It Helps to Know We’re Not Alone

2 corinthians 1

“I get it.”

That’s what I said to my girl.  She was feeling ashamed, a memory from a mistake held her a little hostage.

It was a simple thing that had overwhelmed her: a new situation, someone giving her instructions she didn’t understand, pressure to make a decision and she did the wrong thing.

It wasn’t that she sinned.  She just messed up.  It was a misunderstanding, an accident.

And it deflated her, embarrassment and shame threatening to suck the joy right out of the whole experience.

Weeks later, any time she thought about that day, she still remembered it:  The MISTAKE.

And she felt all that pressure and all that shame and all that self-criticism beat on her all over again.

So, one day I dipped my head down to hers and slipped my arm around her shoulder and I said, “I get this.”

And I do.  If I’m pressured to make a decision, I will almost always do the wrong thing.  My split-second reactions are foolish, and all that imperfection is embarrassing, crushing even, to a perfection-striving girl like me.

Then I told her what I’ve learned and what I’m learning about how to overcome my decision-making deficiency and the way I can mess up and the way I can get buried in shame.

I felt the tension in her shoulders ease at the sound of my confession.  It never occurred to her that she wasn’t alone.  That maybe others, maybe even her mom, does foolish things sometimes. Or that others have a hard time letting go and getting over past mistakes.

There’s power in knowing someone understands.

And, I take comfort in this also, even though Jesus doesn’t understand what it’s like to sin, He does understand what it’s like to be tempted.  He knows what the accusations of Satan sound like.

When he asks me to endure, be patient, withstand trials or suffering, love my enemies, speak truth, or show love, He gets it.  He has been there.

Eugene Peterson wrote:

“Lord Jesus Christ, how grateful I am that You have entered the arena of suffering and hurt and evil.  If all I had were words spoken from a quiet hillside, I would not have what I needed most — Your victory over the worst, Your presence in time of need.”

Jesus could have preached “Blessed are the merciful and the meek and the pure in heart,” and those messages would have been challenging, beautiful even.

But ultimately, they’d be meaningless pep-talks about morality and character.

He didn’t just make speeches, though.

He showed mercy.

He lived with meekness.

He interceded for those crucifying Him as He labored to breathe on the cross.

He remained pure even as Satan tempted Him in the desert.

Jesus didn’t just say it; He lived it.

That’s why the writer of Hebrews reminds us that:

For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.  Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted (Hebrews 2:17-18).

This mercy is our comfort and our joy.

Jesus doesn’t stand aloof and full of judgment, looking down at us for messing up or falling short.

Our merciful High Priest bends down low and helps us overcome.

In the same way, Jesus asks us to do more than just make speeches at people and proclaim truth.  He asks us to live it and then share it.

Paul wrote:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,  who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God (1 Corinthians 1:3-4).

So, we who have received mercy, offer others the relief of mercy.

“I get it…I don’t always have it together either.”  That’s what we confess.

We don’t pretend everything is perfect; we share the vulnerability of life.

When we’ve walked through cancer, we love others through cancer.  We who have experienced loss, love others through loss.

We comfort the friend, we share in her struggle, in the bad news, in the mistakes, and we pour out generous helpings of grace because God heaped grace on us.

We give others the gift we’ve received ourselves:  Knowing we’re not alone.

What comfort has God given you so that you may comfort others?

When You’ve Become the Diaper

I’d been a mom for just under two years when I got pooped on for the first time.

It turns out new babies can’t quite tell when the diaper is on and when Momma has removed it for bath time.

This is one of those things you just never anticipate happening to you.   You go to college, study hard, earn a degree in British Literature.  Go back to school and earn a Master’s degree in Educational Administration.  Teach highly intelligent senior high students Advanced Placement English classes.

Then two years later you’re cleaning yourself up after being mistaken for a diaper.

Every mom has Kodak moments of familial perfection.  For a few minutes, it’s domestic tranquility.  Kids are healthy.  They used their manners at the dinner table.  The homework is done.  The laundry is put away.  You cooked a delicious and healthy dinner in your Crock Pot, made homemade bread, and no one complained about it at the dinner table.  Your chore chart and behavior reward system are working.

You are, in fact, Super Mom.  You are June Cleaver, Betty Crocker, and even maybe Mr. Clean in one grand super hero package.

Until noses start running and children start fighting when you have a headache.  A stomach virus shoots through your family.  You realize that “dressing up” now means wearing the jeans without the worn knees and Sharpie stains from your child’s experiments with permanent marker.

Are you less of a Super Mom now?

Partway through last week when the stomach virus hit my home, the cleaning up of bodily fluids was beginning to wear me down.  It was like being pooped on . . . all day . . . every day.

I needed a good cry, a scented bubble bath, a cup of hot tea, some rich chocolate—maybe hot fudge on an ice cream sundae, a hair cut, some time to myself, someone to tell me I looked beautiful even on a day it couldn’t possibly be true because of the aforementioned bodily fluid clean-up.

Without any of those indulgences readily at my disposal, I prayed the only prayer I was feeling at the moment, “Can you help a girl out, God?  It’s pretty hard to feel like the yucky humiliation and selflessness of this job has any eternal significance.  Do you even know what it’s like to put other people first all the time?”

I forgot who I was talking to.

Oh, sure, Jesus was the Savior of mankind.  He had the power of divinity at His fingertips.  He could multiply the bread instead of having to kneed it by hand and let it rise on the stove.  He could command the fish into the nets instead of pushing a cart around Wal-Mart with a shopping list, a budget, coupons, and a toddler.

And yet.

When we over-romanticize the life of our Savior, we forget the utter humility and selflessness of Jesus, who:

“though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” Philippians 2:5-8 (ESV).

Jesus emptied Himself for us.  He took the form of a servant for our sake.  Stepping down from a heavenly throne, for a little while He “was made lower than the angels” all because He loved us (Hebrews 2:9).

The writer of Hebrews emphasizes that Jesus’ sacrifice wasn’t just that He died on the cross for us—although that is more than enough.  The sacrifice began the moment He confined Himself to flesh and submitted Himself to a life of hunger, fatigue, and pain.

He suffered in this way so that He could understand our suffering:

“Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted”  (Hebrews 2:14-18, ESV).

and

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15, ESV).

Jesus sympathizes with us on our hardest days.  He loves on us and showers mercy down on our lives when He sees how we struggle.  Christ bends Himself low to wash our feet and heal our hurts.

This is never more true than when we’re covered in mess because we’ve been serving someone else.  Before Paul writes in Philippians 2 about Jesus’ humility even to the point of death, he first challenges us to “have this mind among yourself which is yours in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5).

We are supposed to humble ourselves in the same way Christ did.

This, to me, means that the most beautiful moments of my motherhood to God aren’t the ones when the family is clean, happy, eating my perfect food, at peace with one another and I look like a fashion model.

Instead, it’s when I’m serving even though I’m tired or sick myself.  It’s getting up early even when you were up in the middle of the night.  It’s cleaning up messes and assuring sick children that it’s all okay.

This isn’t just for moms either.  God has called us all to a ministry of self-emptying, of inconvenience and mess, so that we can share His love with others.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

I Know What You’re Talking About

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Deuteronomy 31:6

Sending my oldest daughter to first grade has been a daily exercise in navigating cutthroat competition.

It’s a compulsion.  An insatiable need to be the best, the smartest, the fastest, the first.

So, when choosing books at the end of the day, she stressed over whether anyone else had a higher reading level.

It was tragic when the girls in her reading group lost the spelling competition to the two boys.

There were the races at recess, how many beads they had earned for their Accelerated Reader necklaces in library, and who was on the highest level math timed test.

For weeks, I gave my daughter profound words of Momly wisdom.  “You don’t always have to be the best, babe.  You just have to try your hardest and that is always good enough.  Don’t worry about anyone else. You are smart and capable and you should be proud of what you can do and be thankful for the way God has made you.”

She would nod, hug me and then run off to play, seemingly receiving the full weight of my words.

But no matter how good my speeches were, they didn’t really change her–even the ones I felt could have been scripted into TV sitcom about a perfect mom in one of those heart-to-heart mother-daughter moments.

She still felt both compelled and destroyed by competition.

Then there was the day when I finally looked at her and said, “I get it. I know what it’s like.  I have spent most of my life feeling like I needed to be the best, the fastest, the smartest, the most capable, the most responsible, the kindest, and just generally the most perfect person there is.  And I am telling you now that doing your best is good enough and that you need to be comfortable as you.”

She looked back at me a little befuddled, as if it never occurred to her that maybe this neurotic need to be perfect was genetic.  And while her character didn’t change in a revolutionary moment, she seemed to listen more closely to what I had to say.

Because I have been there.  I have lived that.  I do actually know what I’m talking about.

In the same way, it comforts me somehow to know that when Jesus asks me to endure, to be patient, to withstand trials and suffering, to love my enemies, to speak truth, and to show love, that He knows what He’s talking about.

Eugene Peterson wrote:

“Lord Jesus Christ, how grateful I am that You have entered the arena of suffering and hurt and evil.  If all I had were words spoken from a quiet hillside, I would not have what I needed most — Your victory over the worst, Your presence in time of need.”

Jesus could have preached “Blessed are the merciful and the meek and the pure in heart” for His entire ministry.  Those messages would have been challenging and beautiful, but lacking in impact.

Thankfully, He didn’t stop there.  He showed mercy.  He displayed meekness, even choosing to intercede for those crucifying Him as He labored to breathe on the cross.  His heart remained pure, even as Satan tempted Him in the desert.

Jesus didn’t just say it; He lived it.

That’s why the writer of Hebrews reminds us that:

For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.  Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted (Hebrews 2:17-18).

How precious is Christ’s mercy for us!  He never stands poised from a throne of judgment, hurling down condemnation at us for messing it up sometimes or falling short of perfect every day.

He is a merciful High Priest, who bends down low and helps us overcome.

In the same way, Jesus asks us to do more than just make speeches at people and proclaim truth.  He asks us to live it and then share it.

Paul wrote:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,  who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God (1 Corinthians 1:3-4).

So, when we share with someone what it’s like to overcome the sin of gossip, it’s because we ourselves have been there and done that.

When we watch a stressed out young mom’s children, it’s because someone watched our little ones for us.

As we place our arm around the woman diagnosed with breast cancer, as we make a meal for a new widow, as we sip coffee across from the wife who’s husband says, “I don’t love you anymore,” we give to them the same comfort we received in our own lives.

Jesus asks us to live it and then share it.  That’s what He Himself has done for us.

What comfort has Christ given to you that you need to share with someone else?

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.