by Anne Kemp
How many of us grew up with an expectation of the perfect spouse, children, marriage and home – all the way down to the white picket fence? While you may not have said it out loud….it’s what we all want – the perfect, peaceful, serene life.
Now, as believers, we have our own expanded version of the white picket fence life which could be called the “white picket fence faith”. Let’s take a minute and see what that looks like.
I confess. Having become a believer in my teens and having grown tremendously in my faith in college, I had an idea of what my life should look as a believer. I’d marry a godly man, who would stay faithful through the trials of life, we’d have 2 or 3 children, attend the best church in town (whatever that means), be involved in teaching Sunday School, seek to know Him more through a bible study, have pot lucks at our house, our kids would love youth group, we would enjoy social events with our church friends and really not have much more care in life than that.
Now, in acknowledging that to you, what I have to say is that what I really wanted was not to walk a faithful, surrendered life with Jesus. What I really wanted was to control the way my life would turn out. How many of us have exchanged the truth of trusting Him for the lie of control?
I believed that if I did what God called me to (i.e. didn’t have sex before marriage, married a believer, went to church, taught my kids verses and attended bible studies) that life would go well for me. It was my human mind saying I will be obedient because it gets me what I want – the nice White Picket Fence Faith.
My marriage of 23 years ended when my believing husband lost his way and abandoned us all. I was so disillusioned. I kept trying to understand why God had allowed this? I had followed the rules, I had done what He told me and yet here I was in tremendous pain.
The answer I gently received from my loving Heavenly Father was life changing.
He asked if had been obedient out of my love for Him because I desired to please Him OR….was I just trying to manipulate Him to get what I wanted and also thought I deserved? I remember distinctly how my world stopped in that moment as I was confronted with a lifetime pattern of trying to please others to get what I wanted. Not a pretty revelation about one’s self – especially when you are already feeling broken, rejected and abandoned. I trusted myself not Him. I knew what I expected out of my faith but my expectations were so far short of what God really wanted to deliver in my life.
You see, at 55, I never envisioned a life where I was divorced, having to support myself, and my children. Life was a train wreck – everything I owned in storage, living with friends as I had no home, my son had just left for Marine boot camp, my daughter in another city and a truly, excruciatingly broken heart. Only then did my expectations begin to change.
My expectations of my life in Christ began to look more like Jesus himself than what I presumed a believer’s life should look like on the outside. I found myself identifying with my wounded, broken, bleeding, surrendered savior at a level I could never have known before.
So began my journey, of re-learning what a life with Christ is really all about. What does God say I can expect as a believer? Certainly not the White Picket Fence Faith. I had read, studied and yes, even taught, about the verse in John 16:33 “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, I have overcome the world”. I was big on the overcoming part but I sure skipped the first part that tells me I WILL have – not might or may – but WILL have trials and sorrows.
First Peter 1:6 says “So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while.” In this life you WILL have suffering. None of these verses say anything about maybe, if, or you might have trials – they all say WHEN and you WILL. It’s a fact. One none of us wants to dwell on.
He did not spare His own son from suffering. Do I really think I should be exempt? Somehow, I did. Is Job 13:15 really true for me? “Though he slay me, yet will I trust Him.” That’s not a question. It’s a statement. One I had to wrestle with in that moment. It was fine to give that lip service when my world was neat and tidy. It was a different question when my world was shattered, broken and a mess.
That truth came with the realization that pain and suffering are a part of this world – my world. I should expect it, welcome it and learn to respond with the assurance that no matter how much pain there is, my faith in Him is greater. Faith that He has not abandoned, rejected or failed me. A faith that says no matter what, Sunday is coming and I can have an expectant hope.
You see behind the trappings and façade of the White Picket Fence Faith, is an empty, powerless existence. Behind the suffering in my life, is the God of the Universe. His character is good and He is for me. He gives me hope. Hope in whatever He has for me, hope in His perfect will for my life. Hope that He is being glorified whether my circumstances are good or not. I now see the expectation of Him fulfilling His glory here on earth as so much bigger than my downcast eyes could believe. When I looked up, looked in his face, I saw the expectation of His purposes being worked out in my life.
I pray that our eyes would be opened to His glory, to the wonders He wants to reveal, to the Heart of the Father to give us good gifts from above and gifts that are far beyond the western idea of Christianity. Look above that – look at His face and see the truth of His great gifts – the expectation of eternity with Him. Don’t loose sight of that. It’s where our hope comes from. It’s where our strength comes from to persevere. It goes beyond our human dreams. Let go of your preconceived ideas of what your life should look like. Ask him to reveal His dreams for you. He will tell you but be ready - for His ways are not our ways…and aren’t you so grateful for that truth? Expect it to look like nothing you could dream up but expect it to be glorious.