Still Here and Still His

Of Life, Love and Loss. Of Knowing and Being Known. On Being His.

Month: October, 2014

An Affectionate Grace

If I offer everything but grace to those I love most deeply,
we will all be found wanting. 

Grace is a concept I can hardly wrap my heart around. As the day was coming to a close a few weeks ago, I experienced something as a parent that helped me understand it all more.

The day had been full. Too full, probably. The boys and I were all tired. After tending to my two youngest I found my eldest in bed and in tears. I had no idea why he was upset. My impulse that evening was to be tired and frustrated (because I was) and to silence his sorrow with, I don’t know what’s wrong but you’re tired; just get your pj’s on, brush your teeth and get back in bed. It’s what I wanted to say (and unfortunately, what I most often say on nights like that). But as I noticed his almost-too-big-for-the-bunk-bed-body stretched out, something led me to consider how long it had been since I had taken a few minutes to just be all his. To be whatever he needed, whatever ear he needed, whatever comfort he needed, whatever guidance he needed. To set aside my stressed out and tired self and just be present with that young but growing boy.

Within moments Aedan began to tell me of his disappointments of that day. Of working hard at something he cared about for so long and failing at it. Of regretting not having gone about it another way. Of effort and time spent with nothing to show for it but to start over again some other day. And while those experiences were those of a 10 year old, with passions and a mind fit for his age, I knew how he felt. His issue may have seemed small in the grand scheme of things (even he knew that), but the reality is he’ll face those same battles for the rest of his life. It won’t be the last time he works hard at something and fails, wondering what the point of it all was and wondering if he even cares to try again.

What came next was something I wasn’t expecting. It was his words of confession having to do with issues unrelated to what we had been talking about, of household rules that he had been breaking for weeks. I had been curious if those rules weren’t being broken by him in times past, but I knew that trust between two people has to be built deep within their hearts and souls, so I opted to give him the benefit of the doubt and see what came of  it. Plus, I know my Aedan. I knew if he was being dishonest with me that he’d one day find that he couldn’t hold that burden–it’s just how God has wired him. But as he broke down in tears and confessed all that he had been deceitful about, my heart’s response was one of complete gladness and joy. I realized in that moment that to receive a confession from him, rather than having to confront him on it, leads to two completely different experiences. I honestly had nothing to offer the boy but grace. I do wish I were made more of grace; my bent is to be harder on the boys sometimes than I want to be. This moment, though, was beautiful and not of our own doing. The Holy Spirit had worked conviction and repentance in him and was working His grace in and through me.

Aedan went to sleep in peace that night and I couldn’t get my mind off the experience. I couldn’t help but consider that the delight I had felt in those moments as a parent was but a fraction of what God must feel when we come to Him with our sorrows and sin. I began to wonder if I’d mindlessly come to believe that God’s forgiveness and comfort for me had become His dutiful obligation, lacking in affection. Perhaps I’d thought that while the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross bore evidence to the extent of God’s love for His children, was the sacrifice so great that it diminished God’s ability to delight in us?  I don’t know why I would believe this except that sometimes parenting in this fallen world feels more like duty and less like delight. When my affection for my boys feels dimmed I assume that God must feel the same way towards me. It’s much too easy to project my parenting experiences upon God. Though our parent/child relationships may at times mirror how God loves us, they are never to define God’s love for us, for our love is marred — His is not.

It was clearly faulty thinking, for I realized that even in my weariest moments as a parent I don’t love my boys purely out of dutiful obligation; I love them because they’re mine. I always long for them to be whole and glad and full of life. And when all hindrances (fatigue, stress, fear, etc.) are removed from my life and heart as a parent, there is revealed at the core nothing but pure delight for my boys. And then to understand that God delights not only in us, but because of us, was a connection I’d yet to drink deeply of. That when we come to Him with our repentant or sorrowed hearts His heart is actually made glad. And when all hindrances (sin, pride, fear, etc.) are put aside as a child of God, I am able to see that there is nothing left but His delight for me. Maybe that’s what God meant when He said that sacrifice is not what He desires, but a broken and contrite heart (Psalm 51:17). He delights in us not only being called His children but He also experiences delight as we are in the process of being made righteous. He loves us, even now, because we’re His. And His grace bestowed upon us is not out of duty but out of pure delight.

 Grace does not just change the person who receives it,
it makes glad the person who is offering it. 

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A Summer’s End.

DSC_3754The boys headed back to school a month ago now (Aedan into 5th, Eli into 3rd and Jo Isaac into 1st) and I’ve begun my final two semesters of college course work (for now). As a mom of three boys who are now back in school, I’d been looking forward to some routine again–most often my preference–and to having a few hours a day alone with no squabbles or messes but my own (though I’m still left with an amazingly endless amount of things to do). I’ve enjoyed my own studying immensely these past two years. I don’t know what is to become of me by this time next year but I trust God does and that He’ll make it known as the months unfold.

Our summer was full of activity and fun, late nights (for all of us), friends, family and traveling, all of which brought so much life to our own. The boys wrapped up two separate day camps by July 4th and then headed up to their grandparents in Roseau (MN) where they had the time of their lives (as usual). I soaked in 10 days at home alone, filled mostly with schoolwork and catching up on all that doesn’t get done when the boys are around. My favorite part about having a quiet home is waking up in it. No one needing breakfast or me or anything. Sweet stillness; I love it. But it’s only sweet for so long and then it’s replaced by a longing to be back with them. So I finished the month of July with the boys in Roseau, taking in all the good things we love about Jeremy’s hometown and our family there. In the month of August, we  took to the road to visit friends in Illinois and spent a weekend in Brainerd (MN) with my family. Our final summer weeks were spent doing any other activity we could think of (and washing the boys’ school uniforms, snagging school supplies and meeting teachers) and…here we go. Off to another year.

I’m a fan of routine and not a huge fan of transitions; I’ve yet to figure out why. Maybe it’s fear of the unknown, or of admitting, at times, that I know I’m moving forward and going somewhere but I have no idea where. Or of having to acknowledge that the boys really are growing up (and so am I). It seems like God never intends for us to remain where we are for very long. I so often just want to set up camp and pitch my tent. But I suppose when He has placed in us a longing for a better home (see Hebrew 11: 13-16) He’ll keep us on the move as sojourners.  Sometimes, in the midst of transitions, it helps me to consider what hasn’t changed … like how much I love and appreciate both of our church families who hardly see us all summer but love and care for us anyway; for the crew of friends who still come over every week holding tight to the things that matter most–like our friendships, seeking God together and carrying the weight of each other’s sorrows–inspiring laughter, worship, and pressing on in hope together the best we know how; for my family–my mom and her husband and my sister and her husband and kids; for Jeremy’s parents and his brother and sister and their families; for our extended relatives whom we see so rarely but love to see; for friends who bring life and light to mine and the boys’ lives in all sorts of ways. What a complete grace to be known and loved by all these and what added joy to be able to love them in return.

Yet, what is even greater is to rest in the One who never changes. Some days it feels as though I’ll never learn how to do that. To rest in the knowledge of the One who promises to be with us and guide us, molding us into the creatures He desires us to be. We can resist Him but He won’t resist us. We can tell Him how incapable and weak we are and how often we may think that we’re not cut out for this life. He knows of the complexities. I stumble through transition after transition in life and turn the corner to find Him gently reminding me that He’s got me. I’m left wondering if my faith will ever be strong enough to allow me to run freely and fully the race that is set before me.

While this past summer was very good it wasn’t without its hard days–the continued struggle to be all His and to live fully and fearlessly; to continue to learn to be okay some days not understanding why life has unfolded the way it has; to see in the midst of the disappointments and unknown all the glorious blessings that still surround us. Some days I can almost feel the shift within me, when I begin to look at myself, the boys, our story, or my friends and the brokenness they encounter in their lives and I begin to question God’s good intentions, His ability to really make good of all our weaknesses and the brokenness that we can’t seem to get away from. I begin to long for a joy that I don’t think I’ve ever known for very long. A joy that overrides the restlessness. A joy that can embrace the here and now because it’s hinged upon the what will be. A joy that remembers the past as a road well traveled rather than a road I long to return to because it’s familiar. How quickly I sometimes dismiss all the benefits of being His, of knowing and trusting Him amidst the day to day and looking to Him for guidance and provision. To rest in being His and to request nothing of Him but His presence (which, indeed, can fully satisfy). It seems that so many days and in so many ways I exchange the peace of God’s presence for my own self-sufficiency and I always come up short. My life cannot be my own, for I will never satisfy myself. I must be entirely all for Him, all the time, in every circumstance, casting all my burdens on Him. It all rests upon Him; nothing rests on me.

You keep in perfect peace those whose mind is stayed upon thee. (Isaiah 26:3)

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