Since we're on the downslope of things here in London, I'm working on processing through some of the things I've learned here.
Here is London Lesson Number One:
God cares more about who I am that what I do.
Now, this is a hard lesson for little ol' go-getter me. I am naturally a person who wants to do and see it all, as is evidenced by the list of the places we've seen since arriving here on March 1. However, being here, with no other responsibilities except that of being a wife and a mama, I am beginning to see this.
Sometimes, I can get wrapped up in all the things that I think I should be doing. And while these indeed may be worthwhile pursuits, I am realizing that I can't do it all. I also get caught up in all the roles that I fill rather than pursuing Jesus Himself in living out those roles. To be quite honest, until I had children of my own, I really thought I could be super-woman. I relished my identity as a teacher. I wanted to be the best teacher that the world had ever known. I was quite certain that my training and identity as a teacher would help me breeze through motherhood, filling my children's heads and hearts with wonderful knowledge and a love for Jesus. In retrospect, may I just say, "HOW STUPID"?! But, even though these certainly were not conscious thoughts, they were there nonetheless. Fast forward a few years to now, and it has become quite apparent that I am not supermom. I am an imperfect cracked piece of clay pottery, who happens to have given birth to three imperfect cracked pieces of clay pottery. How to remedy this situation? It could get really depressing, couldn't it?
But wait! Let's go back to London Lesson Number One: God cares more about who am am than about what I do. God doesn't give two hoots about my secular identity as a teacher or a mom or a wife or a ministry leader. He cares about me -- Joni. He calls me His daughter. He calls me His friend. He calls me His love. He wants to me know that -- really know that -- deep down in my heart, soul, mind, and spirit. Or as Beth Moore says, deep down into my spiritual marrow. Seeing how my God loves me this way is something that moves me to BE more like him. Not to take on another role, or title, but to sit at his feet. To be changed by Him. Even His Name, "I AM", has imbedded into it the meaning of being. After all, He didn't call Himself the "I Do"!
I seriously had this conversation with Him one day at church. (Now, you're gonna see how "messed up" my mind can be, people!) I was fretting about what others might think I should be when I returned home. Should I be a woman of the world now, completely cosmopolitan, and cognizant in European trends? Would they be disappointed to know how very much I'd "failed" in my belief system here, floundering and depressed and self-pitying, and self-loathing? I determined in my mind to do a little more shopping before going home so that I could be what people must think a former expatriate spouse could look like from the outside. (Do you see a pattern here? Again, taking on the role of expatriate instead of just being His daughter?) Anyway, I distinctly heard the voice of the Holy Spirit speak into my heart and mind, "Joni, I didn't bring you over here to become more cosmopolitan! I brought you over here to make you more like my Son." Oh. Yeah.
I am learning to be in His presence, moment-by-moment here. I am learning that even if I look like I have it all together on the outside, the inside of my cup is so filthy. I am learning that no matter how many verses I've memorized, and how many ladies come to our Bible study on Friday mornings, and how many friends I have or don't have...none of that matters --to Him. He wants to change my heart --mine. He is so not interested in changing what things look like on the outside. Think about what He said to the Pharisees in Matt 23:25-26:
"Woe to you, scribes and teachers of the law, you hypocrites. You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind pharisee! First, clean the inside of the cup and dish and then the outside also will be clean!"
Ouch! Yeah, that about hits that whole cosmopolitan girl thing right on the head! But it emphasizes the point quite clearly. Here's another verse to illustrate the same concept, from 1 Samuel 16:7a:
"But the LORD said to Samuel, 'Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart."
So, to put those verses into the context of London Lesson Number One, the Pharisees (whom Jesus was referring to in the Matthew verses) and the brother of David (whom God was referring to in the 1 Samuel verses) had the appearance of the appropriate response. They filled their roles quite properly. But, their heart conditions were not what God was looking for. Instead, he chose people that spent more time being with Him, than doing for Him. He chose a shepherd, who spent hours writing psalms of love to Him and he chose a rag-tag bunch of sinners, whom he called disciples, some of whom no one in established religious society would even be around. David and the disciples wanted Him!
My Father doesn't need me to be a perfect mama. He wants me to be a listening, and repentant, and transformed mama. He doesn't need me to be super-ministry-leader-extraordinaire. He needs me to be a Spirit-filled servant leader. He doesn't need me to be the have-it-all-together girl. I'm his daughter. And all He asks is that I spend a lot of time with my Papa, sitting on His lap, being in His presence. And in that lap, and through His transforming power and presence, I can be who the I Am has made me to be.