When a fellow believer shares his or her story with you, what grabs your attention? Are there certain themes you listen for? Are there commonalities amidst the diversity and complexity of our individual stories, experiences that we share and that map on to a basic framework of understanding? I’m glad to welcome you as a listener to this podcast. I’m Mike Emlet, counselor and faculty member at the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation, CCEF. In conjunction with the release of my new book, Saints, Sufferers, and Sinners: Loving Others As God Loves Us, you’re about to hear a new podcast series during which I’ll interview several of my colleagues at CCEF.
During these conversations, we’ll explore the intersection of three struggles common to each of us as believers in Christ. The first is the struggle to ground our foundational identity in our relationship with Jesus Christ. “Who am I really” and “How do I live each day in light of that identity” is a question we find ourselves revisiting often as believers. What does it truly mean to live as a daughter or son of our Heavenly Father, a saint who is secure in Christ? The second is the struggle with suffering. We all wrestle with various hardships and afflictions, whether they arise from bodily weakness, relationships, or the situational challenges of life, whether they be traffic jams, financial hardships, or pandemics. How do we draw near to God who is an ever present help in times of trouble? How do we help others do that?
Third is the struggle with sin. We all wrestle with the evil that dwells within our hearts and our erupts in words and deeds that harm others and ourselves. How do we reckon with the fact that as the Apostle Paul says, when I want to do good, evil is right there with me? How does God help us grow in holiness? Moreover, how do we speak wisely and winsomely to those mired in sin? As Christians, we share the experience of simultaneously being saints, sufferers, and sinners. Knowing one another and loving one another well requires that we attend to these three foundational experiences. So join me now in listening to stories from saints, sufferers, and sinners.
Today I have the privilege of speaking with Myriam Hertzog. Myriam grew up in the South of France as a child of missionary parents. She did her masters in counseling at Westminster Seminary California. She works part time at CCEF as the development coordinator and supporting church liaison. She is married to Andy and has three boys age 15, 12, and seven. Pay attention to several things as you listen. Notice that no matter how a person comes to Christ, there is always a trajectory of growth in terms of how it looks to live out of that new identity in him. We increasingly become who we really are in Christ over time in the midst of various relationships, locations, life situations, hardships, and sin struggles. Learning to live as a saint is a dynamic process right to this present day.
Notice also the wonderful way that Myriam’s son ministers to her and ask yourself, “How might I encourage someone I love in a similar way?” Lastly, I love the way the conversation ends with Myriam speaking honestly about how growth in Christ happens in the very ordinary stuff of life. Things like housecleaning and how to move in to a new day with courage and faithfulness.
Well, Myriam, I’m really thankful for the opportunity for us to talk with one another. You’re doing this inaugural podcast, and I’m really thankful for your willingness to talk with me and give me the opportunity and others to know you a bit more. So, I’m really thankful for that.
Thank you, Mike. Thanks for letting me be a part of this.
Sure. Sure. I’d love to start off and just get a sense of your story in coming to the Lord. How did you come to know Jesus?
Okay. So, I was raised in a Christian home by missionary parents. And so, I grew up overseas, in France actually. And so, I was very blessed to have that upbringing, and my father taught at a seminary. And so, he was always teaching us a lot about scripture as children. So, I was very, very blessed by that. And I would say, a very rich biblical and theological upbringing, really. But I was in French society and was making friends.
And I think I was still trying to figure out how the faith of my parents would become my own, if that makes sense. And I had been in a private Christian school interestingly that my parents helped found in France, in the south of France. And then, in sixth grade or so, I transitioned to a private Catholic school. But I would say a lot of worldliness there and trying to figure out who I was, and all the things that I guess normal preteens go through. I was going through it as well.
And one of those is I got a little bit obsessed with this singer and is quite mesmerized by her. And I had a big poster of her, maybe a couple posters, let’s say, I don’t know, hanging on the wall. And I think that was really big in the ’80s and ’90s, I’m thinking, but anyway. The posters on the wall, and my oldest sister came into my room one night, and I was always very close with my sister and loved her very much. But I think that she was watching me wrestling with this adulation of this singer, really wanted to get to my heart and see what was going on inside.
And so, we had a fairly frank and honest conversation. I mean, I don’t know if I welcomed it at first because maybe I felt like she was crying a little bit or trying to ask me, “Well, what’s wrong? What’s wrong with liking a singer?” And, “Look at her. Isn’t she cool?” And whatever. And then, yeah. And then, she had just this frank conversation and asked me what I believed. And I think there were some truth speaking that was needed. And so, I guess I was 11, and gave my life to Christ that night with her.
And so, I’d love to say that it was just rainbows and butterflies after that, but I think as we know from what the scripture says in Philippians, He who started a good work will finish it. But I would say it probably honestly wasn’t till my 20s that I really started to… I mean, there were some experiences along the way that certainly deepened my faith. But I think as far as wrestling out my identity in Christ, probably and really taking hold of these truths and living them out, I would say, probably not… I hate to admit that.
But probably not till my 20s or so when life started to get maybe a little tougher. I was away from my parents and figuring out life on my own and who I was. Again, as I was saying to you about the faith of your parents, it’s sometimes when you move away from parents and you realize who you are, standing on your own two feet before Christ, that those realities can take hold and take root in your life, allowing you to wrestle out that with the Lord Himself.
So, that’s what I would say about that.
Yeah. So, it sounds like, yeah, you had this privilege of growing up in a Christian household and hearing, and seeing the gospel lived out. And then, at 11, a bit of a crossroads. But then, later as life goes on, this sense of, what does it mean to live increasingly out of an identity and in Christ? Can you talk about how that… you referenced your 20s in terms of, how did that start to go deeper? This sense of, this is who I am, in Christ, and what are the implications of that for my day-to-day life?
Yeah, it’s a good question. I mean, in my 20s, I was landed with some really difficult jobs, some jobs that I literally had no… probably no training for and no experience with. I had, by that point, a degree from a seminary. But I essentially ended up in secular social work, going into homes that were… it was volatile, let’s put it that way. You never knew what to expect. I was working with troubled teens and their families, teens dealing with truancy.
And so, I had to keep very detailed case notes of all these situations, families, felt a lot of pressure on me, both from my boss and from… there was a contract essentially with various school districts. So, I’d be dealing with principals. I’d be meeting individually with the student in school, meeting with a family in home, doing behavioral treatment plans with them. Then, sometimes, I would be going to court with families due to the absences with truancy.
And I just remember this sense of being utterly overwhelmed with the gravity in some ways of the situations I was dealing with. And in a way, I guess my helplessness to provide ultimate answers. Many of these folks didn’t walk with Christ, unbelieving families, unbelieving situations. And so, yeah. I really felt that I needed the Lord. I was also interestingly taking CCEF classes at night. So, it was an odd experience to, yeah, have this wonderful rich teaching and biblical counseling at night.
And then, we have to go out and do secular social work. I wasn’t really able to talk about my faith. So, that was tough. But I think the rootedness in Christ really, I would say, it took hold then, who am I? And how can I help these families? How can I be the aroma of Christ, walking into homes? One specific example that actually really was a story that was life-changing for me was coming into a home where there was so much squalor, decomposing trash, urine, boxes of food and take-out, that just everything was literally the trash was halfway up the wall in the home.
And as I was in one of the family sessions, a roach crawled up my leg. And I’m trying to very cautiously… on the slide, trying to kick the roach off my leg whilst not making them feel bad that their house looks like a dump. And probably, they should be evicted and all this stuff. You’re actually like a very sweet loving family dealing with grief and dealing with hardship. So, I would obsessively rub these dryer sheets on my clothing before I would go into this house so that the bugs wouldn’t crawl up on me.
But I remember it became this image for me as I sat outside the house of this particular family, knowing I have to go into this house. I would say that this is what my heart looks like, this squalor. I mean, I might be able to tidy up the outside and make myself look nice, but my heart looks just like the mess that I’m seeing in this house. And so, it became this beautiful picture that God use in my life that really dovetails with everything that CCEF teaches and is about, is dealing with my heart.
And so, I don’t know if I’m answering your question. I know it’s taken us a little far afield, but that was very formative for me in claiming identity with Christ, remembering who I am, and being able to be used even in the midst of challenging situations I think there.
Yeah, that’s really helpful to hear, just how can God use… you’re aware and know that you’re in Him, but your experiences in this case, of suffering and being overwhelmed, or being in the midst of another’s suffering, just recognizing your neediness, your dependence on Christ and where that stems from, ultimately Him. Your security is in Him. Your need for Him is there. So, that’s really helpful.
And one more thing, Mike, if you don’t mind?
I probably should have spoken to it earlier, is when we moved from France, when I was 13, that was certainly the most uprooting, difficult experience of my life to date. And so, identity in Christ was also something God worked on heavily at that point, because I think all of us as human beings, we want to feel at home. We want to feel comfortable somewhere. We want to feel that we belong somewhere. So, for me, what I would call the uprooting and the rerooting was very, very difficult.
In fact, I’ve said to good friends, “I really don’t think my sense of self truly became stable until much later in life because of the culture change.” And it felt like everything that was me in the first 13 years, I had to try to figure out what the new me was in a new culture. And so, that relates to faith as well because faith and faith traditions are practiced differently in different cultures. So, it is very interesting to me that the fact that I happen to be in a school where things didn’t go so well for me and I was bullied, and I look back now.
And I realize it actually was bullying, I don’t think my parents realized it. I don’t think I realized that that’s what you call it. But yeah, it was a very tough time because I didn’t have any friends, and I cried a lot. And I felt very lonely. But this sense of realizing Christ is my true home. And heaven is the home that I… even if I don’t long for it as much as I should, it is my longing. And so, that was also quite formative, the cultural experiences.
And I think now, by God’s grace, because of what I went through, I tend to be drawn to the person in the room, in any social gathering, who just doesn’t fit. Clearly, they’re having a hard time. Maybe they’re somebody who has an accent or somebody whose dress is funny, and you’re wondering, “Okay, something’s going on there.” Or they come in and they seem disoriented, and it tends to be the one I want to go talk to and figure out that story. “What’s going on? Tell me about yourself.” So, anyway, that’s part of the story, I guess.
Yeah. And you’re highlighting, Myriam, how… just yeah. So, it’s obviously a very hard thing to be shifting culturally, new schools, being on the receiving end of bullying. Those are really hard things. And there’s such a temptation, I’m sure in the midst of that too, you want to grab on to some identity. But you’re saying, “No, this is actually helping me root my identity in Christ. He’s my true home.”
Yeah. Neat. How would you say, maybe even today, bring us up to the present in terms of, what does it look like for you each day to say, “Okay, how do I live out of my identity in Christ?” What does it mean today, we’re recording on a Friday at midday, that I’m a person in Christ? How does it impact? Give us a window in terms of how it impacts day-to-day life for you right now.
Yeah. I mean, I think, and I wanted to mention, Mike, recently, a couple days ago, you put out an open letter to a discouraged saint. And I know this is relating to your book that has just been published, but I just sent that today to somebody. I mean, honestly, that letter is so comforting to me and encouraging to me in remembering the truths of who we are in Christ. And so, I think I find myself blessed in knowing that God is working in and through the particular package that He’s put together.
Meaning, my sins and sufferings, or my struggles might be different from yours, Mike, or somebody else’s. But because He’s so sovereignly ordaining all of it, I can walk confidently ahead because I know all these things have already been done for me in Christ. My mom would say to me as a kid, like paraphrasing the richness of Ephesians, that since Christ has already prepared the works ahead of me, for me to walk in, and He’s preparing me for the works, that I don’t need to live in anxiety and fear or this sense of regret or shame, or guilt.
Of course, you confess sin and you deal with it. And you just do your best every day to keep claiming those promises. But what a freeing notion that He’s already prepared those things ahead of me. And then, we’ve been dealing a lot actually with this in our Bible study right now talking about identity in Christ, and it’s been encouraging to wrestle it out with the women that so often our problem is amnesia. It’s like we forget as Christians who we are. Like Jack Miller would say, “Preach the gospel to yourself,” every day, and it’s hard work to do that.
Because I think sometimes, as horrible or strange as it might sound, it’s easier to punish yourself, and you do a woe is me cycle. And, “Oh, I should have done this or if I had just done this.” But of course, that puts the power right back in yourself because you have the power to change yourself. Or as if you had done it better, the outcome would be different. Well, not necessarily. So, I think that it’s hard work I think to keep going back to those promises and maul in that and-
Yeah, kind of marinate. Yeah.
Yeah, so that it’s hard work to do. But I mean, many listeners would probably be familiar with the Jack Miller Sonship materials, but to remember that we are sons and not orphans. And I think a lot of sins and struggles come when we aren’t owning that identity every day and reminding ourselves of what Christ has done for us. And you need other believers. I mean, sometimes, you get the blinders on. And you need to sometimes ask another believer, I’ll do that.
I’ll say, “Hey, have you seen any progress in me lately? Because I just feel so discouraged with this area of my life.” And they’ll say, “No, I do.” You know what I mean? So, that’s how we actually ask that question, I think. and I’m trying to do that too instead of just going into the processes of my brain or my thoughts, if that makes sense.
Oh, it does. And you’re also highlighting… just I mean, sometimes, this place of rooting or identity in Christ, we know it. We understand it, but it can feel very general or abstract. And you’re highlighting some of the very tangible aspects of that, talking to someone else in terms of, where do you see Christ at work in my life? Or remembering that everything that I’m doing today, God has prepared for me to do. So, He’s with me. It’s not just, “You’re in the family, see you later.” It’s, “I’m with you. I’m walking with you in the very steps of your day.”
Yeah. Mike, one of the neatest things that happened to me from other days, our oldest son wrote me a letter and told me all the ways he’d see me grow during quarantine. I was like, “Oh, wow.” I mean, he’s gifted with words and compassion, and he likes to speak and build up, and encourage, which that’s just a gift God’s given him. But I marveled. I thought, “How can you see that and say it, and that’s on your heart?”
And so, it is, to me, it’s mind-boggling. And I guess it’s also a reminder, God knows what I need. And those words were given to me, and they truly built me up. And he kept me going on the journey, because as for many people during pandemic season, it’s been so grueling. Just every day, it feels like you’re in some ways, the repeat of the last. But then, you’re also saying, “No. Lord, this day is your day. You’ve made it. So, I want to be faithful to you, and I don’t just want to stagnate. I want to grow.”
So, anyway, that was just a real blessing. And it reminds me I need to bless others too when I see good things in them. Don’t just keep that to myself, but tell them what I see.
Yeah, yeah. I mean, that was an incredible gift to you from your son as he’s ministering to you in that moment, and yeah, paradigmatic for what are we noticing in the lives of other people? A little bit ago, you were referencing some of the suffering that you’ve experienced. Could you talk about how… a time when someone ministered to you well in the midst of your suffering? Someone reached out to you, stewarded your story, your suffering, your affliction, in a way that was like, “This really brought health and goodness to me. This really was the aroma of Christ”?
So, I can think of two people who most ministered to me and one whose sufferings really far, far outweighed mine. She’s actually passed away, sadly. But she was a spiritual mother to me, and she had chronic health problems. But I’ve honestly never, almost in my entire life, met someone who knew so well how to sit with somebody and hear attentively, and not judge, and ask fabulous questions. But also, bring needed comfort.
And I was so moved that she, in the midst of so much physical pain, but also so much emotional pain she was in, could love that way. So, her favorite verse was the 2 Corinthians 13:5. And that’s also become very much a life verse for me that as I watched her receiving comfort from Christ in the midst of excruciating pain and a lifelong struggle with a diagnosis that was so difficult for her to deal with, that had so many physical implications for her for daily living, that she could out of that, minister to others.
So, she’s actually the one who pursued me. She would pick up the phone and call me, and ask me how I was doing. And so, coming into her room was being… almost like being in a garden with Jesus. You just felt like you could sit and smell the aroma of the beauty that He made for you. And yet, you could cry, and Jesus was sitting with you. And you could cry with Him. And you knew you were safe. And so, she was one person who are greatly used.
And I would say that anything good, that almost anything good that I can offer today, I learned a lot at her feet, which I’m so grateful for. And the other friend, she and I both had struggles with a child who was going through a lot. And so, when I was going through some struggles with our son who’s basically going through some rages, and he was going through school refusal, I felt that I could go to her. And I never got any of the pat answers or the… I often struggle with people making promises to me that not even the scripture makes.
So, I think it is hard for people to offer good counsel because you don’t want to offer these things. Maybe the Lord will not take that suffering away. Maybe it’s actually going to get harder. So, I think she was always able to receive the struggle, to have true compassion, to always pray, and to remind me of God’s love without judgment. And I think she accepted, and this is what I really loved, is that she accepted the unfinished business that was happening in the moment.
She accepted that this is a work in progress, and she didn’t have answers. I didn’t have answers for her, honestly, on some of the things that we were going through together. But we knew that our hearts had been yoked together in Christ, and that this was a journey that He would get us through and that He would encourage us through the friendship with one another. And that honestly, it’s like the C.S. Lewis and the four loves. Friendship is your side by side, journeying together, looking at Christ.
And that is just one of the most beautiful loves of all, to have a dear friend who joins you and isn’t patronizing, isn’t promising things that God doesn’t promise, and that lets the timeline really be God’s and not our own.
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it sounds like she was comfortable with herself being in process and her own relationship before the Lord in her own particular constellation of sufferings, and for you as well, that she wasn’t jumping the gun. She was hearing the struggle and speaking things that were encouraging, but not this overly optimistic, “Oh, it’s all going to be okay.” So, she’s, in that sense, was walking, as you said, with you and alongside you.
As you talked about this, you also intimated that, yeah, there are times that we don’t do so well in terms of ministering to people who are suffering. Have there been times where you haven’t been ministered to well in the midst of suffering where it wasn’t a comfort, a constellation? Where it didn’t really point you to hope and in Christ?
Yeah. I can think of two things here. Well, I think first, personally, I think when I’m sharing with somebody who is clearly uncomfortable with the angst of what I’m sharing, often, their responses come from that place. They’re not comfortable themselves, and they don’t know what to say. And so, they tend to say something that’s unhelpful. And so, I don’t think that’s upsetting to me because I can see that person is… they’re struggling too with it, or they haven’t been modeled this compassionate entering in.
I think we sometimes take that for granted at CCEF because we’re talking this language all the time. And we live it and we study it, and we breathe it, so to speak. But there are Christians who haven’t really modeled or there are Christians… excuse me, for whom this has not so much been modeled to them. Maybe they were raised with a stiff upper lip mentality or grin and bear it, or you should never say anything hard about what’s going on in your life.
Those folks, it’s very hard for them to enter into the struggle itself. So, if I say, “Hey, I have this thing coming up. I really would like a prayer. I’m really nervous.” And somebody says, “Oh, don’t worry. You’ll be fine.” That’s-
How many times has that been said to us? Because then, you’re saying, “I’m worried.” And you receive the advice, “Don’t be worried, and you’ll be fine.” Again, what if you aren’t fine? What if you totally mess it up?
So, that stuff gets offered all the time just in the culture abroad. Or, “You’ve got this.” It’s like, “Well, do I got this? I mean, I don’t know. I don’t feel like I got it at all.” The person who’s got it is God. But there are lines, of course, that are not helpful. But I think at a deeper level, and this isn’t so much my story, is one just that my parents went, and she was born deaf. And so, there are some folks around my parents at the time who they were, I guess, asking them to pray for healing for her.
But I think, also we’re saying, “If you have greater faith, then she will be healed.” So, of course, she’s not been healed. I say, of course, I guess she could have been healed. But that was not God’s plan. And so, it makes me think of the story in John 9, the Pharisees are looking at the blind man and saying, “Who sins, this man or his parents?” And Jesus basically astutely says, “No, is that the works of God might be displayed in him.” And so, I think that has been a beautiful thing for me to remember with my older sister and with anybody who has, especially chronic suffering or pain that has not been taken away.
You think of Joni Eareckson Tada and folks like that whose entire lives actually have become this place where God’s glory has been displayed. The mighty works of God have been displayed. And maybe those works would not have been displayed had it not been for the suffering itself. So, obviously, that was a very unhelpful thing that was said to my parents. And because they had a solid grounding in the character of God and His sovereignty, and the place of suffering, that didn’t deter them so much.
But I do feel sad for those who don’t have that. And then, who work themselves into or try to work themselves into some OCD religious experience of prayer so that they just pray harder. If they just try harder, then God’s going to give them what they want. And then, we know many Christians who are struggling like that. And so, it’s… yeah. I don’t know if that answers the question, Mike.
Oh, absolutely. And you’re highlighting how that even… if things don’t go that way, like we grab hold of promises or assurances that God Himself may not have made, and it doesn’t happen, then it adds sorrow upon sorrow. There’s just now new layers of suffering. Because we love people, we want to… we’re tempted to basically say, “I love you, and I have a wonderful plan for your life.” But we don’t know what the Lord maybe up to in their lives.
So, you’re just highlighting the wisdom we need as we approach the suffering. What scriptures has the Lord used for you in the midst of your suffering? What’s become precious to you? And even in what we were just talking as we share scripture with one another, we want it to be a word and season. We want to be wise in the way we do that. But what’s been helpful to you from scripture, either from your own study or in something that someone has said to you in the midst of your suffering?
Yeah. I mean, I think as I was referencing the 2 Corinthians 13:5, that’s something I prayed over our son when he was struggling. Because when I flashback to the time in high school when I was being bullied, I had no idea that because of that suffering as a teenager… and actually, 10 years later, I had the opportunity to minister to suffering teens in a public high school. And it was unbelievable to remember, “Wow, you brought me through this suffering, Lord, so that I would be able to understand the sufferings of others.”
So, that passage, I’ve been praying over our son, and I’m starting to see some of that come true that He really does have a compassionate heart for those who are suffering, the same comfort that Christ ministered to him in times of sorrow, and the hardship He is not able to minister to others. And He’s done that for me. And so, that’s certainly one I think during this past year in pandemic season and quarantine, it’s really Galatians 6:9, “Do not grow weary in doing good, for in due season, you’ll reap if you don’t give up.”
And so, now, I realize sometimes, Mike, that that verse, maybe for some, can feel like this. “I have to do good. I have to do good. I have to do good. I don’t want to grow weary in doing good.” But that somehow for me, it was just… of course, that’s not what Paul’s saying. But I think for me, it was this sense of, Paul knows you will grow weary. But remember that as you grow weary and you’re restoring Christ, He’s using your imperfect efforts to bring about good.
And in due season, you’ll reap the fruit, maybe not even the side of heaven. I mean, there might be a family member that you’ve been witnessing to for three decades, and they have not come to Christ. Well, it’s possible that someday, they will. Maybe they won’t, but it doesn’t make your witness any less true to what God wants for you. It doesn’t mean that that effort is any less good. So, I think for those of us who are parents at home with children, working all in each other’s space, trying to figure out how to do life in the new normal, which for many of us, this past year has been a very weird, new normal, I think there’s a sense in which these works that are small works.
They feel like very small works, right? You’re serving lunches to your kids. You’re cleaning up after them. All the various things you’re doing to keep your household running and things like that, but they’re good works that God sees. And He knows. He knows the pressure cooker that so many families have been living under. And He’s well aware of the effort it is every day to do all these things unto the Lord and to not grow weary. So, for me, at least, that passage in Galatians has just… it’s up on my wall.
And it’s up on the third floor, what used to be my kid’s playroom, but they’re a little older now. And so, I’m very grateful they’ve given up part of their playroom for me to have an office. And that in and of itself to me is just a blessing to know that now, mom and dad are working up on the third floor. And yeah, it’s sweet.
That’s great. And something that’s so important to keep before us as we go into each day, like what would it look like for me to be faithful today, Lord? Just doing the small things that you’ve called me to do? Help me not to be weary in the doing of those, yeah.
We talked about how we’ve experienced either being on the receiving end of good helpful counsel in the midst of our suffering or not so good, and we’ve been there too ourselves, I’m sure, on the giving end, both ways. But what about for issues of sin in your life? Can you talk about times where someone spoke well and winsome way to you regarding issues of sin in your life? You highlighted earlier how important the other people are in our process, whether it’s with suffering, or in this case, with our growth in Christ and obedience.
Can you talk about instances like that where someone spoke wisely and winsomely to you about your sin?
Yeah, I’d be happy to share about that. It was actually in college. There was a guy, I had done a study abroad program with her. We were both part of a Christian College, and we went abroad to study. And so, she saw me pretty up close and personal for a number of months, and it just was so amazing. She was able to come and speak to me about an area that she saw in my life that really wasn’t glorifying to God.
And it was how I judge people based on, I guess, their outward appearance. And I would say critical and judgmental things about others. And so, yeah. Of course, it was hard to receive at the moment because it’s embarrassing. Somebody’s calling you out on something. And yet, it was a struggle. And I think because I grew up in a culture that did prize appearance, you didn’t go out the house as a woman unless you were dressed for the day.
And you would never wear, even here to do this day in the US, I’m like, “Wow, people are wearing sweats, like yoga pants, and they’re out in public. What are people thinking? At least, they’re on a nicer shirt or a scarf.” It’s just the culture. I think some of it’s a cultural thing, but yeah. Then, it became part of a sin pattern with me. And then, she had the courage to call it out. She said, basically, I recall just something like God calls us to look at… at the end, God looks at the heart.
And so, we should not… He doesn’t look at the outward appearance. So, we ultimately should not judge people based on their outward appearance. So, I think, just to think of the courage that it took her to come and speak to me, it’s just so amazing and so humbling. And it gives me courage too just when there’s somebody else that might be struggling to go to them one-on-one, if you feel the Lord is calling you to do that with them. Because it really changed my entire life, what she did.
I think the Lord reoriented me after that point, so that now, it’s just not really so much of a struggle anymore. It’s not, as if I don’t see the outward appearance. In fact, one of my sons, and I had a really interesting conversation about this the other day, we were talking about the role of working out and being in shape. And we were talking about the gym and all these things, and how I called it the COVID-19 pounds, because we’re probably going to be gaining some weight here sitting around.
And he just said, “But mom, why does it really matter what you look like on the outside? Because God is about our soul. We can’t take these bodies with us to heaven, why does it really matter?” So, we got into this discussion about it, which is a really good discussion about how to care for the body and by the temple, the Holy Spirit, that kind of stuff. But of course, to judge somebody based on the body and the outward appearance is wrong and sinful.
So, I just feel like it’s the courage that she had to then affect by God’s Spirit is such a change in me, and I do love people so much. I just love people. I don’t know, it’s just how I gotten maybe, I guess. It’s not that I don’t struggle with people as we all do, but I feel drawn now. A person walks into the room, and regardless of how they look, I don’t know what happened. Did God just retrain my brain? I don’t know. But it’s just not as much of a struggle now. And because I think He knew I did love people and I wanted to minister to them and know them, but that was a hurdle.
That was an obstacle in the way that really needed to get knocked down. So, by His grace, it’s been somewhat knocked down, and hopefully continues to be. So, yeah. So, that’s the answer to that one.
That’s really neat. I mean, that your woman loves you well, and you’re right. It required courage to come to you, risk possibly in terms of your relationship. And yet, what a moment for the… the Spirit used her words in your life in a very powerful way that’s resulted in ripple effect in your life over the years to the present day. So, that’s really neat.
Yeah. Yeah, for sure.
Again, how about the converse of that? Can you talk about an occasion when someone challenged your sin but it was not helpful, it was not winsome? And why was it not helpful?
So, I think in certain forms of counseling that I received in the past, there was too simplistic view of sin. And so, it became behavior modification, Allah-Christian version, where we go and try to do all these things to almost it somewhat feels like you’re… I don’t want to say, do penance. But you’re kind of, “Okay. Well, let’s go correct that and go do a whole bunch of good things.” Or just the fact that sometimes, sin has these motivations that we’re not aware of, and this is why I love this ministry so much.
I’ll give you an example of an area that is suffering and sin, but I think I’m starting to see more as suffering that has sinful consequences, let’s put it that way. I am not a great housekeeper. I struggle a whole lot to keep the house clean. I was raised in a home that was generally just a little more messy, seven kids. It was like either my mom was going to run it with like von Trapp, with the whistle, and we were all going to be lined up. Or it was going to be a little bit all over the place, which we have the ladder and be all over the place.
But mess just doesn’t really bother me that much, physical mess, because I grew up that way, because I’m a little all over the place. But I married a man who really likes things to be tidy and orderly. And it’s easy for us to judge one another based on our upbringings or what we defined to be the right way to do things. But for years, honestly, I’d beat myself up over this area of the house. Some of it at times was sinful. He would have wanted me to make more efforts.
And I just threw in the towel. Because I just thought, “Well, I’m not very good at this, and I can’t do it.” And I just didn’t do it. And that was sinful. I could say even rebellious at times. And he’s forgiving and gracious. But then, I think it was a good friend who said to me, because I kept saying that, “Oh, I just feel so bad. I’m so terrible. Why can’t I do this? Why can’t I make my husband happy? It’s just causing so much tension at home.”
I just was beating myself up essentially. And she said to me, “I think you’re really afraid. I think you are so afraid of this house work. I think you’re afraid of failing. You’re afraid of not being like so-and-so or Suzy Homemaker, that you have this idea you have in your head, or other women whose houses you walk into, and you’re like, ‘Wow, that’s so incredible. Look at this.'” So, she said, “You really need to start arming yourself in the power of prayer and get in that kitchen and pull your sleeves up, and pray. Pray for courage.
Pray that you will not be tempted to despair over this area that is a struggle for you.” That has suffering and sin both involved, I would say, “And cry out to Him for courage to stop the voices of condemnation and shame, and to have Godly courage. Yes, you can clean this kitchen. Now, sure, there’s certain things you can’t do.” My boys laugh at me because I set timers. Let’s do 30 minutes on the kitchen. Let’s do 30 minutes on the house. Why do we need a timer? I mean, they say to me, “Why can’t we just do it until it’s done?”
“Well, because there’s a goal. There’s a deadline.” anyway. So, there’s tricks, stuff that you can do. But I think, for me, it was a heart struggle of fear. And once I saw the issue was fear, it has changed, interestingly, conversely to the story we just told, about sin. An ad has written an article about fears, not sin. And I think that’s helpful to people. Because in a place, as you were saying earlier about sorrow upon sorrow, I think you can heap so much upon yourself in an area where you’re weak.
Maybe your upbringing didn’t really help you in that way. And then, here you are as an adult, saying your 40s or 50s, you’re still struggling with the same pattern. You haven’t made so much headway. And you’re like, “What is wrong with me?” So, I think that is another one that is changing, genuinely changing, is that because the heart’s been addressed, because I’m asking the Lord for help with fear, and to shut out those voices of condemnation or some ideal I’m trying to live for. I’m seeing change. So, it’s very different.
Yeah, that’s so interesting, right? You’re highlighting so many different layers of that, on the surface, is just as simple, “Do I keep a cleaner house or not?” Right? It’s just a very simple question. But you’re highlighting all kinds of layers like, “Okay. Well, what does it mean that my husband and I are different? And what does love look like for him? But then, how am I importing particular standards that have become a… yeah, just this burden, this yoke of slavery?”
And then, this fear piece in terms of, “Oh, that actually is really central.” And having faced that deeper heart fear, it’s been a catalyst for growth in this area.
Yeah. So, there’s just, yeah, multifaceted, even these simplest things. So, as we move to our closing, let me ask you this question, like present day. And we’ve touched on present day at various points throughout our conversation, but what would you say the Lord is at work right now doing? I might say, what’s the cutting-edge of growth, but cutting-edge sounds like so big like, “Oh, wow.” But I think I mean that more in terms of, where do you see the Spirit at work now? What’s He putting His finger on?
What’s life look like in Christ today for Myriam Hertzog?
Well, thanks, Mike. Yeah, it’s a really good question. It’s a hard question. I don’t know what you think about this, Mike. But I think a lot of it starts… I’m not a morning person. I struggle a lot in the morning. I keep hoping that someday, I don’t know, this heaven on earth is going to happen. I’m going to wake up one day and suddenly be a morning person. I don’t think it’s going to happen. But I-
Maybe in heaven. Maybe in heaven, Myriam.
Yeah, there you go. It’ll be interesting to see what happens like, “Are we going to have morning and night people?” Since Jesus Christ this morning and… we’ll see. He’s the light and day. Yeah, I think for me, it starts literally when I’m waking up out of bed, and I have to cry out to God, almost as soon as I’m taking the covers off. I’m saying, “God, help me. Help me today. Because in my flesh, I don’t feel I’m taking on this day. I want to go back to bed. I don’t want to go help the kids downstairs.
I just want them to fend for themselves. I know that’s so selfish.” I just… yeah. And I have to cry out, “Lord, help me. Help me to have courage to take on this day. Use me in my weakness. Use me in my struggle, in my imperfect ways. Use me because I want to be used by you. I really do.” And I think some of it is… so, that’s where it starts to now, is in the morning, crying out to the Lord, that this day… it’s His day. I want to use it for Him.
And I think too, for me, Mike, it’s been areas of personal discipline. Of course, that’s the hardest part of Christian living, is personal discipline and obedience, in areas where it’s easy to… even as Christians and the church, to just veg out. We’ve had a long day, whatever that looks like for you. For me, it was Netflix for a while and to stay up too late and watch shows that were borderline. But then, I start to think what I’m feeding myself at night through these shows, which I mean, some of them were okay, I guess.
But it was more, “I’m not really being productive here.” And on top of that, usually staying up too late and really not… I think what it does is it just puts you in neutral. You’re not ready to go. You’re just in neutral. And then, we know that God spits out the lukewarm. So, it’s like, we don’t want to live in a lukewarm place. And if we’re not feeding ourselves, if we’re not doing things that really are productive and beneficial for our souls, which I did to me, I think we tend to hang out in neutral. And then, we’re not productive.
So, it’s funny because some of it is actually not even necessarily biblical disciplines. I have a puzzle that I do every Christmas. It’s 1,000-piece puzzle, and I’m so bad at it. I mean, I enjoy something that I’m so bad at, and others will come in. And then, a few minutes, they put whole parts of the puzzle together. I will sometimes do the puzzle and pray. I know it sounds silly, right? Big guy will help me do the puzzle unto Him, for His glory, because I find it so rewarding.
I like puzzles. It’s a puzzle. It’s fun.
It’s hard, yeah.
And it’s hard, and it feels like a dopamine hit every time you’re putting a piece together.
I found a piece, yes.
I heard a quote that said something like… I don’t know if it’s the problem with modern people today or children today. I don’t know what, but it was, “A consume more than they create.” That has really helped me, both in my parenting and in my hobbies. How am I creating? So, if I can cook a beautiful meal, even if it’s not a great meal, I’m creating. If I am singing or… I’m part of a singing group, I had to create a virtual project a month ago, super hard, worked my tail off.
But we were creating, and the puzzle was creating. And so, I think that beautiful image of God identity that we have is that we are creative like God. So, I think we can think about that as ministry too. What does it mean in my church for me to minister in a creative way where I’m using my gifts or I’m asking my pastor, “Hey, what are the needs out there? How can I help the church? Let me do something,” that kind of thing.
So, that’s been helpful, the self-discipline of doing the hard thing just for the goal of trying to do it unto the glory of God, and not taking an attitude of, “Oh, I’m tired, I’ll vegetate.” Does that make sense?
It does, yeah. And even the simple but difficult first morning awakening, “What am I going to do with this day?” Well, I do it in Him and for His glory. So, yeah. Again, thank you for, yeah, such a multi-faceted answer to that question, right? It’s not just one thing that the Lord is up to in our lives. You just highlighted so many different places where the Spirit’s at work. So, I’m really grateful for the time to talk with you, Myriam. I feel like I had this privilege of standing on holy ground with my sister, and I’m just… yeah. I’m just really thankful for the time. So, thank you so, so much.
Mike is the Dean of Faculty and a counselor at CCEF, where he has served since 2001. He holds a doctor of medicine from the University of Pennsylvania and a master of divinity from Westminster Theological Seminary. Prior to joining CCEF, Mike worked as a family physician for eleven years. He has particular interests in working with ministry leaders and with those who struggle with anxiety, depression, and OCD. He has published numerous books, including CrossTalk (New Growth Press, 2009), Descriptions and Prescriptions (New Growth Press, 2017), and Saints, Sufferers, and Sinners (New Growth Press, 2021).