Navigating My Way

In a waiting room recently, I flipped through a magazine and a subtitle caught my eye. (Is this where I confess that I was reading Parents?!)

“Your child isn’t being bad. He just needs help navigating his way toward independence.”

The article on discipline (actually, on overdoing discipline) wasn’t all bad. Yes, of course there are times for training and understanding, not time-outs and punishment. And, independence—in one sense of the word—is an huge part of kids’ maturity.

But the phrase “navigating his way toward independence” got me: it reminded me of failure at attempted independence.

How many years have I been taught that God must be number one in my life? How many times I have sung “You are my all in all”? And yet I still venture out on my own, to do things myself. Loving God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength sounds like a good idea until it means denying self.

Self. Myself. Independence.

in • de • pend • ence (noun) freedom from dependence on or control by another person, organization, or state
in • de • pend • ent (adjective) able to operate alone; not forced to rely on another for support; capable of thinking or acting without consultation with or guidance from others

I exist only because God created me. “All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist” (Col. 1:16-17). He created me to know Him and to be conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29). That well-known “all things work together for good” verse directly precedes this one about being conformed to Christ’s image. The “good things” that God brings into my lives aren’t things that satisfy and feed self. They’re the things that destroy self and make me like Christ.

Destruction of self hasn’t exactly been on my to-do list. Impression management, maintaining reputation, satisfying desires … those have been on the top. But when I think I’m checking them off, in reality, I’m believing a lie. How foolish to attempt independence from the Source of my every breath.

Destruction of self should be on my to-do list: putting off the old man, putting on the new man—who is dependent upon and surrendered to the Spirit of God. Because Christ is in me, “the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness” (Rom. 8:10). Walking in the flesh (following my own desires) brings death; but if “by the Spirit [I] put to death the deeds of the body, [I] will live” (Rom. 8:13).

When God shows me how short life is and the incredible purposes He has for me, I surrender. But then an hour later I am faced with the choice of fulfilling my desire, following my agenda or giving in to my emotion. The reality of denying self—to become conformed to Christ—comes in surprising “unspiritualized” ways. It’s the everyday things. And it’s those everyday things where I submit to the Lord or “navigate my way toward independence.”


"Look at the baby."

I can make things pretty complicated sometimes. I don't understand the health care bill and all of its ramifications. I don't understand how the abortion ammendment works. I wonder what the "end of the story" will be when the bill is finally passed.

I don't understand why the media would avoid covering a story about an abortion clinic director who resigned and went to work for Coalition for Life.

I don't understand how someone can tell me they just had an abortion and be absolutely emotion-less. I cried for her; has she cried yet?

But while I might complicate issues with frustration, "political correctness," questions and doubts, I realize there is a reason why Jesus calls us to be like little children.

The disciples complicated issues, too. Jesus responded to them by calling "a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, 'Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and beome as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.'" (Matthew 18:2-4)

This week I looked into the biggest brown eyes I've ever seen on a 3-year-old. She had come with her mommy to see the ultrasound. She held out her hand to me.

"Look at the baby."

Our nurse had given her a model of a pre-born baby at 10 weeks, the same age of the baby her mommy was carrying. Her little hand rounded perfectly around the tiny baby.

She wasn't doubting viable life. She wasn't asking questions. She saw a baby, and it was very simple to her.

God, make me humble before you so I can see life like you see life.

"Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me." (Matthew 18:5)


No Votes Needed. The Eyes Have It.

Hearing ears…speaking mouths…seeing eyes. Oh no—eyes are so much more than seeing. They speak, too.

Eyes communicate what words cannot.

Eyes mesmerize me. I love close-up portraits the most so I can see someone’s eyes. I realized recently as I was writing stories that I often described attitudes or feelings by describing the person’s eyes. They’re so powerful! Threatening eyes. Eager eyes. Pained eyes. Twinkling eyes. They speak of something deeper.

In the Bible, the word “eye” is often used to describe something deep—grasping to describe a person’s heart, it seems. God talks about the bountiful eye, the evil eye, the mocking eye. “The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light” (Matt. 6:22).

I believe that God created eyes to somehow speak what’s truly in our heart. I’ve seen angry eyes. I’ve seen tender, loving eyes. I’ve seen flirtatious eyes. I’ve seen joyful eyes. I’ve seen excited, sparkling eyes. How can we sense something only because someone didn’t meet our eye?

I remember looking across a gym once and meeting a man’s eyes—and then looking away. I did not know him. I have never felt such hardness, darkness and evil. Later that day, I looked the same man in the eye and couldn’t understand the difference. His eyes were clear and joyful. I didn’t understand—until hearing and marveling that he had just repented and become a Christian.

A number of times the Bible uses eyes to describe a condition of the heart: being wise in my own eyes. Doing whatever is right in my own eyes. God uses eyes here to communicate an opposite of fearing Him, of seeking Him, of acknowledging His greatness.

I don’t think it was coincidental that God blinded Saul’s physical eyes to get his attention on the road to Damascus. The scales fell off Paul’s eyes, and the course of his life was transformed. I think the power of Christ’s light blinding his eyes represents something deeper of how spiritually blind this religious young man was. Blindness wasn’t a distraction to get him to think about God. He needed God to open his eyes.

Throughout the Bible there’s another set of references to the eye—and the implications are incredible. God opens eyes. He can open our eyes to be seeing what He sees. He opened Hagar’s eyes to see the life-giving water for her son (Gen. 21:19). He opened Balaam’s eyes to see the angel in the road (Num. 22:31). When Elisha prayed, God opened the fearful young man’s eyes to see the horses and chariots of fire that were all around Elisha (2 Kings 6:17). His commandments are pure and they enlighten our eyes (Psalm 19:18).

“Open thou mine eyes…” (Psalm 119:18).