I Turned Towards My Father, Repentant in Front of my Children

As I put my children to bed for the night, apologies were in order. They did not listen well, this is true. They also did not deserve the level of anger and frustration that came their way from their worn mama who was just trying to keep it all together.

As we finished up in the bathroom, I asked my son to pray for me. He repeated his daily plea that he does not know how and stated that I should pray for me.

He was right. I needed to go before my Father, and he needed to witness it.

So I asked for forgiveness. I asked for grace. And as my son climbed into bed, I asked for mercy.

“What’s mercy?”

“Mercy is help in your time of need. It is love from God to get you through. Mercy is goodness and grace and forgiveness… Jack means God is gracious,” I add.

“So, when you’re yelling at me: Jack!!! you’re saying God is gracious?”

The thought lingers. “Yes.”

giggles

“Do you forgive me?”

“Yes.”

“Ben, do you forgive me?”

nods.

I shut out the light, collapse on the couch and as I repeat my cry to God for his forgiveness in the hypocrisy of my life, the blessing from ages past wells up in my heart, tears dampen my eyes. I finally turn and rest in Him.

Numbers 6_24-26

 

May His blessing, His face be turned towards you, tonight.

This post is part of the larger Five Minute Friday community found on Kate Motaung’s blog. We write, for five minutes, together. No major edits. No second guesses, just writing to connect, to grow, to be. Today’s writing prompt: Turn.

You Did Not Kill Jesus

Day 2 of 31 Days of Connecting

We are in church, worshiping, in awe and adoration of the Love God has for us when suddenly that line is there. There on the screen. And the condemnation and shame I felt as a Christian child, teenager, and young adult squeezes my throat, condemns my heart.

“Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that held him there…

I was brought up with this theology. I’ve even preached it once. This idea that Christ had to die, because of me. That I put Christ on the cross. That I held the nail. That with each sin I commit Christ dies again.

For years I lived in the oppression of shame and humiliation. For years I was stained by my sin, not cleansed, because I was told it was my fault Jesus died.

So I tried to live my best so he would not have to die. I tried to be good enough so that He would not have to go to the cross.

But every year on Good Friday I was horrified by the guilt of placing Jesus on the cross.

Except… except the Bible never says that.

The Bible never says that we put Him there. The Bible never says that Jesus had to die. Sin did not hold him there. In fact, it is exactly the opposite.

Yes, it is true that sin condemns, but it does not condemn Jesus. It condemns us. The wages of sin is death – and we should die.

But God, in His great love for us, and desire to be connected to us, decided to intervene, to save us.

Jesus, in His love for us, took our sin on Himself[1] and gave himself for us.[2]

day 2

These words make me weep. I am finally free.

Yes. He chose to die. Because He loved us. And He wanted to rescue us. To heal us. To redeem us. To be with us. So that we might live a life of freedom in Christ, filled with the love of God, the power of the Holy Spirit and completely connected to Him.

Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! –Romans 7:25

[1] 1 Peter 2:24

[2] Six times Paul writes that Christ “gave himself” for us. SIX! Gal 1:4, 2:20; Eph 5:2, 25; 1 Tim 2:6; Titus 2:14.

The Day My Son Got Hurt

It was the sixth morning of kindergarten and we were waiting for the bell in the school yard with the other kids and parents. Jack had gathered a pile of rocks and formed a smiley-face with a few sticks and a strip of plastic. He stepped back and smiled at his work before running to his new friends, “You guys! Come see what I made!”

The boy and girl obliged and stood over the pebble-person while Jack beamed, content to share his creation.

I’m not sure who started it, or how, or why, but within moments they started burying it. Much to Jack’s horror, his friends were drawing stones in and covering the face Jack had taken the time to create – and had the courage enough to share with them. He started to protest, but they argued that this was good fun, so I watched as he nervously joined them. But he didn’t like it.

And then it happened. The young girl pushed herself to standing, lifted one foot, and stomped on the buried pebble-person, obliterating it completely. The two kids quickly turned and ran with Jack chasing them, tears streaming down his face, “Why did you do that? I thought you were my friends!!”

Ashamed (perhaps), the kids ran to their parents who had observed the whole scene while I rushed to Jack’s side to quiet his shrieks of horror and to wipe away his tears. I comforted him and half expected the parents to send their kids over to apologize, but they didn’t come.

The bell rang. The kids grabbed their bags, got in line, and, while my heart ached for his crushed spirit, I watched my son slog into the school.

In that moment, I wondered, “What are we doing? How can we send him off into a harsh world and allow him to be hurt by hard people? Is public school the wrong decision?”

Days later, I read these words from Steve Wiens, “The Actual Pastor,” to his son Isaac:

My job is not to protect you from hard things, it’s to launch you out into this great big world, so that you can play your part in great Big Story. This means that sometimes, you’ll make mistakes. You might not make the team. You might try to make friends with people who reject you. When those things happen, I hope I’m the first person you want to talk to. I’ll cry with you. Isaac, this is so hard for me. I’d much rather do anything and everything to make sure you don’t fail or get hurt. But you need to fail, and even get hurt sometimes, because that’s how you’ll learn how to be a person who brings great things to this world. Only those of us who have suffered a little know how to really help.

I want to protect my children. But I believe I am mistaken if I think I am protecting my children by not allowing them to feel pain, by not exposing them to others, and by not guiding them through the hard circumstances of fights, injuries, misbehavior, and sadness.

As a Christian, I believe my task is to be a light in the world of pain and sorrow that is. It is to be a comfort to those who are suffering, to listen to those who are abused, to point the way to the true hope in the midst of confusion and sorrow.

As a Christian mother, I believe my task is to comfort my children as they experience the reality of a fallen world so that they may experience greater life than they could find in the safety of our own home. As they experience pain, they can also experience healing. As they experience hurt, they can also experience forgiveness. As they experience sorrow, they can also experience a greater joy. As they experience hate, they can also experience greater Love.

Paul wrote, Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. If we ourselves have not experienced the comfort of God, how can we comfort others? If my children have not run to God in their pain as children, how can they run to him in the greater pains and struggles of adulthood?

That afternoon when I picked Jack up from school, we talked about what happened in the morning. I asked him what he felt when they buried his art and smashed it.

“Mad,” he said.

I nodded. Yes. I was mad, too.

Watching the guilty children walk by I asked what the rest of the day was like; did he play with them? “Yes, they’re my friends. They got married at lunchtime and kissed!” His face wrinkled up into giggles and silliness surrounded him.

His anger had passed quickly. Forgiveness and love took its place. I saw the softness of his heart and examined the hardness in my own as I considered the anger still there. As the days and weeks have gone by, I can see that these two children who had hurt him so much truly are his friends. Perhaps the conflict brought them together. Perhaps Jack loved them despite it. I don’t know. But I do know it has taken me time to forgive them, though Jack did so quickly. And in that, he has been a light to me as I have been hardened by hurts of the world.

We are showing God’s love to each other, my children and me. This comfort, this learning is not one way as we enter the world, but as God guides us we teach one another about compassion and light.

I know there will be greater hurts and heartbreak down the road, but as Steve said above, my job is not to protect my kids. I will rejoice with them as they rejoice and mourn with them as they mourn. I will seek God’s help as I try to be the light and comfort of God in their lives, releasing them to the grand stories God is writing in them. And trusting, always trusting, that HE is active, HE is love, HE is comfort, HE is good, and that HE is always with them.

The Way of Gratefulness; Day 6 – Grace

Last night, I didn’t post about gratitude. I didn’t feel it. I was worn out from lots of housework, only to find that the hose from the washing machine fell to the floor during a load yesterday causing the laundry room to be soaking wet.

Not. Fun.

As I cleaned up the mess at 10:15 pm, I recited to myself, “Be grateful. You have a washer and dryer. Be grateful.” And I was for a moment, as I remembered walking up and down three flights of stairs to use machines across the court yard from our apartment 7 years ago…

But I didn’t want to write about that.

I was feeling tired, whiny, and stressed when I went to bed.

And this morning… I woke up with a sense of guilt.

“I didn’t blog. I didn’t follow through on my commitment. I wasn’t grateful enough. I haven’t done enough to… to…” To do what? Oh that’s right, it comes down to this: “I haven’t done enough to please God.” Yup.

My entire life I feel I’ve been running around trying to do the right thing to make God happy. Because, maybe if I don’t sin, things would go well for me. Because maybe if I did things right, I would have his approval. Because maybe if  I was perfect on my own, he wouldn’t have had to die for me.

That is such a backwards expression of Christianity, yet it is one that is incredibly prevalent in a society that for years has used the church as a place to learn how to live moral lives. The Church is no longer a place to receive grace, but often a place to just receive a message on how to “do it better.” Completely focused on behavior. Not on the message of the cross.

What’s been forgotten is what Paul said to the Galatians who were backtracking to follow the Law instead of living in the New Covenant of Grace.

You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. (Galatians 5:4 TNIV)

Nothing we do is good enough. And, conversely, if we try to save ourselves by doing good things, we alienate ourselves from Christ and his grace.

To be a Christian is to believe that it is through Christ’s death, his sacrifice ALONE, that we are saved and to give up all attempts to be good enough. To be a Christian is to confess, “I cannot do it on my own. God, forgive me. Help me.” And to be a Christian is to receive God’s forgiveness.

But when we try to be good enough with our own striving, we are strapping the rules and regulations of the law back on our backs like backpacks full of bricks. We have in effect rejected Christ’s work on the cross when we try to be good enough.

My writing this blog or not, my “being the best I can be,” my efforts that eventually fail… these things are all covered by God’s love. That is true grace. Forgiveness when we fail and have nothing to offer.

My not blogging last night producing such feelings of guilt is obviously an overreaction to what is not a “deadly sin,” but I am grateful for that feeling, because I was reminded that what I do or don’t do won’t affect my standing with God. I am his child. Period. I am eternally grateful that I don’t have to strive to make it up. God has already forgiven me of anything wrong I could possibly do.

Yes, I’m grateful for Grace.

I hope I’ve made it clear why.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1 TNIV)