I am a new mom. A “FTM” (First Time Mom) as all the bloggers and texters say. Most of my friends back home in the midwest are years ahead of me, sending their kids to preschool and gradeschool, but here in Denver we do things a little more slowly and I am 33 with a baby two weeks old today. These last two weeks have been a whirlwind, including unexpected medical diagnoses, hospital stays, and a three week early adjustment to parenthood – but some of the most amazing moments in my and my husband’s life. One thing, however, that is rocking my world Spiritually is the new “opportunity” to die to myself.
There are many truths out there that circulate so rapidly that they sound cliche. “Marriage is a mirror” and such, but in two short weeks I am beginning to learn anew what it means to die to myself and to surrender my selfishness.
The Christian life, the path of salvation, is often called the fight of faith. We are engaged in a Spiritual battle for holiness. We are killing our sin so that it will not kill us. We are pressing on towards the goal, we are dying to ourselves, we are fighting for sanctification. This is Biblical. This is right. This is honoring to God. And it is indeed God’s plan to sanctify us:
“For this is the will of God, your sanctification…”
– 1 Thess 4.3
Our sanctification is a process, and God reveals our sin and our depravity in bite-sized pieces. He asks/commands/enables us to fight our sin one day at a time. If God were to reveal the depths of our selfishness and pride as well as confronting our sinful habits all at the moment of conversion, we would become overwhelmed and give up. But graciously He gives us the Holy Spirit to convict us of our sin, empower us to fight it and when we begin to live by His strength and overcome it, He takes us to the next battle front.
My new battlefront is selfishness and possessiveness of this tiny baby girl. Children are indeed a treasure from the Lord (Ps 123.7). They are a blessing, a gift, and a joy. They also provide heartache, pain and uncertainty. But fundamentally, they are not ours. They are God’s and He has entrusted parents as stewards of them.
We learn quite quickly, at least on a superficial level, that everything we have is God’s and that lesson is usually focused on finances:
“What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?”
– 1 Cor 4.7
The church at Corinth was caught up in an internal battle arguing over which teacher was the greatest and factions were forming accordingly. Paul spoke out against this sin, encouraging even those who claimed to follow him to be humble and remember the Gospel. Nothing that they had, no Spiritual insight or wisdom was of themselves – he said – but only a gift from God. This reality is true about everything. Everything in the world is God’s, and He has given of His abundance to us as stewards to care for and utilize everything unto His glory and honor.
“The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains,
The world, and those who dwell in it.”
– Ps 24.1
This includes not only our physical possessions, our faith, and our Spiritual gifts and abilities – but children. My daughter is God’s. He has given me the remarkable privilege and responsibility to function in the role as her mother, but she is not mine, she is God’s. He knew her before He formed her in my womb. He has a perfect plan for her entire life. He knit her together and He loves her more than I ever can or will. He knows the hairs on her head, and He knows every single thing she will ever think, feel and experience. She is His.
That is a difficult thing for a FTM to remember. Yes, it is good and wise to set up relational and emotional boundaries. Just because I am a steward and not an “owner” does not mean that everyone has equal say and equal access to my daughter. I have been charged to protect and care for her, to teach her the truths of God, to love her. But it also means I die to myself and get up in the middle of the night to feed her – even when I am exhausted – and I allow friends and family to enjoy her and be part of her life. It means we partner with the Church to commit to raising her up in the ways of the Lord. It means my husband has parenting rights and together we bring her before God and surrender her to Him and to His plan. It means we trust God for today and for her future.
Fighting the battle of selfishness and control means fighting the fight of faith. It means dying to self in order to trust God. Martin Luther said it well:
“Faith honors him whom it trusts with the most reverent and highest regard since it considers him truthful and trustworthy. There is no other honor equal to the estimate of truthfulness and righteousness with which we honor him whom we trust . . . When the soul firmly trusts God’s promises, it regards him as truthful and righteous, and whatever else should be ascribed to God. The very highest worship of God is this, that we ascribe to him truthfulness, righteousness, and whatever else should be ascribed to one who is trusted.”
– Martin Luther
What do you have today over which you boast, or on which you base your confidence? What do you have today that you claim as your own, that you seek to control, that you hold too tightly? Let us remember that nothing we have – no financial success, no skill or ability, no wisdom or social status, no relationship and no child – nothing we have was not given to us. Everything is God’s, and He has given us access and ability to utilize all of those things to glorify Him and to make much of Him. Let us therefore seek to surrender all of those things to Him. Let us remember that He is sovereign over all of them. Let us trust Him and His plan, and fight the fight of faith – thus laying hold of eternal life.
“Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”
– 1 Tim 6.12