Sunday, February 10, 2013

Reflections on the "Doing"

I can't believe it's been almost a year since I last posted. And it's been just over a year since my husband returned from his 365-day deployment. And I can't believe how much has happened in that year.

We reunited, we traveled, we worked, we said goodbyes, we moved, we set up a new home, we made new friends, we found a church body, we started new work and we spent time developing hobbies. And hopefully, in all of it, we have remembered to praise the Lord.

I am convicted about how I use my time. When we first got to Germany, I remember discussing our prayer requests with some dear friends... there were the typical things: prayer for work, family, and health, but I also felt like I needed some Divine help in deciding how to spend my time. When I look back on all we've "done" in the last year, I have to ask myself, "What is the eternal significance of all of this?" In the grand scheme of things, how much does my hobby as a photographer matter, if I'm not somehow glorifying God? And if I leave God out of therapy, what kind of real help do I offer my clients? Or what do all of our memories traveling around Europe mean, if we leave God behind? It is too easy to forget our Creator and Savior when life is busy and there is so much to do. We don't want to feel lazy, so we fill our schedules with jobs and chores and ministries. We make ourselves look good (and perhaps feel good) by bragging of our accomplishments on Facebook, or discussing our massive to-do lists with friends, comparing notes and commiserating over shared exhaustion. We even convince ourselves that this busy-ness and focus on productivity is godly by quoting from Proverbs 31, the passage on a "woman of noble character," who seems to be the busiest person in all of Scripture.

At the end of the day, we want to be proud, and we want to see the fruit of our labors. We want to see a tidy home, and happy husband, photo albums and picture frames full of awesome memories, and we want to feel some sense of satisfaction looking at it all. But I find that, when I work so tirelessly at completing my list simply for the sake of my list, I don't feel satisfied; I feel drained. My home may be tidy, clients making progress, husband happy and photo albums full, but my heart is not satisfied. These are not the fruits that bring a sense of rest in the Lord.

Bob Hoekstra puts it so much better than I could, as he addresses the kind of eternally significant fruit that I believe really DOES offer a sense of satisfaction and rest in its bearers:

The Lord wants His children to have significant measures of spiritual fruit developing in their lives. "By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit" (John 15:8). Fruit is described in the Scriptures in various ways. It includes godly character qualities. "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace…" (Galatians 5:22). Also, it involves worship offered to God. "Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name" (Hebrews 13:15). Additionally, it encompasses lives being touched by our ministry to them. "I often planned to come to you…that I might have some fruit among you also, just as among the other Gentiles" (Romans 1:13).
Such spiritual fruit is a consequence of God's grace at work in and through us. (Colossians 1:5-6) addresses this fact. "The word of the truth of the gospel, which has come to you…is bringing forth fruit."The good news of Jesus Christ not only brings forgiveness of sin and the gift of eternal life, it also produces fruit in those who believe. All of this is grace operating in trusting hearts: "Since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth." Hoekstra, Bob. "Grace and Spiritual Fruit," Day By Day By Grace. Blue Letter Bible. 19 Mar 2004. 10 Feb 2013 
Can I trust that God will grow and bear His fruit in my life, and all I need to do is be still enough to hear His direction and heed it?  Can I allow myself to slow down, to stop planning and making lists and doing long enough to hear what God would have me do, where He would have me spend my time? And then, in all of the things God may place before me to do, can I "continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of [my] lips, giving thanks to His name" (Hebrews 13:15)? Because that, I believe, is the crux of it all... the real fruit that comes straight from the source of the Heavenly Vine... the fruit of our lips, praising Jesus.

So I am moving into another year, one that will most likely also be busy and eventful. But this time, I'm making it my prayer to be intentional to praise my Jesus, to seek His guidance before I fill my schedule with what I think should be done, and to find my satisfaction His grace and sovereignty.