Sitting on a porch at a hotel in the mountains of Honduras I watched the drizzling rain gently touch the banana leaves in the garden, collect along the center of the leaf, and then run down in a dainty stream to the ground. I was at a missionary women’s conference and had been instructed to contemplate God’s majesty and then His intimacy. The Word has many amazing descriptions of both and yet there they were, displayed before me in the soft drizzling rain: His majesty and His intimacy.
I began to pray about the challenge that had been facing me for three months prior: Homeschooling, or to be more specific, Math and Ben. To make a long story short, Ben’s online math course has been more challenging for us than I had expected. Oh, he understands the assignments, but it takes him FOREVER to complete his assignments. Math has taken up to four hours in a day for us. (I am leaving out details that make this a long story to get to the point of this article.) As I sat on the porch I thanked God for being my strength through this situation because I wouldn’t be able to do it without Him. The Holy Spirit seemed to say to me, “Look who you’ve become. You’re patient with your son.” My mouth dropped open, my head fell to my chest, and tears ran down my cheeks.
I was immediately carried to a memory of sitting on the floor in my mother’s bedroom looking through my elementary schoolwork which she had saved. I was an adult reading from my second grade writing journal, “I wish I was patient like my mommy.” Wow. That memory clearly showed me that I have believed myself to be impatient (and short tempered) since before the second grade. Again I heard the Spirit speak gently to me, “You made impatience part of your identity; I didn’t.”
Surprised at the realization that my impatience wasn’t “just the way I am,” I began contemplating how my “identifying” with impatience and a short temper had affected my life. For most of my youth these characteristics most obviously affected my relationship with my dad. As a hot-headed teenager I loved and hated him. Dave’s and my marriage, only by the grace of God, has been wonderful, though he has confided in me that he avoids certain subjects with me so as to not make me mad. (Ouch!) The most obvious affect it has had on my parenting is with Benjamin. He too has made these same characteristics part of his identity. He has a short fuse and quick temper; He’s my “mini-me” that I bump heads with every day. But how has it affected my relationship with God?
When I was a little girl I identified with my dad’s personality. My experiences convinced me that I would never be able to be patient and gentle like my mom. I chose to believe this as truth and it became part of my identity. God revealed to me that my decision to identify with impatience, even as a young child, has hindered my walk with Him. I believed this lie about myself to be “truth” more than I believed God’s word to be truth for my life. This is called unbelief. My Father in heaven has shown me a number of places in my life that have been darkened with unbelief. He has always gently, but firmly opened my eyes to each of my identity crises: fear of failure, fear of rejection, procrastination, lack of discipline, anger, and now impatience. In 1 Corinthians 5:4 we find the biblical name for these identity crises: strongholds.
The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
Strongholds are defined in verse five: arguments and pretensions that set themselves up against the knowledge of God. When we decide to believe something about ourselves that is contrary to scripture (the knowledge of God) we believe a lie (a pretense).
That morning on the porch in the misty rain I realized something: that which I identify with is my decision. My experiences have always been what I based my reality on. As I have embraced God’s truths about where my identity truly lies I have learned to change my mind. I have to make my decisions based on His Word, not my experiences. In verse 5 above we learn that our strongest weapon against unbelief is taking “captive every thought” and making “it obedient to Christ.” This is a conscious decision to recognize the lie as a lie and then replace it with the Truth of God’s Word. When really dealing with a stronghold of anger last year I would pray something like this:
“Father I give you my heart. Make me into the woman of God you created me to be. I thank You, Lord, that I am no longer a slave to anger and that I can live according to the fruit of the Spirit. I have love, joy, peace, patience, good-ness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control dwelling inside of me.”
I chose to replace my thoughts with Biblical truths for my life. It has been a difficult but wonderful road from slavery to anger to freedom from anger. I like myself so much better as I live in the light of my identity in Christ; my family does too. And so goes the road to victory over impatience: the same prayer, the same truths, the same freedom.
…Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32
Perhaps it’s time for you to ask God, “What have I identified with Lord, that isn’t true about me in light of Your Word? What things have become strongholds in my life?” Perhaps He has been gently but firmly showing you where your identity has been your decision and not His. Perhaps it’s time for you to replace lies with truth, slavery with freedom, and a false identity with an identity in Christ.
(Addendum: I began writing this blog post in November of 2013. It was originally intended for the Fields Family Newsletter, but when it got too long I sat it aside to finish for another time. Since that time things have gotten much better with “Math and Ben.” We are thankful for his teacher, Mrs. Martin, and her counsel and flexibility; most importantly for those of you who helped us through this hard time with your prayers… XOXO–Marinajo)