Recently, my pre-teen daughter went to a birthday party. When I picked her up, she got in the car and slumped on the seat, frowning. No “Hi Mom”, no “Thanks for picking me up”, no nothing.
“What’s wrong? Wasn’t the party fun?” I asked.
”Mom, I was, like, the only one, pretty much, without an iPhone.”
I exhaled, trying to blow out my frustration and away words that I didn’t want to say.
You see, lately, I’ve been hearing “I’m the only one...” statements a lot from my kids :
“I’m the only one who doesn’t have an Xbox.”
“I was the only one who wasn’t wearing a bikini.”
“I’m the only one who has to do math over the summer.”
And I’m tired.
That night, I couldn’t deal with another lecture about needs vs. wants, or another speech about counting our blessings. And I was too spent to think of anything else.
So, my daughter and I drove home from the party in silence. I had clocked-out as a mom and pulled away from her pain. After parking in the driveway, I gave her a terse “good night” and stole away to be by myself.
I complained to God about my ungrateful children. I asked for his help in training them to be more appreciative and content. I begged for patience and self-control. I searched for Bible verses to use in my next lecture or speech…
And I felt my own heart being opened wide for inspection… and His words cutting the flesh, And what about you?
Then I heard the replaying of unspoken words that He found in my heart:
I’m the only one who can’t seem to get my act together.
I’m the only one who’s had to deal with this many trials.
I’m the only one who’s marriage has this issue.
It seems that my daughter may have inherited her self-focused attitude from me.
His presence turned me from motherhood and reminded me that I am His daughter. Humbled and childlike, I reached for His hand.
And only there, where His grace perfectly balances His truth, can I bear to go deeper into the condition of my heart. An Old Testament story came to mind and I flipped through the pages of 1Kings where He used the ancient story of a brother-in-Christ to teach me:
And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” 1Kings 19:9b-10
But the truth is, Elijah wasn’t the only one. In fact, God had preserved seven thousand others and assured the defeat of his enemies.
And after I read about Elijah, I breathed a little easier knowing that I’m not the only one who often falls for the lies that are ushered in by fear and fatigue.
Elijah’s fellowship bolstered my tired soul.
But God still had work to do. He wasted no time in bringing to mind another story from my family history:
In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem. One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” … 2 Samuel 11
At that point of his life, David was feeling pretty good about himself, and he got it into his oversized head that he must be the only one of his men to stay behind while they went to war. I can imagine him thinking that he was too special to get dirty in battle, that his life was more precious than that of the others, that God’s plan for His people rested on his shoulders.
But, of course, the security of God’s people wasn’t all up to David. His reign was merely a foreshadowing of the eternal King of Kings.
And I see where my story joins his. Like him, when I’m feeling strong compared to those around me, pride whispers the lie that victory rests on my strengths.
I’m the only one with a gift like this.
I’m the only one who sees what needs to be done.
I’m the only one who can change her.
Though our circumstances are not the same, David and I both know that such a mindset leads to a dark and lonely road.
And yet, David’s testimony encourages me.
Because these brothers and I have a gracious Father who pursued us for the purpose of restoration.
And, now, feeling restored, the only response I have is, Thank you.
I think of my daughter. She’s feeling weak and listening to the lies of the enemy. Her selfishness and ingratitude are really fears in disguise. But I’m her sister in Christ, and I know the honest struggles of her heart…
…because they are not new, and because they are my own.
I clock back in to motherhood and find her in her room.
And I’ve learned, from my Father, how a weak and hurting daughter should be treated. This time, I don’t criticize her pain or minimize her longings. No lectures or speeches. I know Whose words she really needs to hear. And it’s not too late.
Together, we go to the only one place where the speakings of our souls, whether afraid or proud, will echo back grace and truth.
We stand hidden in the cross-shaped shadow of The Only One whose sufferings bring salvation.
We stand covered in the righteousness of The Only One whose strength brings victory.
And we pray, my daughter and I, in Christian fellowship, that we can remain in the center of the gospel; not pulled too low where fear threatens, or too high where pride lurks.
Where humility keeps us safe, and we remember that we are not the only ones…
…but that we are kept by The Only One.
And on that night, she, without her own iPhone, and I, without perfect kids, snuggle close and all we can say is, Thank you.
It’s the only one correct response.
And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. Acts 4:12
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