Thursday, January 31, 2013

He's Big Enough

Things seemed so clear, concise, packaged, black and white.

Goals are set - (God's goals, we tell ourselves), we know the steps to reach them and we're pursuing them with the greatest of intentions and passion.  Life is mapped out - crystal clear and beautiful.

Then something happens -- life happens.

You realize that you're a broken person, living in partnership with another broken person, raising broken little people.  The life we planned rarely (Rarely?  Never.) lays out perfectly.  People, moves, heartbreaks, successes, failures, jobs, friendships, illness, stuff... it happens, and it changes our ideal.

And yes, we've been redeemed, the Spirit of the Living God resides in us.  All power that I need to live the life He's called me to is here for me - it's in me.  For that I am eternally grateful.  We have what we need from a God that has it figured out.  But I don't have it figured out.

I'm a person living with a soul that sometimes turns from what I know and lives in fear, pursuing what I believe I need to protect myself and my family.  At risk to the very ones I want to protect, I run on the endless hamster-wheel of trying to control every aspect of my life and everyone else's...often running over the very ones I want to protect.  I forget to lay down, as Richard Foster says, "the everlasting burden of always needing to manage others."

I'm not saying we should just let our children run like wild banshees without boundaries or training.  Not at all.  God's given them to us and we must be good stewards of the precious lives entrusted to us. We must do our best to put wisdom into them, live by example what it means to be a follower of Christ, teach them discipline and humility - (all that good-parent stuff).  But when boundaries are set by my desire to control, or out of fear, when failure to live up to my "standards" brings shame and condemnation rather than guidance, grace and redemption, I've forgotten their God is still in charge here.  I've forgotten He has plans I cannot imagine - plans that are way better than any I could dream up.  I've lived in fear instead of love.

I'm grateful for beautiful children and a husband that loves me.  I'm thankful that we're all friends and we can have wonderful, laughter-filled times together.  I'm also freaked out that they are slipping out of the grasp of my control - or at least my illusions of control. Corrie Ten Boom said, “Hold everything in your hands lightly, otherwise it hurts when God pries your fingers open.”   

As I look into the faces of our two grown children and one we're about to launch out of a huge India-facing sling shot into adulthood, I'm completely overwhelmed, completely terrified and completely humbled.  

I realize that I lived in fear much of the time, often creating rules, laws, boundaries and agendas to try and keep my broken little ones from making some of the same mistakes we made (or that they'll make up new ones I never even thought of).  I had this "perfect" picture in my head of what things would look like and worked to make it so, instead of trusting God for the outcome.  God is prying my fingers open.  And I'm glad. Holding that tightly is exhausting.  

I forget that the big God that redeems my mistakes, my sins, my failures is the same big God that will redeem theirs. 

I forget that this is their journey and it will look different than mine. 

I forget that the big God that is not intimidated by my doubts and wrestlings, is also not intimidated by theirs.

I forget that if they don't look exactly like I envisioned it when we started out - that's okay.  It's better.  It's great even.  God knows them way better than I do, and He's got this.

He's big enough.

Friday, January 25, 2013

They Will Know Us...

Why so much hate?

Why, when there is disagreement, does it have to so quickly descend to the lowest common denominator of hate, belittling and insult?

It isn't even just "the big stuff" anymore - it's everything.  From the state of our nation (important) to how you wear your hair, the music you like, what kind of car you drive, the way you looked at me when we passed in the hall (not important).

There are important issues in our country, in our communities, in our schools, in our churches, around our dinner tables.

Health care
Gun control
Constitutional rights
Gay rights
Social Security
Politics of every imaginable stripe

And they are important.   They do matter.  And they DO need to be discussed.  Sometimes in lively, animated ways.  I have some strong opinions about more than a few of them.  But I am so deeply saddened by some of the things I see on facebook and twitter, hear on television, hear from people I usually admire (at least until I see them in a war of words), that display so much hate in their disagreement.  You can call it whatever you like - "I just have a strong personality." "This is too important to dance around." "They're just too sensitive." "Truth is truth, no matter who it hurts." "If they weren't so stupid/blind/misguided, I wouldn't have to approach it this way." - but it is hate.

And I see it on both sides.  Nobody seems to hold exclusive rights to ignorance and hate when it comes to voicing our opinions.

Do you really believe that this behavior will cause someone to wake up and say, "Oh, I see my ignorance and blindness now.  Thank you for showing me, in such an unlovely way, my complete idiocy." ?  

I've never heard anyone say they were changed, for the better, by acts or words of condescension and judgment.  Never.  Not once.

Again - I've seen it on both sides - just in recent days and weeks - from every possible angle.

  • An abortion rights video that made me want to cry for its mocking of life and the people that stand on the other side of the fence from them.  I've also seen pro-life videos that made me want to scream because they are so incredibly judgmental and devoid of love.
  • Gay rights/marriage equality issues are addressed, from both sides, in some of the most hateful, demeaning ways - both in the name of Christ.  I'm pretty sure He is saddened by both.
  • Gun control opinions that completely forget about the lives lost and the people left shattered while they practice their constitutional right to be insulting.  Both sides.
  • Evolution/intelligent design; new earth/old earth diatribes until I want to puke.  Both sides.
  • Democrat/Republican; left/right; liberal/conservative slams and insults until I can't even process them anymore.
  • Friendships end, churches split, families torn, by doctrinal issues that we should be trusting God to sort out instead of casting stones at one another about.

I've also seen and heard these same issues discussed in loving, open ways - not necessarily coming to agreement, but walking away without destroying the person on the other side.  Unfortunately, that is not very often.

And again.  Hear me.  They're important.  They need to be discussed.  But can we just stop and think about whether this is the best way to say it, the best place to say it, the best time to say it?

It's much easier to be hateful and insulting when you don't know and love someone that stands on the other side of the fence.  When we insulate ourselves from those that are radically different from us, it becomes easier to make them less-than-human, less someone Jesus loves and more someone I need to be at war with.

Why is it more important that I be right, and everyone know it, than it is that I love?

They will know us by our rightness?
They will know us by our strong arguments?
They will know us by our excellent command of the English language?
They will know us by our stunning intellect?
They will know us by our ability to cut our opponents down to size?

They will know us by our love.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Consider This

"Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith." Heb. 13:7

If I want my life to BE different, I have to live differently.  The definition of insanity?  Doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results.  

I talk to so many people who moan and lament where their life is, their spiritual walk, their kids, their friends, their health, their jobs... this list of our woes is endless.  They don't like where it is, they don't like how they feel about it, they don't like where it's going, but they do next to nothing to change their circumstances, or they quit every attempt long before victory has a chance to show itself.  I have been - who am I kidding - I am one of those people at times.

The verse I started with stuck out to me because I think this is one of the primary ways God has given us to bring about change in our lives.  Each other.  If I want something to change in some area of my life, instead of wallowing in self-pity, I need to look around.  Who is doing it like I want to do it?

Now, at this point, we hit the hard part.  

I need to go to that person - I need to be transparent...vulnerable.  "You are where I want to be.  How did you get there?"  This takes swallowing my pride and admitting to others that I don't have it all together.  Lots of us play the "humble card" - talk the talk of the one that doesn't have it all together, but we don't really put ourselves out there, in specific ways - honestly - with one another.  Bearing one another's burdens, confessing our sins, being honest about where we are and where we want to be.  

We don't put ourselves in a position of accountability.  What do I mean? Here's some examples - some I've seen, some I've done --  I want to be a better mom, but I don't want to admit to anyone the crappy choices I make in mothering.  I want to be healthier, but I don't want to confess to you the junk food I consistently eat, or the time I waste instead of investing in my health.  I want to be free of this addiction, but I don't want to admit to anyone that I have it.  I want to live a life of purity, but don't want to admit the places I put myself that are filled with impurity.  I want to live honestly, yet cannot admit my lies.  And the list is endless, really, of how we can live in self-deception.  

I heard a teacher say recently that the only way we could avoid self-deception is to have someone speaking into our lives that we trust more than we trust ourselves. And they can only speak into our lives if we're honest about where we are.  They will be people who have failed, and still fail at times, but have found a way out of the cycles of insanity we can often find ourselves trapped in.  I'm not talking about throwing up to everyone that asks how your day is going, but there is someone in each of our lives that can speak wisdom into an area of our weakness.  -- Someone who I trust to be honest with me - Someone that can help me see where I am consistently kidding myself.

The next hard part?  I have to be willing to receive the word spoken to me.  I have to be ready to hear another say it out loud - that the choices I am currently making are hurting myself and/or others and seek ways to allow God to change that in me.  So. Hard.

God gives us godly examples in scripture as well as in our faith communities to help us grow, to change, to live differently.  I pray I will learn to watch, and be accountable, honest and transparent,  to those who have gone ahead of me, not as heroes incapable of mistakes or sin, but as examples to help me in my pursuit of a life that honors our King.