I taught the adult Sunday School class in my congregation for four years, it was a tremendous blessing in my life and I still feel the void since being ‘released’ from that position two months ago. One of the most incredible things about studying and teaching, was the way I could see my life within the lens of any particular lesson. The Spirit taught me richly, and I experienced distinctive application of the scriptures. The following story of Jeremiah has had particular meaning in my own life.
Jeremiah ministered to the Jews while wicked king after wicked king led the people to destruction. He tried to raise a voice of warning, to cry repentance, and, as a result, his existence was rife with sorrow. He was beaten and put in stocks. He was opposed and hated by his neighbors and family. When his written prophecies were burned by a wicked king, he obeyed the Lord and wrote them again. Eventually, he was accused unjustly and put into prison. He was later cast into a dungeon, where he sank into the mire (Jeremiah 38:4-6).
Jeremiah was not immune to bemoaning the pains of his life full of tribulation.
He knew who he was and he remembered what God had promised him.
“I have made thee this day… an iron pillar (Jeremiah 1:18).”
God had told him from the very beginning that he would be made as strong as iron. Strong enough to withstand the cruelty from his family, the wicked kings and priests– his people. Strong enough to say to the corrupt princes, “I am in your hand; do with me as seemeth good (Jeremiah 26:14).” Strong enough to sink down in the mire but come out again to fight the good fight.
God was with him. He made of Jeremiah an iron pillar. And Jeremiah remained true and strong.
On November 16th, I came home from teaching this lesson and wrote:
“God can make an iron pillar of me.
My small business faded away and the Relief Society president (leader of the women’s organization in our congregation) called one day, releasing me from my second calling, the additional meeting committee. I can see now how The Lord is making room in my life. More time, fewer responsibilities, less stress. More of me to give. I have just about hit my stride with four children. The house is hard to keep clean and tidy, but we are managing it. We are on time to school. I am making real dinners and even homemade bread again sometimes. We have most of our routines down. It is crazy, loud, energetic, etc. Most days feel nuts but we are doing it cheerfully. I even exercise and decorate and do service. I feel like I’m running.
And like I said, God has opened up more room as I’ve shed those other things.
I struggled for two weeks with the question of whether to have another child or not. I felt really stumped. Only to find out that the whole time I was praying about it, I was already pregnant.
I feel tender and fragile and weak and inadequate and am having a hard time ‘owning’ this pregnancy. But what can this unplanned, accidental conception be other than the will of God. God will stretch me and magnify me and give me His grace (which I understand to be His power). He will make of me an iron pillar.”
I remember feeling unsure and tender, as I described, yet buoyed up by the promise that God could make me strong. But the darkest days were still to come. That stretching and growing were more difficult than I’d imagined. The typical physical difficulty of pregnancy was magnified by life with four busy, energetic children, and accompanied by my body’s total inability to fight off germs in pregnancy. We spent the winter with multiple stomach viruses and passed nearly every day of Christmas vacation in bed with high fevers. The worst depression of my life followed. Somewhere in the back of my rational mind, I knew it was the fault of hormones, but I couldn’t tackle it. I resented my pregnancy, I felt little self-worth, I was less than angelic to my children, I struggled every day to feel happy.
Those were dark days. I felt myself sinking deeply into the mire.
It sounds dramatic. It felt dramatic.
Spring came early in Oregon. As the crocuses poked out and the blossoms began to burst, I felt my soul in a new season, too. My health improved, the nausea of pregnancy was finally gone, I found energy again. I started to push back against the apathy that had ruled for so long and found my goal-setting, list-making, ambitious self once again. I am making good meals for my family again and speaking softly, too.
As I look back at my faith-filled words in November, I feel the Lord building me now. Piece by piece. He is making me strong, building me up to be the woman He always knew I could be.
There will be other mires. The building will take a lifetime. I will not be a perfect iron pillar in this life.
I attended a worldwide women’s conference held by my church on Saturday, March 28th. In a video presentation, highlighting the faith and experiences of women from around the globe, one of the sister’s words struck me to the core. “We are not perfect but we have the seed of perfection in us.”
I have never in my life felt more scattered, exhausted, or flawed. Simultaneously, I have never felt more loved, blessed, protected, and strengthened.
God will make an iron pillar of me. And you.
Thank you Anne for this beautiful post. You can connect with Anne on Instagram at @annecropper, or over at her blog at www.annecropper.com.
Thank you Lisa for this beautiful print, to see more of her work check out @handlettereddesign on Instagram!