Fighting my way through the sludge of distraction and discouragement, I found my way to the rocking chair with the small, round table set before it… a place of invitation for me. A place to sit, be still, gaze at the mammoth snowflakes adorning the forest outside my window. I lay the Book down on the small, round table. The Book that has sustained and guided me for nearly a quarter century. The Book that feels like stumbling upon a rushing river weaving it’s way through the sometimes parched desert of my soul.
I sigh, pause, and tug the bookmark to open the page to 2 Timothy. I read opening words, similar to Paul’s other letters, yet directed to Timothy. Praising the faith passed down as cherished legacy from his grandmother to his mother to him. I think of my children and the legacy we are leaving in our wake, and of the parents and grandparents ahead of us who prayed fiercely over our souls, until we were ignited by His Spirit.
I keep reading until I get to verse 7. It is like a vortex spinning my thoughts in a circular motion.
I have been memorizing and teaching my way through Romans 8 for a few weeks. These words from Paul to Timothy (and all the others who would follow after the Lord by reading His Word) in 2 Timothy 1:7 sound peculiarly familiar to what I had just been studying in Romans 8:15…. “For we have not been given a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but we have been given a spirit of adoption as sons, by which we cry out ‘Abba! Father!'” The root cause of our fear is slavery. To what? Glancing back a couple verses in Romans, we see it’s the sin that entangles us when we live according to the flesh! Sin produces fear. How many times have I been afraid of being caught? Or afraid of what God’s judgment would look like, if He chose justice rather than mercy for me, in my sin?
The remedy, in Romans 8:15, is a realization that I am a child of God, and He is my beloved Father.
I scour Timothy’s letter again, “For God gave us a spirit not of fear, but of power and love and self-control.” I parallel these verses, twisting them around in my mind. Breaking them into parts, and sizing up the parts. What I see when I piece them together like a puzzle of wisdom is this: The remedy for our fear-inducing slavery to sin isn’t that we try harder. It’s that we know our identity as God’s beloved. If we draw near to Him, He will grant all the power, love and self-control we need to defeat the temptations in our lives before they become sin that tangles us up with slavery leading to fear.
A perfect Father is one who corrects and comforts. Who knows when to utilize teachable moments, and when to slap a band-aid on it and give it a hug. A perfect Father is always present for his sons and daughters, always welcomes us when we are broken, honest, struggling, defeated and weary. He is impeccably kind, yet firm, merciful, yet righteous.
I’d say we are having a global identity crisis right now, which is obvious to anyone who is paying attention… but the truth is, this isn’t an external, or modern problem. This is a problem as old as a couple of humans in a garden listening to a snake. We forget who our Abba is. We forget who we are, because of His lavish grace. And it keeps us hiding behind fig leaves, in the slavery of sin and fear, lacking bravery or self-control or love.
Yesterday my character was maligned. Whenever this happens, it feels like a sucker-punch. I get frustrated, feeling like I have to come to my own defense… Until I crawl up in my Daddy’s lap. When I come to the Lord with my baggage, I am reminded of Jesus, who didn’t feel the need to defend Himself as He was having His back lacerated in preparation for the cross. He was the perfect example of power, love and self-control. He infuses me with it. Suddenly, the temptation to defend myself is overshadowed by the necessity of showing the world what the Love of Christ looks like through exercising self-control with my tongue (and keyboard). Suddenly, I have the power to suppress the urge to speak in my own defense. Suddenly I don’t really care a hill o’ beans what anyone thinks of me, because I know my identity as the Lord’s beloved, and even if the entire world hated me but Jesus loved me like He does, well, the opinions of man wouldn’t matter at all.
When I crawl up on my Papa’s lap, like a reliant toddler, He fills me with delight, comfort, contentment, joy, peace, and even with His limitless power, love and self-control. He reminds me I am His’.
As I ponder these two letters from Paul to his friend Timothy and the Church in Rome, I am reminded of how often I fail to do this simple act, of coming to my perfect Father with all my needs, struggles, and triumphs, with all my owies and victories… and how much it truncates my ability to use my one life to it’s fullness. The next time I approach this keyboard, or any other facet of my day, the next time I feel overwhelmed, distracted and discouraged, I hope to remember quickly to crawl up in my Daddy’s lap, throw my feeble arms around the nape of His neck, and cry out “Abba! Father!” This is the remedy. Knowing my identity as His child, and remembering His character as One who loves perfectly, and infuses us with strength and delight.