Although Cherish the Call focuses a lot on homeschooling, we find that one of our most popular posts is still Raising Christian Kids in a Public School. Through that post, I met another blogger who is passionate about raising Christian kids even in the public school environment. While I and most of the other bloggers on the Cherish the Call team have chosen to homeschool, we realize that each family has unique needs and are open to others making different schooling decisions.
Ironically, the blogger at Public on Purpose has the same name as one of our own team members. The Shawna Wright you are hearing from today is a brand new guest poster on our blog and not to be confused with the Shawna Wright that blogs for us on a monthly basis. :-)
Now, on to her post:
Smile on My Heart Theory
Thank you so much for having me here on Cherish the Call! I'm so excited to be a guest blogger even as my own blog lies dormant for the time being. As you all know life as a parent is full, so I am amazed at how many can find a chance to sit down one or two times a week to share deep and helpful thoughts with the world on a blog!
We all want to be full of excitement and joy as Christians everyday! We want to feel so full we are about to burst to share the gospel of Christ and pour out His love to the world and into our children, but not everyday feels that way. Sometimes my days feel like drudgery and my time in prayer or reading the Bible feels like an obligation at best and at worst is skipped altogether.
When I was in high school, I remember the beginning of the year after a nice trip to church camp over the summer, I was literally skipping down the hallway, high on the thought that all I need is Christ! At that time I developed what I called the "Smile On My Heart" theory. I don't remember the theme of camp that year, but somehow the grace of God was clearly revealed to me. I realized that I don't deserve anything more than hell, but God sent Christ to die for me and forgave me. That is all I need to know to have a smile on my heart. Even as a naive youth, I knew that I would not always have a smile on my face. I knew that hard times would come, but that the smile on my heart (God's grace) would be enough to bring the smile back to my face again one day.
That theory would indeed be tested many years later as a young mother. I had begun to fear that something bad was going to happen to me just because nothing ever had. I thought maybe something terrible would happen to my husband. However, God was preparing me for something I would never have expected. My 18 month old daughter was diagnosed with stage IV neuroblastoma cancer. In that first six months of intense, aggressive treatment the theory was not tested. No, I knew that God was carrying me through every moment during that time. I even had a smile on my face in the midst of it.
It was the time after finishing her treatment that I lost the "Smile on My Heart". She was still with us and in remission. We had no more treatment to do, no more driving back and forth 1.5 hours to the Children's hospital multiple times per week, no more low blood counts or scans or surgery. But in that down time, fear rushed in to fill the empty time. All I could do was sit and wait to see if the cancer would come back. My second daughter was born just before the end of treatment, so I had an infant baby to take care of well. And as I sat in the midst of all that fear and stress, a picture of burning towers was playing on my tv screen for hours at a time.
I could not get off the couch. I was not myself. I loved God and believed in that same grace that had me skipping down the halls as a teen, but where was that joy now? I didn't "feel" it. One day, my husband came home from work and said, "I just don't know who you are anymore. What happened to the smile on your heart?" That caught my attention! Where had the joy gone?
I found myself turning back to the Word of God and I found this verse. It is the "Smile On My Heart" theory in a nutshell. Romans 8:14 says, "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit."
I am free! I am not condemned! It is because Christ was an offering in my place and because of that I can experience true joy and freedom. The smile came back to my face because the Holy Spirit reminded me that God is trustworthy. I can give Him my fear and stress.
Now many years have passed. My daughter went through three relapses of this cancer and each time the doctors thought for sure it would be the end. We did little to fight it except treatment that had little short term side effects just to keep her out of pain. No one had relapsed with this cancer even once and gone on to survive let alone three times. Yet, here she is by God's miracle, 13 years old and seven years in remission!
Wouldn't you think that would be enough to keep the smile on my heart always on my face?!
Here in the past few years I have been in a real funk in my relationship with the Lord. I had been doing all the right stuff. I volunteered at church and worked as children's church director. I attended Bible studies and listen to all Christian music. I even got up almost daily at about 6:00 am to have a quiet time with the Lord. Yet, I didn't feel His joy.
I told my friend that I felt like I was a pretty little salad in a bowl with saran wrap over me. I hadn't built a solid wall around my heart like some people build do. I had a transparent life...doing all the right Christian stuff, but something was still separating me from the love of Christ. I wasn't letting His love into my life through that saran wrap cover.
A relationship with Christ based on works is a recipe for losing the smile on your heart. I was trying to work at it. I couldn't receive that love because I was so sure I needed to get up just a little earlier or do just a little bit more at church to receive His love and joy. But the thing is, His love has been right there with me the whole time. I needed only to receive it.
The smile on my heart is always there. I only need to recognize His grace to receive it. I deserve nothing. Yet, look at what all He has chosen to give me. Eternity! And the rest is just a bonus. Isn't God good?!
The Smile On My Heart Theory has been tested and proved to be true. The grace of God...His forgiveness of my sins through Christ is all I need. Though times may be hard, He is with me. Though times may be good, He is with me. He has given me forgiveness, freedom, and fruitfulness. What is there to not smile about?
"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Romans 15:13