Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’

Steady

Posted: September 13, 2013 in Teachable Moment
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Steady. It’s a word that carries the idea of patient endurance; like someone steadily walking towards a faint glow in the distance despite torrential rain, wind and mud clawing at their feet. Every step is slow and difficult but they never stop walking towards the light. Jesus was steady. Despite temptations in the desert, loneliness and exhaustion in His ministry and torture at the cross, he walked steadily towards the light of glory in the end. Steady is a characteristic that should weave itself into the fabric of who we are as imitators of Jesus, but in recent days I have been heavily burdened with the realization that too often this is not the case.

Last week I heard the story of a woman who, because of her gambling and drinking addictions, has decided to give up her children with no real desire to ever get them back. I heard three different stories of women who are giving up on their marriages simply because they are not in love anymore and feel that divorce is what they need to find their happiness. These stories are sad but the saddest thing to me is that they are not rare. Marriages, kids and friendships, both Christian and non-Christian, are falling by the wayside because somewhere along the line our culture has lost what it means to be steady; to walk a road that is hard because it is right. This is not to say that a change in circumstances is never necessary, but it seems that all too often it is not the circumstances but the person who really needs to change.

So as a mom, I find myself asking the question is this all my kids have to look forward to? How do I teach my kids to let hardship change them into strong, steady followers of Jesus Christ instead of people who run away at the first sign of difficulty? In Hebrews 10:35-36 it says this: “Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.” I think this verse holds the key to learning how to be steady. In verse 34 it describes how the readers of the letter joyfully accepted the seizure of their property knowing that they had a better and lasting treasure waiting for them. Their confidence was in the promises of God; that he would come back for them, bringing both justice and reward and this confidence gave them endurance to walk through the pain and be changed.

To me, the coolest thing about God is that He has not only revealed who He is in the truth of scripture, but He has also told us how the story ends. Why? To make us steady; to give us the endurance we will need to do His righteous will even when it feels like death to do so.

Now, the way we pass this on to our kids is twofold. Not only must we strive to firmly root them in their faith (Colossians 2:6-9) but we must also live this way ourselves. We must be steady. If you are anything like me, this idea is terrifying. Life is full of torrential rain that drowns my resolve, howling winds that blow my emotions in all directions and mud that weighs down my soul making it difficult to even move. But the light in the distance is the promises of God and the thing that must be steady in every day of my life is a constant re-orientation around His truth. This is what my kids must see. When I am sick of life and I want to run away, they need to see me clinging to Jesus and they need to see me stay. Not because it is easy but because it is right and the glory of God’s promises is what waits in the end.

In recent days I have discovered something about myself that disturbs me. It is something that has always lingered underneath the surface of my existence, but has never been exposed in full light until I had children… funny how that works.

It all started to come together for me a few weeks ago as my husband and I struggled intensely with our 3 year old about bed time. Each night for over a week our sweet little girl suddenly turned into a maniac; she screamed, threw herself against her bedroom door and stomped on the floor demanding to be allowed to stay up and play with us. As most parents can probably imagine, this pushed us to the brink of sanity. I shed many tears of frustration and spent much time begging God for this season to pass so that my tears could give way to joy once again. Little did I know that this attitude was my real problem; the mindset that my suffering is a roadblock to my joy, is not only incorrect but it is actually the thing that robs me of joy more than the suffering.

I did not come to truly grasp this until I listened to a sermon by Timothy Keller called “Praying Your Tears” which was recommended to me by a friend months ago. In the sermon he makes the point that tears to do not just give way to joy, they produce it (2 Corinthians 4:17). Keller states that we are to invest our suffering and tears into our prayers and that is what turns them into a harvest of joy. This idea affected me profoundly. I suddenly realized how much of my time I spend thinking “If I can just get through this then I will be ‘happy’.” I keep trying to get past my suffering and in many ways I feel guilty that I am suffering at all because it always seems that I should be stronger than that.

I now realize this attitude has cost me much joy, especially in my parenting. My struggles in life will never be pleasant otherwise they would not qualify as struggles, but holding the hand of my Savior as I walk through them will change me and produce a joy that runs deeper than mere happiness. Happiness must always be derived from something, like circumstances or a relationship. Joy is harvested from the investment of our heart, soul and tears. Happiness fades with the changing of circumstances, but joy is as steady as our Savior’s love.

So let’s face it, life is riddled with a wide variety of struggles and many tears, but these are not roadblocks for me to avoid. The struggles are meant to slowly remove the toxin of sin from my heart so that it can beat with a life born of the spirit; the tears are meant to wash away the worldly haze from my soul so that it can breathe the reality of Jesus. However, none of this can happen if I waste all my time trying to get around my pain instead of pouring it into my conversations with God. This means when my 3 year old is throwing a tantrum that could raise the dead, I can freely cry out to Him knowing that in that moment I am learning to trust and pain planted at the feet of Jesus is not wasted but will grow into a joy that surpasses all understanding.

I have recently become addicted to a TV show about fairy tale characters trapped in our world by a curse; the story line is intricate, the characters are interesting and for someone like me who is always looking for good parallels to scripture, it gives much material to think about.

One of the common themes in the show is that all magic has a price. Every time a character has their heart broken or is desperate to save something precious to them, they seek magic to solve their problem. However, every time the magic is used it always costs them dearly and in most cases, if salvation is to be found they must fight that much harder to gain back what has been lost. For instance, in one of the episodes the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland desperately desires make a better life for his daughter so he makes a deal with the evil queen. The queen promises him that if he uses his magic hat to get her what she wants then his daughter will want for nothing. However, in the end she ends up leaving him in Wonderland where he can never see his daughter again. Although his daughter is well taken care of as promised, the cost is much more than he could have ever imagined.

This to me seems like a perfect parallel to sin. Sin promises to be the ideal way to acquire what we want and get around the difficulty of our circumstances, but just like in the case of the Mad Hatter, it costs us more dearly than we can comprehend. When we hurt do we circumvent the pain with sex, drinking, gluttony, apathy or even anger? Do these things not cost us our soul in the end? When we have a deep desire to obtain or save something do we idolize it and sacrifice all else in the quest to pursue our desire? Does this quest not leave us empty, longing for the eternal? This is because no matter what sin promises us, there are no shortcuts to true life and salvation.

Just like the magic in the story, sin always has a price and it never gets you where you wanted to go in the first place. The only way to rise above the brokenness of this world is through a relationship with Jesus Christ. He is our Prince of Peace who conquered sin and the terrible curse of death. We must cling to His every word, resting in the promise that He is coming back for us and eternity awaits when we are finally brought home for the great wedding feast. This is the gospel and it is the ultimate fairytale.

So my challenge is this… As parents let us never waste an opportunity to show our kids the beauty of the gospel; weather it’s a bedtime story or a TV show about fairytales, the threads of redemption give exquisite depth and intricate beauty to everything we encounter. It sure would be a shame to miss it.

My mother is a very wise old woman and one of the many great sayings she has passed on to me over the years is “Rules without relationship equals rebellion.” To be truthful, I never really thought much about the meaning of that statement until recent days, but as my husband and I desperately strive to find the balance in cultivating good relationships with our children while also disciplining them effectively it has taken on a new depth.

In the Scriptures we are given lots of commands regarding God’s desire and plan for our lives. Some people see these commands as protection and a source of life, but most people see them as outdated and restrictive. So what makes the difference between the two perspectives? Relationship. People who have a relationship with Jesus Christ do not see the Bible as simply a collection of irrelevant, oppressive rules, but as a love letter from their Father. It’s a narrative that reveals the very nature of God and His design for a most beloved creation. However, for those who do not know the author, they simply discard whatever words do not suit them and live a life of rebellion against the God of the universe as though He doesn’t even exist. Rules without relationship equals rebellion.

This same principle can be applied to us as parents. When we are all about the rules in order to manage the chaos of life and not much about cultivating relationships that can withstand the chaos, then we lose the heart of our kids. This is something I fear more than death itself. If I make my kids behave the way I want them to, but never get to their heart what have I gained? However, as much as this question haunts me, the fact remains that it is much easier to enforce a rule than it is to spend time engaging the heart of my children. Thus is the battle between what I should do and what the weakness of my flesh wants to do. It is a battle that often leaves me feeling hopeless, inadequate and exhausted. However, I would like to share an example from my past that always reminds me of how important it is to keep fighting and I hope it will encourage all my fellow parents out there to not give up either.

Once upon a time when I was somewhere around 15 years old I wanted to do something really stupid. I had been homeschooled all of my life and had just started working at McDonald’s. I was young, innocent and fresh meat to a crew full of teenage boys hopped up on hormones. It was these teenage boys who invited me to go on a road trip with them and a group of friends to Galveston for the weekend. I wanted go so badly! I was high on all the attention I was getting from a bunch of cute boys and felt this was a good time to spread my wings and fly. So I asked my dad if I could go. Instead of simply saying no, my dad took me out for ice cream at an old Dairy Queen Restaurant to discuss the matter. After we got our frozen treats we sat down and he patiently listened to me divulge all the reasons why I felt it was reasonable for him to let me go on the road trip. Looking back, that must have been absolutely painful for him to listen to but listen he did. After I had made my air tight case for going to Galveston with a group of teenage boys that were practically total strangers, my Dad very respectfully laid out all of the reasons why he felt it was not a good idea for me to go. Of course, in all of my 15 year old maturity, I disagreed with him. We went back and forth for a bit until my dad finally said to me “Angela, I know you cannot see my perspective and you think I am being ridiculous but I am asking you to trust me. I have taken care of you your whole life and I am asking you to trust that I am looking out for you even when you can’t see exactly where I am coming from.” He wasn’t angry with me and even though he had every right to appeal to his authority as my father, he appealed to his relationship with me instead and I have never forgotten that.

Needless to say, I didn’t go to the beach that weekend and now that I have two daughters of my own, I look back on this story and thank God for my Dad’s steadfast protection. The relationship that he built with me allowed me to trust him as a person even when his rules didn’t make sense to my young mind. This is what drives me to keep fighting for my relationship with my kids; so that when push comes to shove and obeying the rules can mean the difference between life and destruction, they know who I am as a person and they know that I am always looking out for their ultimate good. This is how it is with God and this is how I as a parent demonstrate the reality of God to my kids. So no matter how much I fail, I will keep walking in the direction of relationship, because in the end nothing matters more than God becoming real to the little souls that He has entrusted me with.