Of course, the work the Lord is doing here in Ionia is much deeper in us than through us. His hand of healing, transformational power, direction, and shepherding has been the most profound work we’ve seen in our weeks in Michigan. We pray that God will use us to be a blessing to others and we strive to be faithful, accountable, and active. Yet, it is clear that the biggest changes we are seeing are right within the confines of our own hearts.
For me, Ionia has been an honest glance in the mirror. All of the yucky stuff in my heart and soul have been brought to light and I find that I am ever more thankful for a God who redeems. I have been meditating on the word Redeemer this week and allowing the vast wealth we have (I have) as redeemed persons to sink in. It’s funny too because somewhere along the journey I have found ways to assure myself that I am okay; ways to convince myself that my crutches aren’t really crutches. But, out here in this beautiful green farmland surrounded by some profoundly authentic believers I find myself confronted by the tremendous disparity between who I am today and who I desire to be.
I see women (wives, mothers, students, friends) who are resilient servants, faithful durable workers, and kept content by the joy of the Lord. What I have observed about these women (most of whom are the wives of Philip’s classmates and all of whom are living in very modest and sometimes quite uncomfortable situations) is that they have learned to delight themselves in the Lord. They rejoice in Kingdom work and in Kingdom advancements. I have rejoiced in those things too on some level for many years, but the Lord is calling me deeper still. The Lord is calling me closer to His heart and along the way, He is asking to change me – more, and again. The whisper of the hope of the woman who stands on the other side of that change is the very thing I cling to. I long for transformation with such desperateness that I am hopeful my Redeemer will meet me there and change me from the inside out.
Last week I wrote a note to Phil confessing my heart’s desire to really change. I told him that the very foundations of my character were shifting and that I am eager to walk more conformed to the image of Christ. I am asking God to give me one woman who will faithfully pray for me as a wife and mom, for it is within these roles that I have the greatest opportunity for change. And I know that if the me who serves my husband and daughter can live a more redeemed story then that same woman will naturally be more of a blessing in all other relationships as well. I know that our redemption as believers is not just a one-time event, but a daily occurrence for His mercies are new every morning and we are ever in need of them.
The transaction God makes with us as we seek transformation is described most beautifully in Isaiah 61 where the people of God trade their old identity for a new identity in Christ. Beauty for Ashes – Once again I am giving Father God the ashes of my life and once again He is offering me His beauty. If our lives are hallmarked by the character of Christ then in time we shall find ourselves more beautiful than we ever could have imagined.