After many years of diverse career experience, I was excitedly counting down the days until my retirement. I eagerly anticipated being in control of my schedule and time while enjoying a slower pace of life. I envisioned more days devoted to serving in ministry at my church and deepening relationships...
My Grandpa Jim wrote an autobiography that he hoped would “show that when we commit our lives to God’s direction, His promises are proven true, time and time again” (Jim Miller).
When I was thirteen, he scribbled this note in my copy:
We are proud of your many abilities and most of all your commitment to Jesus. He will lead you in the right path when you acknowledge him. Then you can be a larger influence for him like your mother and dad,
Reading my family history through Jim’s lens, I’ve discovered that the roots of my convictions run deep—as far as I know, back to Rev. Perry Miller, the first of five generations of Christ-followers.
Jim’s story is a nearsighted view of my family tree—biologically and spiritually.
The Lord through his Word gives me the spectacles I need to see the genealogical wonder you and I are wrapped up in.
My roots run back to Eden, ultimately (1 Chronicles 1:1).
No Man Is an Island
A famous poet shares the same truth quite beautifully:
No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main. (John Donne)
Mr. Donne was right. The grace of God given in Jesus Christ was revealed to me because it was revealed first to Perry Miller before the dawn of the First World War. And Perry Miller knew nothing of grace, apart from Christ. And there would be no Christ were there no Mary, nor Joseph, David, Judah, Abraham—or Adam.
We are tethered to past generations, whether we’d prefer to be an island or not. Man’s words—my grandpa Jim and Mr. Donne included—echo God’s Word: We are threads in a tapestry of redemption from which we cannot untie. And we’d do well to zoom out from the square inch we occupy and start looking at the whole—or at least the part that God reveals in his Word.
My Understanding: Limited
My grandfather’s note to me quotes God’s Word:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
I loose sight of the fact that my path is connected to the maze of history, as is yours. My understanding only goes as far as my experience—the step of the path I’m currently on. And so often, I can’t even make sense of the circumstances at hand.
It’s so easy to make predictions about “what will happen if.”
Our hearts conceive hypotheticals and then deceive us that we can change the direction of our path. And, our pathetic attempt to iron out our way bears only in mind our own concerns—much less those of five generations before or after us.
Our understanding does not deserve our trust, nor can it bear it.
My Heart: Wicked
Our own minds are faulty places to put our trust, not only because they’re limited, but also because they’re wicked.
Yes, our Creator has told us that, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). In fact, the Lord has been patient with our wicked hearts for thousands of generations, though he knows their intentions to be evil from our youth (Genesis 8:21).
Jesus Christ, the Lord, paid the penalty for my wickedness on the cross, broke sin’s power at work in my heart, and promised its presence will one day be removed for all eternity.
We who have faith in the Savior for the forgiveness of our sins, now recognize him as our Lord. We were dead in our sin. But, now that we’ve been made alive, we can see the death sin wrought in our hearts and the death it threatens to reap in our regenerate hearts (Ephesians 2:1-5, James 1:15).
By God’s Spirit we battle sin’s remaining presence. We do not trust in our regenerate heart. For, we still sin; we’re still inclined toward wickedness. Instead, we put our trust in him who put an everlasting beat in our dead heart at the expense of his own.
Our way led straight to the grave apart from Jesus, and without the strong and loving direction of his Lordship, many of the ideas of our wicked heart will lead the same way (Proverbs 16:25).
With All Your Heart
So, the Lord welcomes us to lean on him alone with the full weight of our heart. Giving him all your heart does not mean that every ounce of your being will be at ease always. Giving him all your heart means that in all your ways you acknowledge him. Big, small, silly, severe, tender, and mundane—we look to him for every step.
From the provision of your daily needs to the salvation of your soul, you are to acknowledge God as the Lord he is over all things, entrusting to his care the decisions you make, the ways you want to take, and the desires of your heart (Proverbs 16:33, Proverbs 16:1, Psalm 62:8).
“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29).
The “secret things” include the path we entrust to the Lord; for, in fact, it already belongs to him. With the secret things, may we honor our Heavenly Father’s sovereignty.
Another way we trust the Lord with our whole heart is to walk in obedience to the things he has clearly revealed—“all the words of the law.”
As we fear the Lord by walking in obedience to his Word, we have the promise of his friendship, and also sometimes a glimpse into his purposes (Psalm 25:14). Brother Andrew, a missionary behind the iron curtain during WWII reminds us, “that’s the excitement in obedience, finding out later what God had in mind” (Brother Andrew, God’s Smuggler).
Trust in the Lord
Perry Miller, Jim Miller, Brother Andrew, and our fathers in the faith since Adam could not see the whole picture either. But “not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar” (Hebrews 13:13), they were faithful to trust the Lord and point us where they could to his Word.
In everything, acknowledge the Lord for who he is and may his reign in your life be evident and affective in the lives of generations to come. And may you trust in him with all your heart, all the way home.
Remind me of this with every decision
Generations will reap what I sow
I can pass on a curse or a blessing
To those I will never know. (Sara Groves, “Generations“)