Marriage, parenting, ministry, work, pretty much every relationship and every thing I do have taught me one thing about myself — I am not enough. God, on the other hand, is infinite and limitless and desires that we live a limitless life — an abundant life.
Marriage and parenting, above all other preoccupations of a person, seem to fast-track you towards that point of recognition…a recognition that there is a “cap” on your capacity.
For example, I am crazy about my kids, but sometimes when my children act up, pout, whine, get moody, or they become wild and noisy, I really feel like “I can’t take it!” I want to run to my room, lock the door and let the madness and mayhem magically disappear. Of course that doesn’t happen. I imagine this plan of escape in my mind but the reality is I have to stand there, in the middle of it all, and be teacher, disciplinarian, instructor and lovingly patient mom. If you are a mom, you know what I mean. And you know, as I do, that too many days like these can drive you crazy!
There have also been occasions in my life when I have gotten knocked over by one unfortunate event after another. At the beginning of January 2012, I experienced a collision of so many big and small disturbances, I ran out of emotional storage space. It was a hodgey-podgey mix of disappointments, hurts, failures, realizations, and fears that were all poured into one cauldron. I simply did not have the capacity to sift through the gook to remain emotionally level-headed. In other words, I reached Joy Mendoza’s maximum capacity limit to cope and I became emotionally fragile. I was an overly sensitive wife, an irritable mom, reluctant in my service for God and restless in spirit. What was wrong with me?
I found the answer during the leadership conference in our church. This conference came at the right time, in just the right way. Speaker, Edmund Chan, talked about the idea of rest in the presence of God. Rest…such a wonderfully sweet word that seems elusive in our present age. So much of the world we know today is noisy, busy, harried, instant, and stress-inducive. But I learned an invaluable truth that weekend. Rest is found in the presence of God.
Psalm 46:10 says “be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
Edmund Chan explained that being still is different from keeping still. It means “loosen up, cut the slack. Seize striving.” Striving from what? “The worries, anxieties, the churning within. We want a quick search but God calls us to a quiet search. We tend to exert effort and scheme to gain control. But the more we try to scheme, the more we lose a sense of Gods presence.”
I have seen this played out in my own relationship to Edric. When we have conflict and I want to win, prove my point, or insist on my way and perspective, it leads to fighting and hurt. But when I go to God and ask, “Please be the one to help us fix this or please be the one to speak to my husband. Please help us to make the right decision,” I feel a different kind of peace. It is about letting go of what I want and opening up my heart to God’s best solution. It’s about recognizing that circumstances and relationships are part of God’s plan to transform my character. There are no accidents when God is at the “wheel.” But when I am, it’s disastrous!
Psalm 46:9 reveals to us that the context of Psalm 46:10 was war. And this is the amazing thing about being in God’s presence. We can find rest in the Lord even if the circumstances around us are turbulent. Chan encouraged the audience to spend time listening to God. The purpose of stillness, according to him, is to hear and know God. And the best way to know what God has to say is to go to his Word, where he has already spoken.
When I am frustrated with my wonderful husband, I remember that the Bible says, “submit to your husband and respect him.” (Ephesians 5) And when I don’t feel like doing this, I remember that it also says, “God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5)
I used to think that the spirit-filled life was about asking the spirit to “fill me” everyday. But Chan explained that it is “not about how filled I am with the Holy Spirit but how much the Spirit has of me.” It boils down to my responses of obedience when I am still and listening to God’s voice, revealed in his word. It is to prefer Gods will, to know that it is best and not just to perceive and pursue Gods will. And then to rest in God’s will.
Furthermore, a real test of whether or not I am in the presence of God is if I am able to say, “Lord, thank you. Thank you for my husband, my children, people around me and circumstances that are helping me become the person you want me to be.”
It is no accident that I am married to a husband whose language of love is to be served when that is not my language of love. It’s no accident that he is a passionate, intense person who helps me to care more and have higher standards for excellence. It’s no accident that I have four children with different personalities who are teaching me that I don’t know much about parenting or teaching. It’s no accident that I have unfulfilled dreams and longings that matter to God but that he has not yet answered (or may never.)
I learned from a friend that we must come to that point of saying, “This is necessary. This profitable.”
What matters is that I remain in the presence of God. Moses understood this. In Exodus 33:14- 17, we catch a glimpse of his relationship with God. Here he was trying to lead an obstinate, massive,and complaining group of people. (Hmm…does that sound like parenting sometimes?) He could have easily given up and said, “Forget it!” But he knew the secret of a truly success leader. He knew he couldn’t lead these people on his own strength, knowledge, energy, or credentials. What was most important to him was that God would be among him and the people.
He (God) said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.” Then he (Moses) said to Him, “If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here. For how then can it be known that I have found favor in Your sight, I and Your people? Is it not by Your going with us, so that we, I and Your people, may be distinguished from all the other people who are upon the face of the earth?” The LORD said to Moses, “I will also do this thing of which you have spoken; for you have found favor in My sight and I have known you by name.” (Exodus 33:14-17 NASB)
Lord, help me to remain in your presence so that I can live a limitless life!
Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you;
He will never allow the righteous to be shaken. (Psalm 55:22 NASB)
I thought these photos of the boys were a good example of how we ought to rest in the Lord…