Shell-Gazing in an Ever-Changing World

There are things that we all run to as a means of justifying our emotions, intentions, and aspirations. I want {this} to occur so that I will have {this.} For a believer, those blanks should be ultimately filled with God’s glory with the result of endless joy and satisfaction in Him. However, on the ground level, it can get quite murky. Each of us have been fashioned and wired in such ways so that God may be glorified in all aspects of life throughout his creation. We see this most clearly in his creating of man and woman. Such a complementary division of the human race gives way to roles varying from pastoring to mothering and all that fall in between. But let’s trickle down a bit more.

Womanhood.

A Wife’s Role.

Motherhood.

That’s me. That may be you. Whatever the case, we all have desires within us to use the gifts bestowed on us by our Creator. I enjoy linguistics. Some women like to knit and have a great talent to do so and create masterpieces for the glory of God. I’m a runner. I like to write. Some women actually have professions in both fields. That’s not me and that’s okay because God has called me to other things at this time.

Now to the heart of the issue of which I am using a term coined by John Piper: shell-gazing.

In our endeavors to flourish in the gifts God has given us, it is often the case that created things [namely people] cloud our gaze upon the majesty of Christ and conforming into his likeness. We set our eyes on people, and not only that, but we begin to shell-gaze. The outer coat of our role models seem to be just what we need, and sadly what we think we need to be like. But do we look deeper? Are we asking the hard questions about those that we look to? What attracts us to them? And a good heart check for ourselves: what are we trying to get others to look at us for? Is it gospel-centered or some form of self-glorification? For example, in mothering it is inevitable that comparison to other mothers will occur. There is just something that switches on in a mother’s heart and mind to question if she is doing it right. There will come times when it feels like an emphatic NO especially when compared to another. But that’s just shell-gazing. Not that we should negate every mother out there. They may very well be doing a fantastic job. But comparing and looking at what things appear to be will only bring us heartache and furthered frustration. And not to mention the rapid changes that seem to always occur for mothers out there. Thirty years ago babies were laid down to sleep on their bellies. Now, due to the back-to-sleep movement that is a no-no. I’m sure there will be more research in the next thirty years to show why something being told as right now may not actually be best. And not to mention all the other avenues of insecurities a mother may find herself. Breastfeeding vs. formula, pacifier vs. no pacifier, cloth diapering vs. disposables, jarred baby food vs. homemade, public school vs. homeschooling and the list goes on. {And let me just say this- those things should not be pitted against each other!} You see, we will always feel like we aren’t measuring up by the standards of society, research, and especially other mothers and wives.

But there is but one man to be our standard.

A man marked by sorrow and grief.

A man smitten by God and afflicted.

The God-man, Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory forever.

Truth me told, we don’t measure up to him either. And we never will.

{BUT GOD} being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,  even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—  and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,  so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. {Ephesians 2:4-7}

Jesus Christ is completely adequate because we will not be in the flesh. Jesus Christ is completely sufficient in righteousness because we are all born depraved and in desperate need of saving. Jesus Christ is the only image of perfect love to demonstrate to our spouses and children. Jesus Christ is the only good we should be looking at in others and comparing ourselves. He is the sole valid role model.

The triune God determined that He would send Himself to make a way for the impenitent to come to him, thirsty and in desperation, without hope. To the cross he went bearing sin and making away for his bride to be found in him, clothed in his righteousness. Rising on the third day, sin conquered, and the cage which bears us down prior to salvation shattered by his sufficient blood sacrifice.

Jesus Christ puts an end to shell-gazing because when conforming to his likeness is our aim in our endeavors, we look for him in other women. Those other women we found ourselves comparing ourselves to can then be looked upon as fellow heirs of Christ, our very sisters in the fight for holiness and joy. What a weight to be lifted off our shoulders and what gladness to walk in knowing that we don’t have to pride ourselves on how we are trying to measure up. Instead, we can speak openly of our weaknesses knowing the truth of 2 Corinthians 12:9-10:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

I know fixing my eyes on Christ will never be shell-gazing. He is the real deal. There is nothing but increasing glory as I dig deeper into who he is. We are unable to say this about any other human being. Some bulbs that I planted earlier this year have been a perfect illustration for my heart to further comprehend this reality.

East Texas weather has brought these little bulbs to 3 ft high yellow/red beauties! Norah and I have especially loved watering them. As I would dash out the door for my afternoon runs when Josh got home to stay inside with the babies, these flowers inaugurated such worship in my heart as I started one of my favorite hobbies. However this past week, the rain completely pummeled them!

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If I set my hope in the definiteness that these flowers would be there everyday to make Norah and I happy, then I would obviously find myself wanting [especially with Texas weather-need I say more!?]

The brevity of life is worth considering on a regular basis because it serves as a reminder of eternity. To follow the instruction found in the first 3 verses of Colossians 3 and “seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” and “set your minds on the things that are on earth” will do my soul well and save from the damage of doing otherwise.

Not to mention our inability to predict or align our circumstances – I can confirm that a schedule is great and a gift from God for children. My two-year-old- and nearly two-month-old operate best with a routine, especially since I thrive with consistency and order. However, I can say that this and that should occur at 9:30 and then again at 3:30 but it is no guarantee. If I allowed the frequent collapses of our routine to ruin my days then mothering would be a drudgery rather than a joy. Let’s look into marriage for a second. If Josh and I put our hope in our ten year plan and when that didn’t come to pass then our marriage shattered, we surely would not have our hope set on an infinitely sovereign Lord.

Circumstances cannot determine where we place our hope.

The gospel of Jesus Christ alone defines our hope.

I will turn to this and state this to others until I’m blue in the face because I know it to be true and God’s word declares it. Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Not my circumstances and surely not my emotions. I will be torn by the desires and temptations of the flesh to shell-gaze. I will want to take what looks good and follow it, even if it is less than Christ. However, when I do, I know I cannot wallow in it for too long if I hold fast to this truth and never dismiss it.

Stop the shell-gazing. Look to Christ and find deep waters to dive in and always be overwhelmed with increasing realities of God’s love for his Son and for us as his elected Bride. It is full of the nutrients our soul needs and truly longs for if we are in Christ.

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