Archive for May, 2014

The world in which I’m supposed to be raising my children is scary.  Politically explosive, morally depraved, environmentally toxic.  World war is a very real possibility; though I try to comfort myself by thinking that surely none of the world leaders would be that stupid- they would.  People have lost the habit of self-denial, and politicians are always one step worse than people.  If they want or don’t want something- well, that’s the way it has to be.  Amorality is the new morality, and the old morals are the new immorality.  It’s life through the looking glass, turned upside down and backwards, and lacking in any logic.  We don’t even know which foods are safe to eat; cancer is on the rise, and first world problems are becoming third world problems.

It’s scary to think of raising children in a world that may blow up into new borders  and tensions.  A world that may revoke everything my grandparents, and parents and I have known, and replace our rights with requirements.  A world that may create ever more layers of discrimination as it seeks to do away with prejudice.

It’s terrifying to think of raising children in a world that contradicts everything I might teach them about life.  A world that is not only sinful, as it has been for ages, but that calls its sin righteousness.  A world that is working as hard as it can to teach my children that what I believe is wrong, and that they should not only not believe, but rebuke me for my belief.

It’s frightening to think of raising children in a world that is genetically modified, steroidal, and caught in a vicious cycle of illness that is treated with medicines that cause side effects that become illness.  A world that immunizes against childhood diseases but creates more childhood cancers.  A world that has advanced science but continues to kill us.

There have been times that I was grateful I didn’t have more children; that I have two children in heaven, and I don’t have to worry about them.

When Sofia talks about her prince (her synonym for “husband”) and the baby Rosa she’s going to have, it’s frightening to think that there may not be any princes by the time she’s seventeen-ninety.  What am I raising children for?  What is their life going to be?  Will they be a part of a small subculture that tries to stay under government radar?  Will they be under persecution?  Will there be an America or a Russia, or will we all live in satellites of Iran?  Will they speak Chinese?

If I let myself go, I can think up quite a few worst-case scenarioes.

More to the point, can I hope that my children will escape the mass exodus of “Christian”-raised children from the church and the faith?  Is the hypocrisy and failure of saved, but sinful mankind surmountable?  Is it possible to triumph over the propaganda and bombardment of false ways of life?

Will my children even survive to adulthood without the mental illness that seems to plague the modern generation?  Will they avoid the first world illnesses that are killing more and more people each year?  Will there be food that is safe to eat?

It seems to be the verge of dystopia.

And yet.  There have been ages that were catastrophic politically.  All those Assyrian city-states, with their land-hungry king deities?  All those European estates that changed hands with the wind and the death of the monarch? Those countries that have been invaded, oppressed and freed in an unending cycle for hundreds of years?

There have been cultures in which it was impossible to be a Christian.  For example, the culture in which Christianity was birthed.  Rome was depraved, corrupt and self-indulgent, just as America today.  Abortion? Check.  Euthanasia?  Check.  Homosexuality?  Check.  About the only sin that wasn’t acceptable was incest, and that was probably because they kept at least a bit more common sense and logic than a large part of the population today.

Technically, life expectancy has never been as high as it is today.  The Black Plague has disappeared from civilized lands; smallpox, the first illness to have a vaccine in America, is only in Africa today.  Death in childbirth is no longer the leading cause of death for women.

There have always been reasons to fear.  We live in a world ruled by sin, and sin is death.  Fear is part and parcel of the culture of sin and death.  Yes, many of the reasons I may list are legitimate concerns.  And God has warned us to beware the signs of the end times.  But for hundreds of years, believers have huddled in corners, whispering and grumbling about what times are coming to.  For hundreds of years, women have read the verses proclaiming woe to her who gives suck to a child in those days, and trembled.  And for hundreds of years, we ignore the fact that with all the fear and risk and danger- God has never left us.  And He will never leave us. 

He does not promise that everything will be lovely and have a happy ending.  But God is there.  He is here.  And our efforts are nothing compared to His might.   Can we really affect anything, even if we lived in that fabled America of the Judeo-Christian roots, the Monroe Doctrine, and apple pie?  There is not one saint in the Bible who was able to force his family to be that ideal little picture of the Christian family that we all aspire to.

We fear and worry and fight because we’re afraid we won’t live up to the standards we have set for ourselves.  Our pride shakes in its shoes at the coming failure of our own self-respect.  It’s frightening, because like Adam and Eve, we want to have the say of it.

But when all is said and done, we come to the realization that it is God who convicts, God who saves, God who keeps.  It is God who protects, God who avenges.  It is God who holds the future.  I can do two things:  I can realize that my vision is my vision, but God knows what His will is; and I can pray.  I can pray that God’s will will be done, and that I will see that, and accept it.  I can tell God of my hopes and dreams, and I can know that His plan will be better, because it will be right.

I continue to struggle with the elemental fear of death or bodily harm to my children; but I have learned to pray and ask God to remind me that He loves my children better than I am or will be able to.  This is all that has allowed me to sleep some nights, when I thought I heard or felt or sensed something that sent my oversensitive mother instincts into overdrive.   I have to admit that I can’t actually do anything.  Even if I worry.  There is nothing virtuous about worrying over your children, you’re not affecting anything but your health.  I can’t sit and watch all night.  But God can.

I do not expect it to be easy (have you read the Old Testament?!) but I do know- when I let God remind me- that it is not my responsibility to make my children be good and have good lives.  My responsibility is to pray and trust.  And for my own sake, not to read the last chapter before I’ve read the middle- or even to think it is the last chapter, because sometimes it’s not.

I would never have written my life the way God has.  I suspect that He will write my children’s lives differently than I would.  And I may not always appreciate the plot.  But I am not God’s literary critic.  I am His creation, and as such, I have to let Him create. 

I have to remember that God loves my children better than I do.  When I indulge myself in fears of my own failure to achieve my ideals as a mother, I am negating God’s power over their lives, and doubting His love for my children and myself.  Because actually, He loves ME better than I love myself.

So I pray to be faithful in little and leave the lot to God.  I pray that He would keep my children in His will, not mine. And I thank Him that He loves my children better than I do.

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Therewith Content

When Paul wrote about being content in any state, I always assumed it was rhetorical.   A mere turn of the phrase to emphasize the necessity of not complaining about your troubles.  Why not be content when all is well?    But of course, it’s not that simple, because nothing ever is.

It is not easy to abound after having been abased.  It’s confusing.  It’s scary.  It’s a bit deadening.  It’s learning to live upside down- again. 

It is difficult to come to terms with pain, but once you have, once you have embraced it as a part of your life, it is difficult to let it go again.  After gripping pain in a boxer’s embrace, it throws you off balance to have it melt out of your arms.  It’s scary, because pain has become your companion, your security, your way of life, so it’s a kind of loss; and it’s scary, because what if it comes back?

It’s confusing too, because you’ve learned to adopt pain into your experience, and to understand that only God knows why it’s there; and after the long, uphill struggle to trust God and trust there’s a reason and a good, suddenly it’s gone.

And without the reminder of that thorn in the flesh, you could lose all you’ve gained.  You could become so self-satisfied that you lose everything but your own image and lusts, like a cat licking cream off her paws, and forgetting how to mouse.

And finally, and perhaps most deadly- it’s humbling.  Because you’ve become used to having a different portion from other people, and knowing God has a different plan for you, and now you’re no different than anyone else.  This may seem incredibly twisted, but it’s true.  I suppose it starts as a survival technique, but the human ego is ready to expand on any convenient opportunity.

Of course, there is the truth that we gain more in pain than in plenty, so I suppose the concept of abasement and abounding may be elastic.  In a through-the-looking-glass manner, plenty may be abasing, and pain bring more abundance: there is a Jewish teaching that the curses God gives in the Old Testament are actually blessings, if you look at the spiritual depth beneath them.

In reality, I’m not sure what state I’m in (beyond Arizona), so I’m not left with a choice of being content or not.  “All” I am left with is the knowledge that God will never leave me nor forsake me; that He will work all out for good; and that He created joy as well as sorrow.

A sermon illustration I heard in Russia talked about a man who was depressed because everything in his life had gone wrong.  A friend reminded him that things wouldn’t always be that way, and in an effort to encourage himself, he wrote those words on his wall.  Years later, when thing had looked up, and everything seemed to be great, the friend asked the man why he never erased the words.  “Because I know that things won’t always be this way, either,” he said.  I suspect my mother would see that as Russian negativity, but it’s true, and the greater truth of it is that only God will always be Who He is.  And that is why we can be content.

We don’t know why God allows either sorrow or joy in our loves.  Sometimes, we don’t even know if something is a sorrow or a joy.  But we do know that God doesn’t do bad things.  As the Jewish author said, God does two kinds of acts: those that are good and we see them as good, and those that are good but we see them as bad.  Regardless, if we are in His will, they are blessings.

So for three or four years I lived in varying stages of grief and loss.  And I was very blessed.  Now God has put me in a place where joy and abundance seem to be tripping over one another in their hurry.  And I am very blessed.  And I pray that I would be content, and that I never lose sight of the only reason to truly be content.   And that is, that God is.

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