Parents, You Can Do Hard Things

“It’s just not for me, I guess,” she said, shaking her head with resignation. The words fell from her mouth with a splat; they were deflated and her heart was fit to match. Between us sat an open Bible, a well-worn dictionary, two pens, and plenty of scratch paper. We were working through the Text verse-by-verse, learning our way to effective interpretation through a mess of underlining, highlighting, and circling. The past hour had proven difficult to be sure, and as we hit yet another word that required the dictionary, she was waiving her white flag.

This conversation was not unique. Over at The Rooted Home we have recently started an exegetical Bible study through the book of Jonah, and we’re starting our study by doing a Book Overview (looking into the cultural setting, historical context, author, date of the writing, etc.). And this group of Bible students is working hard, and I couldn’t be more proud. But when others hear what we’re doing, they’re often surprised; when I ask them to join, the response has become common:

I can’t do it. I guess I’m just a devotional kind of person.

I don’t have the time to learn how to do this. Are there any good studies you’d recommend instead?

This is a lot harder than I expected; I just don’t know if I’m smart enough.

The refrain has become common and even unsurprising. And here is what I want to say to each and every Christian who has said, felt, admitted, confessed, or thought these things (including myself): you can do hard things.

I’m not saying that Bible study is easy. I’m not saying that it doesn’t require a learning curve or a good amount of time and effort. I don’t believe that it comes easily to most, and my personal experience says that it takes a lot of persistence and practice. Studying the Bible is not necessarily and easy task, but … you can do hard things.

Yes, a pre-packaged Bible study is easier, but on its own it is not your daily bread. Others can do the work of studying and re-framing the truths of God’s Word for you, but you’ll then miss the rich and rewarding work of spending time in the Word for yourself. I know there are a plethora of blogs and Instagram accounts that make the Word of God seem like a quick pick-me-up, and a short fix. Yes, that would be much easier. But, you can do hard things.

Will it require early mornings? Maybe. Will it require you to focus during nap time while there’s a little quiet? Probably. It will take your time – your sparse, limited, free time.  And you will have to push back other intruding demands on your time, and this will take hard and persistent work. And, you can do hard things.

I find this mindset is much more prevalent among women. It is easy for women in our Pinterest culture to conceive that Biblical womanhood is solely about cultivating a trendy home and finding the quickest and cheapest slow cooker recipe. But when we only look around us for examples of Biblical womanhood, we fail to look back – back to the women of the Bible who did hard things and blazed a trail for us to follow.

1 Samuel 25 – Abigail, the wife of a wicked husband, saved her family from the fury of the nation’s leader, David, by extending biblical hospitality that her husband neglected. 

2 Kings 22 – Huldah studied and interpreted the Word of God before the leaders of the nations. When the kings had failed to remember God’s words – having lost the Scriptures themselves – Huldah taught them the ways of God again.

Judges 4 -Deborah led the nation of Israel, exercising her discernment and wisdom and leadership over the people of God. She led the nation into battle as God led, and she spoke as a prophet to the people on behalf of God Himself. 

Esther 1 – Esther, the orphaned daughter of Jewish parents, exercised courage and wisdom as she outsmarted an enemy of her people, and saved her people from national destruction. 

Luke 2 – Mary, a teen, virgin girl, believed the words of the Lord when it was told her that she would mother the Messiah. With great courage she birthed the Son of God among stable animals, and placed Him in a feeding trough.

Matthew 27:56 – Mary Madeline followed Jesus as a disciple. Defying the cultural mandates on women in her day she learned from Jesus and followed Him throughout His earthly ministry.  

We will all need help, we will all need others to teach us along the way, but each and every one of us can do it. We are in good company with the women of faith in our spiritual lineages – those who did not turn back at the first sign of difficulty, but pressed into the challenge to the glory of God.

Like them, our God has graciously equipped us with sharp minds, teachable hearts, and the will power to form our loves around His Word. It might seem like a resolution that will fade away in the coming weeks, but you and I can do the hard work of pressing through, pressing on, and persistently coming to God’s Word as His students.

As you start this new year, don’t be more easily convinced by convenience. You – yes, you – can.

So, will you? Will you join me? Will you make 2018 the year that we dig into God’s Word together? By God’s grace, embrace this truth: we can, and we will.

Raising Tiny Theologians

Something about the thin, round glasses hanging on the end of the professor’s nose and the bow tie neatly tucked beneath his white collar made him feel all the more believable.

It was my first day and my very first class of Bible college. Freshman year held a host of uncomfortable, nervous, and intimidating moments, but this one will always be etched in my mind. His voice reverberated with age, experience and authority, and his words struck my timid heart with surprise and self-doubt.

“Everyone is a theologian.”

He went on to explain that every person possesses a theology – a view of God – whether they know it or not. He contended that we, even at 18 and 19 years old, had a belief system regarding God, the word, the Church, and other things. We picked up on teachings, let suggested dispositions settle into our hearts, and allowed subtle theologies to sink into our minds.

“Every one of you is a theologian,” he repeated; “But are you good ones?”

In little time, he became a favorite professor. I ate up what he taught, I asked questions, I requested additional resources because he was right: I did have a view of God, I was a theologian, but I had not taken the time to be a good one.

“Theology” can be an intimidating word. For many of us, it calls to mind professors, pastors, or academics tirelessly pouring over ancient books. But in its simplest form, it means “the study of God” (“Theos” is derived from the Greek word for “the divine”, and “ology” comes from the Latin “to study”). And the reality is that we each have a concept of God in place. Each and every person, whether knowingly or unknowingly, believes something about the divine. We have beliefs about God’s character, activity and intentions, many of which lie so deep within us that we are often unaware In a thousand ways each day, you and I “study” “the divine” as we hear about a flood on the news or walk with a friend through loss. So, the question cannot be, “Am I a theologian?” Instead, we need to start asking, “Have I taken the time to be a good one?”

The world around us seeks to shape our view of God every day. Shows on TV, friends on Facebook, and ads at the subway station are constantly sending messages that ultimately shape our view of God. And our kids are not exempt – the shows they watch, the books they read, and the neighbors they play with are all teaching them something about God, his relationship to his people, and his world. Even the littlest ones in our homes are growing every day into tiny theologians with their own views of God. So, the question cannot be, “Are our children theologians?” But instead, “Have we taken the time to teach them to be good ones?”

When most of us think about talking to kids about theology, we think of their view of God like a car sitting in neutral. It is easy to think that they will go about their lives unmoved until we push them along in the faith. As the most prominent and earliest influencers in their lives, it’s easy to believe that when you have the time you’ll move them a little bit here and there, until they’re old enough to drive the road of faith for themselves.

In the world we live in, our theology and our kids’ theology is like a car in neutral, but a car in neutral on an incline. The world is taking our view of God somewhere. It is teaching us and forming us, even while we are unaware. It is not often a steep or sharp incline, but subtle. It seeps into our beliefs casually, slowly, and often unnoticed. Kids are learning about God as they’re told why they should be on good behavior at school or why they should say, “I’m sorry” and “I forgive you” after a tiff among friends. And if we are not attentively teaching our children about the God of the Bible – about the gospel that compels us by love to obey him and that we can only forgive others by the grace of the God who forgave us – the world will.

Thank God that he has equipped each and every one of us to be a student of his word! Each of us – you and me and even our tiny theologians – are able to come to the word of God, to study it with joy and understanding, and to communicate those rich truths to one other. It is a true gift of God that he gave us his word to teach us all about who he is and who we are in relationship with him. By his Spirit, he has empowered us to study the Bible and teach the Bible, and by his Spirit He will form each of us more and more in his likeness.

Here is the encouragement I want to leave you with today: You are a theologian. And by God’s good grace he will make each of us good ones. This is the joyful work of the Spirit: he has been bringing people to faith, raising them up in the faith, and growing them through the faith since the beginning of the world. And he wants to do the same for you and me and every little one. We simply have the honor and joy of joining with him in that process, and partnering with him in the gospel work he has called us to.