I love Jesus but…

lawWhen my kids were little, I was crazy legalistic about language.  Potty language was a no-no and we sure as…heck…didn’t say “shut up” or anything vile like that.  Sweet words come out of sweet hearts, right?  And woe to the fool who dared throw out the “D” word, the “S” word or, as referred to in “The Christmas Story” as the mother of all cuss words, the “F” word in front of my babies at Wal-Mart!  Oh no.  Just no.

And you know what the result of all that careful filtering was?

Nothing.

My big kids have the same tendencies toward bad language as anyone’s kids.  In fact, I have one in particular who has written the book on how NOT to be respectful to your mama.  And this one used to be the most rule-making AND rule-following of them all. Why is that?

The Bible has the answer.  It is because the law breeds sin.  In Romans 8:9 Paul describes this phenomenon…

“I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died.”

Think about it.  How many times, when you kids were very small, did you use reverse psychology to get them to do what you wanted?

“Hey, don’t you smile.  Don’t you smile at Mommy!  I mean it!  Don’t you even think about it…hey, I see your mouth twitching!  You better stop!” As that sweet one who had been scowling moments earlier dissolved into giggles you patted yourself on the back for your parenting genius.

Well, the same principle applies to when you don’t want your kids to do something.  I have realized after countless failed attempts at sin-preventing parenting that…get this… my parenting cannot prevent sin.

Isn’t that groundbreaking?

“Don’t touch that.”

“Don’t say that.”

“Don’t hit.”

“Don’t lie, don’t cheat, don’t steal…”

Has any of my children, or me for that matter, responded to a list like this?  Or are we all like Paul who, “when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died?”  Because I would venture to guess the truth is when we are told “do not” our first reaction is, “Oh, really?  Why shouldn’t I?”

Then what does work?  If a list of rules fails to bring about obedience and godliness, then what make me want to do what is right?

The Bible gives us an answer to that as well.  Romans 2:4 says that “God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance.”

Wait, what?

Walking across a busy parking lot with my little boy, I learned that, rather than tell him not to run out in front of cars, I would sweetly request, “Hold mommy’s hand!” with a big smile and he would happily place his little hand in mine and let me lead him safely into the store.

This was easy when they were toddlers, but it is much harder now when the kids are bigger and the sins have more potentially serious consequences.  But if I draw near to them, establishing clear boundaries (after all, we cannot have an “anything goes” mentality or our house would be full of little anarchists) but giving them freedom within those boundaries, maybe the relationship that results will cause them to have a desire for the things that are beneficial to them long-term instead of the short term pleasure the world has to offer.  It doesn’t mean they will not sin.  In fact, the odds are they are going to sin and some of them will probably sin big.  Am I going to scream and rant at them or am I going to look them in the eye and declare my love and commitment to them and their well-being?  Am I going to make a longer list of rules, or offer wise and carefully worded counsel in order to foster trust and build a bridge between us?  I tend toward the lists of rules, if I’m being honest.  I love to tell my tribe what they should and should not do, thinking they will tow the line and march like good little soldiers.  But that is a terribly flawed methodology and, now that they are older, I realize how much time and energy I wasted on battles that just really weren’t worth fighting after all.

God has given me one job as a mom.  One.  Just be kind.  Just love them.  It’s not my job to fix them, only God can fix people.  Show grace, don’t freak out over sin…because that is kind of a common problem in humanity.  Expecting perfection will only result in frustration and broken relationship.  Forcing an outward show of godliness when the heart is not in the game is useless and a complete waste of time.  But zooming in on their heart? Not lecturing every time a kids says “shut up” or teases a sibling?  Realizing that a nearly grown teenager is going to test the waters and be “all over the place” until they truly realize who they are and why they are here will help me to relax a little and just enjoy the good moments.  (And pour a glass of wine after the bad!)

In other words, I love Jesus but…

I’m not Jesus.

 

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Enough, already.

I had an epiphany today.

The book, The Broken Way, by Ann Voskamp was in my Amazon shopping cart. Unpurchased.  I was debating several things.  First of all, I have 697 unread books on my nightstand.  (I may or may not be exaggerating.)  Second, after the year we have had, do I want to read another book about brokenness?  (As in, life is hard but God is good…yada yada yada.)

So imagine my surprise when it showed up on my kitchen counter.  My man had bought athletic wear for our oldest and didn’t take the book out of the cart so, there it was.

And here it is.

I spend too much time on social media (confession, here) and often have three or four books going at the same time so it takes me forever to get through a book these days.  But this one kept calling my name, so to speak, and I began to read.

Six chapters in and I am just amazed at the depth in Ann’s words.  I was a huge fan of One Thousand Gifts and have read it twice along with listening to it on Audible.  I have a gratitude journal with entries topping four thousand and I believe with all of my heart in the power of giving thanks in all circumstances. The Broken Way is like a beautiful continuum, putting feet to faith and trusting God when everything within me screams “impossible” or “not enough!”  As I have read her words and resonated with her struggles I realize that, for a very long time, I have believed a lie.

I have written blog posts for over ten years, but so many things I have wanted to share I have kept to myself because I felt that you, my dear reader, would think that I somehow have things figured out.  Because of my struggles and nights of wrestling with God I felt unqualified to share my thoughts with you.  It’s easy to write about kids.  I did that faithfully for a long time and did it well.  But I no longer have cute toddler stories to share, I have young adults who are on social media and are not ok with me using them to score readers.

So what’s left?  Well…me.  And what do I have to offer?  The Liar has told me that I have very little.  That until I have my act together I have no right to tell you anything.  I’m an expert on nothing and an authority on little…or so I believed.

But today the story of Peter penetrated my heart.  He is walking on water with the King of the Universe.  He is standing because his eyes were fixed on his Messiah.  Then his eyes shift…he looks around and doubt creeps in and the next thing he knows he is sucking seawater and screaming for help.  Why?  I always though it was because he didn’t believe in Jesus, but after today I think the problem was deeper.  Peter did not believe in himself.  (Page 85)

That is me.  That is my struggle.  Do I believe God can do great things in and though me? Yes, of course!  But I have also, deep down in my spirit, believed that my flaws have held Him back, limited His power because I am so unfocused and inconsistent.  But what if Ann’s theory is true?  What if God believes…in me?

What if God still uses imperfect, cracked pots?  Did He not choose twelve flawed men to bring about a revolution of Grace?  Hasn’t every great hero of the Faith stumbled and fallen and still been used mightily by the King?  When the voice sneers in my mind, “Who do you think you are?  You are not qualified to do/say/write/teach anything.  You are a mess,” does not God remind me that I am a daughter of the King, chosen to do good works before I was even born, qualified because He has called me and it is HE who qualifies the called?

I am enough.  In and because of JESUS I am enough.  Jesus is in me, therefore I am enough. He never asked me to have it all together.  Like Peter, He simply wants my focus.  If my eyes are on Him, He will keep me afloat.

I am most certainly an imperfect, cracked pot.  But I do, with all that is in me, want to be bold for the Kingdom and make a difference in the sphere of influence in which God has placed me.

One of my favorite quotes is by Leonard Cohen:

There is a crack in everything.  That’s how the light gets in.

Yes and amen.  I am full of cracks so shine away, Lord.  Shine away.

Eucharisteo, cruciform, gratitude, Jesus, Peter, walk on water, enough, Leonard cohen
Thank you, Ann. I’m in.