And be filled. Be filled with the Spirit. So instead of numbing or sinking, I am trying to learn to sing, to put worship music on, music that points my heart and spirit to the Lord, and lean into Him. I am trying to give thanks. Purposefully and specifically for things that have happened during the day instead of all that hasn’t. And it’s amazing how as I turn my voice, my heart usually follows in the same direction.
There are other verses I have memorized and am memorizing – Luke 15:19-24 for learning how to welcome my children home. Proverbs 8:34-36 for learning how to listen to and walk in wisdom. Colossians 3:8-17 for learning how to put on a heart of compassion, kindness, and humility. Romans 13:10-14 for learning how to fight my flesh and fight for love.
None of these verses is a magic formula or wand that I wave or say and then “Poof!”, all of my negativity or controlling fear or anger is gone. But each of these verses is a door that I can choose to open and a path that I can choose to walk down. It is a step-by-step-by-step-by-step relearning of new habits to replace old ones. It is a moment-by-moment choice to stop, and remember, and reconsider life instead of death. Thriving instead of surviving. Progressing instead of regressing.
I won’t always do it perfectly this school year. I won’t always open the door and walk down the path. Sometimes I will plunge headlong off the cliff. But my earnest, sincere, humble prayer is that I will make progress. And by the grace of God, because of the kindness of God, and empowered through the Spirit of God, I know that I will.
So here’s my challenge to you. It’s not too late to start desiring progress this year. Take the next week or two and begin to think about your own sin patterns and the specific situations and seasons of life that trigger reactions instead of responses from you. Then grab your Bible and a stack of index cards, and write at the top of the card exactly what you’re fighting for and what sinful reactions you are fighting against, and then write the verse or verses you want to memorize below.
I punched a hole in the corner of my cards, put them on a ring, and focus on just one verse a day. I write it out in my journal, try to say it from memory a couple of times, and the next day add one more verse to it. It’s amazing how much my mind retains, even at the ancient age of 39!
Maybe you just want to focus on one verse this whole school year. Awesome. One verse of Scripture specifically applied to one reaction of the heart will make a huge and profound difference. Or maybe you want to memorize and meditate on ten.
But whatever you decide to do, do something. Don’t just settle for surviving. Aim for thriving. And as we lean on the grace of God through the Word of God, progress will occur.
“For the Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth, and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so shall My Word be which goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:10-11
Yusra Mardini. Ever heard of her? I hadn’t.
Until last week when I saw a 30 second commercial about her story and participation in the Olympics.
If you want to see a little more background on the filming of the commercial and Yusra’s story, watch here:
Every time I see Yusra’s commercial, I cry. Why? Is it her bravery? Is it because she pulled 17 fellow refugees to safety in a boat in open water? Is it because she had to flee home, and home is a place defined as war-torn and weary? Is it because after all she has been through, she is able to participate in the games and compete in the sport she loves?
In part, yes. But I think it’s more than that. Yusra Mardini’s life speaks to all of us on such a deep level because I think we all know, deep down, the pain of not being home. Put another way, the ache in our own refugee hearts aches when we hear and see the ache in Yusra’s.
Because as human beings on planet earth, in a way, we are all refugees, loving home, separated for the time being from home, longing to go back. But here’s the beautiful thing about Yusra – she made something beautiful out of her suffering. Rather than perishing in the open sea, or keeping her swimming and survival skills to herself, she swam, doing something no one else on that boat except her sister could do, and together they pulled 17 other refugees like themselves to safety.
How beautiful, and how brave.
If you, like me, live in America, we are not, at the present moment, fleeing for our lives. We are not refugees living in another country because our country has horrible, evil suffering and violence threatening its very existence. But every day, refugee or no refugee, safety or no safety, comforts or no comforts, we should remind ourselves that like Yursa, we are not home yet. Because that reminder forces us out of our comforts, out of our tendency to drift into normal, comfortable, mundane everyday existence, and reminds us to live and breathe and die to pull others in to safety.
Because not everyone can swim. Not everyone knows the Gospel, has heard the Gospel, and has personal relationship with Jesus Christ. But if you are a follower of His, you do. You know the survival skill of swimming to shore and safety, pulling an open raft. And just like Yusra, if we don’t swim, and we don’t pull, we are without excuse.
Look around you for a moment. Who is in the raft beside you? Is it family members you know and love? Is it neighbors, friends, teachers, parents at your child’s school? Is it co-workers, business partners, day laborers, or clients? Then stop sitting there, get out of the raft, and swim. Open your mouth and share about the hope you have. Shut your mouth and live in humility, love, and forgiveness instead of pride, arrogance, and unforgiveness, and let your actions speak loudly for themselves. Open your Bibles and believe the truths that yes, this world is under the curse of sin, yes, suffering and evil happens, yes, we are all refugees here, looking for home, safety, security, peace, absence of fear, and comfort, but we are not home yet. Earth is not home in its present state because it was never meant to be. It is only one day, in the presence of King Jesus when all wrong is put to right, all evil is redeemed, all injustice is reversed and the Just One rules and reigns and sits on the throne, then we will be home.
But not now. Not yet.
And until that day, we are all on a team of refugees, sitting in the middle of the ocean, with a broken motor on a broken boat. Unless we know Christ. And He is the One, actually, who pulls to safety. He just lets us in on telling others how to enjoy the ride.
First of all, I wanted to issue a huge thank you for all of you who prayed for Ananda, the man I wrote about in last week’s blog (click here to read). I don’t think it’s any accident that I sent out the blog on Monday, many of you prayed, and Tuesday afternoon I saw him again, the only other time I saw him before we left Idaho. It was, of course, at an inconvenient time, when I was trying to hurry home to put Mia Grace down for a nap. But I had promised the Lord that if I saw Ananda again, I would go up to him and share the things I should have shared and wanted to share the first time I saw him, even if the timing was inconvenient. I also had each of you to be accountable to. So after spotting him out of the corner of my eye and tracking him down through a maze of white tents at the Farmers’ Market, I finally found him and waited ten minutes for him to finish tasting every jam and jelly known to man and then locating a box to carry the two huge jars of berry jelly he bought. Once he turned around, I called for his attention, and we had a good conversation right there in the middle of downtown Ketchum for all the local vendors to hear. I can’t say that I said it perfectly, but I did my best to communicate that there was a God who loved him and who had laid His life down to carry him instead of Ananda having to go anywhere to pick up this God on his own strength.
He smiled his toothless grin and said, “Ah, yes, I have had many visions in my life of seeing many gods. In one vision, the Dalai Lama came to me, full of light, kissed me, and said, “Now you will see God wherever you go. And you know,” Ananda told me, “I have. I see God everywhere.”
“Have you ever seen Jesus, Ananda, or sought Him through reading the Bible?” I asked.
“Yes, of course I have read the Bible,” he responded. “I’ve read the Old Testament, the Synoptic Gospels, the New Testament (and he named a few other ancient manuscripts connected to the Gospels that I cannot even begin to remember or pronounce).”
“Well,” I said, “I’m going to pray for you, Ananda. My prayer is that Jesus will come to you in a vision and tell you who He really is – that He is the God above all gods, and that He loves you, desires to carry you the rest of your days, and wants relationship with you.”
“Okay,” he laughed and said, “if I have a vision of Jesus, I will give Him a hug.”
And after that, we parted. I left to go put one sleepy little girl down for her nap, and he continued on with his business at the Farmers’ Market.
So can I ask you one more favor? Your prayers moved mightily on Ananda’s behalf last week, so this week, will you pray with me that Jesus will come to Ananda through a vision or through a dream, and that Ananda would be led back to the Scriptures, back to the only true Word of Life, and surrender his life by faith to the Lord Jesus Christ? I am not in Idaho anymore to see the results, but I know your prayers were powerful on his behalf last week and can be again. And please continue to pray for you, for me, for all of us, for boldness to speak about the God who loves us, carries us, and longs to have relationship with, reconciling the world to Himself through Christ.
“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” II Corinthians 5:20-21
But today, I want to talk about running, because sometimes we all need a little encouragement to run. I don’t mean that we all need to work up the will power to lace up a pair of tennis shoes and take a few laps around the block, but I do mean we all need the encouragement to keep going around the track in whatever race we are in, not only when life is hard, but especially when life is hard.
In case you moved to Mars or don’t have a television, last Friday was the opening ceremonies of the Olympics, and all summer, I have been thinking about my favorite sport to watch. It’s not gymnastics, although that’s the logical choice for every female in America who grew up watching Mary Lou Retton, but it’s track and field. Jackie Joyner Kersee was my hero growing up, and I dreamed of being an Olympic sprinter until the day I tore up my knee on an asphalt track my freshman year of high school and never ran competitively again.
But I never stopped running, and to this day, running is something I enjoy doing several times a week. I think I like running so much because it’s so relatable. You don’t need special equipment to participate in the sport or knowledge of special rules or a fancy scoring system to understand what is going on. Everyone knows what it feels like to strain towards the end of a finish line. Everyone can relate to beads of sweat on a runner’s forehead and tight muscles in his or her calves from having to push through the final mile and keep going when all you want to do is stop. And everyone can relate to injury in the middle of the race when you have been running so hard and training for so long and all of life just crumples in a moment. Not everyone can relate because he or she was a member of the cross country team in high school, but everyone can relate because running is so much like life.
I think that’s why the story of Olympic runner Derek Redmond grips my heart: “Derek Redmond, a twenty-six-year-old Briton, was favored to win the 400-meter race in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. During his career, he held the British record for the 400-meter sprint and won gold medals in the 4×400 meter relay at the World Championships, the European Championships, and the Commonwealth Games. Despite numerous operations on his Achilles tendon over the years, he felt confident as he began to run in the semifinal race.
Halfway around the track, a fiery pain seared through his right leg. He crumpled to the track with a torn hamstring. As medical attendants were approaching, Redmond fought to his feet. He set out hopping, pushing away the coaches in a crazed attempt to finish the race. London’s The Guardian newspaper quoted him: ‘Everything I had worked for was finished. I hated everybody. I hated the world; I hated hamstrings; I hated it all. I felt so bitter that I was injured again. I told myself I had to finish. I kept hopping round.’” (Cynthia Heald, “Strong Enough to Persevere,” Becoming a Woman of Strength)
Stop right there. Can you relate? Can you relate to Redmond’s feelings of readiness for his race? Ready to not only run but to run to win? And suddenly, in the middle of the race, an old injury from the past that he thought was taken care of and properly healed reared its ugly head, took center stage, and sent him crumpled to the ground, halting his race in mid-stride, yards away from the finish line? Have you ever felt like that? Perhaps the better question is: Who hasn’t felt like that?
Each and every one of us can relate. Death happens. Pain happens. Cancer happens. Sickness happens. Relational severing happens. Financial loss happens. Suffering happens. And it’s not just the pain that tears at our bodies, but it’s the injustice of it all that rips at our souls.
And like Redmond, we struggle to our feet, determined to the finish the race we started out to win, hopping on our one good leg to the finish line.
But something happened as Derek kept going around the track, something that, for me, redefined the race and gave me a whole new perspective on how we are to finish. Watch for yourselves what happened:
At the moment when Derek’s world and dreams crumpled around him, someone leaped out of the stands, barged past security, and pushed his way onto the track. It was Derek’s father, the man who heeded his son’s cries and ran to his aid to help him finish the race:
“You don’t have to do this,” he told his weeping son.
“Yes, I do,” Derek declared.
“Well, then,” said Jim, “we’re going to finish this together.”
(Phil McCallum, “The Derek Redmond Story,” Deeper Still)
I think my favorite part of the video is watching Derek’s father bat away all the officials, the security, the rule makers and the time keepers. Was Derek supposed to go off the track on a stretcher instead of hobbling on one good leg? Probably. Was Derek’s father breaking all the rules by being on the track with his son, helping him towards the finish line? Absolutely.
But Derek’s father didn’t care. He wasn’t into keeping all of the rules. He was into helping his son finish his race.
Because of his father’s help, Redmond was disqualified from the race and listed as “Did Not Finish” due to outside assistance, but because of a son’s sobs and his father’s loving embrace, the incident has become one of the most celebrated and remembered events in Olympic history. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Derek_Redmond)
I don’t know where you are in your race today. Perhaps you are getting ready at the starting line, fitting your feet into position, preparing yourself to hear the gun go off. Perhaps you are mid-race, mid-stride, running well and your muscles are in mint condition. Maybe you’re in first place. Maybe you’re in last place. Or maybe you’re somewhere in the middle. Or maybe, like Derek, you are a crumpled heap on the track, hating life, hating the world, and hating hamstrings.
But here’s the good news: wherever you are, if you will wait for just a moment, you are certain to hear a Father’s footsteps running down the bleachers. You are certain to hear shouts of “Let me through!” You are certain, in a matter of moments, to feel a hand on your shoulder, an arm around your waist, and a voice in your ear, louder than your sobs and louder than the shouts of the crowd, saying, “We can do this; we can finish this race together.”
And you will. Every child who accepts the Father’s embrace crosses the finish line, no matter the severity of the injury. How do I know? Because two thousand years ago, in a perfect race run by a perfect Son, the Son crumpled on the track…but the Father did not come to get Him. He let Him lay there, forsaken, and suffer and die, so that in the imperfect races that you and I run, we would never have to finish alone (Mark 15:34-37).
So what can I promise you today? I cannot promise you that you will win your race. I cannot promise you that all will go well or that you or your loved ones will remain injury free. But I can promise you this: if Derek Redmond’s father, an imperfect, earthly copy of a Heavenly Father, came running to his son’s aid in his moment of need, your Heavenly Father will come running to yours. And your finish will be better and more memorable and more courageous than if you had never struggled or fell or been injured at all. For your finish will be wrapped up in your Father’s arms, arms that promise to never let you go until the race is done and you cross the finish line.
“Therefore since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumberance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and lost heart.” Hebrews 12:1-3
On Saturday evening, Jason, the girls, and I all rode bikes into town after dinner for ice cream and watched the sun set in all of its glory over the Pioneer Mountains. After casting one backward glance at the hazy golden pink shadows against the blue Idaho sky, we wheeled into a local bookstore to take a quick look around and browse through some of our favorite titles.
As we came out of the store, an elderly, white-bearded gentleman followed us out the door, hungry for conversation and fellowship. He sported a long, snow-white beard with a small braid hanging down in the middle, and wore a knitted hat with tinted ski goggles resting against his forehead. He commented on our family, on Mia Grace, and we introduced ourselves and asked him his name. “Ananda,” he said, a Hindu name, I found out later, meaning, “Happiness.”
And this is where the conversation became interesting. Ananda asked us where we were from: “Houston,” I said, “where it’s hot and humid!” “Ah,” he said, “I’ve been to Houston once before. I was there to pick up some Hindu deities. They were carried by boat from India to the ship channel, and I was there to carry them by car all the way back to Idaho.”
I can honestly say I didn’t know what to say. I have never had a total stranger (or anyone for that matter) tell me they came to Houston to pick up deified cargo. Lillian was standing next to me, and I wasn’t sure if she heard his comment or was focused on Mia Grace and the stuffed cat she kept showing to Ananda. (I found out later that of course she heard his comment and had 101 questions about deities people could pick up and carry from the ship channel…of course she heard; kids don’t miss anything.)
At this point, Jason walked over and began to engage Ananda in conversation and stood and talked with him for as long as time (and Mia Grace’s fascination with the stuffed cat) allowed. Then it was time to go.
As we got back on our bikes, I still felt tongue-tied. And I was so saddened. Saddened I hadn’t known what to say to Ananda, who was a lonely, hurting soul still looking for someone, or something else, to pick up and carry. We left him standing by himself on the street corner, his goggles glistening in the sun.
About a block away, as I was asking the Lord what in the world I should have said, His words in Isaiah 46 came to mind:
“Bel has bowed down, Nebo stoops over
[note: both Bel and Nebo were Babylonian gods or idols];
Their images are consigned to the beasts and the cattle.
The things that you carry are burdensome,
A load for the weary beast.
They stooped over, they have bowed down together:
They could not rescue the burden,
But have themselves gone into captivity.
Listen to Me, O house of Jacob,
And all the remnant of the house of Israel,
You who have been borne by Me from birth,
And have been carried from the womb;
Even to your old age, I shall be the same,
And even to your graying years, I shall bear you!
I have done it, and I shall carry you;
And I shall bear you, and I shall deliver you.”
Isaiah 46:1-4 (note and emphasis mine)
And I knew what I wished I had told Ananda.
“Ananda, you are so kind, so gentle, and so humble, and I see the way you value and treasure the gods that you believe to be precious. But can I share something with you, Ananda? There is a God I know who is far too vast to ever fit in a container on a boat in the ship channel, and His power and sovereignty is far too great for humans to ever carry. But I will tell you this: this God I know, while I cannot carry Him, He carries me. And He would love to carry you, too, if you would ever let Him.”
Because that’s what Isaiah 46 tells us. The idols that we make with our human hands and pick up and carry from one place to another, one problem to another, one hopeless situation to another, become only burdens. They bow us low to the ground, our backs bent under the weight of gods who can’t do anything but sit there.
But the God of Israel is in the business of creating a people for Himself, beginning with the birth of the nation of Israel with the house of Jacob, and culminating at the cross with the death and resurrection of Christ. And through Christ, the true Israel, all those who know Him are a part of His family and are carried by Him through every single one of their days, even to their graying years.
And the God of Israel is able to do all this because He subjected Himself to becoming a child so small, He could be picked up by human hands, and becoming a man so weak, He was carried to a cross and crucified there, hanging between earth and sky for all the world to see. And He did it so that there would never have to be a day when the Father did not carry you or me.
That’s what I wish I would have told Ananda, the words of Isaiah 46 rolling off my tied-up tongue.
I am praying for an opportunity to see Ananda again before we leave, to warmly shake his hand, ask him how he has been, and ask him if I can tell him about the God who longs to pick him up and carry him through the rest of his graying years on this earth and on into eternity.
Would you pray that with me? Would you pray for an opportunity for Ananda to hear the Gospel clearly, despite my tied-up tongue? And would you look around you this week at the people you know and love, as well as the strangers God sovereignly ordains to cross your path? Ask the Lord for spiritual eyes to see backs that are bent from bearing a heavy beast of burden, a deity that promises way too much and delivers way too little. Ask the Lord for ears to hear cries of loneliness, sorrow, and disappointment coming from people who have worshipped idols of their own making that have under-delivered and never satisfied. And then ask Him for the words, the boldness, and the courage to come up alongside those He tells you to, lift their load, and speak about the God who suffered Himself to be carried unto death so that He could carry them, from the womb to the grave, with resurrection life.
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30