The old refurbished home welcomed me in with warmth, handshakes and hugs. I didn’t know what to expect as I helped myself to some coffee and looked around at unfamiliar faces. Someone had on essential oils. A fire warmed the dining room. Rain fell deliciously outside.
What came next almost brought me to tears. Two women stood at the end of the table, now surrounded by eight more women, and began to talk about pilgrimage, conversion, stability, art, poetry, Jesus, surrender, CS Lewis, Ireland, travel… I was astounded. So much so that I mentally tapped my own shoulder and said “Close your mouth, Nat. You’re letting the flies in.”
Not that I haven’t talked about these things myself, but these women, these women spoke and liquid gold of knowledge, depth and insight dripped of their voices. There were even words I have never heard before falling out on the table. I didn’t look around, so as to pretend I knew what they meant. (Just write it down Nat. Don’t look a fool!)
By the end of the hour and a half we had a writing prompt given to us. I willingly scribbled it down like I was back in college feverishly trying to keep up with notes so I could impress the teacher, I mean, pass the test.
“Give a nickname to your stubborn self”
What? Wait, what?
Some explanation and expansion was required for a few minutes and then I went “Oh” inside my head, all the while looking so studious and nodding in agreement. Yes, yes. Deeeeep.
Hugs. Good-byes, Thank You.
What did I just come out of? This rainy Monday morning brought to me a gem, no a fountain of refreshing souls full of intellect, wisdom, humor, and pain. I left that historic house refreshed, inspired and with a feeling like someone had poked my inner self with a stick as if to say, “Nat! Wake up!”
By midnight, I had wrestled some with my thoughts. I tackled them under my covers and typed them down, pinning them to my tiny phone screen. My writing assignment came out through my typing thumbs and landed like this:
What to name My Stubborn Self
Shall I call thee my Imposter?
Or shall I dig a little deeper
Making list and queue and roster?
Where I to call you Restless
Would that be akin to Dreamer?
Or do I simply call you that
So as not to deal with Schemer?
Shall I call you Entitlement?
Or is that reserved for lesser?
Does not my heart whine and weep
And call it prayer to The Blesser?
And what of Want and Desire and Hope?
Are these not things to cling to?
But do they not just cloak a heart
who’s true wish is to be You?
What name to call My Stubborn Self
She seems to know what’s right
Of future, past and this moment now
She towers with force and might
Her name, be Stubborn Self and more
Like Me and Mine and Now
Like all things with such tunneled view
Ends with bursting light, head bow
Give up your Self with its thrashes of plans
Why linger in the fantasy?
And rest, you Stubborn Girl of God,
In His arms Who calls you… Natalie.
I have a pretty wild imagination. Not sure anyone else does this, but it’s pretty incredible that in the fraction of a second it takes for the knife to fall off the counter and plummet down to my feet, I have imagined myself falling down in horrific pain pulling out the knife now stuck just behind my big toe. But, as usual, in reality, it clanks next to my foot just as I am doing the wild monkey dance of avoidance of certain stitches and an ambulance ride. (not sure it would actually be an ambulance ride, but we’re talking about imagination, remember?)
See? That’s how fast our brains can create a scenario. Not only that, it’s a scenario that actually could have happened. My wild monkey dance might not save me next time and I will have to indeed have to pull a knife from my foot while screaming like a banshee.
Imagination. Fantasy. Thought. Dreams. We have been give an incredible gift wrapped in wrinkles and bedazzled with that fabulous and fashionable color of puke gray.
Yep, your brain.
But what happens when that brains dishes out to us a dose of depression or anger or bitterness.
But wait, Natalie, aren’t those feeeeelings?
Yes, yes they are. But where else do feelings reside? The brain. The mind. The mystery.
Now, take your light-speed imagination of the wild monkey knife dance and multiply that power exponentially with time to sit around and actually think of scenarios that we imagine could happen, or wish they would happen, or, worse, wish they hadn’t happened and then dream about what could have happened if that event hadn’t have happened. Follow?
Any of these sound familiar?
If we only had more money I would_________________
If he wouldn’t have hurt me I’d____________________
If I had that house then I would ___________________
If I hadn’t have done that my life would look like _________________
God gave me a dream and it looks like _________________________
I think if I plan this goal it will go like _________________________
If I could only____________
If she would only__________
I think I’ll_______________
On and on it goes. Where it stops, nobody really knows. You see, it’s not first part that concerns me. It’s the second part, the fill-in-the-blank part. That’s where things get dicey. That’s the part of our thought lives that can lead us down many paths, not all of which are healthy.
What am I getting at? One word: reality.
I’m just now pulling the tape off of this box of things I’ve been thinking about, pondering, and I want to invite you to the thinking space.
What is it about reality that is so difficult to stay planted in it? You might say you do, but look back up at the list. Where do you spend most of your thought life? Do you spend it in what is happening right now before you, or do you find that you think more about what might happen, did happen, or could have happened?
Think about it and give me some of your thoughts in the comments.
She rolled him down the halls to his classes all night. I watched her in her funny fuzzy purple hat she donned as a volunteer for VBS this year. She was Jace’s tour guide for the fun all week.
Jace, an eight year old full of smiles and giggles, but he isn’t like the other kids. He has Cerebral Palsy. Those thin legs and arms flailed around in excitement and his face lit up with joy at the sights and sounds, all the while sporting his blue bib. He is darling. He is innocent.
And, he pooped.
My husband sweetly asked me to go with her to lend a hand. You betcha. No big. She had already laid out the large changing pad in one of the rooms. I followed her down the hall thinking, “Sure I’ll help her.” Which really meant, “Sure, I”ll watch.” I found out walking to the room that she hadn’t really been with him before, much less change a poopy diaper of an eight year old. Oh.
Believe me, I’ve had my share of poopy diapers. But, none of my kids were almost as big as me when I was doing it. This would be a challenge.
Once we got in the room, we sorta looked at the pad, and then at him and then started how-the-heck-do-we-get-this-boy-out-of-this-chair dance around him. She unbuckled him, I grabbed him under his armpits and she got his legs. Once he was up in the air, we could really tell this was quite the potent poopy.
We laid him on the pad, and she stood up and coughed. Oh no, she ain’t doing so good.
“You ok?” I asked, thinking please be okay and say you are going to do this.
“I’ll be ok.” She lied.
We got gloves on and the speed of the event began to pick up pace. As she bent over to begin, I backed up thinking, Ok, she’s got this now.
Nope. Dry heaves. Oh dear God, don’t throw up!
“I got it! I got it!” I said as I practically leapt to action. I didn’t want to add vomit to this scenario. “It’s ok! Just breathe through you mouth! It’s fine. I’ve done this a thousand times.”
Yea, but not this! Get it together lady so I don’t have to.
Like the passing of the baton on the track, I became the final runner to finish strong.
Gloves on. Shorts off. Diaper open. Oh mercy. Breathe through your mouth.
Jace, laughing and giggling at the entire event, flailed just enough to land his left hand right in the poopy. Grab his hand! It’s poopy! We had that boy cleaned up, hands clean, diaper on, changing pad rolled up tight like a tootsie roll, and shorts on before we could say “What just happened, Jack!?”.
And then, like old pros, we lifted him back in that chair. Snap, buckle, laugh! I looked in those big brown eyes and I would change him again. I went to wash my hands when I recalled this,
“Whatever you’ve done to the least of these, you’ve done to me.”
I teared up and walked out.
I was caught in a moment with a poopy eight year old and a dry-heaving servant on the floor of a three year old room during VBS. Little did I know, my Jesus was there too. That boy. Those teeth. That brown hair.
Strange the places we meet.
Depending on where you are in life, that right there is enough to send any couple either to their knees in tears because they have been waiting for so long, or, more like my husband and me, sent us doing the blank, slow-blink stare at each other.
We had only been married nine months when we found out our first born would be there but nine months later. Whoa. What happened to “We are going to wait four years to start a family and once the universe aligns to our plans, then we will decide when and how and how many of these wonderful humans to bring into this beautiful world at just the right financial, emotional, mental and physical time.”?
Yea, that didn’t happen. She did.
This tiny thing was beautiful and that round head must have received a million kisses. As she grew, that face got more and more kisses and love and hugs, and then something happened…she decided she wasn’t going to obey. What?! Where did my perfect baby of my perfect plan that I changed along the way because our four year one didn’t work out? What happened? You mean I have to PARENT this thing?
I remember the first little “pop” Piper got from her Daddy. (We believe in spanking as ONE of the ways to discipline, if you don’t, just don’t read this part, but it’s not that bad, I promise.) He was changing her diaper and she thought it would be fun to keep rolling side to side. He would give her a verbal instruction, “Piper, no, no.”
“Piper, no.” And her then took her little body and sweetly moved it back to where he could get the diaper under her tiny booty. Roll.
“Piper. *pop on thigh* No.” She was stunned. A little cry. But she didn’t roll. It’s pretty easy, really. He didn’t lose his cool, and she knew her line. Honestly, spanking works sometimes and definitely not for all occasions. Just one of those things in parenting we have to help each other understand.
So, she’s a toddler. Wonderful, sweet, thumb-sucking toddler. Defiance and testing limits starts here. It’s hard and challenging and makes me have to go take a breather out the porch, but it’s parenting. We set limits for their good. We teach them authority for so many reasons. We show them the way and help them stay on the path. We give them love and respect and teach them how to do the same. We offer wisdom and insight. We laugh with them and even cry with them. They can hurt our feelings and yet make us feel like we are the best mommies and daddies in the whole wide world. She, is a toddler.
Can I share a secret with you, sweet parent of a toddler, or 4-8 year old, or even 9-12 year old? They become teenagers.
I think a smile just crossed your face, didn’t it. I know, mine too.
I recently was reading an article written by someone who has children under the age of ten. They were commenting on defiance and how their little ones challenge their authority, and then said something to the affect that they could only imagine what it will be like when they are teens. My heart dropped a little.
I get it. It’s a little scary, and quite frankly, we kind of feel like we just got out of our teens, how on earth can we maneuver one in our house through those years? I have a little insight to this, but not much because I’m only a few years in, but, if I may, I’d like to share some things about these “teen” years that might help those of you with little ones relax a little.
First of all, in your mind, don’t set up those years as something to eye-roll about. This writer already had a preconceived idea of what those years will be like. Already exasperated, already tired, already beaten by some unseen force of the teen psyche. Rather, set up, in your mind, those years will be fun, full of joy, laughter, and yes, difficulty. But, not something to roll your eyes about.
Secondly, they don’t go from 8 to 14. There is a lot of years of growth in there, for you and them. I’d suggest getting some reading material about these ages. I think we think it’s hard because we can’t call the shots anymore. No more, “Honey, get down from there.” We can’t really say to them, “Hey, don’t run in the street.” It’s just not like our small kids where there is black and white lines of do’s and don’ts. Don’t get me wrong, there are, but it’s just not the same. I don’t tell them to go pee-pee or brush their teeth. They don’t have to finish their dinner. I don’t have to tell them not to hit the dog with the stick.
It’s different. There is more give and take. More letting go of them being “little” and watching them make choices for themselves as they grow. They’re changing, we know it’s coming and assume it’s going to be hard.
Can I tell you another secret? It is hard.
But, she’s a teen, a young woman, I like to say. I never call them teens, and especially never call them that to them. I never use the old “She’s just a teenager!” followed with a shrug and an eye roll. Can I encourage you to do the same and start when they are young? It helps you see them as a young woman or man who you are helping walk through these years. And it sets them up for an expectation of growth and a “leading up” to the adult life. Have grace. Give love. Be patient.
She’s a young woman. He’s a young man. Defiance and testing limits is different here. It’s hard and challenging and makes me have to go take a breather out the porch, but it’s parenting. We set limits for their good. We teach them authority for so many reasons. We show them the way and help them stay on the path. We give them love and respect and teach them how to do the same. We offer wisdom and insight. We laugh with them and even cry with them. They can hurt our feelings and yet make us feel like we are the best moms and dads in the whole wide world. She, is a toddler, I mean, young woman, a young man.
You see? It’s not that it’s mysterious and so hard we can’t make it, it’s just a different hard with a different payoff. If you’re the parent of a young one and those teenage years that are looming around the corner freak you out, that’s ok. Just remember, they are young women and men who need us to treat them that way.
They will rise to it and you will be amazed.
She approached me timidly Sunday with her prayer card saying she didn’t put it in the bucket and wanted to know who to give it to. Of course, knowing exactly where to go, I started to escort her to the appropriate people. Within minutes, her heart was out in front of me, bearing her soul and telling me about her great need for community. And not just good ol’ regular community, she needed to start at square one: people who don’t go out and party every weekend.
I can help you with that.
Within about 4.5 minutes her phone number was in my phone and we were talking to Andy about community groups. Beautiful, shy, but desperate, she told us her story in a nutshell and her desperation came out in a flustered and excited tone that brought joy to my old heart.
I say old only because I’ve walked this path with Jesus a long time. Sometimes, it’s hard and it gets quiet and he lets me down. Then I meet Hannah and it’s fresh and new and I’m humbled.
That was Sunday. I decided I wasn’t going to let this one go too quickly. We made a date for dinner on Tuesday (which was last night) and met a Pei Wei. That right there meant we would meet the glory of God on a dish. (side bar: she had never been there! Was she even American?!)
As we dove into our food, we dove in sharing our stories of life but enjoying each others company like we’d grown up together. Two people could not have lead more different lives.
She ran from home at 15 leaving a life of abuse and pain. I was getting my first crush on at 15. Her first drink was at 14. Me? What’s a drink? She has lived a life of parties and men, I have had 2 boyfriends and married almost 16 years. She wants babies, I have some to spare. She has long, gorgeous hair, I have, well, let’s go on.
Her heart, though. Oh my stars, her heart. What a jewel! What a doll! For all she has been through, she is a delight and a treasure. Not a hint of victim, but a woman on the brink of victory. I adore her. Funny though, the same Tuesday (yesterday) we were going to meet for dinner, I met my Maker in the shower confessing my incredible rebellious heart.
On one of the most profound days of my life, when I came to grips with things I have raised my fist over, he decided I would have the honor and privilege of leading Hannah to him. Yeah, that happened.
As we sipped our water and drooled over our food, I asked her if she had actually, verbally, made the call out to Jesus to be her Lord. She hadn’t. Wow. Really? Where am I? We decided that would be the next action step. Even if she had, and Jesus already had take her heart, and he already sent his Spirit in to her, we wanted to make sure. So, two hours later in my minivan in the parking lot of Whole Foods, two broken women held hands and talked with God.
It was ridiculous. Me, a follower of Jesus needed him to desperately save me from myself and my horrible sin. And her, the first time she had prayed out loud asking God to save her. The irony. The hilarity. The joy. I love that I was a broken mess leading another broken mess. You see, perfection is overrated and, quite honestly, stupid. I’ve never been a worse train wreck in my whole adult life and yet in my sloppy life of following God, he gave me a treasure; the opportunity to watch her give to him.
He’s hilarious. And kind. And loving. And patient.
That was a moment I will never forget. I felt like Peter on the beach looking at Jesus when he asked Peter three times if he loved him. I get that feeling. “Of course I love you. ”
“Then lead Hannah to me.”
And I did. But you know what? That darling woman lead me back to him.
Never think that when you are at your ugliest, he won’t intrude you with his loveliness.
“Hey buddy, you’re up too early,” I said as he stumbled out of the room. I carried him to my bed and even offered to sit by him while he dozed off. Nothin’ doin’. We were back up in a few minutes.
Fast forward a few hours. Meltdown city. Hitting his sister. Everything is awful! He can’t pick up the clothes he tossed on the floor! It’s too hard! Alright buddy, time for a nap.
With that he was sitting on the floor looking up at me wailing telling me he didn’t want to go to bed! Obviously. He cried and cried as I carried him to my bed. You see, mom’s bed is always better, especially when the fit of the year is ensuing. Judge me if you want, but he needed my bed.
He’s up. Crying and insisting he wasn’t tired. I picked him up and carried him back. This time he writhed around in the bed screaming and telling me, again, how NOT tired he was. That behavior deserved a little “laying on of hands” and I left him alone.
Up again. And again. We walked the hall at least three more times back to the bed. Finally, still crying, but a little calmer, I walked him back telling him he had to lie down and even used my old faithful line when it comes to naps, “Honey, you don’t have to sleep, but you can’t get up.” Didn’t work. With that, I talked to him sweetly and loved on him (again, don’t judge. This worked for him today). He looked at me full of tears and started insisting that he would stop crying, trying to convince me that a change in his behavior would get him what he wanted.
Let’s back up 15 minutes. As this little person sat on the floor in his night shirt and pull-up, looking up at me crying, I heard God say, “That’s you.”
I knew what He meant. Just that morning I had been wrestling with the crappy notion that I may not be really grieving anymore about moving from my home, but may have, MAY have shifted to straight up, good ol’, danged rebellion.
Yes. And in that moment with my little man, God gave me a picture of Him and me. Taking out the jerk things I can do as a mom and focusing only on my love for my boy, and I got a sense of what He was trying to say.
I watched my boy fight me for a solid twenty minutes with this whole nap thing, and while it went on, I felt the Spirit teach me a thing or two about me.
My fits may not be on the floor, but I most certainly give him an earful when He doesn’t give me what I want when I want it. I may even offer Him all the ways I will change like Pierce telling me “I will ‘top’ crying!”, hoping that my behavior modification will prove to God that I can do things right and maybe then He will give me what I want.
But, what stood out the most during my child’s meltdown was this, I knew what my baby wanted, but I knew that what he needed was greater than what he wanted. I also knew that if he would obey and rest he would feel much better and, would you believe, get what he wanted.
Toward the final minutes before I knew he was going to give up the fight, I laid down beside him and listened to him whimper about how he will stop crying, all the while watching his eyes roll in the back of his head. And then, when he knew he couldn’t get up, he just wanted me to stay with him while he obeyed and fell asleep.
So, I did.
I rubbed his face, as he closed his eyes. I even closed mine and let myself drift away a bit. I opened my eyes to see that little face sound asleep. He had obeyed me even when everything in his little body want to scream and cry until I gave up. However, my love for him and my knowledge of what he needed over what he wanted gave me the patience to wait it out with him.
How does my broken human self not see that God does that with me? And if I get it right as this messed up mom, how much more does God do all this with me? He tells me to trust him, listens to my monkey dances while I cry and wail, and as I writhe against Him, all I really want is for Him to stay by me while I do the work of obedience. He wants nothing more. And it His great pleasure to do so.
In a few minutes my little dude will wake up, stumble in here to me, crawl up in my lap and want a snack. You know what I’ll do? I’ll hold him and kiss him and give him a snack. Then he will get down and get back to playing and doing what he wanted to do all along. But, he will be renewed and refreshed because he obeyed and trusted me even when he didn’t want to. I can learn a lot from a three year old.
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. I Peter 5:10
The Willy Wonka movie thrills me. I mean, seriously, who doesn’t want to be able to eat grass and gorge themselves on all things candy? But more than that, I’m taken with the vibrant colors and things in that big room that make my eyes pop. What imagination! I want to walk in that room and smell the chocolate and swim in the river!
I encourage my children to use their imagination, to make things new and fresh, to look at something with a different perspective. Kids do this instinctively. It might be because they don’t know to associate red with apples or green with grass, but they will color whatever whatever color. And I applaud their imagination. I’ll even envy it. I strain my brain to create something new in it, to recolor something with a new color.
I go to the movies with a desire to see something amazing. Blow my mind, please, I just paid out the nose for you to do so. Usually, I’m not disappointed. Wild places in Middle Earth, the nose dive of the Train to the North Pole, the endless expanse of the universe with Chewy, Daniel Craig (what?). These things come to life on the screen, reaching for our senses, wooing us to believe there is more than we can possibly see right now! Imagination come to life on a giant screen!
Give me more! Show me more! Color that apple a different color! Make it purple!
Isn’t it already red? Is there not a wonder to the fact that the apple is already colored? And it’s red? Or yellow? Or green? Or pink? Or pink and yellow with kiss of red? Or pink and green, which hands down is the best color combo? Does this fail to cause us to wonder? Have I become so accustomed to the fact that I can simply walk into my store and purchase an apple and I have forgotten that the miracle is that I walked, much less that I feel the skin of the apple and experience it’s texture? Do I even consider that over time it grew on the end of a branch of a tree that was once a tiny seed planted in the dirt my the hand of a tree person? (Well, not a tree person, a person who tends trees. Tree persons are in Lord of the Rings.)
That tiny seed produced an apple! And I want to recolor it! Why? Why not marvel at the wonder of the red apple? Has it become so common? Has what God created for us to find pleasure in become common and we seek a new version of the original miracle?
What else has become so common that we scan our little universes for something new? Has hand-holding become common? Or the Bible? Or a giggle? Or the leaf on a tree? Or carpet? What about the wonder of how a human looks? That we have hair and blink? What about the miracle of breathing? You are breathing right now! Alive! Don’t miss it! There is no Hollywood movie that can touch the miracle of the lungs doing their thing while we whine and complain that we are less than spectacular.
I find I do this to myself as well. I forget, that unlike the apple, I am the only one of me. If I stop and simply look at my hands, I could marvel that they type right now, connected to my brain. They have tiny nerve endings that feel heat, cold, tears, soft, fur, pain. I look in the mirror and take inventory of what is needing help. I find ways to seek a new version of the original miracle. Ah, there is the problem. Just like the apple, I have become common to myself. I have lost the wonder that I am even looking at myself in the mirror. I am not struck by the fact that the eyes see me are a scientific mystery, but rather I’m struck that those eyes have some dark circles under them. I have become the common, red apple.
Let us return then to this: the apple is red. Think on that for a few minutes. Try to free yourself from the “yeah, so?” mentality of the common red apple and consider that by no force of man or beast, the apple is red. It is because God created it to be so. It is because he found pleasure in the color red on that particular fruit. Then changed it up on a different one. Then added a different shading and flavor. Then said, “Eat! Enjoy! Live! Glory!” And I dare shrug at the red apple wishing it were purple. God, deliver me from common.
Next time we stand in front of the mirror wishing for new version of the original miracle, let us look into our own eyes and reject the notion that we are anything less than miraculous. There is wonder in the simple fact that you..are you. You and I cannot create a new miracle or expand on the original. The original is miraculous and beautiful and anything but common.
We are the red apple. And what is even more, the red apple was given that we would applause the Maker of even such a small wonder. The apple, a delight to God to make and color, how much more does He delight in that which he created called… man.
Be delighted in such a God, the creator of the miraculous.
I have four kids. And it’s not like I have four kids under the age of 5 which makes me pert near stroke out at the thought. No, I have four kids that span 12 years. You see, I have a 14 year old. Beautiful, smart, funny and FOURTEEN. This one:
I had this one after the first one 17 months later. Witty, caring, bright, faithful.
Just kill me now.
And 7 years later…
Two years later I had this handsome cuss. Wanna see? Good.
Good gracious, my heart.
This span of kids is quite remarkable. One minute I’m all, “Well, you have to find the greatest common factor and multiply it by the blah blah blah I-don’t-remember-this-from-school,” to “Hey little buddy, did you go poo-poo? Need mommy to change your diaper again-and-wonder-if-there-will-ever-come-a-day-you-use-the-potty?”
Remarkably, I somehow manage to keep up even though I really feel like the dust in places could pull itself together and kill me in my sleep. It’s uncanny how much dust is kicked up when six people are in the same house together (however, I hear it’s not dust…it’s skin…I’ll keep it as dust, if you don’t mind). So, what do I do? I ignore it, or brush it off with my hand followed by a swift swipe down the jeans. There. Clean.
Sometimes I do math. Like the kind of math where you think, “How old will I be when…” and then you pick something. For instance, “How old will I be when we get to go through another awesome election? 43. Awesome. Or, “How old will I be when I actually shed this unwanted weight?” ummm, let’s continue. “How old will I be when Piper can drive?” 41. Perfect. And, “How old will I be when Pierce is 18 and can leave the house” 39 + 16 = WHAT THE???? 55? FIFTY-FIVE? I can hardly wrap my brain around that. I mean, seriously, who turns 55?
Still, you know that feeling that you are a certain age when you really are a lot older than that? Like, I’m 39 and feeeeel like I’m about 24. That feeling that causes you to consistently grab clothes that are too small of the rack because somewhere in the recesses of your brain you think you are still the size you were in 1997? Someone give me a dose of reality, but make sure it has vodka in it.
Will at 55 I feeeeel like I’m 24, or does it move up? Like at 55 I’ll feel like I did at the spunky age of 40? What will happen these next 16 years? Who knows, and I don’t want to think about it because I can get myself all worked up and skeered and I need to just focus on the fact that I’m kissing 40 and I have four kids and they are awesome. Someday, that young baby face of a boy will leave me and my 55 year old heart will do one of two things: break in a thousand pieces, or dance into a thousands jigs?
Can I do both? Please?
I live in America. Land of the free, home of the brave. Wouldn’t trade it for the world. But, like all things, there are flaws in this here land. Before you click away, this is not a political post. This is a spirit-chul post, even though it is one that has to do with ‘merica.
As much as I love my country, what it stands for, what it is, there are cultural things in this land of milk and honey that have been ingrained in me as much as my love for fireworks, parades, Christmas pageants, and Coca-Cola. This is something that is so normal for Americans to think about that we don’t think that it’s literally sucking the ever-loving life out of our Christian belief system. We don’t see that what our country has taught us is in direct opposition to the Word of God, but it “feels” right and that it goes right along with it.
What is it, you ask?
In a few phrases?
If you believe it, you can achieve it.
You can be anything you want to be.
You are an individual!
You have the ability to become what ever you want to become.
You can make it to the top.
The Land of Opportunity awaits you, all you have to do is go!
Wait, wait, wait. Those phrases are NOT bad. Indeed, they are not.
My issues (and let’s me clear, these are my issues) are not so much with the wonderful ideals of individualism, for God created us all different. Nor that hard work coupled with a dream isn’t amazing to watch. The Scripture is clear on hard work and seeing things come to fruition that stun us. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t strive to be amazing men and women and forge through opportunities. And I’m not saying we sit idly by and let the world happen around us.
What I am saying is that I find it interesting that in my life, and others around me, that we take the ideals of Americans and try to mesh them with what we find in the Word of God. They don’t always mix. Too often, American dreams and the Word of God are like oil and water. For instance, we as Americans have made it clear that you work for what you get. Yes, if you want to make a lot of money, have a good job and a good name, you work your ever-lovin’ butt off to make that happen. Make good grades in college, do the work, make the hours, kiss the butts, stay up late, stress about the ideas and plans, work, work, work…and then your dream will come.
Does anyone really like this plan?
Me either. It’s exhausting, yet we perpetuate it. We stress about our children and their education. We wonder if they will know enough monkey dances to get the right job. Ok, I’ll stop. What does this have to do with our attempts to make this work with what God said? I’ll show you.
Our American belief system that “you get what you beat your brains in for” doesn’t work with God and his blessings. Yes, yes, we all “know” that, but how many of us can really divorce the concept in our culture with the truth in the Word of God? How many of us really know how to “rest in Christ”? How many of us really think there is nothing we do for his love and approval when our entire American existence is about approval? How many of us really think that he isn’t watching for the most awesome, most creative, most witty and/or sharp? How many of us wonder if we aren’t experiencing what “everyone else” is because there is something in us that doesn’t measure up?
That’s us as an American (or human) talking. If “me” the follower of Christ was talking (and dictating my thought life) my perspective would shift entirely. There would be no oil and water. It would just be oil… or water. (which ever you like better, they’re both biblical)
I am the righteousness of God.
I have purpose and position.
I am wonderfully made.
I am loved.
I am heard.
I am strong because of him.
These are powerful and true, but when we try to take the “I can do it!” spirit of being an American and lay that over the truth that we are nothing without Christ, we get this false sense that we have to do or be something in Christ in order for the “I can do all things in Christ” to actually work. Twisted, huh?
American Ideal + Biblical Truth = Exhaustion.
We still think that, although we hang on that verse, “I can do all things in Christ” we should do all the doing. Am I right or am I right? We are a Do! Do! Do! and Go! Go! Go! society so much that I have forgotten how to stop. stop. stop. and be still. still. still.
And I’m not talking about stopping from being busy. I’m talking about stopping from trying to make yourself the Christian you ought to be all by your onesie (I’m really speaking to myself but to use “you” is much easier).
If you call yourself a Christ follower, you can’t do anything without him. You can’t be all you can be without him. You can’t accomplish all you want to without him. You can’t become the man or woman you want to be without him. My American dreams pale in light of, and fall completely short of, the wonders of the Word of God. To remove my American upbringing would be like trying to separate that oil and water. It would take a miracle. And that miracle, is Jesus.
He can take what feels right and true, expose it and make me walk in righteousness and truth. He can take the oil of my false ideas of popularity, success, and prosperity, and give me the oil of gladness. He will remove from the my striving and flailing for strength and “winning” and give me his strength, his purpose, his power.
He will make me the individual he created me to be.
He will see to it that all I have put my hand to because of him will be accomplished.
He will produce in me love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control.
He will give me the strength I need.
He will create in me himself.
His dreams will become my dreams.
As much as I love being an American, that cannot be my identity. As much as I love the Red, White and Blue, I must love the Red that flowed on the Cross even more. As much as I love my country, my true country is yet to come. That is the Country I turn to to find myself, my calling, my identity. It is his country, his Kingdom and I choose to seek it first.
“But seek first the Kingdom of God…” Jesus.