Today was a rough day. I have them some days. See, my health has some quirks as well – and my doctors don’t seem too concerned about how often I feel horrible as long as the tests come back negative. It is what it is, and I have learned a lot of ways to manage pretty well. However, today I woke up knowing we would not be getting up, getting dressed, and wrangling the children to church (something that can approximate Indian Leg-Wrestling a giant tarantula). When we don’t go to church, we have a little discussion at home. I love these, because its time to really help the kids apply what they learn to other aspects of their life. As I’ve talked about before, I want their faith to be a living, breathing part of their life – not a one-day-a-week activity.
I typically flip through their children’s Bible for something relating to something we’ve been talking about or working on. Let’s just say, for example, that today I was thinking about ‘listening and following directions.’ Purely as an example, you understand. I chose the story about Jesus collecting his apostles, and how they just left everything to follow. It started off as a good chance to talk about following directions and listening to what God is telling us to do. However, it also included something I wasn’t intending. Courage.
Holy cats. That took guts. They just walked away from their family, their homes, their livelihood, every single material possession. They just left. The Bible’s pretty specific because one guy wanted to go say goodbye to his family, and had to just go. We don’t really hear about their families. Were they married? Fathers? Did they have families depending on the fish they caught? Mothers, Fathers, Wives, Siblings, Children – wondering if they were ok? I can’t really get my head around it.
I consider myself to be a person of strong faith. But the faith it takes to walk away from everything, and trust that not only will your daily needs be cared for, but that your family will also be provided for? I hope God never asks that of me. I don’t know if I have that kind of courage. I also understand the ramifications that some people ‘believe’ themselves to be following the will of God – and all does not go well. They lose their home, their family suffers, they are not provided for. Does that mean they didn’t have enough faith or courage? No – at least I don’t think so. I think its more that sometimes we are woefully mistaken about the path God is setting for us.
So, courage and faith? One of the most important things I am trying to impress upon my children now is the need to be a person of integrity (I use other words because otherwise I would get blank stares), to do what’s right – even when (or especially when) its unpopular and lonely. Our culture is one of instant gratification, self-absorption, and disinterest. That doesn’t meant that there aren’t good people out there – there most definitely are! And it doesn’t mean that good people may occasionally make not-so-great choices – they do! We ALL do! Yay being human! Unfortunately, we are culturally training ourselves to be constantly entertained and have our every passing need met instantly. This is especially true of teens – for whom conformity and acceptance are almost unfathomable pressures. We also have a generation of parents who seem to have a high proportion trying to be friends with their child instead of parents.
I am lucky – my kids are little. I have not yet gone through a period where one or both hate me. I am trying to make my peace with the fact that it will probably happen. However – at 4 and 7, we have regular discussions about what it means to respect others. From listening to Mom and Dad, to watching where you are going in public. We never correct our children’s behavior without explaining the ‘why.’ We teach. Exhaustively. Even when we’re frustrated. Even when we’re at our wits end. Even when WE need a time-out first. Because we don’t just want them to behave. We don’t want little pod children. We want children who know how to think about their behavior, and how their choices effect others. Because someday, that’s going to be tested. They are going to have an absolutely enormous amount of pressure put upon them to behave a certain way, do a certain thing, want specific things, say things, do things, ignore things. I am not always going to be able to be there to point them in the right direction. I want them to have the courage make a choice they can be proud of the next day, or the next week, or 10 years later. I want them to have the internal compass of faith to guide them. I want them to know that their actions start with thoughts – and thoughts can be re-thought.
In recent months, I find that I always choose stories from the New Testament. Typically, stories about Jesus and his followers, during the time he lived on earth. Talk about a progressive thinker. He basically told the people in charge of the temples ‘its time to change everything you know about what you know.’ And he never once backed down. Courage. It takes courage to teach the message you know needs to be taught – knowing that for some it makes you a target. It takes courage to preach that change needs to happen now – not be gradually phased in, not carefully planned and carried out, not done by others. Jesus knew that he would die for his cause. The Bible clearly shows his anguish over this. He did not go cheerfully and peacefully to the cross. He carried its weight far longer than the walk to the hill. He did it because he knew it was right, and he knew he was carrying out God’s plan. Jesus had faith. We might not always have the same clarity of message and direction. We might not always hear God’s voice as clearly as Jesus did. But we are all called, if we are listening. To do something.
‘We were made to be courageous, and we’re taking back the fight. We were made to be courageous, and it starts with us tonight. The only way we’ll ever stand, is on our knees with lifted hands. Make us courageous.’ – Casting Crowns (Courageous)
‘I woke up this morning, saw a world full of trouble now. Thought, how’d we ever get so far down. How’s it ever gonna turn around. So I turned my eyes to Heaven, I thought, “God, why don’t You do something?” Well, I just couldn’t bear the thought of people living in poverty, children sold into slavery. The thought disgusted me, so, I shook my fist at Heaven. Said, “God, why don’t You do something?” He said, “I did, I created you” – Matthew West (Do Something)
Take care, and be of good courage.