i read something recently and this one quote stuck with me...
GRACE DEMANDS A DEATH.
it seemed really harsh. the words "grace" "demanded" and "death" didn't seem to sit nicely together in that sentence. i did a little digging and found out it was actually the title of a sermon. whew. talk about a downer of a sermon. the pastor explained that if we are to extend grace, as Christ did, we must also experience death.
the person writing about the sermon went on to say that to extend grace as parents, we need to die to our dreams, our desires, and our expectations for our children. we need to love them unconditionally, expecting nothing in return.
WHAT?!?!??!?!?! that is when i stopped reading and starting protesting...
"expecting NOTHING in return". ummmmm, investing years of parenting. not only years but the YEARS WHERE I LOOKED CUTE (those years are long gone.) investing decades of parenting in my case. years of expectation. years of hopes and dreams. so to cast those expectations, hopes and dreams out to the wind... do i really trust God that much to have NO expectations of my children? but the ones that He has for them... the ones that He hasn't fully shared with me yet? the ones that i am not sure include things like "still speaking to your mom when she is old and crazy? (which looks like it might be next week)?" CAN'T I HAVE SOME EXPECTATIONS? CAN'T ONE LITTLE HOPE OR DREAM MAKE IT THROUGH THE FIERY FURNACE?
i have a friend who has had to TIME and TIME again give up EVERY dream, hope, expectation, every vague longing of "wouldn't that be nice if"... for her child.
things like... his graduating from college, his not having an arrest record, not having more of an arrest record, staying off drugs, not dealing drugs to others, not being an alcoholic. small little dreams and hopes like those. just toss those dreams into the fire. hoping for that fire to burn off some stuff and someone to come out shining like refined silver. only ashes have come out so far...
and the worst part is that i know her. i know how she has parented. i know her family. her faith. her friends. her standards. her sense of humor. her lack of legalism. she could be me. she might be me. i might be her in the next five minutes. or five months. or five years. and that is what scares me the worst about watching her walk through this. about praying her through this... it could happen to me. i am not immune. i am no more perfect and no worse messed up than her. we are both sinners. saved by the same Amazing Grace. we have taught our children the same things. we have drug them to church. we have monitored their television watching. we have sung hymns over them before bedtime. read them Bible stores and memorized verses and made popsicle crafts for Old Testament tales that required popsicle crafting. we have prayed desperate prayers to the God who wakes us up in the middle of the night because we shake in fear for the lives of our children...
so yesterday she had to face giving up another hope and dream and expectation. let it go into the arms of God. who she trusts is watching over all of this.
this same trustworthy God of another storm...
Jesus Calms the Storm
One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and set out. As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger.
The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!”
He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm.“Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples.
In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.”
she trusts that God is going to get her over to the other side of this lake.
but DANG IT, this is a BIG LAKE to cross. it is taking a LONG time. and the storm is pretty INTENSE. so we call out like the disciples, "hey Jesus are you there because WE MIGHT DIE!!!!"
and it does at time seem like SomeOne might be sleeping through this storm. when He could be calming it with a little "peace, be still."
but she has nothing else to trust in. not her own expectations. not her own hopes and dreams. those have failed her...
talk about hanging a rope over a precipice...
“You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you. It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice. Wouldn't you then first discover how much you really trusted it?”
some parents (it seems) just have to trust in the cord of faith to wrap up the gift of a sweet child who has done everything by the Book. the cord of faith is a decorative ribbon around a gift of love and laughter and good good times. the cord seems more decorative than useful. and yet... it makes for a pretty package. it looks amazingly like a gift. a great gift. a gift i would want. in my heart i have to say a gift i really really really want. because i do love a good gift. wrapped with a cord of faith. seems nice and safe and everyone will tell me what a great job i did as a mom. as a gift wrapper...
and then there are those parents who have to trust in the cord of faith to hold them from falling into a precipice a thousand miles deep and a thousand rocks at the ready and danger is palatable. and the wind blows strong. and the rocks are close and cut their ankles. and the sweat on the brow and the muscles of the arms are strained. and the cord holds us as much as we hold the cord. in utter desperation we hold the cord because there is nothing but it to hold. and people can only gape in wonder and cry out, "will the cord hold you?"
so is the cord strong enough? can i trust that God loves my children more than i do? that ultimately whatever i do may be either supported or thwarted by His Sovereign Will? can i extend grace by dying to my expectations knowing that only His will matters? can i really DIE to my hopes and dreams for my family? even the really really really good hopes and dreams.. like they will know and love God? and maybe the tiny ones like will they will make their beds and brush their teeth... every now and then? can i really expect nothing in return for the years i have spent teaching, preaching, encouraging, disinfecting, cleaning, cooking, washing, pressing into them?
the rest of that c.s. lewis quote ends with this line...
“Only a real risk tests the reality of a belief.
raising children is a real risk. it is real. it is risky. there are NO guarantees. except that it will test the reality of what i believe about God.
how i parent will answer that. how i worry. how i trust. how i pray. what i say. what i don't say.
is He enough? is He good? is He strong enough to save my children? or is it me that will save them? my work? my preaching to them? my expecting them to do "good" things to show how "good" they are? can a mother raise a child to the glory of God and that child not glorify God? do i risk that...
will grace be enough? for me? for my children?
i say that it will be. and yet saying it isn't what is required. it is living it. day by day. minute by minute. each time another dream is tossed into the fire and we sigh and say "okay God. i didn't really need this hope fulfilled. i just need You."
if grace is enough to cover my sins. to cover their sins. to cover a multitude of sins that grace does also demand a death. grace was costly to God.
and if i am to extend grace then it must be costly to me. i will have to die to my own plans. what i thought this parenting thing would look like. what i thought i would get out of it. to the idol of perfection that i thought it would look like.
to extend grace means that i do die to what i want. i die to my "rightness" for His righteousness. i have to be willing to let go of my hopes and dreams and expectations and open my hands only to what God wills for my children. even if He wills that they go their own way. that they make their own mistakes. their own choices.
i have fought/still fight/will continue to my dying day (ha) to fight like h-e-double hockey sticks to raise them in the fear and admonition of the Lord. i make them make their bed and say their prayers and brush their teeth. but the day may come when they don't make their bed or brush their teeth or say their prayers and i still have to say "Your will be done." God is sovereign over unmade beds, unbrushed teeth, and unsaid prayers.
what if raising kids to the glory of God means that we glorify Him as the parent of a prodigal? what if He wants us to live out for others the fervent intensity of "being still and knowing that He is God" by doing nothing but praying and waiting on God because there is nothing left we can do? what if we glorify Him as we visit a son in prison? love an unwashed, unlovable kid who has no where else to go but home. what if it means people get to watch us lose everything and yet we still have One thing left and that is enough for us?
grace demands a death. if i am going to live a life of grace, i will be living a life of continual dying.
and as we discussed last time...
so grace hurts also. hurts the one who has to do the dying to extend it.
reality hurts. death hurts. dying to self hurts. therefore parenting hurts. especially parenting teenagers. they just aren't as warm and fuzzy as little children. they have a way of teaching you that your expectations, your hopes and dreams might have been idolatry.
God is not always glorified in "perfect families". i guess i should have figured that out from the lack of them in the Bible.
but we do have perfection in our Heavenly Father. we do have the perfect family waiting for us in the sweet by and by. just not in the stinky today and most likely tomorrow.
“We were promised sufferings. They were part of the program. We were even told, 'Blessed are they that mourn,' and I accept it. I've got nothing that I hadn't bargained for. Of course it is different when the thing happens to oneself, not to others, and in reality, not imagination.”
there is only One who can Rescue us from death. the One who defeated it. the One was subject to it (though He was sovereign over it) because He allowed Himself to take our death wish upon Himself...
What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?
Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
death hurts. dying to self hurts. grace demands a death. and i am happy to pay it (well, maybe "happy" isn't the right word. grateful. gospel driven grateful.) because God paid a much higher price than i will ever have to pay.
*disclaimer... if your teenagers are as warm and fuzzy as little children DO NOT TELL ME ABOUT IT. i do not think i can extend grace and die to the part of me that will want to hit you. don't test me in this...
*disclaimer #2 i do not mean to be all debbie downer (but really what did you expect for a blog post about DEATH?) teenagers are wonderful. they are funny. clever. interesting. they smell weird and take long showers and eat a lot. but they have their great moments as well and you rarely have to change their diapers. or suck boogers out of their noses. so there are those pluses... not to mention the crash course in sanctification. it is all worth it. or so someone told me once. and then i hit that person. because i hadn't died to self enough. maybe next time...