| from Courtney Critz |
Eight years ago I wrote these words at the very beginning of a season I didn’t even comprehend. One that rolled in like an ocean of opportunity and left me needing God more than I’ve needed air. Tonight my breath caught as every word breathed of his faithfulness over this last decade. Of magnificent stories of the fruit HE has given. And exactly tonight, as I write this for you I had been tempted to start my fire. So I pour the cooling water of life that quenches my thirst over that fire, I lay down my bricks of striving and stress, and I go attach myself to the Vine where even my work is rest. Come. Join me. He is enough for us all.
Tonight as I was lying next to my six year old daughter, she began asking the usual easy questions my children choose at night, perfect for when my brain is at its 30%, exhausted capacity.
“How is it possible that God can have always been and not have a mommy or daddy?”
“What does it feel like when you go from here to Heaven and who takes you?”
“Why is God a boy?”
These are the moments when I’m incredibly grateful for all that memorized Scripture and Bible reading that we did all through my school years. It doesn’t always require brain capacity to answer what is embedded in your Spirit, thanks to the precious Holy Spirit Who is God’s special gift to parents answering tough questions. After those simple ones were out of the way, Kailey moved on to, “Why did the people think they could build a tower to Heaven? Why did they want to?” (See Genesis 11) I replied that maybe they were looking for God, thinking they could be with Him or like Him that way. Then she asked, “Why didn’t He let them?” I closed my eyes and said, “I think He wanted them and us to understand that we can’t find Him that way, by working hard and doing big things.”
Before she rolled over to close her eyes she gave one more, “Yeah. They were busy building towers when He was right there with them the whole time.”
Suddenly my mind was quite awake and whirling as it does when God grabs my attention. Things I’ve been pondering lately came into crystal clear focus. Struggles I’ve had, insecurities, questions about what I am doing. Am I struggling with a desire to build towers to Heaven when God is right here all the time? In Genesis it says that they fired up their bricks and built their tower toward heaven, but God garbled their language, confusing them and sending them separate directions because there was nothing they couldn’t do if they kept going together. I don’t pretend to understand that scenario. But I can understand one way it applies to me. How often do I work so hard, striving and straining towards a task to “get somewhere,” and feeling desperately discouraged when my way seems halted at every point, my communication garbled, my goals not realized – just to realize I am already right where I’m supposed to be? Why do I look around at where God is working and get ready for a giant construction project when the only thing He wants fixed is my heart?
I’m going to admit it to you, I want to be Beth Moore, Ann Voskamp, Gladys Aylward, Amy Carmichael, and Sally Clarkson all combined. I want to do the big things. But let’s be ridiculously honest here, I can’t keep my bed made and blog for my 20 readers regularly. Why do I always want to jump to the big stuff when I’m already drowning in the small? Why is it so easy to see God in every detail of the ministry and life to which He has called you…until you look at someone else’s? “But God, she’s my age and she WRITES BIBLE STUDIES. There’s no way what I’m doing is as important as writing a Bible study. That’s like having the queen or the trump card. WIN!” And God just patiently watches me start up my wearying, heat-stroke inducing fire and waits. And if I frantically scratch and claw my way very far, I find suddenly my communication gets garbled and I’m back again wondering what I can do. And He says in the words of my six year old, “Yeah. You were busy building towers when I was right there with you the whole time.” I’m not saying He doesn’t give us the call to do something massive and out of our comfort zone, but I think He often sends that calling one small step with Him on the ground at the time. We’re a little more selfless here and a little less attached there. Here a comfort zone zapped, there a boxed way of thinking brought to light, everywhere a constant change as He works. And I think we get a little caught up in where He will use us while He quietly simply says, “Here.” He is unlimited by my situation. By my surroundings. By the other players in my scenario. He is unlimited by my weaknesses, glaring flaws, and imperfections. Those are cracks simply waiting to shine forth His glory. What is limiting His work is my wearying trip to that fire to make more bricks for my tower that will reach toward Heaven when my work is right here in my present situation on the ground.
In the last year the Lord has given me a ministry beyond my wildest expectations. One that combines many of the things dearest to me. God’s whole and healing solutions for our lives, physical, mental, and emotional freedom for women and their families, relationships based on something meaningful, teaching, and all of this while serving my family at home and bringing in some income while my husband pursues his calling to serve the Lord in his area of business. You type it all out and think, “Wow! So awesome!” But you know what? In the very midst of seeing God’s work and preparation and seeing His hand moving, I second guess and look up towards the sky to see if someone else’s tower seems a wee bit closer to heaven. Truly troubled that I have fallen short when He had something else more “heavenly.” Weighed down as I start carting bricks yet again. Should I pick up the pen? Teach something at church? Adopt a child? Move to the inner city? Lord, what builds my tower toward Your plans? And His gentle reminder comes that as long as I build my tower, it is not truly Him I am seeking for He has been right here on the ground all along. That I can rejoice and delight in the things, big or small, that He is doing inside of others, even when they are the very things I would be striving to do. For that is their present with Him while at the same time it could become my self-constructed tower. He doesn’t require an audience or an official ministry title, He only wants me to stop striving and grow. To put down quiet, sometimes invisible roots, deeper and deeper towards life-giving water. To grow and unfurl toward the sun of His leading, and to bear fruit. Who wouldn’t choose “bear fruit” over “fire up bricks and build a tower?” You know why I think we do it? Because we’re afraid. It’s easier to build a tower to get somewhere big “someday” and use up all of our Tasmanian devil energy than it is to stop and face a God who’s ready for us to begin NOW. Because maybe our brick carrying is a distraction from the quiet kind of cross bearing to which we’re often called. Because it can sometimes be simpler to offer Him our whole lives than to surrender to Him our day and our attitude. To quietly and unrecognized push roots down through rocky, hard soil instead of building up through the clear, blue, visible sky. To unfurl our leaves showing our vulnerability and the gaps in our branches instead of making bricks that are hard and keep us fortified and “safe.” To bear fruit and watch it be used by others for nourishment instead of finishing our tower and using it to hoard our hard-earned spoils.
So tonight I throw water on my brick-making fire while I feel God throw water on my thirsty soul.
I choose the vulnerable and the open. I choose the messy and the rocky. I choose the sometimes invisible and misunderstood. I choose the freedom of laying down the show of a lifetime of brick work and instead choose to pick up my daily cross.
Today I will obey here. And tomorrow? Who knows! Maybe tomorrow my obedience will look completely different. Maybe it will even look like some of those things I thought about building my tower to find. Today I would rather be present in my “here,” than spend years building a tower toward the One I find has been ready to begin our work together all along.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
John 15:5 ESV
Courtney Critz and her husband, John, raise and homeschool their eight kids, relying on Jesus every moment for the wisdom and grace to direct these precious treasures to the throne of God. Both John and Courtney were homeschooled and given a heritage of faith, and Courtney has worked with children and families teaching and writing since she was twelve years old. Now in their forties, they have a ministry working with hundreds of thousands of families through a business where they help others pursue freedom spiritually, physically, emotionally, mentally, relationally, and financially. They are excited to partner with the ministry of Celebrate Kids believing that the children are the heart of where culture change begins.