Monday, December 12, 2011

A Maiden Going to the Sacrifice

I have been reading through J.R. Miller's "Homemaking" lately and I must say, that it is one of the most poetically written books on the function of the home, that I have ever read. The words in it are precious, and it makes my heart swell, to feel the attitude of love this book was written in.  

When I first read the quote below, I almost cried!  It tugged on my heart and poured a conviction on me that was overwhelming. The message it is conveying is one that is incredibly true, but the illustration that J.R. Miller gives, is priceless.

"The young maiden goes smiling and singing to the marriage altar.  Does she know that if she has not Christ with her she is as a lamb going to the sacrifice?  Let her tarry at the gateway till she has linked her life to Him who is the first and the last.  Human love is very precious, but it is not enough to satisfy a heart.  There will be trials, there will be perplexities, there will be crosses and disappointments, there will be solicitudes and sorrows.  Then none but Christ will be sufficient."

*emphasis mine

How phenomenal is that?!  Honestly, the depths to which this reaches entirely amazes me! We, as young women, think that if we can run a home, we are somehow prepared to be married...but there is so much more to it than that. We have a noble calling; but we need to ask ourselves what the purpose of that calling is. This statement made me take a step back and evaluate the extent of my dependence on Jesus for fulfillment.  Even though I cling to Him for my redemption, do I cling to Him for everything else, or do I rely on my own abilities? Do I look to the Lord to fulfill all my needs in life, or do I think that I somehow possess the power to accomplish everything I need to get done?  If I were to be married tomorrow, would I have strove for that union in my own strength, or would I have trusted and rested in the arms of my beloved Savior to accomplish that work on His watch?  

Would I be as a lamb going to the sacrifice?

I took J.R. Miller's words, and applied them to every avenue of my life. I looked at my life at home, I evaluated everything my heart aches to achieve, I asked myself some serious questions about whether my desire is for God and thereby, all other desires stem from that, or whether my desires were of my own will. I think it is of the utmost importance that we, as young unmarried women at home, evaluate our hearts and be sure that Jesus Christ is the reason we are doing what we are doing, and there be no tainted motive found. Homemaking is a beautiful endeavor; however, if it is done without the foremost thought being the work of the Lord, then we are headed for disaster.

We cannot be "stay at home daughters" and leave Jesus Christ out of it; otherwise we are doomed--we are doomed for a fall that will be a means to a rude awakening.  We need to remember what marriage is about. It is about taking dominion and showing forth an example of the Gospel. It is about the kingdom of Jesus Christ, raising up a generation of warriors, taking dominion on this earth for the Glory of the Lord. If we enter into marriage and even prepare for it, with the idea that we are gearing up to "play house", we are in for a world of hurt.The years of disappointment that mindset will cause, will simply mean we spend our time trying to work through the disappointments, instead of being ready to do the Savior's work He has for us. We must have our hearts fused to the heart of Jesus in order to be suitable wives and mothers one day. We must be working out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12-13) and allowing God to use (sometimes painful) trials in our lives to sanctify us and mold us into His image. J.R. Miller's words below, convey this beautifully:

"So it all comes back to a question of character. She can be a good wife only by being a good woman and she can be a good woman in the true sense only by being a Christian woman. Nowhere save in Christ can she find the wisdom and strength she needs to meet the solemn responsibilities of wifehood. Only in Christ can she find that rich beauty of soul, that gemming and empearling of the character, which shall make her lovely in her husband's sight when the bloom of youth is gone, when the brilliance has faded out of her eyes and the roses have fled from her cheeks. Only Christ can teach her how to live so as to be blessed and a blessing in her married life."

Noble womanhood is a wonderful thing; however, we cannot worship *womanhood*, we must worship almighty God, and thereby, cherish and love womanhood.  It is a beautiful is a glorious thing! My heart aches with joy at the very idea of what happens for the Kingdom when women take up their calling and embrace the beauty of femininity and defy all the demons of feminism!  But this kind of beauty only comes when one's heart yearns for the beauty of a life that conveys an accurate portrait of Christ, not a religious spirit that is only seeking praise and adoration for living a life that appears holy. My heart is heavy with conviction! Every time I clean, cook, run errands, babysit, serve, do laundry, iron Sunday clothes, play music, study or write a blog post, I desire for my purpose behind those things to be the glory of the Lord!  I don't want to just rush through it and get it done because it is a burden to me--I want to savor it and think on the Lord as I do it! I want to think about how I am taking dominion with tasks that can, either feel like a burden, or be so enjoyable that I do them just for the fun of it, rather than for God. 

Esther is my absolute favorite woman in the entire Bible! She had a task placed upon her that I don't feel I would ever have been able to cope with. But yet, when she was afraid that she might somehow lose her life, she didn't get angry with God and complain about the place that He had put her in, but rather, her humility and desire to serve God overcame any pride and her words inspire me every time I think upon them: 

"And Mordecai told them to answer Esther: "Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king's palace any more than all the other Jews. For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai: "Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!" So Mordecai went his way and did according to all that Esther commanded him." Esther 4:13-17

  *emphasis mine

Would I be willing to say that in a comparable scenario? Would I have a similar attitude or would my thoughts be on executing everything perfectly so that I didn't have to worry about losing my life due to a mistake? Would I be more focused on praying and fasting, or on going through every single step to achieve my purpose and wasting precious time dwelling on the possibly tragic outcome? You see, God has given us the grace to go through whatever situation He puts us in!  And not just enough grace to suffer through, but to persevere with a beautiful attitude that reflects His marvelous majesty! It gives me the chills to look at all of human history and see the unique and inspiring ways God reveals His greatness through people and their trials. It makes me excited to contemplate how He is going to use these generations' sufferings and difficulties for something incomprehensible. 

Take marriage for instance...some feel that there are not enough marriages taking place; granted, they could be and probably are right. I think that we fear this lack of marriages happening is somehow attributed to either a lacksidaisical attitude towards marriage or a legalistic one. But we forget that God is in control! We must be before Him on our knees seeking out His will and praying for our current situations and our futures; but to be honest ladies, we will be married when God deems the time suitable. If we are really after His purpose being accomplished, then we will learn to understand, and love, His timing--because only He knows when the conditions are prime for something great to happen...and He knows what it takes to make a situation ideal for the edification of His kingdom.

It is unreservedly important that we look to Him for happiness; that we take our redemption and hold it so dear and so precious that nothing can steal the joy we feel from being counted among the redeemed! That is just glorious!  Inexpressibly glorious, I say!! I am excited...I am excited to see God's work in our lives, I am anxious to see what paths He guides us down and in what ways He defeats the enemy through our sanctification and hardships.

So as we pray for noble intentions and ask God to truly prepare us for marriage the way He defines it, let us learn to be wholly dependent on Him for everything and find contentment with solely being children of God!

"Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!" 1 John 3:1


Jacqueline @ said...

Shelby, I am always so very blessed and yet provoked to think more deeply when I read your words! This really has been something I have been thinking about also: "Noble womanhood is a wonderful thing; however, we cannot worship *womanhood*, we must worship almighty God,..." you can fill in 'family', 'modesty', or food ideology, etc. When Christ is out of the foreground we will never find true, enduring contentment or happiness. I am so encouraged by reading this!
Please give you dear Momma and whole family my affectionate greetings!

Shelby Courtney said...

Thank you so much! You are such a blessing to me and my family and we are very thankful for the Lord's providence in bringing you all into our lives! (by the way, we are not 100% sure, but we are hoping to come in January! :)

Charis said...

thank you for sharing this! It is a sobering thing to think about it. It can be so easy to get caught up in the "romance" of marriages and totally skip the true reasons. I love that book! Every time I read it, I am so convicted!

Rissi said...

I see a lot of girls getting married in the area I live in. Most of them are marrying in their late teens and that seems... well... worrisome to me...

Shelby Courtney said...

Charis, it is officially one of my all time favorite books!!

Rissi, do you mind if I ask what it is about the early marriages that is bothersome to you?

Christine said...

Let me start off by saying that I enjoy your blog. However, this is where I differ. Do you really think that nonChristian women marrying are like lamb being sacrificed at an altar? What if the women made educated decisions about whom to marry? Are they still lambs if they are happy?? I dont think this is a fair assesment.

Again, just genuinely curious. Hope you respond to what I wrote...It's not being snarky or anything. I'm just questioning your reasoning here. Say for example a Muslim , educated woman marries. Is she a lamb being led to the altar?

Shelby Courtney said...

Hi Christine,

I think that two unbelieving people can be equally yoked with each other; but I believe that anyone who is not a Christian is living a dangerous life and then if they marry outside of the redemption of Jesus Christ, they can not ever be truly happy and in a sense, are like "lambs going to the sacrifice". The only hope for anyone is Jesus Christ and after that foundation has been established, genuine happiness can be found! An "educated" choice does not equate to the right choice. Education means nothing, the work of Jesus means everything! And that is a think worth fighting and rejoicing over!

I hope this helps.

Sarah Lee said...

Thank you SO much for sharing this excellent quote from Homemaking! So needed and a beautiful reminder. As Charis said, it can be too easy to think of marriage as easy or romantic, while in actuality it is a picture of the Lord Jesus and an opportunity to die to self and have His sanctification worked in us. God bless you!

Jessica said...

Thank you, Shelby!

I stumbled across your blog post by following a link from a friend's blog, and it greatly encouraged me!

Especially the part about doing things because they are a burden to me, or because it is fun for *me* to do, instead of doing them for God.

I love to make New Year's resolution/things-I-want-to-do lists...and this time I want to really think about my reasons for wanting to do them :) Jesus brings a whole new level of joy and gladness into everything I do for him...why make it a checklist of 'stuff to get done'?! :)

Thank you muchly! Like I said, this post blessed me ;)

Trisch said...

Shelby, I am very grateful for your post! I found you through my daughter and absolutely loved all you wrote! And say a hearty AMEN as a woman married nearly 29 years!

God has taught me so much over these years and I tell my girls over and over that marriage is wonderful, but Jesus must be all to you before marriage--no man can fill that void!

May the Lord bless you as you continue to shine for Him!

In Him~


Jacqueline @ said...

Shelby, I thank you for such a kind exhortation to the young lady who questioned you above in the comments. I especially appreciate this: "Noble womanhood is a wonderful thing; however, we cannot worship *womanhood*, we must worship almighty God, and thereby, cherish and love womanhood."
Please give my love to your family! I am praying for all of you, especially Morgan right now. may the Lord of Lords give you all peace that passes understanding.
Love in Jesus,

Jodi said...

Amen to you sister! Your dying to self if evident in your writing, your transparency beautiful...and yes expect not ever loose your Zeal! In fact expect them more as you get older from right inside the camp. Many "Christain" women my age are set in their ways and do not want to hear. I hope you will visit my blog! I could use a bit of encouragement right about now!
Praises to our King, Jodi

Ms. Kathryn said...

Hi Shelby, I nominated your blog for the Versatile Blog Award. Please go here: for instructions. Love, Kathryn