It had been a long day at work followed by a full evening of cooking dinner, chasing my toddler around, giving him a bath, putting him to bed, cleaning up dinner, and putting away at least some of the toys that were strewn about the house. My husband and I were lying in bed and talking like we often do right before going to sleep. Some days, it’s our only time to really talk without having to shout over a yelling toddler. He asked me a simple question in a patient and loving way. “Where are you?”
I knew he was pointing his question at something deeper inside me. In my mind, I had aced the day, checked off all the to-dos, and fulfilled every expectation he and my son had from me, thanks to my productivity and accomplishments… right? But he saw things differently. He knew my thoughts and heart had been distant and that I had been going through the motions of work, marriage, and motherhood with zero passion—not depressed, but definitely not engaged.
The best word to sum up my emotional state was devastated. I have always prided myself on being a task-oriented achiever. And deep down I typically feel I am only as good as what I’ve accomplished. On the flip side, I live with a constant self-condemnation for not “being better.” If only I had gained less baby weight, if only my child would eat more than Cheerios (don’t even get me started), if only I could keep my house cleaner, if only, if only. These silly things stack themselves up and paint a picture of my expectations for myself, and the devastation I’m describing came on that night when I realized a shocking truth. My husband and my son expect none of those things from me as proof of my success, and most importantly, neither does Jesus.
You may think I’m being hard on myself and succumbing to the Mom guilt. I assure you that’s not what I’m preaching! I have definitely learned the important art of forgiving myself and not feeling guilty that I can’t do everything. But hear my heart as I try to unveil this truth the Lord is using in all of this to set me free.
In Exodus 20:3, God clearly lays out the framework for our priorities. “You shall have no other gods before me.” I have too often written this off as an archaic old covenant principle that didn’t apply to me in my “maturity” now. After all, I wasn’t putting anything worldly before Him, so what’s the big deal? But I felt the Lord tugging on my heart and pressing in with a question—“so what about when you put yourself before me?”
Part of the Hebrew word for “before” in this verse means “face.” I was putting myself, my expectations, my goals, and my desires for myself before my face. I was beholding a better version of me. And while none of those qualities were bad, I was still cutting my beloved Jesus out of the picture. He wants to be the One I am beholding. He wants to be the one in front of my face. His desire for all humanity from the beginning has always been a face-to-face relationship. Not some cheap counterfeit where we assume we already know what He wants and never talk to Him about any of it. No more secondhand revelation where we memorize all the right Scriptures and say all the right things that people expect from “good Christians” while we have no intimacy with the One we claim to represent.
In our self-motivated, willpower-driven culture we have convinced ourselves that we can work hard enough to become better. New year’s resolutions embody this core belief. And maybe some of us have or will show those outward signs of transformation—weight lost, addictions overcome, and goals met. Again I say none of those things are wrong on their own—only when used as a means for discovering identity apart from every day oneness and communication with the only holy God who penned your life before it ever began.
Before I was ever called to be a wife, homemaker, and mother, I was created to love and know Jesus. And the same is true for all of His children. And the only way to be successful, to be transformed, to become “new,” is to find the place of rest He has prepared for you. That secret place where you are before His face and He is before yours.
So I’m presenting you with the same challenge the Lord has extended to me for this next year. To start the year with only one resolution. A totally different, very contradictory, extra counter-cultural one. And it is this—to behold Jesus more this year than I ever have. And I know, without a doubt, that when I commit to that simple practice, I will be transformed in every area of my life as He leads me. Won’t you join me?
By Rachel Rush