Leaning In

Last weekend, we were able to visit our daughter and her family in Louisiana. Theirs is a busy life full of the activities of four children, ages 3 months to 7 years. I love my time with them.

Their 7 year old, Jonathan, is my first grandchild. He is a typical first child and all boy. I’m not sure there is anything he thinks he cannot do. “I’ll do it Nana!” or “I can do it Nana!” filter our every conversation. His tremendously strong will has served him well and, yes, there are so many things he can do – all by himself! However, there really are some things his seven year old self cannot do and there are some things that he could do better with some help and instruction. God has His hand on him and I know He will use every dab of who he is to make Jonathan the man He wants him to be.

When Sunday came, he opted to miss children’s worship and sat by me in “big church.” He sang, completed his handout from Bible study, and, as the hour went by, he continued to scoot closer and closer to me. Soon, he was tucked under my arm and leaning on me with the weight of his entire 7 year old, strong willed, active body. “Oh how I love this boy!” I whispered to God. My heart was full and I could feel the peace in his. That may be my favorite memory of the weekend.

When I came home, back to my Altar’d challenge, that phrase “lean in” continued to jump out to me. Jennifer Kennedy Dean, in Altar’d, said “When I live by faith in Jesus, I live by the faith of Jesus. Jesus expresses His own faith through me when I rest the weight of my personality on Him. Lean in.” (Page 52)

Instead of leaning in, I surely must be pushing in. All me. That is a picture completely different from what I experienced with Jonathan. So much of me is like my oldest grandchild. I might as well be saying “I’ll do it God,” or “I can do it God!” Even my obedience to Him is a task I have given to my flesh. “I am choosing to obey. Now do it flesh!”

Oh, but Philippians 2:13 says “for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose.”

The Message says it this way. “Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God. That energy is God’s energy, an energy deep within you, God Himself willing and working at what will give Him the most pleasure.”

My flesh has deceived me and made me exhausted as a result! This pocket of flesh is crucified in Him – I’m leaning in!

Box of Rocks

“Everyone has their own box of rocks,” my friend said. That stuck with me for the rest of the day and I woke up the next morning with that box of rocks still on my mind. What a great analogy for painful life experiences. Life beats us all up. No matter who you are, if you live very long, the rocks are coming. And they contribute significantly to who we become.

What are we to do with that box of rocks we have collected? marilynjohnsonphoto

Some of those who have been hurt by rocks hold them close to their chest and thrust those same rocks at anyone who comes near.

Some bury their head so far into their rocks they become almost unrecognizable. Their most glaring attribute is the markings of the rocks pressed into their face.

Some hold onto the rocks with a death grip. The rocks become a trophy that cannot be pried from their fist.

Still others don’t appear to have any rocks. Where is their box? What is the difference?

In Jeremiah 17:5-10, God gave us a comparison of two men who had the same rocks thrown at them. Both men faced heat and drought. However, one man is “like a tumbleweed on the prairie, out of touch with the good earth. He lives rootless and aimless in a land where nothing grows.” While the other is “like trees replanted in Eden, putting down roots near the rivers—Never a worry through the hottest of summers, never dropping a leaf, Serene and calm through droughts, bearing fresh fruit every season.” (The Message)

Same rocks, different results. Why? One man trusted in himself. Because our rocks are so personal, we are sometimes deceived into thinking we have to deal with them ourselves. We let God “help” but ultimately we think it is our responsibility alone. Flesh delivers death.

“…flesh thinks only flesh can straighten flesh out, so flesh had better be vigilant.” (Altar’d, page 17)

The other man? I believe he had altar’d his flesh. Died to control. Died to self pity. Died to personal expectations. What we see in his life is the power of resurrection. Spirit gives life!

“When we read that He [Jesus] is able to help those who are being tempted because He Himself was tempted, I think it is not simply saying that now Jesus knows how it feels to be tempted, so He can cheer us on when we are tempted. I think it is saying that Jesus overcame sin and won the victory over temptation . . . Therefore, when we are facing temptation, we need only yield to His life and His power running through us. . . Don’t fight harder against the temptation; instead yield more fully to his life.” (Altar’d  page 117-118)

Jesus had rocks thrown at Him in every sense of the word. He took every one of those rocks and claimed victory over temptation. He did it for me and you.

Give Him your box of rocks and rest in His victory! Altar’d rocks! Oh what He could do with that!

Marilyn is a wife, mother of two married children, and Nana to six precious little boys and one baby girl. After retiring from teaching Math at Jacksonville State University, she and her husband now live in Birmingham, AL. She holds the Basic and Advanced Women’s Ministry Certificates from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. She has a heart for ministering to women and a passion for teaching the Word of God.