November 14, 2012

No Longer Orphans


Until my late twenties, I spent the majority of my Christian life striving—striving for perfection, for God’s favor, for the approval of others, and for the joy and freedom that the Bible spoke of yet completely eluded me.
In Nothing is Impossible with God: Reflections on Weakness, Faith, and Power, Rose Marie Miller describes my life as she depicts her own:

The gospel was not my working theology: Mine was moralism and legalism—a religion of duty and self control through human willpower. The goal was self-justification, not the justification by faith in Christ that the gospel offers. But, as many people can tell you, moralism and legalism can “pass” for Christianity, at least outwardly, in the good times. It is only when crises come that you find there is no foundation on which to stand. And crises are what God used to reveal my heart’s true need for him. (4)

Like Miller, I am a pastor’s wife, a church planting wife, and a missionary. Like Miller, I for so long lived a life of legalism, and, like her, ministry was the “crisis” that shone a light on my self-sufficiency and self-justification. I discovered quickly that I could not meet ministry’s demands, and I certainly could not love, according to bootstrap religion.

The beacon of light, simultaneously convicting and life-giving, was Galatians 5:4: “You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law.” That is exactly how I felt—like an outsider standing apart from Christ, trying desperately to earn my belonging. I rejected any of Christ’s advances toward me out of shame over my failures and out of my stubborn self-determination.

Rose Marie Miller’s husband, Jack, characterized her self-justification as orphanhood: “You act as if you are an orphan. You act as if there is no Father who loves you.”
  • Orphans have to take care of themselves.
  • Orphans must be strong.
  • Orphans must protect themselves from being taken advantage of.
  • Orphans cannot depend on anyone.
  • Orphans cannot be weak.
  • Orphans crave to be taken in and loved but doubt they ever will.
  • Orphans want to be accepted, to belong.
  • Orphans only trust themselves.
  • Orphans cannot get too close.
  • Orphans are on the outside looking in.

 For many years, I was acting as if I were an orphan, trying to do the Christian life but failing miserably. I thought that my failures were my accusation, not realizing that this understanding—that I could not actually live the Christian life myself—was the first step toward liberation. Galatians 3:3 taught me that the Christian life can only be lived by the Spirit: “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?”

The Father advanced toward me, showing me that, in Christ, I am no longer an orphan but a daughter: “God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons and daughters” (Galatians 3:4-5).

If we are sons and daughters (and we are, if we are in Christ), we enjoy the love and protection of a perfect Father. He is not an impatient, stingy parent forever irritated at our weaknesses and failures. He invites us into the family, gives us His name, dresses us with righteousness fitting of His family, and erases the ways of our orphanhood, especially our self-reliance and self-justification.

But that’s just it, we too often return to our orphanhood:

living as if it were still up to us, living as if the Spirit never came and could never teach us or guide us in all the affairs of life. We go through the day believing that it is up to us to figure out how to solve our problems and get on with life. The result is that we live with an uneasy guilt and fear because we have not measured up to our standards or won the approval of others. (56)

I see orphanhood pervading my heart and the hearts of other women in an age when Facebook comparison and self-sufficiency reign. There is an undeniable urge toward perfection in our culture and even in our churches. Women stand apart from one another, wondering if they are the only ones, struggling to keep up the fa├žade of flawlessness. Worse, women stand apart from God, afraid to go before the throne with their failures or unwilling to acknowledge their need before Him, when, in reality, we are daughters with full access to our Father.

As Miller says: “[We] don’t have to be perfect because Another is perfect for [us}.”

When perfect is taken care of—when we’re declared righteous by the blood of Christ—we are finally free to love, to accept our weaknesses because God is strong in them, and to believe that God is for us.

As Miller says, “Living to please God—repenting of the true guilt that comes when we put anything besides God at the center of our lives, trusting in the blood of Christ to cleanse the conscience of dead works, and relying on the power and presence of the Holy Spirit for the tasks of the day—is truly the liberated way to live.”


Stay tuned! In my next post, I will share my interview with Rose Marie Miller about being a church planting pastor's wife. Would you like to read her excellent book, Nothing is Impossible with God? Enter to win a copy simply by leaving a comment below! I will announce the winner next Monday.

38 comments:

Anonymous said...

Tim kellers 'freedom of self forgetfulness' has been an encouragement for me in this area also. I always know when I'm living as an orphan as I feel angry and frustrated.how much I just need my fathers approval and not the self imposed chains of my own laws or others opinions. Oh how wonderful it is to b reminded of grace. Thank you .Lis carr

Nikki said...

I'd love to read it! Thanks for this encouraging post. :)

Kaitlyn Cotnoir said...

My husband and I have a book by Rose Marie's husband, Jack Miller, and found it such a life-giving resource as we struggled through our crisis of ministry. I would absolutely love to read this book. And thank you for what you shared. It hits home deeply.

EMB said...

I would love to read Rose Marie Miller's book. I have some of the same struggles!

Lauren Douglas said...

Enjoyed the post and would love to read more!

Emily said...

This too was me. Praise God for his rescuing adoption of us!

Whitney said...

The book sounds wonderful & much needed. As always thank you for your post too!

Christie Mitchell said...

Encouraging post - would love to read the book! Your mention of ministry demands and love are areas that need constant prayer in my life.

Missy Murry said...

I am currently reading this book and if you don't win the free copy, it is definitely worth purchasing! Rose Marie's transparency is a blessing.

Tanya Mark said...

When I was in college I read Rose Marie's testimony, was deeply touched by her words and God's work in her life. Feeling bold, I called information, got her phone number and spoke with her for about 30 minutes. She didn't seem shocked at all that I randomly called her. She sent me a copy of her last book, From Fear to Freedom, along with the study guide. I have been so blessed by that book and am looking foward to reading the new one, however I can get a copy. :) Praise God we are no longer orphans!

Jean said...

Thank you for this post! sounds amazing!

JoKasta said...

Wow...to say this last year has been one of crisis is an understatement. Just by reading this list of "orphan hood self-justification" so describe my heart right now! I'd love to win the book but if not I will be buying it! Thanks so much for your heart toward ministry wives!

Tina Braswell said...

Beautiful post! I too can relate to having a "crisis of ministry". Mine has come with church planting and the call in John 15:12 to love others as Christ has loved us. I just couldn't wrap my mind around how to love like that and then got to a place where I physically and emotionally couldn't give anymore. That's when God showed up with His loving, yet convicting light. I had been trying to love my own way. It's difficult to truly love others underneath the weights of perfectionism and insecurities. Thankful God is patient with us and doesn't leave us as orphans.to find our own way. His way is filled with freedom and joy. And I've found it's something I have to fight for or the philosophies of this world as well as the deceptions in my own mind easily take over - this post was a timely reminder and encouragement to me in the midst of this fight. Thank you! Can't wait to read this book!

ndidlake said...

Thank you so much for this gospel reminder. I cannot hear this enough times, especially as a lifelong "orphan".

Jayne said...

Wow powerful stuff! Can definitely identify with that need to please others!

Karen said...

this book sounds great! i ccan't wait to get a chance to read it. as a church planters wife myself, i've found myself crying out to the lord in things i never envisioned for my life...but would never change either b/c of the sweet lessons learned.

Heather said...

The book sounds amazing. Thanks for posting about it!

Amber said...

This post really hit home with me. I am looking forward to reading the book. Thank you SO much for sharing!

Anonymous said...

This sums up most of my Christian walk. Thru the process of planting a church, God has had to strip away the layers of legalism. Thankful for the painful process and His grace through it all!
Jamie Davis

Martha Jo Melton said...

So glad you are promoting this! The book is awesome!

Mary Mays said...

Oooh - sounds so good. I'd love to win a copy of the book!

Jennifer D said...

So good. I have recently moved to a new city so I am being thrown into new situations again and again, and one of the biggest lessons God is teaching me which you touched on is that so many women struggle with the same things and yet try to keep hiding them, i.e. when I go to a ladies luncheon and think I am the only one "new" here, only to find out that is what half a dozen other ladies are thinking even the ones who have been around for years. All that to say not only do we need to stop living as orphans but we need to be living under and extending to one another the grace God offers. God bless you for your blog Christine it has spoken truth to me many times!

Amy said...

Thank you for sharing. I know I miss out on joy based on ministry struggles of "never enough" or "why did only this many people show up", etc. In ministry and planting God has sure been trying to show me that my identity is not in anything but Him (which is awesome) just harder for it to catch up with feelings. :) Thanks!

Ashley Kinnard said...

I left a message on facebook and wondered why I was the only one entering the contest. ;-) Sometimes it takes me a while.

Sara P said...

I would indeed want to win a copy of that book! I have been thinking a lot about weaknesses lately, and how they really do bring me to a place of "I have nothing, so God please be my everything". It is a good place to be, seeing his grace!

Suzanne Frost Mosley said...

AWWWWWWWWWWWW...we LOVE the Millers!!! My husband and I have been SO influenced by the ministry/writings of Jack Miller. "Outgrowing the Ingrown Church" and "Repentance" are two of our favorites. :) I'm excited to see that Rose Marie is writing as well. :) Can't wait to read her interview! :) I wrote a very similar post this week...my first 10 years as a Believer was spent in legalism/moralism, the next 5 were characterized by spiritual laziness. Jerry Bridges's book "The Pursuit of Holiness" (which I did as a book study co-led with Betsy Reagan. yay!) helped show me the middle road of faith in Him but also pursuing holiness on my part. So thankful that God graciously brought me out of both after reading Bridges' book. Now, as I believer, this new chapter in my walk is simply me basking in His grace. :) Thanks for all that you do! :)

Kendal Barriere said...

I would love to win this book. Thank you for the opportunity!

Nikki said...

What a good word. God give us grace to trust him as our Father and not to live as orphans. This book would be a great blessing to this end :)

Aaron said...

Free book!! Yes, pleased: )

Jonathan said...

I am looking forward to reading this book! Thanks for the post.

Cindy Lee Jacobson said...

So helpful! Thanks for sharing your experience and insights.
Cindy Jacobson (chessie2009@hotmail.com)

Phil Wages said...

I'm preaching through the book of Galatians and this Sunday my text is 3:26-4:7. I will quote you and use this post as an illustration! WOW! What a great word. You've been such a great help and didn't even know it.

Christine Hoover said...

That's awesome!

Christine Hoover said...

I'll have to check out those other books. I haven't read them but they sound great!

Casey Horner said...

Just found your blog....this post was an excellent reminder!

Brokentoo said...

I am so glad to have stumbled upon your blog, it puts words to parts of my heart I haven't been able to verbalize. I am new to the work of ministry and started at a new non-profit for homelessness about 4 months ago. The org is very young and somewhat small, but the families we serve and the volunteers that serve are so precious and bear the image of God in so many ways. Even among all of this provision of His, I feel completely inept and inadequate... stuck, like I never know what it right, so I'm paralyzed to inaction by my fear. I would like to win a copy of this book, because not only is it nice to have the validation that someone has shared my feelings, but I really desire the guidance on how to recognize and replace the lies of the enemy. Thanks for sharing your life and struggles with the rest of us!

chogrefe said...

Thanks for sharing this. It was an encouraging on a day that I have been thinking a lot about our being orphans adopted by such a gracious heavenly father. I hadn't hear of the book so now am quite interested in it.

Christine Hoover said...

Brokentoo, you are the winner of the book giveaway for "Nothing is Impossible with God" by Rose Marie Miller! Congrats! Please email me and let me know where to have the book sent to you. christinehoover98 (at) gmail.com

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...