Category Archives: grace

Overcoming the Misty Image

My Tree-Climbing Toddler

My Tree-Climbing Toddler

The day I took my almost 3-year-old son to the pastor for prayer was the low-point.  After  a complete meltdown in the Winn Dixie parking lot, my son sat whimpering and snubbing quietly in his room. I called my husband sobbing in complete mother-failure fashion, and he suggested we meet at the church to let the pastor pray for us and our son.

Now while this sounds like a dramatic introduction to a tragic family story, it’s really only a glimpse into life with a strong-willed child.  My hopes of mommy adoration and a perfectly well-behaved boy had been shattered in that parking lot. God had gifted me with an all-boy daredevil with a determined and stubborn heart. He climbed trees,

Explorer Extraordinaire

Explorer Extraordinaire

strolled precariously along the back of the couch, and stayed covered in dirt from his constant outdoor explorations. By the age of 2-and-a-half , I quit chasing him altogether. I decided that reality discipline (thanks Dr. Leman) was our best course of action.  If he fell while walking the front porch railing and broke his arm, he might think twice before doing it again. He was the wager of epic battles of will. I remember several times where he was put in his room until he could come out with an apology for his behavior or disobedience.  Eventually, he would emerge from his room with a sweet hug and an “I’m sorry, Mommy” but that was after HOURS of room isolation.

IMG_1365

My fella and I today

That dare-devil with dogged determination turned 17 this past weekend (which is a feat considering I honestly thought he wouldn’t make it past 4). What an incredible young man he has become.  He still loves a challenge and rarely lets anything get the best of him. His mind brims with crazy knowledge about algebraic formulas, historical facts, pop culture tidbits, and random thoughts that leave the family in stitches. He’s a self-learner: if he wants to know something he studies it until he’s proficient. (He’s even taught himself Korean!) He’s a defender of the underdog and hates injustice in any form — including the oppressive educational system -he is 17 after all.  He loves with his whole heart. He’s all in, all the time, for the people and things he loves.

If only I could have focused on this traits when he was younger and not let them exasperate me.  All that he is now was there when he was that precocious 3-year-old. He wasn’t perfect then; he’s not perfect now, but he has taken those “perceived weaknesses” and made them his strengths.

The Message version of 1 Corinthians 13:12 says, “We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!”

Today many of us are looking at ourselves thru a fog, peering in a mist, and what we see isn’t pretty. This verse, however, says that God sees us clearly, as the perfectly mature Christ-follower we are meant to be. He doesn’t focus on our weaknesses or failures. He knows were are getting closer and closer to the person he planned for us to be. While we often look at how far we are away from the self-denying, Christ-following, and sacrificial person we should be, God see us whole and complete in Him.  He has no reason to worry; he has a reason to sing — we are his treasure. Just as an artist paints with the end product in his mind, God see us as his masterpiece.

Maybe it’s time we focused on that picture of ourselves. Somehow I believe it will get us further in our walk with Christ than our current “misty” perspective.  Once we change our mindset,  Ephesians 2:10 will ring truer: “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Then when those Winn Dixie  meltdowns occur, we can rest assured in the Creator artist and his careful blending of our imperfections, weaknesses, strengths, and beauty brushed flawlessly in one of his finest works.

umbrella

noun, 1. a device consisting of a circular canopy of cloth on a folding metal frame supported by a central rod, used as protection against rain or sometimes sun.  2. a protecting force or influence

I’m a rule follower. Rules keep order and fight chaos. Rules bring peace and predictability. I want everyone else to be rule-followers too, and can find myself judging those whose lives are falling apart.  If they had only followed the rules, then life wouldn’t be so messed up.

This rule-following lifestyle seems good in theory, but lacks reality. Honestly, there is no way that each of us can live a life that follows all the rules – sometimes we didn’t even know a rule existed, and we inadvertently break it. I’ve recently come to a place in my life where I’ve decided to let go of rules, regulations, and expectations. For much of my life, I’ve been exhausted because I’ve tried to live up to every thing that was expected of me, rules inflicted upon me because of someone else’s desires.

If we take an honest look at our life’s rules — ones we place on ourselves or ones placed on us by others — we soon realize that we’ll never be able to adhere to them all.  The rules of motherhood are still so vastly underwritten, we can never achieve them all. The regulations for being a Godly wife seem insurmountable and unattainable. The rules of female friendships change with each new acquaintance. Mix each of those with the guidelines of thriving career woman, and the rule book is too large to even read! We find ourselves in the middle of a rule-storm, complete with the hail of expectations, and stinging raindrops that soak us with feelings of failure and incompetence. It’s easier to just say “forget it all” and step over the line to “rebel”.

But then God offers me the umbrella of His love and says, “Here, use this to cover yourself.”  I can choose to put it up over me and take a rest from the cold, wet rain. I can live in the dry comfort of his love which requires nothing of me — no performing, no rules, only acceptance. Even now, you might say to yourself that if God gives his love, we must accept it and return it through our actions, more rules to follow. But that’s not true! “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). He gives it freely, and under his Love umbrella, we can find rest for our rule-enslaved lives.

It’s hard for us to let go and believe that God loves us just as we are and not for what we do, the right choices we make, the ministries (or households) we lead effectively, or careers we guide to success. He loves us in this moment, just as we are, for who we are today, not the one we will grow to be in the future.

The rain of regulations and expectations fall relentlessly around us, but under His umbrella of love, we stay comforted with unconditional acceptance and grace. It’s here under this umbrella that we discover the most freeing guideline of all.  Loving God is a choice we make in love not a rule we are forced to follow.