For the past few years, my husband and I have been attending the CCEF (Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation) conference in the fall. I have also been taking classes through CCEF as well each summer, mainly because I would like to be equipped to disciple others. Of course, God uses these training opportunities to actually work on my own heart, even as I prepare to serve others. Through my studies and through the conference, God has shown me two vital truths: 1) I am not God, and 2) He is.
As long as I think I am in control or know better than Him, there is no need for the Gospel. To the extent I fail to see my sins as He does, to that same extent I will fail to appreciate the great lengths He has made to save me. Instead of marveling at His grace, I adopt an attitude of entitlement instead.
This helped me to better understand why it has been so hard for me these past five years with Anah. First of all, I failed to see His sovereign rule in my life and thought that I had things under control. I arrogantly thought that I could get what I wanted simply by working hard. When Anah entered our lives, I thought I could fix her and that would be that. If I hit an obstacle with her, I would simply change tactics and try again.
While I was rather optimistic the first year, it became quite evident that I was failing more than I was succeeding. What?!? That didn’t work? Again? Over the years, I became depressed. Why bother? It didn’t seem to matter what I tried anyway.
Looking back now, I am learning to reinterpret these failures as God’s gracious way of teaching me that I am not, nor ever will be, God. It is the oldest temptation in the book, with echoes of the serpent’s lie laced through it—“you will be like God…” (Gen 3:5). While our culture today applauds self-made individualism, it is absolutely offensive to our heavenly Father. Step one of growing in grace: seeing my absolute depravity.
But God’s goal is not merely to humiliate me, but to help me to grow in truth. When I realized the true nature of my heart, He then turned me to focus on His. The darker my sin, the brighter His grace becomes. It is only when I see the true nature of my heart that I can appreciate the glory of what He has done for me.
At the conference, I was reminded that until I grasp the amazing grace of God, all my “good works” will be but poor imitations of what He intended for me. Yes, adoption is a beautiful thing, but if done in my own strength and power, with gritted teeth and self-reliance, it is a sham.
The theme of the conference was on the topic of family, and I came away from it with a new and renewed vision for what God has done for me through Christ—and the opportunity our family has to reflect the reality of the Gospel as we seek to love, care, and yes, sacrifice ourselves to the point of death for Anah. I can only do this when I recognize my complete inability to love her and instead cling to the One who first loved me.
I thought that God brought Anah into our family so that we can help her, but as time goes on, I see how God actually brought her for me—to rescue me from my own small-heartedness, pride, and self-reliance. “To Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations!” (Eph 3:21b)