Comparison to Contentment
I normally tell where I will be speaking at the end, but in two days I am heading for Cincinnati for this year’s GHC event. This weekend I will be doing a few new things, and if you are attending I hope you will join me.
Thursday PM at 5:30 is Family Communication You See, where I speak for the first part, then we break into small groups and apply a few key principles of how to communicate. I have led two similar workshops this year and God has blessed both sessions, as attested to by those who participated.
Saturday AM at 7:30 we are gathering before the workshops begin, to worship and sing hymns. God met us in a wonderful way in Missouri and South Carolina, and I am looking forward to worshiping with you in a few days.
This session is followed by Family Worship You See at 8:30 AM, where once again, after a brief period of instruction, we will be breaking up into family units and experiencing a family devotion time. I am providing the scriptures to read and the games to play. This session was also very well received.
Saturday afternoon my final session is called “A Do-Over.” This is from my perspective of a father and what I would do differently if I had the opportunity to homeschool my children again.
My semi-monthly exhortation is an account of my journey from comparison and condemnation to peace and contentment. I hope it will encourage you on your journey.
I functioned in a state of semi-condemnation for decades. It seemed to me that no matter how hard I tried, I could never do enough or be enough. I wanted to please God and earn His well done. I wanted to sense the smile of my heavenly Father on my efforts to extend His kingdom. This was not always the case, and in retrospect, I can see that this pattern of behavior emerged years later when I began earnestly seeking to follow Christ.
When I first heard the gospel as a teen, I learned of God’s love for me, His offer of forgiveness from past sins, a fresh start as a new creature, and the promise of eternal life. I happily responded to this generous offer of unconditional love and sensed the presence of God. I was the first person in my family to have this born again experience and meet Jesus.
My faith walk was not consistent during my high school years, however a few years later, after reading The Cross and the Switchblade, I chose to follow Jesus more fully. My life verse became “seek first the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 6:33) After completing college, God led me to attend seminary and prepare for a life of Christian service. While there I met my wife Sandra and we were married the day after graduation.
My first foray into falling short of pleasing God, appeared as I was reading missionary biographies. It was probably a mistake to read the lives and adventures of these high octane saints, but I was young and zealous. I would try and emulate some of their habits and practices, but could not measure up.
It was many years before someone gave me the sage advice to imitate their faith, and not their lifestyle. “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.” (Hebrews 13:7) Once again I became discouraged and God seemed distant.
I have since discovered that condemnation can often be the Achilles’ heel of earnest believers who are seeking God’s best. We want to give our utmost for the Highest, but rarely succeed, at least in our mind. I not only wanted to be pleasing to God myself, but also wanted to have a family that was pleasing to God.
Not long after we were married, God blessed our union with four beautiful sons. When our oldest was approaching school age, we learned of home schooling, attended the first of many wonderful conferences, and decided to home educate our children.
During these early years of the homeschooling movement, the conferences were often held in churches, and began with all the attendees gathered in the sanctuary. We began with the pledge of allegiance, prayer, and worship. Often a large homeschool family would be asked to lead the worship.
These families believed in being fruitful and multiplying and often numbered ten or more. I am generalizing, but they dressed similarly, raised goats or sheep, ground and baked their own bread, and all played a musical instrument. Since I was new to the concept of home schooling and God’s design for Christian families, I assumed this was the standard for a godly home.
After many years of seeing these blessed families at conferences, and later on the covers of homeschooling magazines, I decided to join their ranks and purchased recorders for each member of our family. My only training on this instrument was from elementary school but reasoned that we could figure it out. I often have good ideas, but lack the diligence to follow through.
After a few unsuccessful forays we gave up. I felt defeated for I wanted to be like these other families and yet I had failed. I fell back into my state of not measuring up and what I call semi-condemnation. Many years later I asked my sons what they did with the recorders and they remembered making them into swords.
This pattern of emulating other families and comparing our family to theirs continued, from academics, to hobbies, and other worthwhile activities. In the midst of my pursuit, God began to patiently encourage me not to look at others but be grateful for who we were. For we had many reasons to be thankful; our oldest son was exhibiting signs of being gifted academically, our other boys were growing and flourishing in their own gifting, but still I struggled.
During this season our fourth son was born with Down Syndrome. After multiple surgeries, we were all hurting and so we left the ministry and moved to another state to regroup and heal. Once again I felt as if I had dropped the ball and not been successful in my calling serving God in ministry.
When I finally began to embrace and acknowledge the grief associated with having a special needs boy, God gently revealed that one of the reasons for my depression was that I now had a son who was handicapped. It hurts me to write this next sentence, but I realized that I had developed pride in my little family, and now we were damaged. What an awful insight into my dark heart. I repented and began to heal.
God continue to work in my heart and one day I was attended an event where I was to speak the next morning. That evening my third son was sitting next to me as we watched a well-dressed family play a variety of instruments with aplomb. This was the kind of family that pushed my comparison buttons. Normally I would watch and wish we had continued with our recorders. But that night I realized that God had brought me to a new place of contentment and peace.
As I watched them play, a new script played in my mind. I found myself rejoicing with them and saying “Praise God for your special gifts and talents, but my family can out-burp your family any day of the week!” This was a major breakthrough for me to be able to be happy for another home and grateful for my own! (For the record, my third son has the unique talent of being able to say the alphabet during one burp!)
God had so worked that I was now able to begin appreciating that the Demmes are the Demmes. We make a wonderful family just the way we are. We are who God designed us to be. We have our own unique gifts and talents to offer the body of Christ, just as every other family does.
Yesterday we celebrated Easter with twenty family members and a few cousins. We had the traditional egg hunt, and then simply hung out the rest of the day. We all pitched in with the food and the cleanup. We currently represent four different churches and denominations, and still love and care for each other. It was a soul-satisfying day. We are who we are, and my wife and I are grateful for each one of our children, and grandchildren.
Personally I am finally walking in the light of Romans 8:1, where the Spirit declares that there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus and I am learning that godliness with contentment in great gain (1 Timothy 6:6).
It took a major crisis in my own life in 2012, but my understanding of what Jesus has done for me, in loving, forgiving, cleansing, and clothing me, that I have been adopted into the family of God. John 15:9 and Matthew 3:17 were key verses that made me know that God not only loves me, because of Jesus, He loves me and lights up every time I draw near to Him. In Christ, I am already a delight to Him. I had believed a lie for decades, and now am tasting the fullness of my heavenly Dad’s love. It is my prayer that each of you who are reading, will move from condemnation to acceptance, and from striving to peace.
May our good and faithful God deliver us all from condemnation and comparison, while faithfully teaching us to appreciate and rejoice in how God has shaped and made each of us in His image and likeness. I like to recall the words of Peter, “God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.” (1 Peter 4:10)
PS Our son with special needs is indeed special. With his own unique personality he has shaped and transformed our family, and many others. For he too has been designed by a loving and thoughtful Creator and is using his own gifts to serve and build up the body of Christ.
Washington, April 27-29
Nova Scotia, May 6
Pennsylvania, May 12-13, CHAP
Michigan, May 18-20, INCH
Virginia, June 8-10, HEAV
God has made us priests. Here are the seven recent episodes addressing and fleshing out what this means to us today
349 Priests Stand with God
350 Priests are Clothed in Righteousness
351 Priests Carry Burdens on their Heart
352 Priests Serve
353 Priests Teach
354 Priests are Anointed
355 Serving a Holy God