Other than family blogs, I no longer regularly read blog posts. I just don't have time. But I occasionally will click on someone's blog link through Facebook if the post subject looks intriguing. This was how I ended up at a blog post about making lentil loaf. (You can read it yourself here). Andrea wrote about what a messy, frustrating experience making lentil loaf turned out to be as nothing went as planned. And yet, the lentil loaf turned out great and tasted delicious. She shared this as an illustration of God being able to taken something fallen and messy (us) and redeem it into something beautiful.
And it got me thinking...
In the first couple chapters of Haggai the people of Judah were called to rebuild the Lord's house. God asked them if they noticed that although they had planted much, they harvested little; although they ate, they never had enough; they drank, but never had their fill. They put on clothes but were never warm, and they earned wages only to put them in a purse with holes in it.
"Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house," says the Lord Almighty. The people were so busy building their own homes and making a life for themselves that they had neglected the house of God. So Haggai was sent to give them the message to rebuild God's house along with this encouraging message from the Lord, "I am with you."
So, the people began rebuilding the house of the Lord. Unfortunately, it didn't look anything like Solomon's temple in all it's glory. Haggai 2:3 says that in comparison it looked like...nothing. But the Lord came again to the people through Haggai telling them to continue to "Be strong...and work. For I am with you...the glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house." God is telling them to be obedient, to work, and he will make it beautiful.
I find both a warning and a comfort in this scripture passage when it comes to raising my kids. I need to stop and ask myself how we are doing. Are we so busy making a comfortable life for ourselves that we don't have time to "build" the little temples that God has entrusted to us (our children for example)?
What are we doing to "build" these little temples? Are we teaching and showing our kids the gospel message? Are we instilling in them the importance of the local church? Are we discussing sermons with them to reinforce the truths and strengthen the roots of what they have heard so the "birds do not carry it away"? Are we disciplining them faithfully and consistently with grace and truth? Are we encouraging them in their spiritual walk by providing them with appropriate materials for individual devotional time and encouraging them to read good books? Do we engage in and show a commitment to family worship? Are we encouraging opportunities for them to know and grow in God's Word and hide it in their hearts?
We do not do these things perfectly; not even close. In fact, sometimes things are pretty ugly. Hearts are hard. Discipline can be frustrating as sin and anger can get in the way. A selfish desire to have my own time can interfere with using opportunities to share the gospel or to take a truth one step farther. Tiredness or busyness can cause me to miss those perfect teachable moments. And when they argue, fight, talk back, make unwise decisions, or disobey it is so easy to despair and wonder if it all makes any difference at all. Nothing seems very beautiful. Where is a basic kindness in dealing with others? Where are the other fruits of the Spirit? Where is the Christ-likeness?
"Just work," says God, "and I will make it beautiful." So we keep plodding on, attempting to be obedient and do the right things with our kids. We pray for God to bless all our efforts and plead on his promise to make things beautiful. This is where the promise, "I am with you" makes all the difference. Yes, God has called us to a job, but He has not left us to ourselves - He is in the midst of the mess.
And then when I despair of my own spiritual growth, I can apply it all to myself...