Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Look Ahead, Not Behind

I have become increasingly aware of the fact that I need to work on being more patient with my children, especially my strong-willed daughter. I also know that I tend to say things I shouldn't when I get upset, and then I go back later and apologize for what I said. I want my children to know how to handle difficult situations in a Godly way and I was not setting a very good example! The other Sunday, the pastor at church did a sermon and at the end, we wrote down our sin that we struggle with on a small piece of paper. We then walked up to a cross and nailed that piece of paper to the cross, putting our sin back where it belonged. I knew immediately what I wanted to write on that paper. I wrote how I needed to be more patient and watch what I say when I am angry or frustrated. It felt wonderful to put that sin back on the cross and walk away!

This week, God has been dealing with me on all of this again. On Monday, I read Philippians 2:4 in my devotions. It says, "Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others." My first thought upon reading that verse was "Ouch! I hear you, Lord!" I knew God was reminding me of how I want my kids to listen to what I am saying, but I don't want to listen to what they have to say. If they are disobeying, I don't want to listen to their excuses. I just want them to listen to what I saying. It was clear to me that I needed to learn to listen to them more so I could show them that they are important to me. I know I am constantly telling my daughter that she needs to not talk so much and she needs to listen more. I remind her that she has two ears and one mouth so she is suppose to listen twice as much as she talks. I guess God was letting me know to take my own advice! I too need to learn to talk less and listen more.

Yesterday morning, my devotions were flooded with verses and statements that spoke so clearly to me. Proverbs 15:1 says "A soft answer turns away wrath." and James 1:19 tells us to be "slow to speak". At the very end of the devotional (I use Our Daily Bread) is usually a poem and what I call the thought for the day. Yesterday's poem was the following by someone with the last name of Hess:

Lord, set a guard upon my lips,
My tongue control today,
Help me evaluate each thought
And watch each word I say.

The thought for the day was "Bite your tongue before your tongue bites others."
Again I was amazed at how God made it crystal clear to me what He was trying to teach me. I finished up my devotions by praying and simply letting God know that I would obey His word. Little did I know just how quickly all this would be put to the test.

Yesterday, my daughter tested me to my maximum. In the afternoon, she did something that definitely deserved punishment. When I discovered what she did, I didn't use a gentle voice. I screamed at the top of my lungs. I was so angry and so hurt by what she had done that I lost it. Later, I felt horrible when I realized that I had again failed God in the way I had handled things. Yes, my daughter needed to know that what she had done was wrong and she needed to suffer the consequences for her actions; but I knew I should have walked away until I could calmly and rationally speak to her about how wrong it was for her to do what she had done. I felt so defeated. Then my nephew Timothy called me. He had seen my status on Facebook that said I needed prayer and he wanted to make sure I was ok. We talked for awhile and one thing he said to me really stuck in my head. He said "God chose you to be Sarah's mom because He knew you would be the best person to teach her God's ways." I'm amazed at the wisdom of this young man, and I am truly blessed to be called his aunt! I'm so proud of the fact that he recently has accepted the call into the ministry! He's going to be an amazing pastor!

This morning, I picked up my Bible to do my devotions and quietly said "Lord, I need to hear your voice." My throat had started to hurt last night and it was still hurting this morning. I knew my cold seems to be coming back and I felt that this was my punishment for screaming at my daughter. God already knew how I was feeling, and that I needed to hear from Him. He answered me in such an amazing way that I could only cry out of thanksgiving for His love for me. A few verses in I Samuel 12 seemed to leap out of the page as I read them. The first verse I noticed was verse 20 which says "Do not be afraid, Samuel replied. You have done all this evil; yet do not turn away from the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart." Tears welled up in my eyes. I felt that even though I had failed, the Lord was telling me to not turn away from Him. He wanted me to just continue to serve Him with all my heart. The next verse that jumped out at me was verse 22 which says "For the sake of his great name the Lord will not reject his people, because the Lord was pleased to make you his own." Again I was overwhelmed. God wasn't rejecting me. I belong to Him! I am one of His people and He was pleased when He made me! Next came verse 23b which says, "I will teach you the way that is good and right." I cried again because that is my goal! That is what I want to do with my kids! I want to teach them what is good and right. It was just as if God was showing me that He would show me what is good and right so that I could accomplish what my goal is too! The final verse I read was verse 24 which says, "But be sure to fear the Lord and serve Him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you." God was reminding me to remember all that He has already done for me. He has forgiven me before and He will continue to do so as long as I seek His forgiveness. I can continue to faithfully serve the Lord with all my heart because He is faithful to forgive me and show me what He wants me to do.

As if all these verses weren't enough, God continued to speak to me through the poem and thought for the day. The poem was by D. De Haan. It said:

Sins confessed you must forget;
Look not back to yesterday-
Full of failure and regret;
Look ahead and seek God's way.

Finally, the thought for the day was "Don't let yesterday's failures bankrupt tomorrow's efforts." Wow! I so needed to read that! God was so clearly telling me to forget about my failure yesterday. He had already forgiven and forgotten about it. I just needed to look ahead and keep trying my best to live my life His way. 

I don't know who else may read this, but I know that God wanted me to share what He has been teaching me. Usually that means someone else will need to hear these things too. No matter what your sin may be or what you struggle with, I know God will forgive you too. Don't give up! It's easy to get frustrated and feel defeated when you keep failing at something you are trying so hard to overcome. We are human and God loves each and every one of us just the way we are. Don't allow yourself to be defeated by your failures. Ask for His help and keep pressing forward!