My youngest daughter is a poster child for God’s transformation. When she was a toddler, she constantly begged me to buy her bright and shiny things she saw advertised on tv then displayed on the grocery shelves. I left the grocery store many times during one of her meltdowns. As she got older, I heard on a daily basis of her “needs.” “I need more shorts (from the expensive store).” “I need more pants.” “I need a new straightener.” “I need a new (fill in the blank).” And then there were the social status issues: “Olivia’s mom gets her those, why can’t I have that?” We started calling her the family princess. My older daughter, who to almost frustration, never asks for anything. My prayer life was filled with asking for patience. This beautiful, smart, vivacious, talented, young girl acted like a spoiled brat. Thankfully, she reserved all the negative behavior for her home life. Away from home her teachers, coaches, and friends all loved her. But they didn’t have to live with her. My husband and I decided enough was enough. He started planning frequent mission projects for the two of them to participate in. She taught vacation Bible School. She got a job. We knuckled down on all those “needs.” And then we sent her off to college, waiting for her to start begging us for money each week.
James first starts in chapter 1 that we should consider it pure joy whenever we face trials (James 1:2). I loved my daughter immensely during those younger years. I enjoyed her humor, her ability to make any situation into a song. She was a fierce, talented competitor on the field. She would burst into the house after school and shower me with love. That’s what I would thank God for, not for when things went off the rails. Without the hard stuff I might not have fully appreciated the good stuff. So, when I sent her off almost 2,000 miles away for college my house felt quiet, too quiet. And for her, she came to realize how good she had it at home. She faced terrible roommates, crazy coaches, and bored, lazy professors. But she also was led to a relationship with Jesus, thanks to being invited to attend an Athletes In Action meeting. Her “needs” became a need to live in God’s love – not the world of earthly desires. She surrendered herself fully and in turn, found what really matters in life – an eternal love plus the love and friendships that make us better. Now when she asks, she asks with the right motives. She asks for God’s will – not her’s.
This amazing, transformed, daughter of Christ has plans. But they’re God’s plans. Her creative mind and her earthly tendency to “want stuff” is still there. It’s amazing to watch her pull it back in. You can tell that peace dwells more frequently in her. Before they got married about a year ago, she and her husband went through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace program. Having the desire to do it in the first place showed their spiritual maturity. They both have great jobs after having graduated college. And they could have a lot of “stuff.” But they made a plan with God in mind. My little girl who demanded so much is now so incredibly disciplined. And yes, she has thanked my husband and I many times over for instilling so many morals and values in her. But it’s God’s work that fully planted those in her heart. I truly believe the trials she went through while in college gave her a choice – to go down the earthly path or to turn and surrender to God.
James 4 was a message to my daughter.
James 4 is a message to all of us who struggle day in and day out with trying to control our lives. Trying to get all our “needs and wants” satisfied. It’s a message to all of us who have put “Self” in front of God. It’s also a message of hope that when we do what we ought to do, when we submit and surrender everything to God, He will draw near to us. We have a role to play and unless we take our required steps, God cannot finish the work in us. How many of us who struggle with money are willing to spend the next few months going through Financial Peace University?”
And lest we think “those people” are the ones that need to hear this message, the work God had to do in me with my relationship with my daughter was huge. When I finally surrendered her over to him, when I finally threw up my hands and said, “Ok, I’ve failed, I’ll try it your way,” I could start mending our relationship. When I started praying His will, and not mine, great things happened. The planning of her wedding was God’s gift to both of us. Had she been the “girl before God” she would’ve demanded expensive, well, everything. Instead she and her fiancé put together a tight budget. We made decorations. We eliminated needless activities. God sent them people who would make a cake for $60, a free videographer, an inexpensive caterer. They wanted the focus to be on Jesus. It was so darn fun.
God’s gifts to me, my two beautiful daughters, are just that – His gifts. And like my finances, and my marriage, and my home, I need to be a good steward of His gifts. So, I pray for His will be done. And may the devil flee.