Dirty Clothes and Disciples

I’ve been thinking lately about my attitude and it stinks.  I ponder all of the teachings I’ve had, the fact that I homeschool my children, our curriculum is Bible-based so I try to teach Christ to the children and we try to live our lives worthy of His death.

BUT…with all of that, this last week or few weeks my attitude has been getting worse.  Issues with my neighbors being ugly, children not behaving, problems arising all around with things breaking, children puking, going on year 6 of a bad marriage to a man I haven’t seen in 3+ years…it has all just become more than I can bear, and my attitude has become not so good.  I’ve gone through a lot, forgiven a lot and walked out some very difficult issues yet right now…my heart is that I “hate” several people and this is NOT Christlike and not my typical nature.

As I thought about my heart and my attitude and wondered WHY?  Why now?  After all that has been done to me and all that I’ve walked through why NOW?  Why can’t I handle these things?  Why am I angry now?  Why am I unable to cope with these things with grace, mercy, forgiveness, etc.?

I wouldn’t say I’ve backslidden….I’ve not walked away from God.  I know my attitude is wrong and I’m not being rebellious or obstinate…I just truly do not have anything in me right now that can muster the strength to DEAL with all of what has hit me in the last week or two.  As an analytical being, I need to know why?  What did I do?  What changed?  Why now?  So many questions and no answers.

Then I pondered a couple of things…discipline.  I read a book by Lew Sterrett’s wife on raising children.  It was a great book.  Only about 8 chapters and no chapter is more than 3-4 pages long.  AMAZING little book.  Very simple steps to help with raising children.  The premise of the book begins with her explaining that her husband was the soft one in the family not disciplining the children and she was the strict one wanting discipline and that both of them could find books to support their method of child rearing.  BUT..she explained that it takes BOTH approaches and BALANCING them to make things work.  Too much love without any discipline and you get spoiled brats…too much discipline without any love and you get children who feel unloved.  The secret is to BALANCE these two daily.

As I pondered that I also thought about discipleship.  People think about Jesus’ disciples but they don’t really apply this word properly.  They think of them as Jesus’ students and that is true…but discipleship comes from DISCIPLINE.  OUCH.  We tend to view discipline as punishment…but it isn’t it is TRAINING.

Consider those in the military or sports…they have to be DISCIPLINED to do what they do.  They run, do pushups, practice, practice and more practice and it’s hard.  I’m sure it HURTS daily but they do it and the more they do the stronger they become and the more their body knows what to do when they get into the arena.  When push comes to shove they are ready to fight and fight well because they’ve done all the preparation beforehand and their body is ready to handle whatever comes their way.  Most of these people push themselves through these things WILLINGLY!  Wow..really?  Why would anyone want to deal with that much pain on a daily basis?  Why get up early and run?  Why do push ups until you can’t move your arms the next day?  Why?  Because they have a goal..something they want and they are willing to put their body through the hard stuff to get there.

My problem is with a lack of discipline…it’s why we over-eat.  We aren’t willing to give up the pleasures of food and deny ourselves in order to be better than we are.  I lack discipline in my life to keep me focused on the goal.  That is my problem not just in my spiritual walk but my physical walk as well.  I want to do more with my day but getting up at 5 am is not a sacrifice I’ve been willing to make.  I want to lose 30 pounds but working out this year has not been a sacrifice I’ve been willing to make.  I want the goals, the benefits but I don’t want to do the work required to get there.  I wonder how many of us can relate to this not just to our physical lives but to our spiritual lives as well?

Then I considered the words used in the New Testament…about PUTTING ON the fruits of the spirit or putting on the armor of God.  Isn’t it interesting that those qualities we need daily are compared to clothing?  I have to get up and put clothes on every day.  I cannot go out of my house if I’m not dressed.  Although there are days that I do stay in my pajamas all day wearing yesterdays clothes, but I still have clothes on.  I need to put on my spiritual clothing every day too.  If I were to wear the same clothes every day without taking them off, washing them, repairing them or replacing them my clothes are going to be pretty foul after a few days.  The more heat we have the faster my clothes will be offensive.  If the weather is nice then I could sneak by wearing the same clothes for days maybe even weeks before it became offensive.  What about my spiritual clothes?

I have 3 pieces of jewelry I wear daily.  I have a cheap $14 ring I bought from J C Penney that says “if God brought you to it, He will bring you though it.”  I have a James Avery fruits of the spirit bracelet and I have a $10 fleur-de-lis necklace.  Every day after I get dressed I put on these three items.  The ring reminds me of my difficult marriage and that if God brought me to this place He will get me through it and I just need to keep trusting Him for that situation.  My fruits of the spirit bracelet is something I see and it reminds me that I need to be clothed with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control.  When I see it it is a reminder to me that this is how I am to walk.  My fleur-de-lis is a reminder of who I am.

I had a difficult time seeing myself as beautiful for a long time because of how I was treated by others as a child and how I was treated by my husband for years.  A few years ago I went on a Heart Quest and discovered who I was meant to be.  During one of these encounters with God, I was instructed to find out what name God had for me.  I was on a spiritual jouney with some other women and the instruction for our time together was to find out our “call sign”.  Ask God what He calls us.  I prayed and listened and heard “fleur-de-lis”.  Really?  I don’t think so God.  That’s a flower.  If God had said, horse, camel, turtle some sort of animal I could have accepted that.  Even an ugly animal has some strength but to be called a flower.  I didn’t see anything flower-like in me at all.  Beauty was always something to me that was unobtainable.  You either WERE or you WEREN’T and there wasn’t much you could do about it.  And to make it worse everyone grows old and even the most beautiful among us will become old and shriveled.

I remember as a young girl knowing this truth “you can be smart or you can be pretty”.  I chose smart.  I figured smart lasts and with smart you can accomplish great things but with beauty, you will be dependent on others for everything.  I didn’t believe you could be BOTH.  (That’s a whole nother post.)  But I share this because that day being called “fluer-de-lis” didn’t sit well with me and I didn’t want to accept it.  It took all week with God speaking that to me in so many ways.  Two of our leaders that week in two different environments came to me and told me I was beautiful.  Seriously…this was a women’s week in the country…no makeup, no time spent on hair…just women…in the raw and in that environment not just once but twice someone called me beautiful.  Seriously they must be delirious.  But God worked on that in me for over a year until I finally came to embrace the fleur-de-lis as me…but it is more than me.

There has always been something in me drawn to the fleur-de-lis.  I don’t know why.  It is a symbol I have always loved.  For God to use that symbol to call me carries much more than just it representing a flower. The fleur-de-lis was used at some point in history as a secret symbol for Christ.  Instead of drawing the Christian fish or a cross you could use the fleur-de-lis to show you were a believer.  It also was a symbol used by the French monarchy so it is a symbol of royalty and the fleur-de-lis is a representation of a lily flower and the name Susan means…Lilly.  So when I put on my fleur-de-lis each morning it is a reminder to me not just that I am beautiful, but that I am in Christ.  Putting on my fleur-de-lis necklace is a reminder of who I am and whose I am.  I usually don’t face a day leaving my house without putting on these three reminders and arming myself for whatever I may face and having them with me all day…I might see my bracelet and run my fingers over it feeling the engraved words and thinking to myself what they mean and if I’m not behaving in a manner that would fall into one of these categories it reminds me how to behave.  I might be fiddling with my fleur-de-lis feeling its edges and curves and when I do I think about who I am.  I might look down at my hand and see that silver ring and know…God called me to marry this man and He must have some reason for it.  I will just have to keep praying and trusting God regardless of how things look or feel.

Looking back on the last 3 weeks…we went on a trip for 2 weeks to spend time with other Christian homeschool families and I forgot to put on my ring, my bracelet and my necklace.  I knew it shortly after we left but I didn’t think it was important enough to go back for.  I realize that putting these things on every day is NOT really what makes a difference in my spiritual walk.  However, putting these things on every day is a REMINDER to me and as I put them on I usually pray for what they represent.  So not having them with me for 2 weeks kept me from practicing disciplines in my life that I need to do EVERY DAY!  I was lazy and busy.  We had lots of things to do each day and plenty of activities and fellowship but I slacked off in reading my Bible, in praying, in doing the DISCIPLINES of a Christian life that need to be done DAILY.  I suspect this is why my attitude has grown worse over the last 2-3 weeks.

We found out while we were gone that one of our trees fell on a neighbors house.  When we were heading home with one puking child, a sewer hose that decided to take a swim in the sewage dump tank, a son who was frustrated at this action and a mom who had absolutely nothing left to cope with his inability to cope with making a costly mistake, two dogs who were being watched by two different families that both had run out of food, coming home to be harassed and threatened by the HOA and the police about our RV sitting in front of the house being unloaded, a garage door spring that decided to snap, an upstairs bathroom water issue that caused water to come through the ceiling downstairs, and countless arguments and disagreements among the children, I couldn’t handle it.  Things had heated up and my spiritual clothing was pretty foul smelling.  Instead of getting up and putting on my spiritual armor I allowed the stresses, the trials and temptations to drag me farther and farther away from where I have been called to be.

So…this week is a new week.  We begin with Sunday…the day of new birth.  This week I will be working harder on my disciplines and NOT facing any day without being prayed up and putting on my spiritual clothes and my spiritual armor.  I can’t guarantee that this week is going to be any better than the last one.  Tomorrow I find out how much a new garage door spring and probably a new garage door are going to cost me. I get to call the Chief of Police to discuss his officer that is trying to enforce laws that aren’t laws.  I have six children who are guaranteed to disagree about something with someone this week.  But this week…I will NOT be trying to do it in dirty clothes.  This week…I will be sure that I am dressed for every day.

I don’t like discipline.  I don’t like receiving it and I don’t like giving it.  I don’t like putting myself through hard things.  I can be very lazy.  But I need to do these hard things.  I need to lose the physical weight and the spiritual weight that has been dragging me down.  It will be hard.  It at times won’t be fun.  But in the end, I expect it will make me a stronger person better able to handle whatever life throws at me.

What about you?  How do your clothes smell today?