(THIS is the emotional post I referred to last week, in all its glory.)
Remember to be very, very cautious when offering up an area of your life to the Lord.
My post the other day regarding values clarification is--obviously--something that's been weighing on my heart. As often happens when your attention is brought to some area where you need a good pruning, God allowed me to see that lately, I've slipped into taking a passing glance at the situations of those floundering around me and have felt that somehow, I could make lemonade out of their lemons. Let's be painfully honest with one another and admit that sometimes, it's easy to spot folks whose rotten choices have landed them splat dab in it. Let's further admit that many of those people are currently tucking the covers of the proverbial bed that they made for themselves right over their heads and acting like somehow, it's not their fault.
As a Christian, I've felt for years that the "bigger, faster, better!" mantra surrounding our housing, economy, lifestyles, etc., was a bubble that was just made for bursting. And it did. I'm not sure how the folks who rode the wave can't see their complicity, but hey ... I shovel my own form of justification from time to time, if you know what I mean.
Clearly, however, the folks suffering hardest from the downturn deserve far more than our condescending "I told you so" looks as they struggle with the realities of foreclosure, repossession and bankruptcy. In my heart, I know this. But wow ... is it hard to offer it when my head keeps screaming"Why did you buy that house? You had to take out one of those wacky interest-only, 80/10/10, convoluted loan deals to walk in the front door. What made you think that would work out?!?!"
So while I can offer prayer and empathy for those who have unexpectedly found themselves sinking in the mire of the financial crises despite their careful choices, I am at a loss quite often with those who are clearly feeling the effects of their own decisions. I'm trying to soften, though. I really am. Because the truth is, falling from grace hurts, even when the grace was mortgaged, rather than given outright.
I am working very hard to realign my actions with the heart Jesus gave me when He forgave all of my stupid mistakes, and to extend that same brand of forgiveness to those who need it most. Hence ... starting back at the beginning. Clarifying what I stand for, who I am and how I want to interact with the world.
Which leads me back to the open door I gave the Lord.
A few years ago, I offered to pray for patience on behalf of my cousin, who was working through some parenting stuff that was draining her joy.
"Don't do that!" she recoiled. "If you pray for patience, God just gives you more opportunities to exercise it."
This was my first realization that sometimes, when we ask God to walk us through a thorny area, he answers with more questions rather than the magic cure-all we'd rather receive.
And this, I believe, is a large part of why I found myself watching six year-old Logan take a blow to the arm with a large tree branch yesterday evening. The aggressor, a seven year-old neighbor boy, stood back just long enough to gauge the effect of his strike. Unfortunately, he miscalculated his enemy. Logan--who towers over many 9 year-olds and has a legendary pain tolerance--gathered his wits about him, drew back and proceeded to smash his opponent with an equally large tree branch.
In the face, mind you.
The effect was ... astonishing. The older boy wavered before dropping to his knees. By the time I made it down the stairs and out into the yard, the older boy was shrieking and stumbling blindly toward our sliding glass door. Logan was pale and shaking, his eyes wider than I'd ever seen him.
And ohmygoodness, the blood. Dripping, spitting, frothing, streaming. Everywhere. The older boy had a face full of blood that seemed endless.
The aftershocks of this kind of event are enormous, as I'm sure you can imagine. Phone calls, hospital trips (no stitches or broken teeth, praise God!), more phone calls, apologies ... a parenting nightmare.
But also, an extremely humbling experience. One that God felt I needed, no matter how ungrateful I am to have been handed the learning opportunity.
You see, sometimes its hard to see our children as mere children. Sure, we engage daily in the task of raising adults. (I disdain the phrase "raising children" simply because my goal isn't to raise children. It's to raise adults. Call it semantics if you wish, but I see it as something of a self-fulfilling prophecy.) But little by little, we begin to lose sight of the fact that our children really are still children. They are immature, unable to make big choices and clearly in need of guidance. How is it that these truths slip away from us and we find ourselves staring gape-jawed at the evidence of their poor judgement? How is it that we expect them to always be upright, to do the right thing and to pass temptation by? How is it that we expect them to make better choices than the grownups around them who didn't see the folly in mortgaging their future for the home of their dreams?
Logan is a smart boy. We've told him countless times, "If someone hits you, come get us." We've told him to ask for help, to use his wits, to diffuse situations and to avoid conflict. Heck--Logan is smart enough to know that when he smacks someone with a stick, they're going to get hurt. It's common sense. But in the heat of the moment, Logan forgot all of that. He forgot the very foundational things we taught him, and he threw himself headlong into the passion swirling around him.
Logan did a rash, impulsive thing, and I love him anyhow. Even though he hurt someone, even though he has miles to go before he understands the concept of self-control, even though I doubt this is the last time I will find myself scooping him out of a scuffle, A Christmas Story style. And just as I look on my boy and shake my head, wishing he'd put into action a few of those values I've been pouring into him for the past 6 years, God is looking down at all of us. His children. His fallible but beloved children.
This comparison has helped me to spend the past few days scanning the faces around me and looking beyond the rough exteriors to see the soul God created in each one of us. It's opened my eyes to the real meaning of seeing people, not actions. And it's softened my heart. It's getting easier to to offer an empathy that's true and comes without strings. Even to the people who knew better, and who have fallen hard.
Which is, after all, what we're called to do. Love one another, just as Christ loves us. Regardless of who knew what. Regardless of how stupid it seems in hindsight.
Values clarification ... one painful step at a time.