5 Ways I’d Like a Do-Over in Parenting

My days of “parenting” are nearly over.  My oldest left home for the military nearly six years ago.  My only daughter moved out four months ago.  All that’s left is our 18-year-old son, who is just beginning to figure out the direction for his life.

Not until I became “gamma” did I start to think about how I’d do things differently if I could go back in time.  Grandparenting is a whole other level of love and grace that emanates from your soul.  There is freedom to enjoy this new role without the stress and frustration that accompanies raising a child.

I think every parent can look back and see the things they’d do differently.  However, it’s important we don’t park our thoughts there and ruminate on the error of our ways.  No parent does it perfectly.  Still, if there were the possibility of going back and doing it again…here’s the ways I’d like a do-over:

  1. I’d let my kids watch “Scooby Doo.”

I know this sounds kind of silly but it’s been a running joke in our family for years.  You’d think my kids are in need of therapy after being denied the enjoyment of this cartoon.  Trust me, there’s a deeper issue at hand.

Although my intentions were good, training my children up in the Lord turned legalistic.  Both my husband and I are first generation believers, so we went at this thing full-on.  As my kids would tell you, virtually everything was “evil” or “of the devil.”

By the time my children were entering their teen years, I stopped parenting by way of the law and gravitated more toward grace.  Honestly, I think it’s what saved my relationship with them.  We still set boundaries but there was a whole lot more balance.

2.) I’d loosen up.

I often point out my Type A personality or my German heritage in my posts.  Yet I can’t deny the impact both have had in the way I deal with life.  It’s always been serious business to me.  Little time for laughter and games.  There are things to do and not much time to get them accomplished.

Everything was scheduled.  I lived by lists and calendars.  There was an order to life.  That sometimes took the fun out of things.

As a “gamma,” I live for spur of the moment trips to the farm or playground.  I can easily set aside cleaning to paint with my granddaughter.  Tickle fights are great and I can make some pretty funny faces that crack her up.  I spend more time enjoying her than watching the clock.

3.) I’d let my kids get messy.

Just some things I let my granddaughter do that I never allowed my kids to do…jump in puddles, play in the mud, take the playdough away from the table (it ends up in all kinds of interesting places when you do that) and paint whenever she wants.

When she spills something, I don’t freak out.  When she makes a mess, I hardly bat an eye.  It’s okay if the cookie dough gets all over the counter.  And a little water splashing out of the tub is no big deal.

Messes aren’t as monumental as I once thought them to be.  They can be wiped up with cleaning products.  Soap gets rid of dirt.  What’s a lot harder to scrub away are hurtful or damaging words.

But glitter…okay, that’s where I draw the line.

4.) I’d show more patience.

In the midst of raising kids, with the pressures of life and responsibility, we can find ourselves getting easily irritated or frustrated.  And let’s face it, sometimes kids can be a real pain in the derriere.  But if I had a do-over, I’d not sweat the small stuff.

I would be more patient in listening to some of their long, drawn-out (and yes, sometimes pointless) stories.  I would read that book one more time.  It wouldn’t matter how long it took for my child to tie his shoe, learn a new chore or complete that last page of homework.

It’s actually quite amazing the supply of patience I’ve built up since becoming a grandma.  Never knew I had it in me…

5.) I would not make God such a bummer.

The expectations that I (and even some of those in the church who played a powerful influence in their lives) placed on my children sometimes made it seem like God was a real bummer.  I think a lot of parents fail to see this as an issue.  We get so caught up in trying to “save” our children (forgetting that it’s not really our job to do), we take all the fun out of being a follower of Christ.

We put so much effort into churning out good Christian kids, that we make it an impossible task for them.  They know all the things they shouldn’t do and wonder if there’s anything they can do.

We shush them…tell them to sit still…use scare tactics…thump the Bible over their heads…spend more time pointing out what’s sinful than what’s good…enclose them in this protective spiritual bubble—that we don’t even realize how much we’re actually suffocating them.

It wasn’t that long ago my daughter made a rare appearance with us at church.  I was holding my two-year-old granddaughter and the worship music was really going strong.  You could hear my granddaughter crooning her own words, sometimes talking a little loudly, and clapping at the wrong time.

My daughter was embarrassed and tried shushing her.  I thought back to my days with young children and knew I’d had done the same.  But not this time.  God is not going to be a bummer with my grandkids!  We are going to sing offkey, clap with abandon and just enjoy the fun of being a Christ follower.

If you could have a do-over in parenting, what would you change?

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I Love God But I Don’t Love People

I have deep admiration for people who can easily love others.  I consider those able to strike up conversations with complete strangers a special breed.  Huggers definitely impress me.

You see, people are messy.  And well, I’m just not a fan of messy.  I much prefer comfort.  Order.  And let’s just keep it real…being alone.

By nature I’m an introvert.  To me a perfect weekend is spent at home, working on my craft projects, journaling and catching up on my favorite TV programs.  I’ll skip a party any day.  But when I get honest with myself, it goes deeper than my personality type.

I don’t love people.

You’ll never see me strike up a conversation with a stranger because it’s awkward and I’m probably on a mission.  Hugging is reserved strictly for my husband, children and grandchildren.  I try my best to avoid crowds.  I oftentimes make excuses to not hang out with friends.

If you don’t know me, I’m probably coming off as a not-so-nice person.  Yet if you really knew me, I’m a compassionate, kind and giving person.  Deep inside I care about others.  But love them?  That’s a much different story when you consider what I John 4 says about this topic.  I strongly encourage you to read John 4:7-21 in its entirety.  But for the sake of not turning this post into a book, I’m going to focus on just a couple of verses.

We love because He first loved us.  Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar.  For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.  And He has given us this command:  Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister (I John 4:19-21).

Maybe (like me), you have kind of glossed over this passage because what stands out the most is the part about hating a brother or sister.  Figuring all is well because you don’t actually hate someone.  However, hate really isn’t the main topic.  In just those few verses, the word “love” is mentioned 7 times.  That tells me love is what we should focus on.  And it’s not exactly a suggestion, that we love others.  It says “We love because He first loved us.”  Notice it doesn’t say “We try to love,” or even “We should love.”  We love.  Period.  End of story.  Not based on what’s deserved or earned, but BECAUSE God loves us, we in turn love others.

That means my husband, even when he’s prickly.  It applies to the crabby cashier.  And it includes the unlovable coworker.

But I think loving goes beyond that.  Something tells me it’s more than just tolerating people, it’s deliberately and intentionally making connections…it means reaching out…going out of our comfort zones.

Maybe for me that means getting out of the house on the weekend.  Going to that party, with bells on.  Giving of my time when I’d rather hoard it to myself.  Asking, with sincerity, how someone else is doing.

Turning that compassionate part of me into a doer.  Not just being a kind person but doing a kind thing for someone else.  Giving not with good thoughts or intentions, but with purpose and intent.

As we get ready to wrap up 2017, I feel challenged by I John 4, to love more deliberately.  To love more gracefully.  To love more like God.  And to remember that although I disappoint Him sometimes, and maybe even get on His nerves, His love has no limit.  So why should my love be limited?  Why should the flaws of others stop me?  Why should my personality or the fact I’ve been hurt so many times become an excuse?

More importantly, I John 4:21 says that God has given us a COMMANDIt is not optionalAnyone who loves God MUST also love their brother and sister.

Are you feeling challenged to love others more?

My One Word

We’re about to embark on yet another New Year.  There is something comforting about the idea of starting over.  The possibility of a fresh beginning and the hope of something better.  It’s why many people make resolutions or set goals.  Or you might participate in something I’m doing this year, the “One Word” plan.

How it works is you pick one word to focus on for the next 12 months.  Your word isn’t a random choice, but one chosen purposefully for your life.  It helps center your attention on what’s most important and eliminates the overwhelming feeling we can get when we’re trying to make too many changes at once.

Discovering your word might take time in prayer, a deliberate seeking of what God would have for you.  Or the one word might be immediately obvious, because it’s already been something God has been stirring in your heart or working on in your life.  That’s where I find myself this year.

It didn’t take long for me to figure out what God was saying to me.  In fact, He has been speaking to me about it for some time now.  My word for 2018 is:

God is asking first and foremost that I be intentional in my pursuit of a deeper, abiding relationship with Him.  The truth is, I’ve just been kind of skating by…doing the “right” things (reading my Bible, praying, attending church) but not deliberately seeking more of Him.  In other words, I’ve been comfortable with my comfortableness.  Something tells me things are about to get a little more uncomfortable in this New Year.

Especially since I know God is also directing me to be intentional in other areas of my life—my marriage, my tendency toward isolation and my health…just to name a few.  And since it’s easy to be all gung-ho in the beginning of a New Year and slowly let things slide, I have already been intentional on keeping this word front and center.

I’m really big into creative planning (sort of like scrapbooking, journaling and using a planner all wrapped up in one).  So, I’ve designed some things that will serve as a reminder each and every day of my word.

I’m sharing this with you for two reasons.  One reason is to offer an alternative in making the typical New Year’s Resolution list or setting so many goals that it quickly becomes overwhelming.  Of course, I would love to know (should you choose to share) what your WORD for 2018 is going to be and why.

The other reason I’m sharing this is to keep myself accountable.  Once you put something out there, you tend to have greater motivation to see it through.  Which means there will also be some transparency in sharing how I’m doing with the different areas that God is asking me to be intentional about.

Regardless of how you are embracing this New Year, I would love to hear some feedback.  I really don’t want my blog to be a one-sided conversation, so I invite you to share your thoughts.  And as we look toward a New Year, I pray Numbers 6:24-26 over each and every one of you:

 

5 More Difficult Things You Need to Hear

  1. Seeking validation from others will never make you worthy.

While I can’t totally relate to being a people pleaser, I do know the hurt of rejection and the pain of not being liked or accepted.  But our worth should never be tied to the opinions or thoughts of others because the reality is that we will all face rejection.   There will be people who just don’t like us, deserved or not.  And we won’t be accepted into every group.  To be okay with that, we have to realize our worth is found in Jesus.  We are worthy not because of who we are but because of the One who lives inside of us.

2. God gives but He also takes.

God graciously gives us good things…all of which we don’t deserve but because of His mercy, we still receive.  It’s easy to love a God who gives us good things.  But we can’t just count on the getting.  God will sometimes take…an opportunity, a relationship or a dream.  Both giving and taking are necessary to grow in faith.  Don’t just look forward to what He gives, but learn to accept what He takes.

3. Trauma is a great teacher.

You never feel it in the moment, but trauma truly is a great teacher.  It shows us where our faith really lies…how we handle difficulties…where we put our trust…if we will grow from the experience or stay stuck.  It’s not easy and it hurts.  Yet it’s through our pain that we learn the most about ourselves and the God we serve.

 4. Do what’s right, even when no one else notices.

Watching the news, it’s quite obvious that evil is what gets the most attention.  Rarely do you hear a good story and if you do, it’s a snippet.  When attention isn’t drawn to doing the right thing, it can seem pointless.  But if our motivation is based on “look at me, look at me!” our right becomes a wrong.  Regardless if it’s noticed or acknowledged, do right anyway.  It’s really not about you.

5. Wearing your faith in God like a badge isn’t what attracts the world to Him.

I seriously get nauseated by social media posts from believers that turn their faith in God to a badge they wear.  If we’re making faith about what we do or don’t do, it can be a real turnoff to someone who is struggling to believe that God is real.  That’s why I took the fish sticker off my vehicle several years ago.  My “badge” did little to point others to Jesus when they saw me speeding or getting angry behind the wheel.  No one followed me to find out what church I attend so they could get more of my fleshly behavior.

You know what I’ve found is most attractive to the world?  Keeping it real.  Being who I am, redeemed and flawed at the same time.  Showing what it means to live in God’s grace and yet the reality of His discipline.

In case you missed last week’s 5 Difficult Things You Need to Hear, be sure to check it out.  And remember, hard things don’t feel good in the moment.  But they can make a positive lasting difference in our lives.

5 Difficult Things You Need to Hear

  1. Just a little bit of sin will eventually lead to a whole lot of consequences.

Just as the little bits of unhealthy eating have resulted in my need to lose weight, it’s the “small” sins that over a period of time lead to serious consequences.  We tend to think it’s the big stuff that gets us in trouble, so we feel pretty good about ourselves when we avoid it.  But that’s what makes our seemingly inconsequential little sins that much more dangerous.  We’re blinded to the repercussions awaiting us.

2. You have the ability to make time for what’s truly important.

It’s an overplayed and overused excuse, “I don’t have time for (fill in the blank).”  Obviously, we really don’t have time to do everything we’d like to do.  But we’re all given 24 hours in a day in which we determine how it’s used.  We have the ability to sacrifice or reprioritize our time.

3. While you can’t control everything that happens to you, you can control your response.

Stuff happens.  Disappointments occur.  People disappoint.  Sometimes life sucks.  Instead of getting caught up in what we can’t control, we need to focus on what we can control.  Circumstances might not change or improve but the way we respond is completely in our hands.  We have the ability to find joy and peace in every circumstance.

4. Putting yourself last doesn’t make you a hero…it makes you stupid.

Selflessness is an important part of our faith.  But don’t confuse that with thinking your needs don’t matter.  If you keep putting yourself last it might earn you some accolades from others, but it won’t do any good in the long run if you’re spiritually weak, mentally exhausted and physically depleted.  That’s not what makes a hero.  It’s just dumb.

5. Playing the victim is a copout.

I won’t lie…it does feel good when others feel sorry for you.  But the role of victim isn’t meant to be a way out of facing your own contributions to a situation.  Or to give you an excuse for the way you react.  Playing the victim is an avoidance issue.  If you really want to find victory in a situation, seek a solution.  Rise above the victim mentality and become a problem solver.

By the way, lest you think I posted this because I’m some kind of expert…Not. Even. Close.  God tends to show me things that I just assume others may struggle with, so if these issues don’t apply, great.  But don’t get too comfy…I have five more difficult things you need to hear coming next week.

Grief Doesn’t Have an Expiration Date

This month it will be my third Christmas without my father.  No need to write on my calendar which day my family will celebrate at his house.  I won’t have to rack my brain to come up with a creative gift idea.  He is no longer with us.

Over time I’ve discovered that grief doesn’t expire.  It doesn’t ever truly end…it just changes.

People often wonder if grief gets easier.  I don’t believe it does.  Grief in itself doesn’t get easier but some aspects of it do.  Like it might be easier to laugh about past memories.  Or think about that person without crying.

Grief doesn’t have an expiration date.  And we should be okay with that.  It only becomes a concern when we remain stuck in our grief.

I was thinking about our last Christmas together.  My youngest son (who was 16 at the time), was sitting in my dad’s living room watching something on TV.  My dad walked in and said to him, “Are you watching this?”  My son replied that he was and my dad said, “Oh,” as he picked up the remote and changed the channel.

That was just my dad’s sense of humor, even if my teenager didn’t think it was funny.  The memory makes me chuckle.

I also recall it was the last time we took a family photo.  Even though my oldest son was serving overseas at the time, because we had been Skyping, we got a picture of him on my laptop.  That memory brings a tear to my eye.

And then there was the game we played, “Imaginiff,” which can sometimes hurt feelings.  My dad did that when he made a comment (as part of the game) that I was bossy.  Not that what he said wasn’t true because I definitely can be bossy…but to hear him actually say it, well, it kind of smarted.  But now when I think about his comment, it makes me smile.

Different emotions stirred up from memories that at the time, didn’t seem important.  And yet, three years later, have become part of the grieving process.

With Christmas upon us, thinking about him still brings an ache to my heart.  I don’t think I will ever not grieve for my father.  I won’t ever stop wishing I could get one more day with him.  That I’d get the opportunity to hear him call me “Sweetie” or to seek his advice on a problem.

My faith and the faith He had in God gives me the comfort of knowing that one day I will see him again.  Yet it doesn’t erase the hole that’s been left behind.

Grief doesn’t have an expiration date.

But you know what?  I don’t believe it’s supposed to.  Grief serves not just as a way to mourn the person we’ve lost, but as a way to connect to that person.  Through our tears, laughter and yes, even the anger we might feel…we continue to process the unique experiences and emotions that attach us to the person.

That person is “gone,” but only in the sense of his/her physical life being taken away.  Memories live on.  They are precious reminders of moments, big and small, that contributed to our life.   They are a piece of the puzzle that makes up the whole of we are.  They matter.  They hold value.  They are significant and worthy of our attention.

Grief doesn’t have an expiration date.

So, let the process take you where it goes.  Don’t deny it.  Don’t fight it.  Don’t believe you should be “over it.”  Cry.  Scream.  Laugh.  Question.  Wonder.  Emotions are just part of the journey.  The grief you feel may not end but with God’s help, the process will become easier to navigate.

The Imperfect Holiday Gathering

How did your table look at Thanksgiving this past week?  Was it a picturesque Norman Rockwell gathering of loved ones?  Smiles, laughter and good conversation all around? 

Or was it more like a disjointed assembly of people you can barely tolerate?

Were there missing plate settings because of separation caused by death or distance?

I stopped having expectations of the “perfect” holiday gathering years ago.  It started when our oldest son went into the military.  Followed by strife amongst extended family members and the death of my father.  There has also been a divorce, separation and broken relationships that has contributed to the imperfect gatherings I began to dread.

Not everyone looks forward to the holidays—at least when it comes to family gatherings.  Through the years, it started to become more work than fun.  And I’m not referring to the physical labor of preparing.  I’m talking about the work of trying to keep the peace.  The work of putting on a happy face or biting my tongue.

As Thanksgiving approached this year, I literally wanted to run away.  Go somewhere with my husband and be freed from the burden of having to host and keep things together as much as possible.  Honestly, if it weren’t for the jacked up airfares, we would have done it.  Instead, we opted to get away the week after.

Anyway, at times I found it a little difficult to see the happy family gathering photos flooding my Facebook newsfeed.  But then I remembered that it doesn’t always tell the whole picture.  After all, I posted my own pictures and bragged about the delicious side dishes my daughter prepared.  I didn’t share the other parts…like how we got out of having to invite certain family members to our house by making sure our daughter hosted at her apartment.  It was a great excuse.

I didn’t talk about how my heart ached, with it being the 6th Thanksgiving in a row my oldest son hasn’t been with us.  Or how I’m estranged from a certain family member.  Who shares all that?  And yet…it’s the reality for I would guess, a good majority of our homes.

So how do we get through these difficult holiday gatherings?  We put more weight on the goodness of God and His blessings.

It’s much easier to pay close attention to what’s “wrong” in our life than it is to focus on what’s right.  But if we truly believe that God is good, it’s not so hard to see our lives the same way.  There is always something to be thankful for…no matter what challenges or obstacles we’re facing.

It might take a little work, but I challenge you (and myself) to seek out what’s right in our lives.  Deliberately set aside time to think about and perhaps even write down, all the blessings of God and the goodness He has bestowed on us.

Even further, with Christmas still upon us, I challenge you (and myself) to look beyond our personal hurt to the needs of that other person.  To make peace where it’s possible.  To consider that maybe we’ve been too judgmental, critical or stubborn.  To give of ourselves regardless of how we feel.  To let up on some of our expectations.  To find the good in others and even our difficult circumstances.

It might be an imperfect holiday gathering…but we still serve a perfect God.

#METOO

In case you haven’t noticed (you avoid social media and don’t watch/read the news), there has been an onslaught of sexual assault allegations coming out.  Hollywood top of the list, politicians coming in second.

Attention has been drawn to the issues of sexual assault and harassment through a social media movement.  As a declaration of being a victim, people are posting the hashtag #metoo.  While I commend those who boldly proclaimed their victimization, for me it wasn’t something I felt comfortable sharing.

Yet here I am now—on my blog—getting ready to do what I couldn’t bring myself to do on Facebook.  Perhaps it’s the momentum of the movement, the bravery that has been demonstrated, the sense of arm-in-arm unity for those who have victimized…but I am here to declare that yes, #metoo has been a victim.

In my opinion, the publicity that has been drawn to this movement is very important.  I’m not referring to the incidents involving the rich and famous…most will have their day in court.  And not that I’m downplaying or dismissing their experiences—but for the everyday, ordinary person it’s about time that attention is drawn to the widespread problems of sexual assault and harassment.  In the workplace.  At school.  Yes, even in the church.

I read that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men will be the victim of sexual assault at some point in life.  So imagine any setting—sitting at a restaurant or in your favorite pew at church—there is someone in the same room who has gone through this type of painful experience.

Years ago I led a group at my church called “Vessels of Honor.”  It was for women who had been victims of sexual abuse.  I can’t even tell you how incredibly taxing it was on my emotions.  Hearing the stories, seeing the pain they were going through, and watching these women continue to suffer in one way or another…it was a heavy burden to carry as a leader.

One by one, this large group of women who were seeking healing, became much smaller and intimate.  While that was beneficial to those left, it saddened me to know that some of the women just couldn’t face the pain and trauma of their past (and in some cases, their ongoing suffering).

The biggest factor that closed some women off, the one that caused a few to stop attending, was shame.  It’s not easy to admit you’ve been the victim of sexual abuse or assault.  We could get into a whole other topic regarding the reasons why…but my main point is that shame oftentimes leaves us suffering in silence.  In turn, we miss out on the opportunity to find healing.

It’s about time we give voice to an issue where the perpetrator isn’t always held accountable.  Where victims continue to be victimized long after the assault has occurred.  Where discomfort overrides addressing the problem.  Where shame keeps us from speaking out.

Will the #metoo movement stop sexual assault and harassment?  Not while we’re here on this sin-filled earth it won’t.  Will it mete out justice for victims?  It’s not likely unless you’ve been victimized by a rich or famous person.  Will it foster healing?  Not really.  But will it give voice to a commonplace issue?  Yes.  Will it cause others to stand up in the face of shame and say, “Me too!  I have been a victim!”  Yes.

Is raising awareness enough?  No…but it’s a start.  I won’t pretend to have the answers.  It’s a sensitive topic that is unique to each person’s experience.

At the very least, can we start having some open and honest conversations about the problem?  Can we help eliminate the shame factor by demonstrating compassion and understanding?  Can we make resources available to those who are broken?

In my lifetime I’ve tried counseling.  I’ve done the numbing your pain thing with food, alcohol and bouncing from one guy to the next.  I’ve buried the hurt in hopes it could be forever hidden, only to have it rise up again.  Some of these have been temporary fixes, while others only deepened the chasm in my soul.

True healing has only come through the work of Christ in my heart and mind.  Not that I’m 100% set free from the emotional pain and residual effects.  Work is still to be done.  Yet I have hope because of what God has already accomplished in this journey.

Yes, #metoo has been a victim.  But #metoo knows the source of my healing.  #Jesussetsfree #Jesusknows  #Jesuscares  #Jesusloves #Jesusheals

Now that’s the kind of movement I’d really love to see spread across this world!

When the Church Hurts You

Raise your hand if you’ve ever been hurt by the church.

Yep, I can almost see those virtual hands being lifted up.  There’s a pretty good chance you have a story to tell if you’ve ever stepped foot inside a church.  Anything from being slighted by a fellow churchgoer to something much more horrendous, such as being the victim of sexual molestation by a leader.

Attending church for more than two decades, I have heard quite a few stories.  And with my experience in leading various types of Bible study groups (including those focused on healing from sexual abuse), some of the stories are outright heartbreaking.

The youth pastor who took advantage of a vulnerable teen girl.  The affair between members of the church that broke two marriages (and families) apart.  Division that results in a church split.

I’ve had my own share of hurt in the church.  A friend who deeply betrayed me.  Gossip and unkind words spoken when my teen daughter got pregnant.  A son whose absence from youth group was never noticed.  The loss of friends when my husband and I left our church to attend another one.

Here’s the problem with identifying these issues as being hurt by “the church.”  This suggests that it’s an entire group—a denomination, an area of the church or a particular church body—that is responsible.  In reality, hurt most often occurs at the hands of an individual.  Even when it does involve more than one person, in most circumstances we still can’t blame “the church.”

It’s so important we don’t blanket a set of people, organization or group by our personal experiences.  Generalizations are always dangerous and many times, unfair.  “The church” is really a body of believers that stretches to the ends of the earth.  It’s made up of all different tribes, tongues and nations.  When we keep things in perspective, we’re less likely to exaggerate our hurt.

But I believe there’s an even more important reason to not blame the church for our hurts.  It becomes an excuse to fall away.  We perceive it as a valid reason to stop attending or to not engage in corporate worship.  Hebrews 10:24-25 is a reminder of the importance in gathering together.  “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

If I pulled away from my husband every time he slighted me, we would have been divorced a long time ago.  Or if I stopped engaging with my children every time they hurt me, we wouldn’t have a relationship.

Yet why is it that we can so easily walk away from “the church” just because we have been hurt?  I’m not saying it invalidates or diminishes what’s been done.  Not at all.  But our need for community doesn’t go away because of the infallibility of people.  Especially when it ends up negatively impacting our faith walk.  We become the inflictor of our own hurt by closing ourselves off from the church.

I’m not going to pretend there are easy answers.  If you were looking to receive them, well, I’m sorry to disappoint you.  I just know that from personal experience, I have handled some of my hurts well and other times, not so much.  The times I didn’t–when I was disillusioned, let down and consumed by the hurt–it impacted my walk with God.  It was subtle enough that I didn’t even recognize it was happening at the time.

Here’s the simple truth…church people are sinners.  They do wrong.  Struggle with addictions.  Fall into old habits.  Gossip.  Lie.  Backstab.  So is there a good chance you will be hurt by a fellow believer?  I can almost promise you it will happen.  Does it mean the church as a whole is responsible?  It’s just as unfair for me to be personally blamed for the deaths of Jews just because I’m German.  My being part of that heritage doesn’t automatically make me responsible.

Getting hurt by an individual or a group should never be an excuse to walk away from or deny your faith.  You might not like what I’m going to say…but it’s a cop-out.  It’s an easy way to avoid the hard stuff of our faith walk.  If you think walking away from the church is going to give you a better chance at not being hurt, think again.

And let’s not dismiss the fact that we have hurt others.  Ever talk negatively about your pastor ?    Excluded a person for a selfish reason?  Ignored the needs of others?  Used a “prayer request” as a cover for gossiping about another?

I’ve seen too many people walk away from the church because of the most petty things.  But I’ve also seen deep hurts that most definitely require some kind of response.  In either case, let’s be careful to not lay responsibility on the church as a whole.  And let’s be sure to guard our hearts so that we don’t allow the hurt of others to hurt our relationship with God.

God will never let us down…even if others do.

 

The Greater Love

Greater love has no one than this:  to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

(John 15:13)

Jesus is our greatest example of sacrificial love.  The kind of love that would endure torment.  The kind of love that would carry the burden of sin.  The kind of love that willingly gives of self for the saving of others.

Not many of us can fully grasp the implication of laying one’s life down.  Most of us won’t find ourselves in a position to do it.  But there are men and women who quite literally died for this country.  Who fought for the preservation of freedom.

Others made it through but with the knowledge it could cost his or her life.  That was my dad.  He served on the front lines of Vietnam.  He faced choices that no person should ever have to make.  He witnessed things that no person should ever have to see.

I grew up knowing there was a price paid for that willingness to lay down one’s life.  I was taught to honor those who serve this country.  I learned the importance of respect for the American flag.  I was taught patriotism…something we seem to be losing in the younger generations.

I will always stand for the Pledge of Allegiance.  I will always sing for the National Anthem.  I will never bend a knee unless it’s to the King of Glory.

On this day, I say THANK YOU to every man and woman who has served this country.  I am so grateful that you were willing to lay down your life.  Greater love has no one that that…