Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Whatever means necessary

 My husband's mom isn't really a mother-in-law. She is more like a second mom.
She loves me like I am her child too. And she challenges me with her wisdom.

A few days ago, she said something in an email that stuck with me.
I'm wrestling with it inside.

Here are her words to me:
 I always pray that God will use whatever means necessary to bring our children (and grandchildren) to Himself...that they would find the path He has for them and that they would walk in it.

Wow. Look at the words "always" and "whatever means necessary."
Those words are huge. 
I'm not there yet.
I can't yet, with a whole heart, pray the whatever means necessary prayer. 
Not even once, much less always.

I want to add parameters to that prayer. "Bring my loved ones to you by whatever means necessary, God, except the really, really difficult means." I don't want any hospitals, job losses, natural disasters, or long-term illnesses to be involved.

Why is it so difficult to apply the knowledge I have in my head that I'm never in control of my life to my day to day actions? I act like my plans are everything. I act like I can control what happens to our money, our children, our stuff. But I really, truly know that I don't have control at all. It could all change in an instant. I just forget about that part.  

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.
Proverbs 19:21

When I am faced with something that challenges my faith, I don't walk away from it. I face it, or rather it faces me. It keeps facing me. And that's why I'm wrestling. I can't turn away from what being able to pray this prayer means.

It means open hands. Always.
And that is really, really hard.

When I expressed to my mom-in-law that I was not there yet with being able to sincerely pray her prayer, she suggested it was because of my life stage. I am still directly controlling many aspects of my children's lives. That practice gives me a false sense of security, as if I can really protect them and grow them and turn them into loving, educated, healthy people.  And so I forget I'm just a piece of clay in the Potter's hands. I'm being used in the ways He sees fit. And He is really in charge of my children. He is their Father.

I need to practice open hands more than I practice the pretending of control.

As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Isaiah 55:9

My mom-in-law has three children, all in their 30's and 40's. The years have forced her to understand she is not in control. She has seen her children endure some very tough circumstances. And she also knows that it is during those hard times that we are most often brought to our knees. 

While I can relate to that personally, I can't yet feel okay about certain hardships my kids may have to endure. Seriously, I have a super hard time watching my daughter suffer through small trials on the playground. How would I feel if she contracted leukemia? If illness meant she would become a thriving lover of Jesus, do I need to want leukemia? What if God decided to allow disease to take my life, like he did with Shauna's mom. Looking at my beautiful friend and who she's become through that painful part of her story, I can't not want the same for my children. But of course, I also can't want them to be left without me.

Wrestling, people.
How can I open my hands, offering my children and my husband and my loved ones up to the Lord and pray whatever means necessary? I look at the photo above, one that is on my desk, and I can't imagine....I just can't imagine. 

It's not that I don't pray for them, and pray sincerely. It's not that I don't trust the Lord. It's the far corners of my faith that I'm pressing in on. The intense "what ifs." You know.  

Some of you have gone through the things I can't imagine. I've heard lots of stories lately of those very things. I realize God meets us in a very special way in our "can't imagines."
He shows up real and loud and seriously loving.

So I guess that's where the buck stops.
My closet full of fear that I never knew was there can be unlocked. I can let out the "can't imagines" because God is there to catch them and unravel them and hold me still.
 I am without words right now. Suddenly. I'm sitting here and there is nothing left to say.
Whether I succeed in having open hands today, come what may, God will hold me still.
And I really believe that.


  1. Leslie,
    This is beautiful!!! You will get there. In His Grace, He will bring you to the place of "always open palms." I don't think any of us really understand how, but in transforming us into His Image, He will accomplish this in us.

  2. I am not there yet either. with you my friend. Praying for a changed perspective. Hard stuff!

  3. Wow, those are such challenging words. When I became a mother, I had no idea it entailed things like this. Praying God will guide us in our belief in Him and our loving of our children!

  4. oh, i am with you here... i have prayed the "necessary means" prayer before, and God blew me away by His faithfulness (we've talked about that). but i wish i could say that i ALWAYS pray that way, like your mother-in-law does. it truly takes practice to trust, even though we know in our heads that the outcome will be unbelievable, and those "necessary means" will be strangely bearable. we still want to hold on to that which was never ours to begin with- you have articulated that so precisely. thank you for this challenge. it is sinking deep...

  5. I get caught up, too, in wondering, "How would I respond in this situation? There's no way I could trust Him in that!" even though I sincerely want to.

    I suppose we need grace for that too, to realize that His grace would sustain us unimaginably in those times, and that learning to surrender moment by moment will lead to surrender in the hard times someday.

    I clicked your link on A Holy Experience and I'm glad I did. I was blessed by your honest soul-searching in this entry.