Thursday, July 22, 2010

Like a Child

This morning, something pretty relevant happened when my three beautiful daughters awoke and came downstairs. I sat at the dining room table, catching up on emails, checking out a few websites I have interest in, etc., when the french doors opened and in walked my youngest. Immediately, she looked over to where I sat, marched right up to me, and climbed up into my arms for a morning snuggle session. It was beautiful. 

Next entered my middle child. She walked through the french doors, looked over to me, then walked into the dining room and stood about six feet away from where I sat, just looking at me, almost waiting for my invitation for her to come closer.

Last entered my eldest. She walked directly into the dining room and sat at the opposite side of the table without looking at anyone.

Immediately I saw such a parallel to how our spiritual lives--and the human process of pulling away--can be. When we are young in our faith, we seek out our Father, and push our way into His arms, no matter what. As we grow, circumstances of this world teach us to be a bit more apprehensive. We know the place we should go, but stand at the outer edges, waiting for His invitation to join Him. Then as time goes even further, we don't even try to approach personally. We show up at the table, as a child of God, but there's not much interaction with the Father.

So here is the first pondering: In every stage, our Father is so incredibly patient and generous with us. He will give us the invitation, as I did with my middle daughter. I invited her into my arms and she came willingly. After her snuggle time was over, I got up and went to my eldest daughter. It was there, in her space, that I hugged and loved on her. That was what she needed at that time. God meets us where we are, no matter what. He is so faithful!

The second, and even more crucial pondering, which I pray you carry with you throughout your day, is this: We don't ever have to leave that first stage. Jesus exhorted His disciples in this very same manner. We never have to leave the expectation that we can walk directly into God's throne room, climb up into His arms, and receive from Him everything we need. It is this faith, the faith of a little child, that Jesus desires for us all to have. 

So where are you today? Would you climb right up? How about the middle space... would you stand in the sidelines, waiting for an invitation? Or are you even "older"? Would you come in, knowing you belong, but never really interact with your Father? His desire is not to simply have a full table. I believe with all my heart that God's "table" is in His lap. This is the place that sonship is fulfilled. Relationship. Contact. Love. Snuggle up with your Father today. As my youngest and I say to each other in those moments of pure embrace, "You're filling my heart up with love." Let God fill your heart up with love each morning. Never a disappointment. Never a regret in those moments. Love.

Matthew 18:3

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Change Change

"Time, which changes people, does not alter the image we have retained of them."  ~Marcel Proust
Change. Inevitable. Yes.
My children are entering a new phase in life in about six weeks: regular school. We have been homeschooling for the last three years, and have lived a much different lifestyle than the majority of our culture. I have no qualms with or without homeschooling, mind you. It is simply a changing season in our family life. I’m okay with that. 
So I went down to the charter school, complete with its high, fenced-in grounds and 24/7 locked doors, where my older two will be attending, to fill out some forms. Immediately I noticed something. The playground area is cement. Almost as if involuntarily, my mind began back-pedaling, racing, actually, to re-compute everything; to double-, triple-, even quadruple-check, that our decision really was in fact, the right one. 
When I was in elementary school, our playground was largely dirt, but also grass. When someone fell, it was okay. But cement? That was so... city. Well, we live in a city. And this school is right in the heart of “city,” complete with less-than-desirable activities happening all around in this particular not-so-good neighborhood. But the school is what we know is right for our girls, with its particular programming. This is the right place. But a cement playground?
I began thinking about my childhood and all that it entailed. But now, looking through wisdom-enhanced vision into the recesses of my memories, I see that there were many things that went so completely unnoticed by an 8-year-old mind. Life was seemingly perfect. The reality was that bills were always a struggle to be paid. Drugs were a very real part of our small-town culture--our family just didn’t participate in it. People cheated in relationships. Many got divorced. Some people actually didn’t attend church. And so on... I never would have imagined these atrocities were going on in our small town, much less in the world! Naivety. Childishness. It abounded. And I’m glad it did.
At the age of 16, some friends of our family got a divorce. It was the first divorce in my life, and it shattered my world. I became so extremely jaded about everything. If Jonas* and Tabitha* could split up and actually divorce, then anything evil was possible. And then to hear what truly went on behind closed doors... It was so surreal and way too much for me. Something inside my mind kind of snapped. I truly couldn’t handle it. I remember thinking that everything I thought I knew was just a big lie.
So, here I sit, putting this all together, this past and present pondering, like a complicated jigsaw puzzle. I realize that while my childhood was largely based on a veiled reality, I am okay with that. I have fond memories. But I also wonder to myself why, oh why, would I want to pass this down to my own kids. I wonder just how much more effective I could have been for the Kingdom had I been even a bit more aware of reality. 
Today is so very different than yesterday, and my children already have seen more and have heard more than I did at their ages. The world is so different. I can’t give them the grassy playgrounds of yesteryear. I can’t pretend to them that crime and godlessness doesn't happen. It hurts my heart to know that my childhood will never be something I can successfully pass on to these beautiful miracles, but I know this is truth. This is reality. 
This thing is, we have been living in a sin-infested world since the day Adam and Eve chose their own wishes over God’s. Time, people, and traditions all have changed. The constants that have been there are Truth and Death. I can choose to get depressed about this, or I can do something dramatically different and choose to look through God’s eyes in every situation. With the help of the Holy Spirit, I can see people for the lost souls they really are, and love and pray for them. I can actually train my children in this way, and give them something I really didn’t have the know-how to do when I was their age: seek after God with all my heart... To run after Him without stopping... And to learn what (Who) Love really is.
So they have a cement playground. So what? They also have the strongest protector living right inside of them. No matter what. And I am so very thankful for young faith. Whether it’s a skinned knee or a sharp word, the same Holy Spirit inside of me has already taken up residence in their impressionable little lives, and I can rest in that completely. 
"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.
 "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
~Matthew 5:13-16
*Names were changed, of course.