Walking in Confidence

It seems only fair that since I put you through the preliminary thinking for the workshop I taught today, I would also share with you the final product.  In retrospect, I feel that God used this opportunity, including the fact that my husband, who originally agreed to co-present with me, was called out of town, to allow me a chance to look in the rearview mirror to see what he has been doing within me for the past year or so.  It was really quite amazing to see the broader view and to then share that view with the ladies who joined me today.

The keynote shared some words of wisdom she had learned years ago, “you don’t have to step on every landmine that I have.” In that spirit, I share my presentation from today.

Walking in Confidence

This sectional is supposed to be about walking in confidence in ministry.  After 25 years of ministry with my husband, I can say it is really quite simple; just follow these instructions:

Proverbs 3 1-6

My daughter, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments,
for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you.

Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart.
So you will find favor and good success [a in the sight of God and man.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

That’s it. Ok, go home and do that and you will be walking in confidence in ministry.

Wait, you say you can’t do that? What’s so hard about keeping commandments, binding love and faithfulness around your neck and writing them on your heart? You simply have to trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. Simple. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.

No? Can’t do it? Me either. I keep failing. Over and over again.

I thought I was doing pretty well, way back in 2004. My husband was the Minister to Families at a local congregation. Our children were being raised in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. I was finishing my Master’s degree, substitute teaching, and writing for a National Lutheran publication. My husband felt the call of the Lord, so we packed our bags and moved to St. Louis to enter the Seminary. That should be an easy place to keep God’s commandments, bind love and faithfulness around my neck, write them on the tablet of my heart, and trust completely in God, right?

You’d think so.

But a lot of change happened very quickly. We not only got a new address, our kids got new schools, I got three new jobs in the first six months, my husband dove into studies, we lived in a small community of other families that were going through all the changes that we were, and, I’m gonna be honest – it was too much.

I went into survival mode.

I was the primary breadwinner – neither my children nor I were familiar with that. I was also still primarily responsible for all the things of the home—groceries, laundry, cooking, cleaning, etc. Yes, my husband helped with all of these things, but I still wore the responsibility for making them happen.

My position went from part-time to full time to full-time plus in just one year. I was a Lutheran educator wearing a variety of hats while still wearing the hat of mom and wife.

I abandoned all my good habits of Bible study, prayer, and fellowship – I forgot about God’s love and faithfulness, I decided to lean on my own understanding. I held myself responsible for making it all happen at Seminary. I put all my confidence in me.

Been there? If you have, you know that it got pretty messy.

God allows us to get there. He allows us to try out our own way. He allows us to have confidence in ourselves and our own strength. He allows it to get pretty messy.

Family relationships suffered. Friendships suffered. Finally my health suffered.

Yeah, my own strength wasn’t working out that great.

Over a period of time, God intervened. He drew me close enough to Him that I could hear His voice saying, “Come on, Kristin, it’s not working. Turn to me. Repent.

I didn’t want to hear that, because I am a stubborn old gal. If I turned to Him, I would have to admit that I had been walking the wrong way,…for quite a long time. I pride myself in doing the right thing. Yeah, pride. That, too.

But He kept drawing me closer, kept repeating His message – “this is not working. You are suffering. The people around you are suffering.” I knew He was right, but I really didn’t want to change.

So, He did what any parent would do – He intervened. He relocated us and gave me a six-month opportunity to refresh. And during those six months he placed just the right people at just the right junctures. He placed me among women who invited me into conversations that helped me turn. They gave me a reason to do regular Bible study. They surrounded me with prayer. They encouraged me on my journey. They helped me re-set.  They helped me remember to put my confidence in Christ instead of putting it in myself.

This year has taught me a lot. It has taught me that God is a God of forgiveness and renewal. I want to invite you into that.

Repent – The word ‘repent’ carries a lot of baggage with it. We associate weeping and gnashing of teeth, sackcloth and ashes, and all other kinds of misery with repentance, but at it’s heart, it’s a turning.  It’s a turning from heading in the wrong direction to following in the right direction.  I know I tried to avoid being repentant, which in retrospect was rather foolish.  After all, God only wanted me to turn because He loves me.  Hear Him in this:

Proverbs 3:11-12

My daughter, do not despise the Lord’s discipline
or be weary of his reproof,
12 for the Lord reproves those he loves,
as a father the daughter in whom he delights.

Isaiah 30: 15

“In repentance and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”

Take a moment to acknowledge any ways that you have ‘forgotten God’s teachings and disregarded his commands’. In what areas have you ‘leaned on your own understanding’?

Rest – The word ‘rest’ seems laden with laziness and irresponsibility rather than it’s true intention — restoration, recovery, and healing.  Many of us push through difficult times rather than allowing ourselves to rest.  Hear God on this:

Psalm 61:3-5 (Message)

You’ve always given me breathing room,
a place to get away from it all,
A lifetime pass to your safe-house,
an open invitation as your guest.
You’ve always taken me seriously, God,
made me welcome among those who know and love you.

Isaiah 40:29-31

He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
30 Even wives shall faint and be weary,
and mothers shall fall exhausted;
31 but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.

Matthew 11:28

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

God desires for us to rest from our weariness.  He did create the Sabbath, didn’t He? Rest should not come merely in moments of desperation; it should be part of the rhythm of our lives  — daily rest, weekly rest, and seasonal rest.  It’s ok to schedule this in — to plan time each day, each week, and throughout the year to be still, be quiet, and to recover.  It is only when we take the time rest that we can be refueled for service.  It is only when we are quiet that we can hear God’s voice telling us to re-set.

Re-set –When you are resting, after you have had a chance to catch your breath, think about how you can re-set.

Ask yourself, what are my priorities? Then, does the way I spend my time reflect my priorities? How can it?  Am I putting my confidence in Christ?  Or am I putting my confidence in myself.

It’s not a magic cure.  I imagine I will be reliving this cycle over and over again in my life.  I know I will be tempted to take control, to rely on my own strength, and to go charging in my own direction.  However, I am confident of this — God will continue to beckon me back to Him, He will continue to welcome me back into His safe house, He will continue to set me again on His path.

May He do so for all of us.

Repent. Refresh. Reset.

So, as usual, my writing has sharpened my thinking.  I always tell my students this.  You don’t always know what you think until you start writing — so just write something.  You, my dear reader, may think that I write this blog to share my life with you, and indeed that is a nice bonus. But actually, I write this blog to figure out what I am thinking.  Knowing I have you as an audience is an additional check on my honesty.

Yesterday I shared that I will be speaking next weekend on the topic — ‘confidence in Christ’, specifically, how have I kept my confidence in Christ through the seasons of ministry.  Writing what I did yesterday got me to the place of acknowledging that it’s ok if I haven’t consistently had confidence in Christ, or more specifically, haven’t behaved as though I had confidence in Christ.  After all, it’s probably safe to say that all people falter in their faith.  In fact, women who come to a Saturday conference on having confidence in Christ have most assuredly had their moments of doubt.

And, from the comments I received from you, I think that at least some of these women will find it refreshing to hear that others have had a similar struggle.  One of you said that I should be ‘brutally honest’. Another said ‘bring the noise’!  Thanks guys, because you know me well enough to know that that is likely going to happen, whether I plan for it or not.  I am who I am.

One friend reminded me of a conversation that a few of us had last winter.  She simply said ‘Repent. Refresh. Reset.’ And I heard the song of my heart.  I love that those words don’t focus on the sin, as I am wont to do.  Rather, these three words focus on the remedy.  They remind me that in His story, God knew in advance that I would falter.  He knew that I could not remain consistently confident in Christ.  So, he provided a plan.  He said, Come to me all of you who are tired of soldiering, tired of kicking butts and taking names. He said, I will provide rest for your souls. He said, I don’t desire for you to die fighting; I desire for you turn to me, to try my pattern of living, and to realize that my way is much easier (Rathje Revised Version, all). 

So perhaps that is what will fill fifty-five minutes, stories of repentance, refreshing, and resetting.

That’s what this blog is, really. It’s the tale of me repenting of my self-sufficiency, of realizing in my weakness that He provides me with strength, of recognizing that a new way is needed, and beneficial, and blessed.

So, I share a few of my stories, and allow the ladies to share a few of theirs? We devise a way to keep sharing the stories of God’s faithfulness in our faithlessness? We commit to being brutally honest with one another?

Can you imagine the strength and encouragement that could come from such sharing? So many of you shared with me yesterday that you will be praying for me as I prepare for this Saturday.  Thank you!  Would you also pray for the ladies who will join me?  And pray for our time together? Please pray that our confidence in Christ would be renewed.

Acts 3:19

 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,