By Melissa Dennis
Originally published in Be Still Magazine, issue 11
I’ve done things in my short life thus far that seemed at one point to be the most significant landmarks—even highlights due to the event’s noteworthiness. Running the Great Wall of China marveling at God’s power and glory, laying my head to rest on a concrete floor in India with a room full of orphans. God has been good to broaden the boundaries of my dwelling and place a magnifying glass over Himself for me during those moments. Yet in recent years I have found that (or more correctly God has made known to me) the ordinary days of my life serve to compound my hope in Jesus Christ unlike anything else. The aforementioned events swelled waves in my soul that pushed me to the Rock that is higher than I (Psalm 61:1-2), don’t get me wrong. But it has been sleepless nights due to nursing, diapering, praying over hearts, and checking temperatures that has led me to hold tightly to truth unlike anything else.
Certain that I would have our first child in China and parenting would come naturally because I loved kids and read the parenting manuals for scheduling and developmental milestones, I didn’t expect my theology to meet me so face to face as it has while carrying, laboring and delivering, and raising up four children alongside my husband. I never thought building a stick house in the dirt with my four year old son could shake my soul. I saw my hope in the days surrounding our construction of this backyard model to be quite like the fool in Matthew 7:24-27, building his house in the sand. As quickly as this passage hits me in the dirt of my own backyard, this boy runs over to his favorite spot on the swing and looks up at the big blue sky and declares, “I see it, Mama! God’s amazing creation!” He may have gone on to go hit his brother, but that’s beside the point.
God meets us in the ordinary, and He transforms us in it for His glory.
Studying birds with my kids led me to tears on a weekly basis at early summer this year as I woke early with two children, tired from the night before. Yet it was not my lack of sleep that shook me. It was the mother cardinal’s humble garb and solid presence over her nest and the father’s flaunting about to keep away predators that swept over me and gave cause for God’s sovereign planning to be marveled over. It’s been my days of laying low with sick and needy kids or days gazing over a mountain of laundry that took me to the grace of God because I found that the joy was easy to come by with my Great Wall moments. It has been hunkered down in the barracks of nurturing, correcting, guiding, teaching, encouraging, and potty-training that has given me reason to find joy in moments of ordinary life.
At times, my to-dos or inabilities can beat against my heart and mind so that its hard to lift my eyes from them. I imagine how one of those mother birds in my backyard may feel like when the rain comes and she has her wings spread out over her nest, rain hitting, unsure when it will end, yet certain of where she should be. There, over her nest. The calling is unshakable regardless of the storms that come. There’s no doubt I love to be where I am. There’s literally no where else I would rather be. I know it to be true that these long days are short passing years where I will look up and my children will pass from my care. So it’s not another thing I need to add or change in my schedule or model or technique right now. Nope, it’s where my eyes are. When my eyes get off of myself and look to Christ, it never fails that I see His glory—just as He intended. When I remember that the gate is narrow and striving with fear and trembling is real, I know that I can take heart (Matthew 7:13-14, Philippians 2:12-13). Because it’s not my efforts that will lead me to the end. It’s God upholding His promises as He always has. The one who began this good work in me will certainly bring it to completion (Philippians 1:6). The one that performed the will of his Father without delay or questioning is teaching me to do the same. The Savior’s gladness to enter into a life of hardship, betrayal, mocking, separation from the Father, and death gives me strength in my inner man.
So mamas, if you have feeble, knocking knees like me at times, take heart. Our weak knees bring us low for a reason. The magnifying glass you may be moving over all of your weaknesses is the same glass that, when lifted to the Savior, brings you peace. The apostle Paul seemed to feel just like you and I, yet his feeble knees took him to higher ground—
“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. “For the sake of Christ then, “I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
2 Corinthians 12:7-10
Verse 10 shakes my soul. Contentment has been something I felt came easily to me until I saw my weaknesses more evidently—for my good. You see this whole mothering thing is not about you or me, or even the little birds we are nurturing for that matter. It’s all about Jesus. It’s all about that “For the sake of Christ” part of verse 10. This is our hope, this is the gospel:
God, out of His own good pleasure and not due to any feelings of loneliness, created everything. It was perfect, and it pleased Him. Yet through the deception hissed into the ear of Eve by the serpent, the fleeting pleasures of sin took root into the hearts of the first humans and all to come after. Creation snapped in half, and the perfection was gone. Yet God promised hope. Through making a people for Himself, continuing in promise-making and promise-keeping, God continued to drive home His plan of redemption. From the beginning, God’s plan was to make Himself known to the world through Jesus Christ. And that is just what He did. Jesus came as a humble baby born in a lowly manger and lived a lowly life, acquainted with sorrow yet still our example of contentment and joy in the face of opposition and hardship. He was sovereignly put into the hands of sinful man and delivered up to the point death, even death on the cross. On that cross, Jesus willingly separated Himself from the Father as He allowed the full force of God’s great wrath upon sin to fall upon Him. As His blood shed out on that cross, Jesus soaked in every drop of wrath. He did it. And He was content to be weak so that God the Father could demonstrate His strength of perfect peace-making, love-infused, grace-drenched justice. Three days of death were swallowed up as Jesus rose from the death, appeared again to hundreds of witnesses, and ascended to the Father, sending our Comforter.
We have hope in this gospel that has changed everything for us. Our weak knees are good for us.