The good fruit of correction


Not many of us like correction. When you were little were you timid and easily molded by your parents instruction or did you have a rebellious internal spirit, difficult to tame and lead, what Dr. Dobson would refer to as the “Strong Willed Child”? Maybe you were a mash up- delightful one minute but bullheaded.

Even if we were easily corrected as a child, no child really likes correction. Who loved a spanking or even a good talking to? Whether we cowered at our parents’ mention of time out or busted full throttle through a threat and on to serious discipline, the correction itself is not the part we liked so much as the satisfaction of independence.

As adults, we’re not much different. No one naturally likes a demerit at work, no one loves to be the one who receives a redo on a project, or a “honey, could you do such-and-such differently” at home. We might like the fruit of correction eventually – a promotion, better understanding, richer marriage communication – but criticism, even when it’s absolutely and wholly constructive, is not found on any of our lists of “Favorite Things”.

James has something to say about correction in James 4:5-10. First focus only on the center of this section and then we’ll zoom out. James 4:7-9:

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.

This is correction. A requirement to submit to the authority in charge, namely our mom or dad, our husbands, our teachers, our bosses, or our government leaders. Our internal spirit vacillates between relief that someone else is in charge and frustration that it’s not us. We like control, so submission, even in the most submissive of individuals, is a task of growth, best done intentionally.

Listen to James’s words – submit, humble, cleanse, purify. I’m reminded of just how hard it is to get my kids to remember to intentionally wash their hands after using the bathroom, much less the intentional work of submitting to my husband, even though he is kind of gentle, and to my government leaders when I rarely 100% agree with their ideas and laws.

But we submit to a Higher Authority first. Our big beef with correction when we get down to it, is that God is in charge and we are not. We like to choose our own path, direct our own ways and we simply were not made for that. James uses the best language imaginable for the type of submission that goes with correction in our relationship with God. Look back at James 4:8 –

Draw near to God…

Write it somewhere to remember it. If I were crazy (and I am) I would write it on my hand, or my foot, or the top of my knee, to remind me that relationship with God means bending said knee and bowing my pretty little head. It is submission and that’s important- He’s Holy and Mighty and Far Above. But God operates differently in relationship with Him than He does outside of relationship with Him. Submitting in relationship with God is drawing near, being held, and yes, being corrected.

Zoom out to the wider view of James 4:5-10. Read the whole passage below. If you have your Bible out, underline verses 5-6 to see the relationship that we are given with our Father through the Savior.

Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

He gives more grace…

That’s Who He is. He gives more grace. Correction is hard…

That pinprick of the conscience when we know we’ve done wrong

Opening our mouth for words of apology when we have spoken too harshly

Walking the hard road because we took our own way the first time around

Correction is hard.

But take heart! Correction by the Father is always delivered with grace. We can see the fruits of it through this lens.

Forgiveness can come in –

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  1 John 1:9

Goodness comes in, completeness comes in  –

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.   2 Timothy 3:16

Rootedness comes in –

Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,
    but he who hates reproof is stupid.
No one is established by wickedness,
    but the root of the righteous will never be moved.          Proverbs 12:1,3

These are good fruits! God fruits.

James calls our laughter to be mourning and our joy to be gloom, but only because he knows that in that correction for a moment, we can see the light of Eternity forever.

We see our God clearer and closer. He’s right there, eyes in the back of His head, just like a Father, watching in tenderness.

He gives more grace…Draw near…

He’s ready to pick us up when we fall down, dust us off, and help us along as we journey the steep and the narrow, the wide and the open, always one day closer and nearer to Him.

 

Discussion:

What were you like as a child? How did you deal with correction?

Is there any particular instance of correction you remember growing up?

How has God corrected you in adulthood and when is a time you came through the correction, thankful for His guidance?

The great conundrum – Mama life v. Work life

Casting Away Stones – Ecclesiastes 3
Week 9 – Conclusion
 
Day One: The great conundrum – Mama life v. Work life
Day Two: On having it all…finding happy
Day Three: Eternity in my heart and the “also-s” of faith
Day Four: Time management v. time stewardship
Day Five: Rising up from the dust
 
 
Heart verse:
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
                                                       1 Corinthians 13:12
 
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Day 1 – The great conundrum – Mama life v. Work life
 
Wife, mother, daughter, deaconess, friend, pastor’s wife, social worker, therapist. My many vocations, on this particular day were getting the best of me. I dropped my kids off at school and drove down the highway struggling with what was most important. Where was the balance? How do other women magically find it?
 
My oldest daughter’s parting words to me, as I kissed her goodbye at school were, “You just don’t care anymore. You’re always working. Work matters more to you.” My heart entered my stomach. I knew her words were fueled by the argument we just had, the chores she didn’t want to do, the challenge of growing into one’s own body and life at her given age. The question I always ask myself as a parent however is…Is there any truth in it? Even a morsel?
 
Am I casting aside my family, my children, my husband, those whom I love…for my work? I wanted desperately to run back to the school and hash out this conversation with my beautiful daughter. I wanted to yell back, “I’m trying my best! I love you. I love my work. I love Jesus. I’m trying to mash them all together in a life that is going to be less than perfect.” I settled for crying in my parked van, waiting for the Aldi to open. In that moment, my distorted picture said to me in flashing marquee letters that I had failed…at everything…again.
 
After walking around Aldi, putting items in my cart and praying to God for forgiveness, I sat down at the coffee shop to work on Bible study. Sisters, God is more clever than we give Him credit for. I sat down and what was my given study concept for the day? Vocation. I love how He works like that- weaving pieces of His Word into the moments of our lives. Living, breathing, and active Word.
The problem that I encountered was that most writings on vocation, Luther’s included, simply affirm any work as “working for the Lord” (Colossians 3:17). What we do gives glory to Him. Luther’s primary concern was that church work not be elevated to superstar status in the church and also that Christians find joy and contentment in their daily duties, as good gifts from the Father above.
 
This was not my problem though. I find joy in the washing of the dishes, the packing of lunches, the parenting, the wife-ing, the cooking, and in the leading, the writing, and the teaching I do for my deaconess call. Contentment in my callings was not an issue for me. Desiring to serve my neighbor, in my household and around the world, not the issue. Knowing that each and every piece of it glorified God, not the issue.Feeling like I was incapable of actually doing any of it to the best of my ability…that’s my issue.
 
Sorting what to give time to each day, in a practical sense…just plain hard. I know I’m not alone. I know many a wife and mom and worker feels paralyzed out there by a seeming inability to balance all the parts of life that work together. To find pleasure, not in just the work, but in the knowledge that they have chosen well on this earth.
 
Ecclesiastes to the rescue! Ecclesiastes 3:9-11 –
 
“What gain has the worker from his toil? 10 I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.”
I want gain from my toil. I want success and whatever that looks like in my worldly little mind. I want my children perfectly healthy and well and happy with me. I want my work to be excessively well done and reach and touch every single life around me. I want my husband to think I’m a rockstar.
 
This, however, is not my reality. Ecclesiastes urges me to tone down my expectations. The Lord wants me to do it well, but doing it well means doing it with an eternal perspective. I am convinced that on this earth there will never be a moment where I find the perfect balance. There will be times that are more out of balance than others, and God can help me readjust, shift priorities around, but most of the time “He has made everything beautiful in its time.” means that this world feels confusing, as I try to work within the element of time. There are many tasks to do, and not enough time to do them. He has given us joy for our work, but not perfection, and for some reason I’m constantly aiming for perfection. Is it ok to settle for good instead of “success”? Yes! This is an important part of the doctrine of vocation to hash out.
 
God doesn’t say “Whatever you do, do it perfectly for the Lord, and in your amazing-ness they will see Jesus.”
 
God does say, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
 
It sounds so Ecclesiastes-ish. Do everything in Jesus name. That is our fulfillment of vocation. My children see Jesus in me far better when I seek Him in all of it…in my uncertainty, in my insecurity, in my much less than perfect, forgiveness needing self. They see Him, when I pray with them after the argument, “God help us figure all this out.”
 
If I have learned anything from Ecclesiastes, it is this…
God makes everything beautiful. It takes time. It takes struggle. There is beauty in the figuring it out. And often, there is more beauty in the middle of figuring it out, than in the solution. His name is written all over my walk of figuring it out. His name is in the journey, as much as in the eternal destination. He values the walking alongside.
 
Half of the struggle with my daughter is that we are still in the transition. I have only been doing this working mom thing for a short time, really, and we all need time to adjust, time to transition, time to talk it out. We won’t ever get it perfect. But figuring it out together- I’m gonna call that very good.
 
Father, thank you for our families. Thank you for our work. Thank you for our homes, and our fridges filled with food to cook, and our living rooms filled with things to pick up. Lord, help us to enjoy the journey in you. Help us to lay down everything before you. Guide and direct our days, let us eat the fruit of Your mercy and goodness in the joy of the everyday. Make all of our struggles beautiful in Your time. In Jesus name, Amen.

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Discussion questions:
What work in your daily life has God given you in your present season?
List some of your current vocations. Pray over 2 of them and ask God to guide you in that work.
What aspects of your life do you have the hardest time balancing currently?

 

*I asked my daughter’s permission to share this story. In no way is it intended to shame her. We are all figuring it out together! 🙂