It’s a trendy term, gospel-centered. As Tim Challies pointed out everything seems to be gospel-centered these days (and that article
is 4 years old). When I considered starting this blog I really wanted to avoid using what’s quickly becoming a cliche, but how else to describe what I’m striving for? I really want the good news of God’s love, made known through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ to be the foundation of all I do.
Obviously, I have not arrived. My self-centeredness gets in the way time and again, but I persevere in grace. Regularly being prompted by the Holy Spirit that I have turned away and forgotten his mercy again, I turn back, fix my eyes on Jesus and thank him for his unfailing love.
I wonder, if I were in God’s place would I put up with myself? Would I so patiently forgive and restore? Would I love so unconditionally? I know the answer, of course – I fly off the handle when there are dirty socks on the floor!
The unfailing love of Christ is beyond my comprehension. That his love should never run out for me, despite all my looking back, is a wonder.
I can only worship.
Can I keep that awareness of his love at the centre of my life and home? Well, not me, but Christ in me? It is a prayer, not a destination (this side of eternity). I want to always have Christ in my view, but my desires are constantly chasing after lesser things.
How do I navigate through these waters of saved, but not yet sanctified? Where my desires are always a contradiction?
When I get honest, I admit I am a bundle of paradoxes. I believe and I doubt, I hope and get discouraged, I love and I hate, I feel bad about feeling good, I feel guilty about not feeling guilty. I am trusting and suspicious. I am honest and I still play games. Aristotle said I am a rational animal; I say I am an angel with an incredible capacity for beer. (Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel)
It takes more than hope and more than knowledge. For I “know” what I ought to do, but I still don’t do it. My habits must be re-formed.
If I so easily turn away from the true love of my heart, can I at least make a habit of turning back?
How often is Israel told to remember, remember, remember? To tell the stories, and remind one another of the great things God has done?
God knows we are forgetful creatures.
We usually see only what’s right in front of us, pleasure or pain, and our amnesia sets in. The true Truth, the better Way, the One our help comes from is too easily forgotten – lost in the background while circumstances loom large. If this is our unfortunate default, and it is, we need to cultivate the habit of lifting our heads, fixing our eyes, and remembering.
Remembering: Gospel-Centered Habits
So, in our home, we make time to re-focus on Jesus. We’re not perfect at this, but we’re trying.
On school days we begin with prayer, a short passage from the Bible, sometimes a hymn. We work on memorizing scripture – getting the Word deep into our souls. You might picture something idyllic, little cherub faces all lined up at the table listening intently to their calm and poised mother. Reality check? The kids are all sprawled around the living room, distracted by Lego or fighting over a particular seat. I’m balancing a Bible and protecting my tea cup from a curious baby. There are interruptions and training, sometimes tears and even anger. When you put a bunch of sinners in a room they sin. I try to take it all in stride, remember the Gospel, restore them gently. I’m not always successful.
However, the more we practice, the better it gets. The Holy Spirit does work in us, incredulously, though the work is slow. The atmosphere of our mornings is not what it was a year ago. That’s something rejoice over!
We pray before mealtimes. Sometimes we sing the doxology. We remember that the food on our plates, the breath in our lungs, and unending mercy is all given freely. We try not to take those gifts for granted.
In the afternoons I make a hard stop. I fix my eyes again, even if just for a moment. I ache to make this time longer, and to develop a consistent routine, but the life of a mom with lots of little children is unpredictable. For now, there is grace; longing and hope that the future will bring the fulfillment of my desire. I pray or open the Word, sometimes days all I can do is breathe out thanks and close my eyes.
Today, I actually fell asleep reading aloud to my older two, so I took a nap. I don’t feel a tiny bit guilty about that. God gave me this physical body that has its limits, I might as well admit my weakness. 20 minutes later the baby woke up and I was able to read 1/2 a chapter of 2 Corinthians, with his company. I wasn’t surely up with a latte, would you believe God spoke anyway? All is grace.
Room for Improvement
Bedtime is the time most in need of improvement in our house. At the risk of losing all credibility, I will be shockingly honest. About half the time we gather the kids on the couch for a Bible story and a quick prayer. The other half of the time we hurry them into pajamas and upstairs into bed. I’m tired and sometimes it is all I can do to get them into their beds without losing my temper. Sometimes even that is too much. I hate those nights.
Sadly, my own bedtime habits are not any better. I love the idea of going to bed at a decent hour every night, praying and reading before turning out the light. In reality, I usually fall asleep on the couch and then drag myself upstairs when I realize how uncomfortable I am. Sigh.
I’ve recently grown slack in my habit of keeping a gratitude journal, but the practice was transformative a few years ago. I saw God working, moving, loving all around me. I wondered at swirling steam from my tea cup and smiles from the elderly lady at the grocery store. I could see properly. I knew that God’s love abounded despite my performance. I know it still does, only I don’t notice.
Growing in Grace
Good habits are not easy. I’m not even sure I can call these daily moments habits at all since I still need to consciously choose them. I hope in time they will become that, for now, they are still on my to-do list.
And written out, it seems like so little.
I wish I did so much more: Prayed every hour, read copious amounts of Scripture every day, sang hymns at every opportunity. Perhaps in time, these habits will build into more – goodness knows I need all the gospel I can get! As the hymn goes, “I Need Thee Every Hour.”
I will cling to the truth that his grace is enough, even for my meager habits.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:18)