Most people like it when the dots get connected. I’m no exception. And recently, God has connected a few in my mind and heart. Twelve days ago I stood hand in hand with my stunningly beautiful bride as her uncle, a pastor from Colorado, challenged us about our dependence on God’s grace for a successful marriage and family. “This is impossible,” he said. “You cannot accomplish a marriage that pictures the gospel – God’s love for His people. You can’t do it. You must come to Him in dependence constantly and find in Him the grace to do it.”
Several days ago I mentioned looking forward to being in pastoral ministry again to a friend and mentor of mine. His response was this: “A ministry heart will bloom anywhere God plants it.”
Yesterday I was sent a link to a blog post entitled, “Expository Living: Managing His Own Household” (see full post here). In it, the author states,
“There is no better way to examine a man’s leadership qualities and evaluate the long-term impact of his leadership than to enter his home. The home is a microcosm of whatever else he might lead, whether it’s a church, a company or a classroom. If you can’t lead inside your home, you won’t be able to lead outside of it. And if you think that your shortcomings at home won’t transfer to the workplace, you’re wrong.”
Then, this morning, my wife came across a quote on firstimportance.org. It is an excerpt from Tim Keller’s book ‘Counterfeit Gods.’ She posted it to Facebook and I came across it there a little later.
“How can we break our heart’s fixation on doing ‘some great thing’ in order to heal ourselves of our sense of inadequacy, in order to give our lives meaning? Only when we see what Jesus, our great Suffering Servant, has done for us will we finally understand why God’s salvation does not require us to do ‘some great thing.’ We don’t have to do it, because Jesus did it all for us, and he loves us — that is how we know our existence is justified. When we believe in what he accomplished for us with our minds, and when we are moved by what he did for us in our hearts, it begins to kill off the addiction, the need for success at all costs.”
There’s one more piece that explains the connection – I’ve been being reluctantly domesticated. After my first wife passed away, I moved home to be with my parents while I figured out what normal was supposed to look like. Over months (sad to say it took many, many months), I gradually started to learn how to father my two sons as a single dad and do many of the household responsibilities proficiently (by male standards anyways). And now, after a move to the United States and marriage to an incredibly godly woman, I find myself a stay-at-home dad still while my wife goes off to work each day. If you’re an average man, you likely just thought to yourself, “Heh, poor guy.” And that thought is exactly where God’s sovereign finger of conviction has been poking me lately.
When I’m not careful, I get discontent with having to wait to get back into “real ministry.” I sigh when I calculate our circumstances and realize that I won’t be able to get in another online course for my Master’s degree this coming Fall or Spring. I find myself daydreaming about what church I’ll get to serve in next, where it might be, and what sort of incredible things I’m going to able to do for God there. Slowly, I give into the lie that I can’t do anything significant for God in this context. Every stay-at-home mom just thought, “hmph!”
So, connect the dots. God, by His sovereign design, has put me in the home. And the reasons for this design go far deeper than the fact that I don’t have a Green Card yet. I’ve been learning that God has me in training. I may not be in a physical classroom, but I am learning things that will impact all of my ministry – both inside and outside the local church. I’m in a peaceful setting, with two very easy-to-train children, a supportive wife who will help as much as she can (sometimes even doing more than me, I’m sure), and lots of time to read, study, write, prepare, and minister. The scope of my responsibilities is as small as it’s been in a long time. So why not view this as a great opportunity to improve on leadership skills. There may come a day when one of my sons, as a young man, is struggling with some deep issues of doubt, and these days of my influence on a fulltime basis will be an anchor for his heart. There may be opportunities of ministering to stay-at-home dads, single dads, or widowers with a level of understanding. Or, there may not even be any “big things” that this is preparing me for. It may merely be a time of settling and gradual growth that God has provided me after the stress of grief and loss. One of the hardest things to do in the busyness and stress of life is to simply be still and stay close to God relationally. Now’s a great time to settle into some habits that have never made it past my good intentions list.
The issue at stake is not whether I am feeling fulfilled as a stay-at-home dad, or whether any of us are feeling fulfilled in what we do. The issue is the glory of God and whether I am doing everything I can in my God-designed circumstances to further it in my family. That’s where His grace is taking my heart (step by step). Are you heading that way?