There are a lot of fractions going on around here lately. I have a 5th and 6th grader who I am attempting to teach the math to and it seems to be all fractions all the time. Adding fractions, subtracting fractions, multiplying and dividing fractions… I’m not great at the math. I prefer words to numbers (shocking I know). I have had to go back and read every explanation for every computation in each and every lesson. It is not like riding a bicycle for me- it has not come back naturally. Maybe that’s because I could never ride this one in the first place. Sorry, Kids, you may be doomed.
But one thing I do remember is that you have to reduce the fraction in the end. You have to find the lowest common denominator and simplify your answer, make it smaller, bring it down. In fact, the definition of “reduce” is this: “to bring down to a smaller extent, size, amount, number, to lower in degree, intensity, to bring down to a lower range, dignity, etc.” The lowest common denominator is the smallest number both denominators (that’s the number on the bottom, I’m pretty sure) have in common that is used to reduce the overall fraction.
I may not make many friends with this one but I am standing on 2 Timothy 1:7 when Paul says, “For the Spirit God gave [me] does not make [me] timid, but gives [me] power, love, and self-discipline.” So here we go… I see a culture of Christians who are living a lowest common denominator faith, who are constantly looking for, or at least are okay with reducing their walk, their witness, and their calling in “extent, size, degree, and intensity.” And, laying all my cards on the table, the culture I am most immersed in is “Mom Culture.” Those are the articles and posts that fill my newsfeed. Those are the books that Amazon recommends. Those are the circles I walk in in my real life and virtually as well. And we have been reduced, Girls.
And I think the part that is firing me up the most is that we are wrapping our reduced faith, our lazy Christianity, our teeny tiny callings up with a bow and calling it grace. Can I just say a word about grace? Yes, grace is the “free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners.” And, absolutely we are saved by that grace alone and not by any works of our own so that “no man may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).” But please understand, grace was free for you, not for God, and not for Jesus. The very grace that we tend to flippantly sprinkle over apathy to sin and idleness in Kingdom work cost God his Son, and cost Jesus His life. In his book The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer says of grace, “Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: ‘Ye were bought at a price’, and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us.”
There is a great movement in the Mom Culture to flee perfectionism as fast at you can! That somehow it is the rot that is destroying us as a generation of women and mothers. The books out there right now on this very subject are too many to count, and I get it. It is good and right to turn our backs on a kind of false mask of perfection when we are addressing an outward image or in opposition to authenticity. I understand and respect the heart of the movement. But are we taking it a bit far? Are we wrapping laziness and sin up in a cheap grace, and patting ourselves on the back in the middle of our ineffective, fruitless walks? The Bible never says to flee perfection. The Bible says to flee sin (1 Cor. 10:14, 2 Tim 2:22, and so many more). We also find curious commands in the Word such as: “Be PERFECT, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect,” (Matt. 5:48) and “But just as He who called you is holy, so be HOLY in all you do; for it is written, ‘Be HOLY because I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15-16). Obviously we know that we can never be perfect or holy apart from the blood of Jesus Christ, but I just wonder about the amount of time we spend striving for it, versus the amount of time we spend reveling in all of our mess.
Are we celebrating our brokenness above our transformation? After all, “If anyone is in Christ the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here (2 Corinthians 5:17)!” Are we lifting high our inabilities to showcase His complete ability, or to just make excuses?
Mom friends, is the entirety of your walk with Jesus wrapped up in whether or not you make it to 10am without yelling at your kids? Is the biggest thing you are believing God for a day without tears, a baby who sleeps through the night, a passing grade on that test, a shower? I get it. I’ve been there. I could still be there, believe me. But it is a dangerous slope. It’s like Mommy Mush Brain quicksand. We are lulled into a futility of the mind that renders us completely ineffective for the Kingdom.
Romans 1:21 says, “For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God, nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.” Ephesians 4:17 reads, “So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts..” I’m real freaked out by this futility of the mind that leads to darkened hearts and understanding. It’s so scary to me because IT IS EVERYWHERE!!! If we are not intentional about guarding against it, I dare say we could look up after a week, a month, maybe even a year and have invested in nothing but futile (ineffective, useless, trifling, frivolous, unimportant) thinking. Romans 12:2 combats futility of the mind with this: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
It’s Satan’s work, you know. If he can’t keep you from future glory, he will at least keep you from present fruitfulness. He will wrap himself up as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14), and sell you a bill of Mommy goods that say that all of heaven is just perched waiting to see if you survive until nap time. No. Our God is a God of abundance and purpose and fullness. He has more for you. Ask Him. Listen, we are not all called to big flashy ministries. We are not all called to write books, to preach to stadiums, to cut top-selling worship albums, but we are all called, (like Jesus Himself was called) to be about our Father’s business during our short time here on earth (Luke 2:49). I love my kids. I pour myself out for them daily. I have never prayed for anyone like I pray for my husband and children ALL OF THE TIME. I even try to be nice to them most days. But if my calling, if my adventure with Jesus terminated on how well dinner went tonight or whether or not they got along that day, I would be completely burnt out and bored with God. A.W. Tozer said, “Culture is putting out the light in men and women’s souls.” If that’s you, you may want to see how far in the quicksand you have fallen. Then, I challenge you to put down FaceBook or the latest Mommy Blog that preaches cheap grace and pick up some Foster, Bonhoeffer, or C.S. Lewis. (Yes you do have time if you put aside the rest). If The Screwtape Letters don’t make you fighting mad then I don’t know what will.
Hebrews 12:1 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us…” I sometimes just picture this great cloud of witnesses up in heaven, you know, Moses, Joshua, Esther, Steven, Peter, Paul, Mother Theresa, Elisabeth Elliot, and think “what must they think?” What these martyrs and heroes of the the faith must think of our lowest common denominator effectiveness. Of this reduction of our faith and calling. Girls, what will our generation be known for? Self-absorbtion masked as motherhood? Futility of mind masked as “Mommy Brain?” Laziness and idleness in Kingdom work masked as grace? We can do better. I believe in us! Let’s run our race for our moment and make an impact on the world, maybe even the the world outside our four walls.
So, if you are still reading this and still speaking to me here is my prayer for you, for me, for our lowest common denominator Christian culture
“With this in mind, we (I) constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of His calling and that by His power He may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith. We (I) pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12
I’ll leave you with this quote from Mike Yaconelli’s book Dangerous Wonder and I pray it inspires you to throw this thing wide open, to fight futility and apathy, and to be constantly about an increase of Jesus rather than a reduction of our effectiveness: “I’m ready for a Christianity that ‘ruins’ my life, that captures my heart and makes me uncomfortable. I want to be filled with an astonishment which is so captivating that I am considered wild and unpredictable and…well…dangerous. Yes, I want to be “dangerous” to a dull and boring religion. I want a faith that is considered “dangerous” by our predictable and monotonous culture…. I want a lifetime of holy moments. Every day I want to be in dangerous proximity to Jesus. I long for a life that explodes with meaning and is filled with adventure, wonder, risk, and danger; a faith that is gloriously treacherous.”
How about you?
“For this reason I remind you to fan into the flame the gift of God…”
2 Timothy 1:6