Series: Disciplines of a Beautiful Woman: An Interview with Anne Ortlund
Leslie Basham: God doesn’t ask us to get our act together before we come to Him. In fact, He requires just the opposite. Here’s Anne Ortlund.
Anne Ortlund: It is when I confess my weakness that He can begin to pour in His strength. When I think I can’t do it, I fall on my face. God can start with you when you are willing to say, “Here is my need”¦I need help.”
Leslie Basham: Today is Monday, February 23; and this is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. A glove can’t do anything without a hand inside of it. Today our guest, Anne Ortlund, will describe to us how we’re kind of like a glove: powerless, without God’s presence inside us. Here’s Nancy.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: I’m so grateful to have a very special guest with us today onRevive Our Hearts. Her name is Anne Ortlund. She’s the best-selling author of over a dozen books for women including, Children are Wet Cement, Fix Your Eyes on Jesus, and My Sacrifice: His Fire.
But the one that I read as a college student that particularly impacted my life, twenty-five years ago, was one of her earlier books called, The Disciplines of a Beautiful Woman. Anne, welcome to Revive Our Hearts. We’re so thankful that you could be with us today.
Anne Ortlund: Oh, Nancy”¦ I’ve loved you for a long time.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: You have. I was in the church that your husband pastored when I was a college student. And you and Ray have had such a sweet impact in my life, even though we’ve had very little connection over those twenty-five years. But for me, much of it has been though your writings.
Now I’m delighted to see that three of your books, including the one that I read all those years ago, The Disciplines of a Beautiful Woman and two others, have been combined into a big, thick, beautiful, hardback book called, The Gentle Ways of the Beautiful Woman.
Anne Ortlund: The three are the trilogy that came out separately. Originally: The Disciplines of the Beautiful Woman, The Disciplines of the Heart and The Disciplines of the Home. And those three touch the hearts of just about every listener that I think is listening to your program at this moment.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Absolutely. And I’m so thankful for this combined version which we are going to encourage our listeners to read. In fact, as I was reading through this book, The Gentle Ways of the Beautiful Woman: A Practical Guide to Spiritual Beauty, is the subtitle, I was thinking, we are never going to cover all that we want to cover this week on the broadcast. And I’m just hoping that every one of our women listeners will order this book.
I have to say, that I wonder why you titled books Discipline? Three books you did, and not just one”¦ when discipline, for a lot of people, is a word that we’re not sure we want to go into a bookstore and ask for a book on discipline.
Anne Ortlund: You know, the publishers, when we were wrestling with the name, wanted to make it, Personal Secrets for Inner Beauty. And it just made me want to throw up. I said, “We want to name them succinctly,” but it’s like Arsenic and Old Lace or it’s like The Velvet-Covered Brick. It says the strength and the softness of the woman–both.
And we wrestled and wrestled. It came out, The Disciplines of the Beautiful Woman, and they said, “Nobody will buy it when you use the word “disciplines.” Well, then after that came, Dare to Discipline and Celebration of Discipline. And it got to be an okay word. We need discipline”¦we know we need it.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: I do. And we hear that from so many of our listeners. In fact, I’m holding here an email that one of our listeners, and this is representative of many, a young wife and mother saying, “My problem is that I am very undisciplined in just about every area of my life.” She talks about her past and growing up where her parents didn’t really teach her some practical life skills.
Now she is married and she says that she has a great husband. “He’s self-disciplined but,” she says, “I, on the other hand, can hardly be consistent about brushing my teeth.” She says, “I’m lazy; I’m disorganized and if you’d walk into my house–you’d think we were total slobs.” She said, “I want to be the best wife and mom that I can be; but I keep failing because of my selfish, undisciplined ways.”
She talks about her weight, how she dresses herself, how she looks physically. She talks about how she can’t get up in the morning to make her husband breakfast, which would mean a great deal to him if she would. She says, “I have no routine for my day and I can’t stay within the budget that we have set up.”
Then she says, and my heart just so went out to her, “I want to change and I pray about these things. I love my family. I want to be the best I can for the them but I’m still struggling.” Then she says, “Can I still gain the skills to become a disciplined and productive part of society? Is there hope for me, a 31-year-old, to change?”
What do you say to this listener and lots of us, who could say that part of that e-mail would be true of us?
Anne Ortlund: God is the God of new beginnings.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Amen.
Anne Ortlund: Isn’t that wonderful? He has (with me) with me over and over. It is when I confess my weakness that He can begin to pour in His strength. When I think I can’t do it, I fall on my face. So the very fact that she has expressed her struggles, that she’s not satisfied with the way she is at this moment”¦congratulations! I hope you are listening, dear lady, because this is wonderful. This is the way God can start with you. When you are willing to say, “Here’s my need; I need help.”
Nancy, at this moment I’m thinking of a glove. And this glove, if I hold it up by the wrist, is just limp. It can’t wave “bye-bye” at you. It can’t pick up anything. It’s just totally without strength. But if I slide my hand into the glove, then you say, “Oh, my goodness. This glove can play the piano or pick up everything.” She needs, first of all, to ask Christ to come in, to be her discipline, her strength, her motivation, her everything she doesn’t have in herself.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: That hand is”¦
Anne Ortlund: The Lord Jesus Christ. He is our only hope of glory, our only hope of putting together a decent house and dressing right and losing weight and fixing husbands’ breakfasts”¦ all the rest. It all begins with Christ in us and letting Him do the work, instead of trying to do it on our own.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: That’s so important because otherwise we are going to strive and struggle and try to perform. We are really going to Mt. Sinai where the law was given and trying to do on our own what we don’t have the power to do apart from Christ.
Now in your book, brought together in this one book, The Gentle Ways of the Beautiful Woman, you talk about some exterior disciplines that are very practical in nature, and then you talk about some disciplines of the heart. Let’s start with some of those exterior disciplines, although I know that the renovation starts in the heart.
But sometimes you just need some help getting started–bringing some order to the clutter of your world and your life and your schedule, for a person who feels like their life is just out of control–not ordered. Help us know how to start.
Anne Ortlund: Well, I think about the closet because it’s kind of a visual picture of a woman’s whole life. If it is stuffed and cluttered, and there are things she has not worn for two years and things that need mending; she can’t wear them until they’re mended and all that baloney in there that maybe is because her life is like that, or her heart is like that.
I love 2 Corinthians 5:17, “If any person is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone.” I understand that the verb there, “is passing away.” It’s not totally gone yet, but it’s in the process of leaving. The new is in the process of coming on, and all this is from God.
So you go through your closet and you pick out all the stuff that you are not wearing. Somebody in this world is much poorer than you and they need it desperately. If she narrows it all down to what she’s wearing at the moment or this season and gives away a lot of that baloney; her closet will start to look better.
She’ll open the door and she’ll know that whatever is in that closet is mended, is cleaned; it’s ready to go. That’s kind of the way our whole lives are. Keep saying to the Lord, “Lord, get rid of the things in my life that have been there too long. Help me to eliminate the clutter so that I can concentrate on what You have for me right now.”
Then, Nancy, suppose somebody says, “Will you teach the Sunday school class?” Before, you might have said, “Oh, I can’t. I’d love to, but I’m just too busy.” The woman who thinks about eliminating and concentrating, she’ll say, “Wonderful! This must be of the Lord. What must go in order that I can take on this new thing?” We have a big back door and a big front door. And we’re taking in the new, always, and we’re letting the old go out the back door deliberately.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Well, I find that so many women today”¦in fact, if there was one word I was going to use to describe many of the women I meet today, it’s the word “stressed.” I think there’s a feeling that, I have to be doing all these things.
Anne Ortlund: They are trying to do it all. The Christian pressures are to have them in a Christian school–that takes a lot of money–to have them taking piano lessons, to have them playing soccer, to have them taking ballet, to do everything that everybody else is doing. We are not looking at the Word of God. We are not on our knees seeking God’s direction. We are doing what our Christian sisters are doing and we’re trying to keep up with Joneses. And no wonder we are pressured and stressed out.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: You know, that reminds me of a passage in John 17 [:4], where at the end of His life, Jesus prayed to His Father. And He said, “Father, I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work that You gave me to do.” You think about the requirements in Jesus’ life–talk about a long to-do list. He was sent to earth to accomplish the plan of redemption and given three years to do it.
Talk about a life that could have been stressed out with people and demands, and yet He started each day by seeking the face of His Father, getting God’s agenda (God’s to-do list for His life), eliminating and concentrating. ]
Jesus didn’t do everything that could have been done on this earth while He was here. What He did do, was everything that His Father gave Him to do. I have, as a life goal, Anne, to be able to look at the Lord at the end of my life and also at the end of each day and to say, “Father, I haven’t done everything that could have been done today, but I have glorified You on the earth because I have done the work that You gave me to do.”
Anne Ortlund: If we would just see what the work is, God gives us to do, it would eliminate a lot of stuff right then. If we pray over each thing, “Lord, is this from You? What do you want me to do, Lord?” I think about Luke 5:15-16, when Jesus was at the height of His popularity and the crowds were pressing Him. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
That’s where we’ll get our order. When our lives are ordered, when our hearts are ordered with the things that God gives us to do; it’s going to be reflected, pretty soon, in how our desk looks.
It won’t have a thousand papers and we can’t remember what each one is for. It’ll have a pile that’s for this and the pile is getting smaller. And it’ll have something else here; we know what to do with. And it will give a sense of peace in our hearts, if God is helping us to eliminate the visible clutter around us.
Used with Permission. Revive Our Hearts