3/28/2017

Blessed Defeat

It's like we're in a cold war between God and the devil. God the Father oversees everything that happens in this war and strategically places His obedient children where He feels they need to be. You'd think that He would put the best and brightest in the positions that offer advantage over the enemy. But more often that not, it seems, He makes them sit humbly on the sidelines and watch as the weaker ones head blindly into the fray.

These young and fragile people are sent into the heart of the turmoil almost completely unarmed. But they go in believing they can fight. They march forward feeling proud to have made it to the front lines. It isn't long before they see the carnage and the awful power of the opposing forces. But by then it's too late. Reality hits hard.

From our perspective God doesn't do war very well. He seems to be working with the enemy rather than against him. He sends in a child with a sling to do a warrior's work. We all know how that particular giant went down, but what about Job? God's up in heaven taking bets from the enemy of our souls. Job is down on earth wrestling with incomprehensible pain from loss and disease. His words are recorded in detail as he's abandoned or accused by people he once trusted. He knows it's all God's doing; that God the Father allowed it and led him into it. A once powerful and prosperous man sitting in a heap, scraping his rotting skin.

Prophets, Judges, Kings, Apostles... we have them as examples. They start out thinking they've been bestowed a great earthly honor. Soon they see what they'll have to suffer for His sake. All of the stalwart fighters in God's army are given more than they can handle. Little by little God pushes them further into the impossible realm of adversity. They become spectacles marching, hands tied, at the end of the parade. They are objects of pity to onlookers.

How can it be that these suffering and tortured can continue to believe in a loving God? And they do! Not only is their faith unshaken, it's fortified by the misfortune they endure. Trusting in God has meant more hardship for His children. The initial rush to the front lines with heady recklessness sends us crawling back with a deep knowledge of our inadequacy. Where do we come back to? The open arms of our King and the healing salve of His love.

God's wisdom guides us in a specifically tailored path that is just for us. When we continually trust Him, we find ourselves. We find ourselves broken, lacking, filthy, and in desperate need. God isn't in the business of giving us self-esteem. He's designed our lives to show us the truth about ourselves so that we may esteem Him above all. Once we see how He fulfills each gaping depravity, we are in awe of Him!

Human beings are all soldiers. We all fight for something or for someone. Whatever cause we are for, we become strengthened to endure it. Where does your strength come from? For whom do you fight? Can your cause pull you through the most horrific circumstance you can imagine? God has shown Himself faithful to pull me through hell's atomic flames unscathed. All that is around me may go up in a blast, but who I am will remain intact. Each time I'm overtaken and defeated, trust in my own abilities dies a little more. I'm rescued and in awe of the One who saves me.

3/25/2017

Sibling Rivalry

"He called me a 'dumb butt'!"
"She said I was the worst person in the world!"
"It's because he pinched me really hard!"
"Well, she wasn't being FAIR!"

These are lyrics to what I like to call The Same Old Song. It's the song of sibling rivalry. Any parent with more than one child less than eighteen years apart knows this song well. We could sing it by heart. I hear it nearly every day in some variation or another. It makes my neck hairs stand up and the muscles underneath them tighten. But surprisingly, my first reaction is to join in! Let's add mom's voice to the mix and see what kind of tune that makes, shall we?

No. Lately I've been feeling it deeper. I've been showing my kids what their fighting really does to me. I show it in my eyes and I say it with my words, "Ouch. It hurts Mommy's heart when you guys fight." Not that empathy or compassion would even occur to an elementary school child, just ask the nearest bug (crunch). But I want to be as honest as I can with them. I don't want to hide my true feelings about them, whether good or bad. They have as much of me as they can get and I want to be authentic. So I've had to get past the immediate visceral response an explosion of tattle tales instigates in me. I've had to discover what really bothers me about it.

I desire peace. Not only is it pleasant to move around in, it also promotes healing. I desire unity. It's a beautiful thing that can create many opportunities for kids to grow into healthy people. I desire love. The most wonderful thing we can experience in this place. I want all of these things for my kids and their future. Fighting threatens all of that.

I realized something about God's family during this process. The Church has it's own sibling rivalry. How can we not? We are a race of polar opposites who make up the diverse parts of one Body, all with a slightly different function. Lots of misunderstandings and mistakes trip us up with each other. Some have impossible standards for others that God hasn't even placed on us. Others are barely out of the sin-darkened woods of the world. Not many of us have learned God's empathy or compassion; we are just like little children.

When we won't offer grace and mercy to one another and instead hold grudges and resist reconciliation, God's countenance falls. It's like He's pleading with us to stop. The Father looks upon us with patience and longsuffering of infinite proportions but also shows us the pain on His face. His Spirit give us a sense that all is not right between us. "First, go and be reconciled with your brother..." we hear it somewhere deep within. "But, Lord! How can I?"

At home, the tattler usually expects me to discipline the offending party. I've even been accused of favoritism because of my leniency or hesitation to rebuke. But I remind them that both people have a responsibility to reconcile in a fight. "What did you do?" I ask the tattler. It's a lot harder for them to come forward with that information. Sometimes it's hard for us to admit our sins to God, too.

God is changing us into the likeness of His Son through the means of His Spirit growing within us. This maturation brings unity and peace to the Body of Christ. As we allow God to do His work individually over months and years spent abiding in Him, we will find that we forgive easier. We reconcile easier. We long for peace and unity and love with our brethren even as we long for God Himself. Sibling rivalry in the home is similar to the immature state of God's children. We only need a safe place to learn and grow in Christ. We'll get there. Hope will keep us going.