Summers long, hot days here in Texas mean that I am up earlier than usual. With my youngest being 15 months, I found that the best way to get some quiet time is to run or walk with God early in the morning – before everyone is up.
This decision has dramatically changed my how I live day to day. I get a chance to water my plants before the heat of the day makes them thirsty.
On one morning, as I was sorting out some thoughts with the Lord, I remember how He brought back to my mind a sermon that I heard Allan Hood, from International House of Prayer in Kansas City preach. He was discussing the fiery seal of love for the Lord we are to have as believers.
He said, “Think about two people: the great Rev. Billy Graham, and some girl who decided to become a foreign missionary to Yemen. They both die, and are facing the judgement seat of Christ. Billy Graham has led countless numbers of people to Christ, and the girl dies two weeks in to her mission. No souls saved in the kingdom. Who was more obedient? How do you measure their success? In God’s eyes? Is it through impact? He has millions, she has none. Who has been successful?”
I thought about that question as I walked. He went on to make his point that it’s those whose hearts are faithful who win at the end of this age. I felt the tug at my own heart, as the Lord took that message home to my world – “So, Rachel, what will you live for? What have you been living for? What legacy are you leaving this earth?”
At that question, I first realized the words slipping through my lips as I mouthed, “great impact with my kids.” The street seemed eerily quiet, as I plodded farther on the sidewalk, my shoes hitting the pavement. He kept speaking.
“Do you want a big impact, or a big heart? Which one is more important?” I then began to picture some of the great prophets and figures of the Old Testament: Abraham, Sarah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Hosea. I even thought of the Pilgrims and the persecuted Christians across the globe.
We can look back at those who have already died, and clearly see their success and impact, but that altogether was not what they were living for.
Jeremiah and Ezekiel were both Old Testament prophets called to prophesy to the people of Israel and warn them not only of their falling, but that destruction was coming to them if they didn’t repent. Jeremiah himself is known to be the weeping prophet. He says in scripture:
“If only my head were a pool of water and my eyes a fountain of tears, I would weep day and night for all my people who have been slaughtered.”
What was the fruit of his ministry? The hope for the prophets back then was that the people the word was for would hear it, heed it, and so advert God’s pending judgment on them. In this case it would be Babylonian captivity and the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem.
Did they turn? No. In fact, the government seized Jeremiah and threw him in a cistern, as well as put him behind bars, simply for giving the word of God to his own countrymen.
You could look at Jeremiah’s prophetic ministry and say that his ministry failed because the people’s hearts did not return to God.
And, as I walked my street, I could see how much my goal to impact as a mother was choking out something of even greater importance.
If you are a parent, doing your job of raising your children for the Lord is a high, sacred calling. I cannot diminish that or stress it more. Most of my posts are dedicated to highlighting that very important aspect and career.
When we value our spiritual jobs – yes, even our spiritual impact- above our hearts in devotion and love for Jesus is where our priorities get mixed up.
We start measuring our success as a Christian parent if our children are saved, living for God, and becoming great adults in society. And, there are many, many mothers and fathers today who have children who are considered prodigal. They homeschooled, did bible memorization. They even taught them evangelism. And they still chose with to abandon the God of their fathers. I believe many of those parents sit in a swampy prison of guilt still, thinking, what could I have done better? while they think, pray, and ponder over their children’s sinful lifestyles.
People do it everyday. The preacher works so hard to see his congregation mature and embrace their community. The business man works six and seven day weeks, looking for the next promotion. The triathlete is always training for that next big race. The adventurer seeks to conquer the unknown. We can easily fall prey to putting our identity and our self worth into these temporary things.
Even with such a noble cause as raising a godly family – our impact in our children is not enough to measure true success.
Whether your heart was full of the love you were teaching about will be the real test of how well you did.
It is very easy to turn your heart off from loving deeply in our culture, and the very first person we offend is God. Yes, scripture commands us to love one another deeply:
1 Peter 4 NLT
“Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.”
But Jesus says, when it comes down to the greatest commandment:
Jesus replied, “‘You must love the lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’
This is the first and greatest commandment.”
Yes, mom, at the end of the day, you must love God more than your kids, yourself, or anything.
In a society that’s known for either aborting our offspring or obsessing over them, I believe we need a fresh understanding of how we view our families. This perspective needs to come out of our Prayer closets – new each day. We must spent our time and affections with our loving and generous Creator, not only asking Him for things, but simply being with Him and loving Him – talking to Him.
Why would my children want to spend private time connecting to God if they don’t know what it is? How would they know that it’s a priority, unless I make it a priority in my own life.
It’s absolutely crucial that we pray with our children and for our children. But when my children and your children know that mommy can’t spend time with you right now because she is spending time with Jesus, they learn:
1.) Jesus is a real person.
2.) Mommy has a real relationship with Him.
3.) He is worthy of her time.
And, not only will you have etched out time in your day that you can be away from every distraction, but your family might start to wonder why it’s important to spend alone time with Jesus. They might even start spending time with Him, too.
And, oh how your heart will swell! Jesus has this incredible effect on the human heart. When I spend real, focused, engaged time listening and talking with Him, I find out things about His character in the way He talks to me. I find out things about myself that I never would have realized in a distracted 30 minute prayer time with my children. And I have the opportunity during this time to surrender them to Him. I take off my baggage. I learn from Him and take His yoke.
Matthew 11:28-30, NLT
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
Afterwards, I stretch, water my plants, and write down anything He’s specifically speaking to me. Now I am ready to face the day ahead of me.
The mornings I choose to sleep in I find the day a lot more difficult and frustrating. That is another incentive to get me up and going with the Lord.
I don’t want this message leaving you feeling that if you work hard at doing your devotional checklist you will be great… and blessings will be waiting at your door. That is not what this message is about.
It’s about your heart. It’s about what moves you to love. What wakes up your soul. It’s about what exhilarates your mind, emotions, and personal choices. A heart in love with God uses money for Him, loses sleep for Him, and gives you the greatest adventure of your life.
It’s what makes you feel alive, in love, and is healing oil to your broken and weary self. It’s better than a hobby, more fulfilling than a vacation, and it’s taste richer than Belgium chocolate.
May God touch your heart, friend. He is not a boring set of rules. Live with the knowledge that His loving, intense eyes are focused on you all of the time. Dive as deep into that ocean of love and desire as you can. He will always take you as far as you want to go.
If you make the choice to live this way, to live for a big heart, you may or may not look successful in the world’s eyes. But the best thing about it is you will be too in love, too satisfied in Him to care anymore.
It’s worth it.
So what will keep you from His deep love?
Open up your arms and dive into His healing heart of love! It is worth every risk every single time.