Sharon Smith Leaman

Rise Up, O Men of God

Our young men need public and private examples of godly men in generations past and present.  Our pastor would tell us that his personal pursuit of holiness was for the benefit of others—because his wife needed a godly husband and his children a godly father and the church a godly leader. He modeled meekness and godliness even in his later years of immense personal suffering.  He showed us how to die. The church needs more everyday heroes like him to prepare our young men to “pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness” and to “fight the good fight of the faith” until the Lord calls them home (1 Tim. 6:11-12).

A hero went Home this week.
It’s hard to put into words the measure of a man.  God gives many good men to His church.  As I mourn this beloved pastor, I can’t help but wonder how many of our young men are in the queue to lead the next generation.  I know not every man can or will be like him – but that was not his aim, nor his desire to be a standard for comparison.  His aim was to build men who follow after Christ (1 Cor. 11:1) and become more Christ-like (Rom. 8:29), from one degree to another (2 Cor. 3:18).  Christ is the only imitable way, truth and life (John 14:6).
Yet, the scriptures do command us to “consider your leaders and the outcome of their faith” (Hebrews 13:7) and to follow them, as they follow Christ (1 Cor. 11:1).  I’ve had ample opportunity to “consider…the outcome” of this pastor’s life as a sheep in his flock for 35 years.  And, at the risk of the criticism of romanticizing a fallible man, I offer these reflections of one man’s faithful life to encourage the Church to nurture our young men, so that it will flourish in their generation.
Set Christ apart in your heart by faith.
We must encourage our sons to live wholeheartedly for Christ.  There is no middle ground, no nuanced path. Indeed, the way is narrow and has only one gate. Our pastor would say to us, “Look to Christ” who is the “author and finisher of our faith” in all things (Heb. 12:2).  Our world holds many glittering distractions for a young man’s heart, but we must pray that our sons’ hearts esteem Christ above all else. When men learn to find their treasure in Christ alone, many worldly distractions fall away, scattered in dull comparison.  We must pray for our young men because this act of “setting apart” is a sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit alone, in His timing.  The Church must exercise patience, grace and grit to equip men to grow into “mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13).
Have a vision to change the world.
We must encourage our young men to have a vision for their lives that extends beyond their personal gain, for the glory of God’s kingdom. Our pastor’s vision to change the world was not to have a world-renowned name for himself, but to lead, train and send men “into all the world” (Matt. 28:19) for Christ’s name.  As we foster interests and enable talents of our sons, we need to never stop encouraging them to think big and take risks for His glory and for the good of others.
Read More
Related Posts:

Older Women: Cast a Vision!

Our young women need older women to cast a vision for what biblical womanhood looks like. They need to experience healthy, multigenerational relationships so that they will recognize biblical womanhood in the various seasons of life and have hope. 

Years ago, when my husband and I were newlyweds, we led a small-group Bible study for other newlywed couples in our church.  As a new believer and being new to the church, I looked forward to building friendships and having robust Christian fellowship.  While fun and lively, we sensed that our group lacked something significant—something deeper—like some sort of ballast to anchor us during this youthful adult season.
We were able to put our finger on what was missing after this young adult group abruptly dissolved during a difficult church split.  Soon after, we joined another group and I understood almost immediately what was lacking before.  In this new group, in the assortment of gray hair, middle-aged couples, men with loosened ties straight from work, toddlers at mothers’ feet, and teenagers on the periphery, I saw the Church.  Among these people, I saw the realities of each season, not just a mirrored view of my own, narrow, newlywed life. Being a part of this new small group shifted my perspective and drew me in to love and value discipleship within a multigenerational church, not just fellowship of people my own age.
That’s not to say that age-specific ministries don’t have their place within the church.  I am a coordinator for a girls’ discipleship group that meets weekly in our church.  It is a specific time set apart to disciple them according to their age and maturity.  Yet, in my ministry with our older teens, I know these young women need more than just me and each other.  They need the Church—the whole church.  They need to experience friendships from all generations.  More specifically, they need to experience the kindness and wisdom of other and older women; they need to see biblical womanhood across generational lines.  They need our older women to cast a vision for them of what living biblically looks like in each season of their lives.
God has given women a clear, multigenerational command in Titus 2:3-5.  Titus tells us that older women (literally “aged women”) have a responsibility to teach younger women to discern what is good, to love their families and households, and to live lives worthy of Christ.  This command is different from the “one another” commands of the New Testament; it specifically addresses multigenerational mentoring.
Often, because the Titus 2 verses refer to young women within the context of husband and home, we fail to think about this verse as relevant to our girls or to single women.  But just because they may not yet live within that context, it does not mean that these virtues are not relevant to them.  Titus 2:3-5 tells us that it is the duty of older women to cast a biblical vision of womanhood for them regardless of their current context. Our younger women need older women—and multiple women—to take active roles in their lives.
When we older women lose sight of our generational duty, our discipleship ministries can become siloed, which can lead to an inward, consumerist approach to church community.  Women’s discipleship becomes programmatic rather than organic.  We seek friends and connections rather than mothers, sisters, and daughters in Christ who provoke us “unto love and good works” (Heb. 10:24 KJV).
Read More
Related Posts:

Older Women: Cast a Vision!

Our young women need older women to cast a vision for what biblical womanhood looks like. They need to experience healthy, multigenerational relationships so that they will recognize biblical womanhood in the various seasons of life and have hope.  Give them multigenerational relationships that anchor them in a healthy covenant community so that when they seek to establish themselves in a church as adult women, they will know that their church experience is not all about them, but about Christ and about being a part of a larger community that seeks to reflect His character. 

Years ago, when my husband and I were newlyweds, we led a small-group Bible study for other newlywed couples in our church.  As a new believer and being new to the church, I looked forward to building friendships and having robust Christian fellowship.  While fun and lively, we sensed that our group lacked something significant—something deeper—like some sort of ballast to anchor us during this youthful adult season.
We were able to put our finger on what was missing after this young adult group abruptly dissolved during a difficult church split.  Soon after, we joined another group and I understood almost immediately what was lacking before.  In this new group, in the assortment of gray hair, middle-aged couples, men with loosened ties straight from work, toddlers at mothers’ feet, and teenagers on the periphery, I saw the Church.  Among these people, I saw the realities of each season, not just a mirrored view of my own, narrow, newlywed life. Being a part of this new small group shifted my perspective and drew me in to love and value discipleship within a multigenerational church, not just fellowship of people my own age.
That’s not to say that age-specific ministries don’t have their place within the church.  I am a coordinator for a girls’ discipleship group that meets weekly in our church.  It is a specific time set apart to disciple them according to their age and maturity.  Yet, in my ministry with our older teens, I know these young women need more than just me and each other.  They need the Church—the whole church.  They need to experience friendships from all generations.  More specifically, they need to experience the kindness and wisdom of other and older women; they need to see biblical womanhood across generational lines.  They need our older women to cast a vision for them of what living biblically looks like in each season of their lives.
God has given women a clear, multigenerational command in Titus 2:3-5.  Titus tells us that older women (literally “aged women”) have a responsibility to teach younger women to discern what is good, to love their families and households, and to live lives worthy of Christ.  This command is different from the “one another” commands of the New Testament; it specifically addresses multigenerational mentoring.
Often, because the Titus 2 verses refer to young women within the context of husband and home, we fail to think about this verse as relevant to our girls or to single women.  But just because they may not yet live within that context, it does not mean that these virtues are not relevant to them.  Titus 2:3-5 tells us that it is the duty of older women to cast a biblical vision of womanhood for them regardless of their current context. Our younger women need older women—and multiple women—to take active roles in their li
When we older women lose sight of our generational duty, our discipleship ministries can become siloed, which can lead to an inward, consumerist approach to church community.  Women’s discipleship becomes programmatic rather than organic.  We seek friends and connections rather than mothers, sisters, and daughters in Christ who provoke us “unto love and good works” (Heb. 10:24 KJV).
Read More
Related Posts:

In Search of Community: A Place for Our Girls

Our girls are to be cared for, esteemed, sought after, taught, seen, discipled, valued, just as any member of the body of Christ is. If they are believers, just because they are young and maturing does not diminish their value or position in the body of Christ.  If they are not yet believers, our prayer is that the authentic, loving, gospel-saturated community they experience in our churches is so compelling that they are drawn to it and one day say, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it…How awesome is this place!
 
On a cool summer’s evening just a few weeks ago, I witnessed something important.  Four teenage girls were squished together on a bench, under a large oak tree in the backyard of one of our church members.  I approached them, hoping to get some intel on what they wanted to do together this year in our “Challengers” program, a teen girl discipleship group our church supports.  They causally looked up at me and respectfully shrugged their collective shoulders.  I asked a few more direct questions, got a little more information, thanked them and slowly walked away.  What did I witness in that particular moment?  They showed me that all they really wanted this year was to be together.
Maybe it’s always been that way.  As one of the leaders of the group, my mind typically is focused on preparing for each week: what we’ll do together, what we’ll study, what service project we’ll tackle.  But what they want is to be together.  It was a reminder to me why a girls-only ministry matters and why our girls need it.
In our nation today, we are witnessing an assault on our girls.  Recently, the CDC reported on the mental health of our youth, finding that almost three in five U.S. teen girls reported feeling sad or hopeless in 2021, the highest level seen in a decade and nearly twice the rate among teenage boys.  Nearly a third of girls said they seriously considered attempting suicide, up 60% since 2011.[1]  In these critical years, studies say that our girls are uniquely vulnerable and awkward: They found that there was a distinct drop in girl’s self-esteem and sense of self between the ages of 11 and 14. [2] Seventy-four percent of girls say they feel like that must please “everyone” which drives perfectionism and unrealistic expectations leading to mental crisis.[3][4]
Those who have studied this trend tell us that the main culprits are cell phones and social media, through which our fledgling girls have access to an artificial world, designed by “media influencers” who use their sway to define the ideal woman.  Their solution to this distressing trend is to limit phone use and access to social media and create more “inclusive communities” where our youth are accepted “as they are.”[5]
They’re not wrong.  Limiting phone use and access to social media is a healthy start to staying this trend. And, to their credit, they recognize community is vital to the mental health of our girls.  It’s not a new discovery; but what is dawning on many is the significance –and absence –of real community.  Girls in our churches are not immune to these trends.  When our girls look for acceptance and community, do they find them in our churches?
As Christians, we know that Christ redeemed us to experience real community (1 Pet. 2:9-10). When God calls us to faith in Jesus Christ by His grace alone, we were given the gift of community. Our salvation and adoption are both gifts that are sealed to us by the Holy Spirit and can never be revoked (Eph.1:13-14).  He gave us a home in Him and with His people.  Furthermore, God has given us everything we need for life and godliness and that includes how to create and sustain thriving covenant communities that glorify God (2 Pet. 1:3).  Covenant community is not an option, as if it were a selection from a pull-down menu.  We are designed for community within the household of God.
Our girls—as girls—need to experience this God-designed, genuine community in our churches so they can recognize the counterfeit community of the world—and there are plenty of counterfeits who pull our girls from their purpose:  to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.  Our daughters were designed to be pillars of strength for the flourishing of families and communities and for the health of nations (Ps. 144:12).  Their beautiful, essential identity for the benefit of all of humanity is being lost and devalued.  The church must speak louder, love stronger, invest deeper in our girls and lift up their eyes to see their worth in the eyes of their Maker.
If our goal is to see our girls flourish and mature in community (Gal. 4:19, Eph. 4:13), then we need two complimentary approaches in our churches.  The first is to welcome and integrate them into the life-giving community of a healthy, gospel-centered church, so they are nourished in truth, godliness, and authentic womanliness. Our girls need to be included – INVITED – to be a part of women’s fellowship, so they can see and experience mature, godly community.  Our girls need this.  Our women’s ministries must have a multi-generational vision for discipleship of our girls. Womanhood is our ground.  We cannot abdicate it to the world.  God has entrusted it to us as stewards (Tit. 3:3-5).
Secondly, our churches need to prioritize a girl-only ministries.  Setting aside a specific time and space allows them to thrive as girls.  Our churches should not wait until they are women to understand this need.  Our girls need this ministry during their formative years.  What does a girls-only ministry look-like?

Time. Set aside time during the mid-week to have a girls-only fellowship. A girl-only fellowship time gets them away from co-ed distractions; allows them to flourish in their femininity; they learn from one another, guided by godly women who emphasize Christ-centered friendships.
Activities. Explore Titus 2:4-5 and Proverbs 31:10-31 which give plenty of categories of activities that build character, skill and aptitude for our girls.  Activities give opportunity for training in godliness in many areas of interest and ability for the diversity of covenant life.
Mentorship. Support godly women who have a heart to disciple girls in bible study skills, the power of prayer, the value of our design, the pitfalls of sin, and most importantly the gospel message of redemption and wholeness through Christ alone.

Our girls are to be cared for, esteemed, sought after, taught, seen, discipled, valued, just as any member of the body of Christ is. If they are believers, just because they are young and maturing does not diminish their value or position in the body of Christ.  If they are not yet believers, our prayer is that the authentic, loving, gospel-saturated community they experience in our churches is so compelling that they are drawn to it and one day say, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it…How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven” (Genesis 28:1-17).
When I think about those four girls squished together under that tree, my heart yearns that Christ would capture their hearts and they would know their value. Only God can do this, in His time. As women, we’re called to be faithful stewards of His idea of womanhood.  They are looking to us as we look to Christ.  They need us to show them the true community they were made for. Let’s not let them down.
Sharon Smith Leaman is a member of New Life in Christ Church (PCA) in Fredericksburg, Va. 

[1] Teen Girls Report Highest Levels of Sadness and Sexual Violence in a Decade, CDC Says. (2023, February 13). Time. https://time.com/6255143/teen-girls-sadness-sexual-violence-cdc/
[2] Girls Have Much Lower Self-Esteem During their Teen Years, According to New Study. (2021, January 31). Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/alicebroster/2021/01/31/girls-have-much-lower-self-esteem-during-their-teen-years-according-to-new-study/?sh=7a9b663a5eb7
[3] Barber, H. M. (2019, February 22). Girls feel pressure to please everyone, survey finds. Education Week. https://www.edweek.org/education/girls-feel-pressure-to-please-everyone-survey-finds/2006/11
[4] Hinshaw, S. P., & Kranz, R. (2009). The triple bind: Saving our teenage girls from today’s pressures. Ballantine Books.
[5] Center for Disease Control. (2021). Youth Risk Behavior Survey. https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/data/yrbs/pdf/YRBS_Data-Summary-Trends_Report2023_508.pdf
Related Posts:

A Plea for Our Girls

In our times, these biblical distinctives will cause our girls to stand out against the culture and frankly, that’s hard for our girls, who just want to fit in. What is the church to do?  Be the adults and refuse to let this culture steal away our girls.  Our girls need to be celebrated, valued, and protected by these Biblical truths.  Set before them the truth of a forgiving, gracious God who knows everything about them, loves them, and desires for them to know Him.

Recently, the United States’ Center for Disease Control published the results of a survey entitled, “Youth Risk Behavior Survey” which surveyed high school students over a 10-year period (2011-2021).  This report summarized trends on “youth health behaviors and experiences among high school students in the United States (U.S.) related to adolescent health and well-being.”[1]  It illustrated some alarming statistics about our nation’s girls:

Almost three in five U.S. teen girls reported feeling sad or hopeless in 2021, the highest level seen in a decade and nearly twice the rate among teenage boys.
Nearly a third of girls said they seriously considered attempting suicide, up 60% since 2011.
Eighteen percent of high school girls experienced sexual violence; 14% reported being forced to have sex.
Nearly one in five high school students do not identify as heterosexual.[2]

A report published by the National Institutes of Health[3] and other non-profits see the same kind of trend.  What is happening to our girls?
These reports, assessed as a whole, paint a dim profile of our nation’s girls.  Psychologists give numerous reasons for these statistics but the primary culprit they point to is no surprise: smart phones and social media use has exacerbated the insecurities of girls as they come of age.[4]  To counter these trends, cultural wisdom seeks to limit and monitor phone use, create more “inclusive communities” and provide more access to mental health services for our teen girls.[5]  These interventions can be helpful and worthwhile to tamp down these trends.  But the world’s diagnoses and solutions are not a complete picture of the reality our girls face.  To their credit, our culture sees the hurt in our girls, but they are unable to see it clearly, because they refuse to base their diagnoses upon the objective truths that have defined humanity for millennia.  Their solutions do not address root causes.
As Christians, we know that true help comes not from changing external behaviors but letting the gospel of Jesus Christ change the heart.  The church needs to speak loudly and clearly that there is a beautiful purpose for our girls and offer a better vision for them based on truth. How can the church give hope to our girls?
Looking across our nation’s cultural landscape, our girls are taking the brunt of changes we are experiencing.  Our girls are coming of age in a time of fierce battle over their design and purpose.  The message in our culture’s undercurrent is that girls don’t matter.

As their bodies are changing into women, they are confronted with a culture that scorns the uniqueness of what their bodies are developing to do: Bring life into the world. Instead of celebrating motherhood as a vocation, they see it as something to achieve after they are “fulfilled” by some other path.
Instead of hearing positive messages of what their bodies can do, they hear cultural shouts decrying the “injustice” of having a womb and need to protect the “right” to kill the babies inside the very bodies that are made to incubate life.
With the rise of surrogacy, women’s bodies are used only as commercial incubators for “custom made” children, disrespecting the sacred bond between a woman and child.
They are told that the fruit of their bodies is causing our earth’s overpopulation and responsible for the man-made “climate crisis” due to a high carbon footprint.
With the unleashed contagion of transgenderism, our girls are told that being a woman isn’t related at all to the body they are seeing mature in the mirror. Anyone can be a woman.
They internalize images of the female body cut and sculpted into unnatural, unrealistic shapes and sizes that undercut their confidence in their own healthy, growing bodies.
The rampant availability of pornography seers a message into their consciences that their bodies are to be used up for pleasure and in many cases, just used.

As growing girls endure the awkward changes of budding breasts, monthly menstrual cycles and unregulated hormones, if these messages are the loudest and most viral, is it any wonder why our girls don’t see value in being a woman?  Why are we letting the culture set a standard for our girls?
The Bible tells a different message for our girls.  It teaches that they do matter, a whole lot.  Here is a sample of a woman’s worth:

She is made in the image of God – Imago Dei – and has intrinsic dignity as a human being (Genesis 1:26-27).
She is different than the rest of creation. Different from man, yet equal in worth (Genesis 1:26-27, 2:18-23).
She is the crowning completion of creation. At her creation, all things became “very good” (Genesis 1:31).
She is a life giver; to bear children, yes, but also to infuse her world with life-giving nourishment in all areas of our culture so that our world flourishes (Genesis 3:20, Proverbs 31).
She is a helper who is to use her power, strength and influence not to enrich herself, but others, and in so doing, enriching her own life (Genesis 2:18).
She is fearfully and wonderfully made. Her body was formed with a purpose, inch by inch, as a unique individual, to glorify God, to fulfill His purposes for His glory and her good (Psalm 139:13-16).
She is to teach others how to love, to be self-controlled, fruitful, kind, to respect authority, to be ambitious for her loved ones and those within her care, to work hard, to care for the weak, and to walk with respect, dignity and strength (Titus 2:3-5; Proverbs 31).
She is so precious and loved that the God who made her gave up His own life so that she could know Him and enjoy Him forever; and He teaches men to treat women likewise (Ephesians 5:23-33).

This is Bible’s message for our girls.  Do they hear it?  Unfortunately, it is drowned out by loud opposition that puts every description on the above list in the cultural crosshairs. The opposition to biblical womanhood began as early as her creation when God promised that Eve’s offspring would crush the evil one in the end (Genesis 3:15). Christians should not be surprised by this. Neither should we squirm because of it.  God’s plan for our girls is to grow into strong, virtuous daughters who are as “corner pillars cut for the structure of a palace” (Psalm 144:12).
In our times, these biblical distinctives will cause our girls to stand out against the culture and frankly, that’s hard for our girls, who just want to fit in. What is the church to do?  Be the adults and refuse to let this culture steal away our girls.  Our girls need to be celebrated, valued, and protected by these Biblical truths.  Set before them the truth of a forgiving, gracious God who knows everything about them, loves them, and desires for them to know Him. This is first and foremost. So, we must pray because we know that wholeness and a desire to become women after God’s heart starts with an internal transformation.  Unless this, everything else is moralism which will not be strong enough to stand against this wave of hostility towards biblical womanhood.
Pray for their hearts.  Teach them that they are precious in His sight. Teach biblical womanhood. Model it. Defend it. Be authentic. Share your stories. Be open and less critical. Speak to them as you pass them in the church hallways. Smile at them. Have girls-only discipleship groups.  Facilitate Titus 2 mentoring among the generations of women.  Provide biblical counseling to the hurting. Acknowledge them. Love on them. Value them. Show them the better way than the world’s way.  Show them they matter.
Sharon Smith Leaman is a member of New Life in Christ Church (PCA) in Fredericksburg, Va. 

[1] Teen Girls Report Highest Levels of Sadness and Sexual Violence in a Decade, CDC Says. (2023, February 13). Time. https://time.com/6255143/teen-girls-sadness-sexual-violence-cdc/
[2] Ibid.
[3] Anderson, L. (n.d.). Youth Pastors Turn to Counseling to Help Gen Z Cope. ChristianityToday.com. https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/october/mental-health-youth-group-gen-z-resources.html
[4] Ibid.
[5] Center for Disease Control. (2021). Youth risk behavior survey. https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/data/yrbs/pdf/YRBS_Data-Summary-Trends_Report2023_508.pdf
Related Posts:

The Stewardship of What Is

As Christians, because we believe God greatly values the inner life of man, it’s a little easier to make peace with the physical peaks we face. Our aging bodies are calling cards from heaven to remind us of Who awaits us. But, lately, it’s the looming peaks in my inward life have caught me off guard. It seems as if some of me is fading away. My mind is slower. What I thought were inward strengths are not so strong.

Years ago, I wrote an article entitled, “You Don’t Peak with Jesus.”  I wrote it in the thick of our homeschooling days, as I was learning how to teach my children how to be curious.  My point was that in God’s created world, we never “peak” at knowing all there is to know because our Maker is infinite and He has put eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Writing that article helped me evaluate our little homeschool less with academic standards and more with a sense of wonder and curiosity. In those full days of home life, we sowed and sowed, and in my heart, I was expectant in the potential.
Potential is a powerful motivator. When we’re young, we set out with a vision to refine what God has given us. It’s a natural inclination: He planted this seed-vision in man when He told Adam to take dominion over the earth. It’s the same principle found in Jesus’ parable of the talents. We are to be active stewards, investing and developing our gifts according to the measure of grace He gives.  Sowing in the early years was much like sprinkling a bag of mixed wildflower seeds on fallowed ground (some with abandon!) and waiting to see what would take root. As a young woman, wife, and mother, the expectation of what could be was the excitement in our life’s adventure.
Skip ahead a few years.  Now, my homeschooling adventure is almost complete. God will complete His work in my children as He promises. Their lives still teem with potential. But what about mine?  While the premise, “You Don’t Peak with Jesus” is still true, lately I find myself on some mountains with the sun behind me rather in front. And it’s a strange, disorienting feeling.
It’s not like I didn’t see it coming. Time has an unforgiving nature, applied to us all because of Adam’s choice.  Just one look in the mirror or a brisk walk reminds me of his folly. Scripture, always honest with me, confirms what I experience: we are “outwardly wasting away.” While our bodies have value, they are only “jars of clay” holding the inward treasure of knowing Christ and His grace (2 Corinthians 4). For us women, the scriptures specifically remind us that “beauty is fleeting” and to adorn ourselves instead with the unfading inward beauty of meekness and a quiet spirit (Proverbs 31, 1 Peter 3).
As Christians, because we believe God greatly values the inner life of man, it’s a little easier to make peace with the physical peaks we face. Our aging bodies are calling cards from heaven to remind us of Who awaits us. But, lately, it’s the looming peaks in my inward life have caught me off guard. It seems as if some of me is fading away. My mind is slower. What I thought were inward strengths are not so strong. My motivations pulse weaker. Perhaps some skills are as honed as they will ever be. Perhaps some dreams will never be real. What I have stewarded as Potential has moved into the realm of What Is.  As I cross into this realm, it is as if I’m tottering on the fulcrum between young men’s visions and old men’s dreams.  I’m off kilter, trying to find my balance.
Thankfully, Scriptures refer to man’s soul as the imperishable inner part of who we are, not those things that are unseen in us. God values our inward soul so much that He came as Emmanuel and He sacrificed His physical body as an exchange for our hearts through forgiveness of His shed blood. His command to “keep your heart…for from it flow the springs of life” is a command to steward that for which He gave His life (Proverbs 4:23). So, the ultimate stewardship we have, regardless of age, ability or season, is to steward our souls with all vigilance.  Other stewardships come and go.
As I seek my balance in these middle years, I remind myself that the principle “We Don’t Peak with Jesus” is still true. My soul will never peak. My body, yes. My mind, yes. And at some point, everything else. But not my soul. The one constant stewardship throughout every season is to “keep my heart” and be loyal to the One who has brought me thus far. The beautiful paradox in the command to “keep my heart” is that the keeping of my heart is not a stewardship of Potential. My heart is wholly, eternally and irrevocably hidden in Christ’s complete and perfect stewardship of What Is.
I’m grateful for my old friends Peter and Paul who faithfully point me to that “better country” still far off and remind me that this life’s temporal downhills are its spiritual assents, where I learn to shed the layers I have relied on for the journey home. The Good Shepherd whispers for me to trust His rod and staff so His comforting presence can steer and steady me as He leads me into new country. So, I step out, more and more by faith and less by sight, trusting more in my Savior’s stewardship of me than in my own—a stewardship that is less tangible but no less expectant, and indeed eternal
Sharon Smith Leaman is a member of New Life in Christ Church (PCA) in Fredericksburg, Va.
Related Posts:

Household Expectations: Be All In

Church life stabilizes our families because it is built on a sure foundation. It is a place where we learn to live with integrity the faith we profess. Being a part of a larger covenant community teaches our children what it looks like to grow in holiness.  It teaches us what love, self-sacrifice, and belonging looks like, beyond the boundaries of our individual homes. 

I love young families in the church.  I love hearing babies cooing and crying, the shuffle of Sunday school papers and forced hushes and whispers.  I love the delight of children as their parents dole out goldfish crackers into little eager hands, some of which invariably get dropped and crushed into the carpet beneath their feet.  To me, left behind crumbs and crayons are a welcome sign of vibrancy in the household of God.  As a mom of four, I appreciate the obstacles they had to overcome just to get inside the church doors, so my heart is glad for their presence.
Another sound I love to hear are the testimonies of young parents who express their desire to raise their children in the church. Outwardly, I cheer these parents on with a genuine smile, and inwardly, I pray that the Church can meet the expectations that are inherent in that good, well-placed desire.  What is at the heart of my prayer for these young families?  I pray because I know something these young, sweet families may not know yet: Church can get hard.
I write that statement with much sadness because I love God’s church.  As a young child, even as an unbeliever at the time, God’s church was a special, reverent place for me; a haven of respite and safety.  Years later, when I came to a saving faith in Christ, my love for His church grew deeper because I had come to know and love the God who dwells there – the One who gave His life to establish it.  Early in our marriage, as we dreamed of what our family life would be like, my husband and I both held strong convictions that being part of a covenant community was a sacrificial act of worship according to Romans 12.  Our family was all in.
As our child-rearing years are coming to a close, my prayer for these young families is not offered with cynicism.  It is offered with hope that as young families start out, they will build their family’s goals with biblical expectations towards the church.  Biblical expectations are essential to understand the relationship between the home and the church so we learn how to live covenantally with our church family.  Often times, the lack of biblical expectations is the source of the disappointments that families experience as they grow up.  We need to look to God’s word to see what God intends for the church and family as the symbiotic, stabilizing relationship it is for family life and the covenant community.
God, in His wisdom and prerogative, gave to the family the primary responsibility of raising a child in the way he should go. But, also in His wisdom and prerogative, He gave us the Church – a free gift, given at the moment of our salvation – which God defines as His household, a blending of redeemed individuals and families whom He is building into a spiritual house, a holy dwelling place for His Spirit.  As in any household, there are expectations.
In Ephesians 2:18-22 we learn about the expectations of His household:
For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
God’s household is a place where we are one people together, built on a sure foundation of Jesus Christ, where the body of Christ to grows in holiness together.  These are essential expectations God sets out for His household.
God chose the imagery of a household to help us think about what a commitment to a local church looks like.  As women, we know what it takes to run a household:  it takes all members, doing their part, to maintain a God-honoring home. It’s a lot of work! Our homes do not run themselves and are far from perfect. They are organic and we adjust our schedules, wallets, and own needs to help each member flourish according to God’s principles. In the same way, God’s household is a place where each family has a place to flourish, to learn and grow, to be valued and included.  We adjust our lives to make room for those in our covenant community. God has an expectation that we are to be a family together, living and growing, working and celebrating, supporting and adjusting so that each living stone has a place and purpose in what He is building among us. Other than our own homes, there is no sweeter place to be than in the company of believers who want to be nurtured and grow in holiness after Christ’s own character.
Sadly, when we forget the Lord’s chosen imagery of a household together, we can slip into thinking that “going to church” is about meeting our own needs rather than living as an extended family.  Please, beloved, we need to guard ourselves from this consumer-minded thinking!  Unfortunately, I’ve seen families become disappointed in church because particular social needs aren’t met, feelings get hurt, theological pet peeves get bristly, good intentions are misunderstood or any other myriad of reasons. To be sure, some disappointments run deeper. As families struggle within their private walls, when they look to the church for help, for whatever reason, they may become disappointed with the help offered or received.  It is a true grief when a hurting family walks away.
Church disappointments are hard to talk about because we don’t expect them.  We mistake church to be that longed for place where the streets are paved with gold and lined with jewels, instead of a waystation – a home – for needy people who are only there because we admit we’re imperfect and are looking ahead for better country (Hebrews 11:16).  Raising a family in the church is to raise it among other sinners saved by grace, who humbly endeavor to reflect Christ in their imperfections.  We live together to love our God and out of that love, we love our neighbor.  That is our economy as believers, not a product-consumer economy.
It’s easy to slip into this kind of thinking, particularly as parents.  We want the best for our family, which includes a “good experience” within the church.  When that expectation isn’t met, many of us just want to pull anchor and set sail to other seas, thinking we’ll find that elusive safe harbor for our family.  The commitment to “raise the family in the church” isn’t so easy anymore and as our families grow, it can get even tougher and we’re wondering if it all is worth it. Let me say, as a member of a church for 30 years, who has raised her children there, who has been through trials, church splits, and personal hurts for myself and children:  It. Is. Worth. It.
Church life stabilizes our families because it is built on a sure foundation. It is a place where we learn to live with integrity the faith we profess. Being a part of a larger covenant community teaches our children what it looks like to grow in holiness.  It teaches us what love, self-sacrifice, and belonging looks like, beyond the boundaries of our individual homes.  And, gently put, our homes cannot teach everything a child needs to learn about life, no matter how intentional or incredible we are as parents. We need to see other families living by faith, walking the road the Lord has marked for them so that our own hearts are encouraged and strengthened.
So, dear young families, when church gets hard, when it’s not what you expected, when you’re disappointed – we still need you and you need us. Teach your children the reason we gather as God’s people is because it’s all for Him, for His glory.  Teach them the reason we come is not because it’s easy, exuberantly exciting or that everyone’s needs are met all the time. We come because God is there and we need one another as we journey on. Your family’s presence may be just what another family – young or old – needs to live out their own commitments. There is no other place like it on earth.  And somehow, ineffably, when we come together, He dwells with us, shares His splendor much like the sun spreads its sunbeams. In the warmth of His presence, I say: Put down roots. Love your extended family.  Weather each storm.  Grow into holiness. My prayer for you, as you take your vow to raise your family in the church: Be all in.
Sharon Smith Leaman  is a member of New Life in Christ Church (PCA) in Fredericksburg, Va.
Related Posts:

Keeper of Our Lists

The same deposit that God gave to Paul has been given to all His children, regardless of the measure of our belief, persuasion and trust.  He has “set His seal on us.” In our humanity, I believe that we’ll have periods of doubt, regret, unbelief – but God does not share in those.  He is fully confident that He will keep His promise to keep us until we will see Him in all His fullness (1 Corinthians 13:12).

Chronic disease. Depression. Cancer. Self-harm. Anger.  Shallow relationships. Destructive patterns of thinking. It saddens me to write these cares as a list, but they are swirling around my little world right now.  I almost hesitate to list them collectively, as if The List as a whole may somehow diminish the significance of any one of them.  One is enough on its own.
But somehow, by listing them all together, it’s what I need to retreat into a protective cleft hewn from this mountain of hard things and force me to stop and look for perspective.  Reflection and perspective are tricky disciplines.  I can be guilty of “scanning His work in vain” through “blind unbelief” as the hymn writer poetically tells me.[1]  Yet, God-centered self-examination is to soften the soul, not harden it. So I trust God to place me on soft ground for His namesake as I do this hard work.
As I sit in that cleft, I am drawn to Paul’s last words to his dear Timothy.  Paul was in prison, awaiting his execution.  He had been arrested and sentenced to die because of his faith in and preaching about the Lord Jesus Christ.  That jail cell was his cleft of perspective.  His List included:  loneliness, abandonment, betrayal, and extreme physical suffering, not to mention the mental suffering of waiting for death at the hands of a capricious, viciously evil emperor.  Surely, it was an intense season of reflection and perspective.
However, as I read Paul’s words to Timothy, it is clear that Paul saw more than a desolate cell in the haze of his suffering. In his final days of reflection and perspective, he was confident, immovable, assured in Christ.  Paul, whose inspired parting words still send sound waves through the ages, declared to Timothy, “I know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded, that He is able to keep that which I’ve committed to Him against that day” (2 Timothy 1:12).
I wonder: What was it about Paul that enabled him to be so confident as he reflected on The List of his life? As a woman, I think of the verse in Proverbs 31:25 which says, “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the days to come.” How then, can I learn to view my List with strength and dignity, with the confidence of a Paul?  How do I cultivate confidence during my mid-life, when my list of sorrows seem to only get heavier?
He Knew Whom to Believe
Paul’s confidence is not in what he believed, but in whom he believed.  His doctrine, apologetics, and Christian worldview – the “whats” of his belief – were not his Savior, but the very real, incarnate, ever present Almighty God.  He says, “I know whom I have believed.”  Looking only to “the what” leaves me bereft as I ponder: Why cancer? Why chronic, debilitating disease? Why depression? Being able to articulate the doctrine of God’s sovereignty and man’s sin puts borders around the pain, but it doesn’t sit with you in the crevice and console the heart as does the familiarity of Jesus’ presence.  Only Jesus’ presence truly satisfies.  Paul drew his confidence from the very real, ever faithful, intimate presence of his living Savior he had come to know through suffering side by side with Him through the Lists of his life.  He says this,
“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Philippians 3:8-10).
He knew Jesus as his Lord, not just as The Lord. He knew Jesus was faithful to him.  He knew Jesus was true to him.  His List was a proving ground for knowing his Savior. My heart resonates with Paul’s: I want to know Him and be found in Him, not lost in the bewilderment of my List.  For me, growing in Christ in my mid-life means pushing through the informing “what” to look for Him, the Incarnate Whom I am to know.
Cultivating an intimate relationship with the Living Savior is a whole other discipline which is foreign and just a bit foolish in this material world.  It requires an “other worldly” adjustment. The adjustment takes my relationship with Jesus beyond my intellect and imagination and sits me with Him in quiet expectation that He will meet with me and be near to my soul. This adjustment requires me to tune my spirit to Him in a child-like faith, respond to Him in honest prayer, and listen for His still small voice.  It is indeed a strange and uncomfortable posture for someone who looks for the tangible and rational.  But, God is a Spirit, and true worshippers must worship Him in spirit and truth (John 4:24).  So, as strange as this discipline may seem, this spiritual tuning is central to knowing the Lord and we should not be ashamed of it and we should encourage it, as long as it is grounded and guided by God’s revealed word.
How do we tune our spirit to His as we lay in our beds, unable to sleep because of our Lists?  We do what Jesus did:  We go to our heavenly Father in prayer.  We tune our hearts to believe in the character of our God and how His character is sufficient for each care.  Is it sin or sickness?  He is the Great Physician (Mark 2:17). Is it depression? He has borne our griefs (Isaiah 53:4).  Is it loneliness?  He is the God who sees us (Genesis 16:13).  Is it a wayward loved one?  He leaves the ninety-nine (Luke 15:3-7). Is it fear of death? He leads us through the valley of its shadow (Psalm 23).  In all these things, we counsel ourselves to put our faith in God (Psalm 42:5).  This is what it means to “preach the gospel to yourself every day.”[2] Belief opens the door of the soul and welcomes us into the entryway of intimacy with, not just knowledge of, our Savior.
He Was Persuaded
When my husband and I took our marriage vows 29 years ago, I gave a reason for my willingness to marry and submit to him: I was persuaded he loved me. Over the course of our friendship, dating, and engagement, he had proven his love and commitment, so much so that I was willing to commit my life to him until my death.  I was persuaded that whatever was to be in our future, he would be true to his vow, not to me, but to the Lord. I could trust and submit to that kind of man.
Paul’s confidence came from being persuaded that Jesus was trustworthy for his eternal future.  It’s truly an amazing turn around for a man who believed that cultivating his own self-righteousness was his path to heaven. Paul, a violent Christian hater, transferred his trust from himself to trust entirely in Jesus’ goodness imputed to him, purchased for him by His death on the cross.  That’s a big step for someone who studied the holiness of God and understood the severity of being wrong about where to put one’s eternal trust.  He was persuaded that Jesus’ life, death and resurrection was sufficient for him, and knew his own was not. How does one become persuaded to trust Jesus completely?  How did Paul get there?
Humbling and bewildering as it seems, being persuaded doesn’t start with a desire to be persuaded. It starts in eternity, in the heart of God, for His own glory and purposes, not from anything lovely or attractive in any one of us. “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Ephesians 1:4). God set His affections on Paul just as He has set His affections on me. How can this be?  I honestly don’t know.  It’s beyond my scope.  But I know that God persuaded me in my college days to put aside my arrogance, to put aside my striving for a goodness that would shake off my shame, to put aside the empty satisfaction of sin, and take up His name and be known as His.  This is His work in me, apart from me. The faith I have is a faith given to me, it is not the product of any formula for living or thinking.  I’m so very grateful that the trustworthiness of His eternal promises is dependent on Him, not my perfection of being fully persuaded in this earthly life.
But, just like in courtship, persuasion grows. Persuasion in belief grows by seeking out God in His word and getting to know Him there.  Recently, I spent many months studying the letter to the Hebrews. Throughout my study, I kept coming back to the question, “How is this text relevant to me, a modern Christian? How do animal sacrifices, the Hebrew temple, or the high priest Melchezedek matter to my List?” I realized that in similar ways, the ancient saints had the same question, “How does God’s 4,000 year old covenant promise of a coming Messiah affect our practical life when all we see is struggle, persecution, captivity, and domination?” The writer of Hebrews gives this answer: We live by faith not by sight. Even as modern Christians, we need to see God’s promises and must welcome them from afar (Hebrews 11:13). Our “afar” is two directional – we look ahead, yes, but we also look back.  Part of our sanctification is being persuaded that our life of faith is connected to a larger whole, a spiritual movement that we cannot see with our eyes, that started way before us, and one that we have been invited to join by our Savior.
Paul’s trust came from seeing, through God’s word, the sweeping epic of God’s revealed story.  Paul was able to grasp the big picture because he was an ardent student of God’s word. He was persuaded through the testimony of the law and the prophets, through the history of God’s dealings with men, and through the life of Jesus which testified to God’s faithfulness to His promises.  His confidence could not have come through casual study that cherry-picked favorite, feel-good verses found in 5 minute, pre-written devotionals, but by meditation on the whole counsel of God over a lifetime.  He saw God’s word wholly, historically, and systematically.  As modern Christians, we grow in the same way: reading, studying, meditating, applying God’s word until we see the big picture.  We grow strong roots when we draw our sustenance from the deep, underground rivers of living water mined out of God’s word instead of thinking a sustaining sustenance comes from nearby surface puddles left over from light, spring rains.
How can we grow to be persuaded that God is trustworthy to transfer everything we hold dear to Him?  It almost seems as if trusting Jesus for our eternal state is easier than trusting Him for our temporal cares. That is a challenging thought.  Jesus has taken care of the “big thing” but we’re still holding on to the rest.  If we can trust Him for the big thing, why not the cares of our Lists?[3]  Perhaps they’ve become too dear to us.  Perhaps we’ve forgotten our heavenly home.  It’s an indication we’ve lost connection with the whole of what God is doing.
Paul encourages me to reflect on God’s larger purposes and trust God’s constant historical presence and faithfulness.  A way I can grow to trust Him for my List is to look beyond it and take comfort in the truth that my List is not what God is all about. Yes, He is present here, He cares about the affairs of men. He cares deeply about my personal List.  But He is also about so much more. The Hebrews admitted that “they were aliens and strangers on the earth.”  Growing in confidence comes from seeking what He has revealed through the whole counsel of His word, and to discover His heart for His people globally, historically, systematically.  His heart is here with us, yes, but He is lifting our eyes to trust Him that there is a greater country afar.  What we see on our List only lingers; we are to look up and long for that better country just as the ancients did (Hebrews 11:16).
He Entrusted
There was a time in my youth when I challenged myself, “Live with no regrets!”  I had a fearlessness (more like hubris) that if I brought my very best to whatever I set my mind and hand to, I could avoid sadness and feelings of guilt I saw in many older women. I was determined to not be a sad old lady!  How foolish of me. The idea that we can live with no regrets distorts the reality of sin and our need for a Savior who has come to redeem them. Those “sad old ladies” were closer to understanding the gospel in their reflections than I did in my gumption.
Paul, in his last days, gives us no indication that he became a sad, old man, defeated and cynical.  As he reflected on his List – the unseen sacrifices, the costly investments, the physical sufferings, broken relationships, the unrealized expectations and unanswered prayers– he entrusted them to Jesus in escrow until He made all things new. He acknowledged those earthly realities, but because he knew they were safe with Jesus, he could press on “forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead…all of us who are mature should take such a view of things” (Philippians 3:13,15). He demonstrated this by spending his final days encouraging, equipping, and admonishing Timothy to “fan into the flame the gift of God which is in you” and to not fear or be ashamed of what lay ahead.
And, yet, here I am, writing these words to try to make sense of The List and at the same time longing for maturity.  As I look at my List, I ask myself dangerous questions like, “What could I have done differently?  Did I truly “do my best” in my most important roles of wife and mother?  Did I love well?  Did I invest wisely in the right things?”  The empty encouragement I often give myself is, “Girl, give yourself grace. Don’t be too hard on yourself.”  But that is not the counsel of the Scriptures.
The counsel of the Scriptures is to confess and repent; believe and trust.  Many women seek and offer easy solace in pithy self-statements, but what a soul needs is an assurance in the beautiful, bloody beams of the cross of Christ.  We confess our regrets and unbelief in God’s goodness because Jesus died to redeem our regrets and unbelief. We confess and repent of our sinfulness because He died to forgive us of our sinfulness.  Jesus condescended to us so we would know how far His love would go. He rose from the dead to prove He is able to do all that He promised.  Our Lists are the representations of why He came.  Therefore, a mature view of our Lists is to humbly accept them and to see them not as representations of regrets or broken pieces that can weigh us down by sadness, but as reminders to cling to Him.  Paul encourages us to embrace our Lists: “For where I am weak, He is strong, for God’s power is made manifest in weakness.  So, I will boast in my weakness (2 Cor. 12:9-10).”  As a Christian woman, I am to regard my List as a symbol of why He came and a rallying point for me to trust and rest in Him.
But, I can’t mistake or confuse the conclusion here:  Paul’s ability to ultimately trust God with his List did not come from his strength of his belief or the power of a supreme intellect able to understand deep theological arguments, or simply from thinking clearly on days that are hard and overwhelming.  His ability to trust God was because of God’s promise:
“Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ.  He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put His Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come” (2 Corinthians 1:21-22). 
The same deposit that God gave to Paul has been given to all His children, regardless of the measure of our belief, persuasion and trust.  He has “set His seal on us.” In our humanity, I believe that we’ll have periods of doubt, regret, unbelief – but God does not share in those.  He is fully confident that He will keep His promise to keep us until we will see Him in all His fullness (1 Corinthians 13:12).   And, if God is fully assured in His own trustworthiness towards us, we can entrust Him with our Lists.  This is what His stewardship of our Lists looks like: King David pens this beautiful lyric: “You number and record my wanderings; put my tears into Your bottle—are they not in Your book?” (Psalm 56:8).  He catches, records, and keeps them all. Our heavenly Father is the ultimate steward of our Lists.
I honestly don’t know if I will ever be mature enough on this side of heaven to embrace my List with joy.  But I can aim for contentment. I can aim to be more fully persuaded that God has a plan for it. I can aim to more fully entrust my List into the rugged, pierced hands of Jesus.  I can aim to be more confident in His promise that He will keep in a bottle all that I’ve entrusted to Him – my heart, my prayers, my loved ones, my hopes and dreams, my tears, my cares – until that day when He welcomes me home and I see Him face-to-face, and He wipes every tear from my eyes.
Sharon Smith Leaman is a member of New Life in Christ Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Fredericksburg, Va.
[1] Cowper, William. God Moves in a Mysterious Way. 1774.
[2] Bridges, Jerry. The Discipline of Grace : God’s Role and Our Role in the Pursuit of Holiness. Colorado Springs, Colo., Navpress, 2006.
[3] I give credit for this statement to Rev. Douglas Kittredge, my pastor and mentor for 35 years.  He was the founding pastor of New Life in Christ Church, Fredericksburg, Virginia.
Related Posts:

An Approachable Holiness

The challenge for us to be holy is put forth by Christ’s example: Every interaction showed His holiness and His humble loyalty to His Heavenly Father’s will. Every interaction acknowledged our human brokenness. Every interaction pointed us to the remedy of the impending drama of the Cross, when and where He would give us His holiness and make us His own through faith in Him.

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:14-16
If we are to be holy, we are to be “set apart” to God. It’s an identity given to us through the covenantal work of providence on our lives, outside of ourselves, through the life-giving, grace-imputed righteousness in Jesus Christ.
There’s lots of theology-rich, truthful words in the above sentence! Yet, how approachable is this description of my own identity in Christ? To get to the point: how do I live my ordinary life with an approachable holiness so that others (and even myself) can see Jesus in me?
As I’ve spent some time in the Gospel of Matthew, it has been refreshing to “reconnect” with Jesus. I’m reminded of His ministry and life on earth, which was raw, dirty, poor, and in a temporal way, quiet. He puzzles me and leaves me in awe at the same time!
Matthew describes for us Jesus’s holiness in His interactions with people while on earth. Jesus’ humility was holy. His wisdom was holy. His compassion was holy. Jesus’s every word, every act, every touch, every motivation was holy. He did not separate Himself from unholy, worldly sinners, but in his humility, he separated to Himself a bunch of ragged, strung out, unholy people and made them holy in Him, by Him, and for Him.
As the “God-Man,” Jesus’ holiness was entirely approachable. Beggars, blind men, “unclean” women, the powerful, the mentally-ill, wriggly and spirited children all approached Jesus. He received them and spoke to their hearts about a Heavenly Father who is jealous for them and can give them life abundant. He tells them that the Kingdom of God is for them – those who are poor, who mourn, are meek, who long for a righteousness they know they cannot give to themselves.
He labeled this cast of characters: “You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the world.” He welcomed this motley crew to be God’s holy or “set apart” people, to receive His forgiveness and righteousness. It’s shocking isn’t it? His holy people are set apart, not because of their self-respectability, but because of their lack of it. He makes them holy through His approachable presence in their messy, unapproachable lives.
Growing in holiness to me is about growing in humility and approachability. But, it’s not just by admitting, “I’m a broken mess! (See how approachable I am?)” When I do this, I miss the point that becoming approachable to others in community is not about flippantly proclaiming my brokenness, but humbly proclaiming what Jesus has done through my brokenness, in spite of my brokenness, and offering that hope to others. He who has made me holy is making me holy through His holy, approachable presence in my broken life.
The challenge for us to be holy is put forth by Christ’s example: Every interaction showed His holiness and His humble loyalty to His Heavenly Father’s will. Every interaction acknowledged our human brokenness. Every interaction pointed us to the remedy of the impending drama of the Cross, when and where He would give us His holiness and make us His own through faith in Him.
I want reflect Jesus’ approachable holiness in my ragged life by being loyal to Him, being humble and hopeful at the foot of the cross. I am thankful for my brothers and sisters in Christ who model this for me in community. I pray that I would be considered one in that number.
Sharon Smith Leaman is a member of New Life in Christ Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Fredericksburg, Va.
Related Posts:

Scroll to top