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Off Season Training

I remember having a t-shirt made for my varsity soccer players, when I used to coach, that said, “There is No Off Season for Champions!”  How obnoxious, huh?  It was such a testosterone pumping kind of attitude and communicated this sense of in-your-face arrogance.  We are champions.  We are champions because we work so hard.  AND we are champions who work hard and aren’t so weak that we need a break like all you other losers.  Oh I am so glad that is not the invitation or attitude of the person and work of Jesus.  His method of becoming first is to become last.  His path to strength is through weakness.  The way to greatness is through humility and the guarantee of life comes through death.  He is in fact making champions, and is always at work, even in the “off seasons”, but for His glory and the renewal of the whole creation, not just the ego of the team.

It should not come as a shocker that homeschooling is not a long term career choice of mine.  In many ways, it is killing me.  But of course, as with all things in the hands of the Redeemer, that death is part of His re-creation process.  (Not recreation as in “sport”.)  It is exhausting to have to be “on” 24/7, even though of course that is a bit of an exaggeration.  It is draining for an extrovert like me to be severed from formal, consistent connections to people outside of my home.  And, it is frustrating that moments like this when I am able to sit down and write, to process my heart and need for grace, have to be grabbed at the expense of something else these days.  Where is the person and work of Jesus in this season and is this re-creation process worth it?

I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”  Rev. 21:2-5

The profound truth is that His redemptive work does not replace the old with a totally different thing – as if man was a bust so now He’ll try extra terrestrials as His image.  He is taking that which He called “very good” but was then corrupted by sin, slowly and steadily removing the sin and brokenness caused by the sin, and making man into His unbreakable Son – perfect, complete, and not lacking anything.  So, this season is part of that process for me.  He is exposing even more of my sin – sudden bursts of temper which don’t make sense in light of the small offenses to which they are responding, sharp words of judgment to family members rather than offering them living waters of grace, sadness over having item after item in our house get scratched by the dog or broken by children and so on (which isn’t really sin, but is quite often expressed sinfully).

But in the midst of pulling out the true wickedness in my heart (some times more obviously wicked than others), He is smothering and covering us in the blanket of His righteousness.  There is a sweetness and closeness between us that feels tighter than it did in previous years.  There is an increased confidence in my motherhood, despite my outbursts, that replaces former conflicted feelings of guilt and laziness.  And, there is an increased strength of purpose in who God made me to be.  He isn’t taking away the qualities about me that He designed in the first place (extroversion, writing and teaching, community involvement) but honing and clarifying them in this “off season”.  I don’t know why I always think of this movie, but the Karate Kid too frequently comes to mind.  So, to use him once again, he wanted to be a great fighter. Mr. Miyagi had him polishing cars and pruning bonsai trees.  Daniel began getting nervous that he wasn’t training as the day of the fight drew closer.  It turned out, the whole time his “alternative” training was even more precise and effective than he realized.

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.  John 10:27-30

There are a lot of voices trying to do exactly what the serpent offered Adam and Eve the power to do: to determine for themselves what is right and what is wrong, evil and good.  As a mom, it is often frighteningly overwhelming trying to determine which voice to listen to, even when I in a rare moment remember to try to identify which voice sounds like God’s.  This year, He is further tuning my heart to recognize and listen to His voice.  He isn’t changing my course, exactly, but confirming it.  He is replacing the threatening voices of condemnation with His steady voice of affirmation.  He is replacing the “either/or” conflict of mothering well and being the particular part of the body of Christ He made me to be and making them compatible.  There is room in His Kingdom for “both and”.  He is showing me that beautiful third way that the person and work of Jesus offers.  He is uniting me in His death so as to unite me in His permanent resurrection and glory.

Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.  Rom. 6:3-5

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