This week's Team Journal is written by our Team Lead and beloved sister, Natalie Herr.
It's 4:45 on a Thursday afternoon. The toddler is in the playroom fussing, the baby could wake up any minute, the 5-year-old is alone in the kitchen doing who-knows-what and the 7-year-old is tapping his pencil and humming at the same time. In the time it's taken to type this sentence, the toddler has moved on from her fit and found a harmonica (SEND HELP). It's 4:49 on a Thursday afternoon and I can barely hear myself think.
This season of life is all over the place for me. Some days, it's chaotic and confusing. Some days, it's joyful and life-giving. Most days, it's all of those things and everything in between (including total exhaustion). I know God is with me and I hear him speaking, but his voice is often muffled by all the other noises swirling around me. He's pouring into me, He's teaching me, He's showing me things in bits and pieces. But my failing human mind struggles to put the pieces together into something coherent. I can't seem to get past all the noise. I have a sense of where He is leading me, but I can't put my finger on it with full confidence.
Things are cloudy. Disconnected. Out of focus. But I know He is at work. Here are some of the bits and pieces of truth I've been finding in the fog.
He is at work, showing me my need for self-discipline.
That scripture right up there, 1 Timothy 5:6, just jumped out from the page last week and bit me. My flesh wanted only to ask, "Am I self-indulgent?" But immediately, the Spirit answered that with a resounding "You're a human, so YES." The question became: "Where am I self-indulgent? Where am I a dead woman walking?" Other words for indulgent include overly generous, permissive, lenient, tolerant, liberal; none of which I want to be with my natural, sinful self. I don't want to indulge my flesh! Paul warns us against that business in Galatians 5. The flesh is a mess. I want to be be walking ALIVE with the Spirit! So I've got to take off any self-indulgent passions I see in my life, and that requires self-discipline.
This is where I say, "How, God? How can I start any new disciplines now when everything seems so crazy?" Well, God knows what I need. Maybe some order and discipline in my spiritual life will yield similar fruit in my home.
He is at work, teaching me about mortification.
Have you guys heard of this thing called "mortifying" our sin? Killing it? Hating it? Taking it off and putting it away? Fighting against it with vigor? My guess is you have. Like I said before, if I want to be rid of the sins and indulgences in my life, then I need self-discipline. But what will fuel that self-discipline? What will my motivation be? I think I've got to see the ugliness of my sin and hate it enough to want it gone. As John Owen says in The Mortification of Sin, "be killing sin or it will be killing you." YIKES.
Earlier this week, I texted a friend on this topic. I was weary with the weight of self-discipline; hating how hard the work of mortification felt. I told her that taking off the old self felt like peeling off a wet suit; and that putting on the new self felt like buttoning up a wedding dress with one million buttons. The wedding seems very far away.
Killing sin is work. Hard work. But it is work I don't take on alone and I don't do it in my own power. It is the Spirit in me doing the work. It is the Spirit in me that decides not to say that rude comment to my husband or indulge in that extra snack I don't need. It is the Spirit in me doing it all.
He is at work, showing me more of himself.
So I'm over here wrestling with the self-discipline thing, feeling like there are a million areas of my life to bring into order. I've got no idea where to start or how to start or what I'm supposed to be doing. What few coherent thoughts I have are quickly interrupted by baby cries or children's needs or my own need for sleep.
But, God! He sees me. He knows I can only handle the bits and pieces right now. He gives me little tiny gifts in Scripture to keep me afloat. He focuses my eyes back on himself. And He gives me this little gem in 2 Timothy:
I've got the spirit of self-control in me already? SAY WHAT?! Because God's Spirit lives in me, I have divine access to discipline and self-control. I can make wise choices. I can do what God is calling me to do. I won't reach perfection anytime soon, but I can make progress. I can walk in righteousness. I can choose to be a vessel of honor, set apart as holy and useful to God, ready for every good work (2 Tim. 2:20-21). Because of the Spirit in me, the character traits that I am called to in Scripture are possible for me, even if they seem out of reach at times (I'm looking at you, patience.)
He is at work; giving me grace.
In the course of writing this post, I've failed multiple times in my battle against sin. I've given in. I've wondered if I can really change. I've wondered if I should even be writing these bits and pieces down for others to read. But the Lord is near. He is here in my failure. He deals exclusively with sinners; my mistakes are not surprising to him. (Neither are yours.)
I feel weak and ill-equipped, but I know he is at work.
I can walk through these foggy days with the Spirit, trusting him to lead me and help me and equip me. I can believe that some day soon, my mind will clear up and he'll put all the bits and pieces together. I can fail and not despair because I get new mercies every day. And I can enjoy the small moments and tiny truths. He is at work.
Lord, this prayer is for all the scattered minds. All the weary hearts. All the foggy souls. Help us, Father, to take off the old self and put on the new. Show us our sin, help us to hate it, encourage us to fight against it and flee far from it. Help us to live out our calling; help us when the dying-to-ourselves part of following you feels extra painful. Help us when we feel confused and we don't see the way. Help us to pick up self-control and love and kindness and compassion and patience and all-the-good-things even when they feel really heavy. Strengthen our hands so that the lifting and putting on of the good things gets easier the more we practice. You are everything and you are at work. We need you every hour. Come back soon.
Natalie Herr is the founder and team leader of Dayton Women in the Word. She is a servant of God, a wife, and a mom of four. She loves teaching and equipping women with God's Word. And she could really use a nap.