Jake and Matt could barely wait for Cal to arrive at our house last week because they were excited to teach their baby cousin all he needed to know. As soon as Cal was out of his car seat and in his mommy’s lap, the big cousins started teaching:
Jake, age six, “Cal, this is gentle. Now you do it.”
Matty, age four, “Criss-cross-applesauce! This is how you sit, Cal!”
“Cal this is how you crawl, just do it like this.”
“Watch me, Cal, this is how you walk, see how I put my feet like this.”
“These are trucks, Cal, you play with them like this.”
“These are Legos, this is how you build things.”
Their instructions couldn’t have been any clearer – watch me and do it like this. Do what I do.
Did Cal accomplish any of the tasks they tried to teach him? Uh, no. Cal is not yet six months old. He is still working on sitting up without toppling over, but he’s totally mastered rolling from belly to back and back to belly and putting everything he can find in his mouth. He chatters, nibbles his toes, sucks his fingers, sticks out his tongue and laughs a lot.
Jake and Matt wanted to teach Cal how to do big boy things. If Cal could run with the big dogs, oh, the fun they’d have! However, Cal is still just a puppy.
Jake and Matt had unrealistic expectations of Cal based on their lack of understanding of a baby, but God has no unrealistic expectations of me. He knows me perfectly well, and he knows exactly what I am capable of.
God is a wonderfully patient and wise teacher. He knows when to push me and when to hold back. He knows when to prop me up and when to let go, he knows when I am weak, and he knows when I am nothing more than lazy and/or disobedient.
Like the big cousins instructing the baby, God speaks clearly to me in his Word, and then he says to me, “Marcia, this is how I do it, now you do it this way.” But, unlike Cal who is a clean slate, and has much to learn, my chalkboard is filled in and I have much to erase and lots of ingrained habits and self-focused thoughts to unlearn in order to grab hold of the new things and new ways God is teaching me.
My favorite excuse for not doing things God’s way is — this is who I am; this is how you made me. Well, the first part of that is true: this is who I am. But this is not how God made me. Sure, God gave me a personality, but I hijacked it with a sin nature. And God gave me a will, but I confiscated it and twisted it to serve me. God gave me a mind, but I choose what I put into it. God gave me a heart, and I am the one who fights to sit on its throne.
The reality is, this is not who I am, this is who I used to be. When I chose to surrender my life to Jesus in saving faith, when I accepted his work on the cross as my substitute, I was born again. I am not who I was.
“Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ ” — John 3:5-7 NIV
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” — 2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV
While I am a new creation, I am still an old creature; but God is teaching me how to be new. And the most wonderful promise is that he won’t stop. He won’t throw his hands up in defeat. He won’t surrender. He won’t capitulate to my childish ways.
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'” — Jeremiah 29:11 NIV
“Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” — Philippians 1:6 NIV
That God would choose to love me, when I was who I was, amazes me. That he chooses to stick it out with me overwhelms me. That he is able to keep me from stumbling and to present me before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy (Jude 24 NIV) causes me to love him more deeply than I ever thought possible.
So when God says, “this is how you do it,” then that is how I want to do it. I want to learn. I want to run with the big dogs. I want my faith to reach maturity. I want to grow into the new me.
What about you? Where are you stuck in, “This is who I am.” Will you submit to the Teacher so that you continue to become who he wants you to be?