We’ve all been dealt a set of cards. For most of us, it’s quite a different hand than we planned on.
Our Sunday school class has been going through a little book called In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day. I suppressed a tiny roll of the eyeballs when the book was suggested, because I usually hate rah-rah books on “doing big things for God.” They are mostly written by men (or by empty-nester women), for men (for empty-nester women), and leave out those of us whose “big things” weigh 30 pounds and ask for “pink milk” all day long. The mention of seasons of life or of raising children as “ministry” is completely overlooked. They make me feel that what I’m doing at home isn’t a “big enough” thing for God.
I come away thinking, if only I didn’t have these little kids, I could really do something for God’s kingdom.
But despite its very un-catchy title (AND its lack of home-focused examples, AND the fact that it reads a bit like a cheerleading manual), this book by Mark Batterson has set the wheels in my brain spinning. The book centers on the story of Benaiah, a man who killed a lion in a pit on a snowy day, and then went on to become the commander in chief of David’s army. Batterson spends the entire book reiterating this point:
Our greatest opportunities are often disguised as insurmountable obstacles.
We can choose to run, or to avoid situations where we might encounter “lions” in our lives (the safe thing to do) or, like Benaiah, we can “grab the lion by the mane” – valiantly stepping toward the insurmountable obstacle – the thing that may even be the source of our greatest fear – and as we do, believing God to do big things in our behalf.
Batterson gives examples throughout the book: Abraham, David, Gideon, Esther, and Nehemiah are familiar stories of people who took a stand in their day, in their situation. Most of the modern-day examples are people who changed careers, risked it all in business start-ups, or went into foreign missions. Batterson’s lion was to start a church in Union Station in Washington, DC. Those are all Big Things.
But what about me? I’m home with five kids. I’m doing laundry. I’m cooking. I’m wiping little hind-ends. We have trouble getting it together to have family devotions regularly. Compared to leading an army, it seems so small.
And yet…I feel strongly that I am needed here. Now. I would even go so far as to say that a lifetime of charity work on the other side of the world would not be worth losing my kids. I know what I am doing is important. Sometimes it's just hard to see it because the Big Thing is often disguised by a bunch of little, seemingly insignificant things.
Does that mean God is not interested in what I am facing daily? Of course not. God knows. I love this verse:
Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
So what’s my lion? What are my seemingly insurmountable obstacles here at the end of the parenting honeymoon?
I thought of a few:
- Keeping my marriage strong, when kids’ needs seem to be so insistent
- Raising kids to know and love God in today’s culture
- Finding balance with our schedule so we can have dinner together most nights of the week
- Strength to deal with ongoing character issues such as selfishness, anger, carelessness
Some days, these seem completely impossible. The current is too strong. It feels like we are losing ground.
One of my favorite lines from the book is this:
There is a pattern that I see repeated throughout Scripture: Sometimes God won’t intervene until something is humanly impossible. And he usually does it just in the nick of time. I think that pattern reveals a dimension of God’s personality: God loves impossible odds…
Too often our prayers revolve around asking God to reduce the odds in our lives. We want everything in our favor. But maybe God wants to stack the odds against us so we can experience a miracle of divine proportions. Maybe faith is trusting God no matter how impossible the odds are. Maybe our impossible situations are opportunities to experience a new dimension of God’s glory.
I think I’m finally coming to terms with the fact that my prayers for my family have been mostly aimed at keeping myself FROM lions. I am the master of the safe route. I want God to make my life easier: “Give me some children (but not too many, Lord).” “Help my children to be calm (so I can get all my work done).” “Help my husband have a steady job (so we don’t ever have to go without).” “Help my house to hold together (so I don’t have to be inconvenienced).”
Maybe it’s time to look at post-honeymoon parenthood with a new perspective. At this point in the game, I don’t need any convincing to realize that things are never going to be perfect around here. But maybe that’s what God’s been waiting for all along. Maybe He’s been secretly stacking the odds against us so we will trust Him to do something really great with our family.
I think it’s time to stop asking God to take away the “lions” in my life. Instead, I want to ask God to help me welcome opportunities to face (with His help) the things that seem so overwhelming. That cause me the greatest fear. Things like making the most of our time together, rather than wishing for more of it. Maybe making concrete plans, rather than waiting for the "perfect" time or method to disciple my kids, to take a weekend outing, to show my husband how much I love him. What about setting the standard high when my kids show no signs of appreciating it?
This means I need to take my focus off myself and how impossible the situation seems, and to begin to focus instead on how infinitely big God is. He wants me to take the hand I've been dealt, and, without fear, to offer it back up to Him.
I want to start praying ridiculous prayers like Jonathan did before he and his armor-bearer fearlessly took on the Philistines: “Perhaps the LORD will act in our behalf. Nothing can hinder the LORD from saving, whether by many or by few.” (1 Samuel 14:6)
How about you? What “lions” are you facing at the end of the parenting honeymoon?