Monday, March 26, 2012

When emotions and beliefs war....

"My emotions were blatantly disobedient to my beliefs. ... Regardless of my theology and my intellectual allegiances, there is clearly more heart work to be done."- Sharon Hodde Miller (from Hermenuetics blog)

Do you ever find yourself acting out of accord with your own beliefs? Is this called hypocrisy or the struggle of every sinner?

My pastor this past Sunday preached on exactly this. Remember in Romans 7 where Paul argues with himself how he does not understand what he does (v. 15). "For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[c] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. 21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!"

Well. Let me tell you a story. My heart is often grieved. Some may say it's my personality to be "melancholic" and some may say that it is just a human response to life being hard. Other moms with young kids who spend the bulk of their day doing "damage control" might say it's just this season that feels like being a constant "BAD COP" (enforcing what you hate) and it gets better.

Ever since I was a small child, I took life seriously. Just ask my parents. I have always had a strong sense of ought. And duty. When I see something that needs to be done, I don't wait to be asked. Just ask my previous bosses. I cringe at the thought of being aloof to someone's needs around me. (But isn't marriage and parenthood a reminder of just that? No. Reminder is to gentle a word. How about a smack in the face of that reality?)

Well, the story goes that one day this dutiful child grows up and meets Jesus. And she is perplexed at how something that seemed so serving can actually be her own self-serving sin. Or perhaps even the desire to be respected and trusted, which appears good, right? She begins to discover that what she thought was a "pure desire" may in fact be laden with her own selfishness which is characteristic of any sinner.

The irony sets in when this sinner has children of her own whose needs she will never fully be able to meet. Isn't that part of accepting reality? That we will never be able to meet our kids' or our spouse's deepest needs and that only Jesus can meet those? I can set out to love and cherish and respect and teach joyfully, but within a couple seconds reality sets in and I am caught in a war between my emotions and my beliefs. I believe that Jesus has redeemed and is redeeming me from hopelessness and yet I FEEL condemned. I know the truth of the gospel is that "there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1). But feeling that and living as if it is true is not so easy as "right beliefs."

I learn a lot from our pastor on this. He once said during our worship service, as we quoted the catechism, that it is what we profess to believe as believers. At first I thought, "just what we profess?!?" There is too much separation from belief and action that if I was not a believer of Jesus and I was witnessing the church service, I might be tempted to think that he's excusing hypocrisy. (As in "hey we don't actually claim our lives will look different from knowing Jesus, we just claim to believe it." FYI, I know and trust our Pastor enough to know that wasn't what he was saying, but it did catch me off guard.) I thought this because we both profess and believe and act, right? But I think I get what he was trying to convey. We do, as believers, desire for our orthodoxy (beliefs) to match our orthopraxy (practice). And we know that Jesus does not allow a sinner to remain unchanged and in bondage to sin. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought, he's right! Even calling myself a Christian is exactly that- it's admitting my need for Jesus. Admitting that I cannot do it myself. I cannot earn God's favor. I cannot make myself into a better person. I will not be perfect this side of heaven. And I have come to the end of myself. I am well aware of my limitations... maybe too aware.

Being a Christian is NOT saying that my actions and beliefs and emotions will completely reflect the truth 100% of the time. In fact to say that would be a lie! (1 Jn 1:8 tells us "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.") Would I go so far as to think I could actually attain this balance? Who was I kidding? I will be the FIRST to tell you when you ask the cliched "how are you doing?" to admit that life is HARD and I am anything but the perfect mom and that my family gets frustrated with me daily as do I with them (more than daily).

So when I claim to be warring inside over parenting decisions and marriage struggles, am I asserting myself a hypocrite? Or just taking life too seriously as a melancholic would? Or perhaps I should be relieved that Paul himself struggled to do what he knew was right.

So... let's back up to the sermon this past Sunday and the irony of it. So as my pastor was sharing this, my three year old decides that he'd rather choose discipline than to obey. He was so disruptive during the service that I, who needed to hear that the grace of God can still dwell in the Spirit inside a sinner such a myself, was too busy disciplining her defiant 3 year old. Anyone else see the irony here? I wish I could say I laughed and shouted "AMEN, PREACH IT!" as I joyfully took it in stride while escorting our 3 year old out of the service to explain to him that this was not the time or place to exert his will over me and that he was in the process disturbing others who were trying to listen and worship. He continued to return to service and each time refused to stop his tantrums. Not mere 3 yr old fidgeting. Because I will TAKE THAT ANYDAY. But outright tantrums.... to the point that I got nothing out of the service except that I knew I'd benefit from understanding this war in myself and that it doesn't mean I'm chemically imbalanced or an uber-hypocrite but just a sinner caught in the war between the flesh and the Spirit.

So, I will end on this quote again, as a reminder that these painful trials of parenting and marriage feel crushing. I'm no one to pretend they don't. The Bible says we are pressed but not crushed. But I admit that my emotions vote "crushed" not merely pressed. They hurt in the innermost parts of my soul. And as alone as I may feel in all of this, I am not alone in realizing that everything doesn't square up 100% of the time. And God allows us to wrestle with this for our good:

"My emotions were blatantly disobedient to my beliefs. ... Regardless of my theology and my intellectual allegiances, there is clearly more heart work to be done." (Sharon Hodde Miller)

And to that I can shout "AMEN! Right there with you sister!!"

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Today's funnies

Me: Chase what do you want for your birthday?
Chase: A birthday cake! And you should get Sophie a slide. ( I guess he thinks Sophie should get a gift on his birthday too.)

Context: Daddy had flipped up the bath mat to use the scale and Sophie, the meticulous girl that she is, likes to put things back.
Sophie: XCUUUUUSE me! (while trying to uncurl the bath mat)

Then daddy did the same thing again because it was so funny and Sophie being frustrated by daddy, grabbed his heel, grunted loudly, and screamed "PUSH!" as she tried to push his foot off the curled up bathmat. What a funny girl.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Bugs, Trees, and ABCs


We were looking at the bug book which Chase pauses to ask me if I like each one. "Do you like centipedes?" "Do you like spiders?" "Look he has a hairbow." (referring to the black widow's bright red shape on his belly which very much resembles one of Sophie's red hairbows) I love how only because Chase is a proud brother of a little sister did he think of that!

"You're a good girl, mommy." (For making him a dinner he liked, apparently)

"That tree is REALLY NAKEY" (referring to a tree without any leaves as we strolled through a cemetery)

As I was changing Sophie's diaper, she looked up and gasped "Oh! da bug!" It was a stink bug on the ceiling. Chase observing this says, "stinky bug and stinky Sophie!!"

"Sopher. Do you want to play with me?" (This one just makes me giggle. If you know Chase, you know that his nickname for Sophia has evolved from "Bo-pee" to "Soap-ee" to "Sophilicious" to "Sophers" and now to "Sopher." Yep. That's the shortened version of Sophers, I presume.)

On another note, Chase is very animated (as he always was with expressions); but now he is verbally! He has quite an imagination and his "quiet/room time" usually involves his pretending that cars or trains are crashing or talking to each other. He is really into running into things on purpose and screaming "Ow!" (not in a whiny way but in a slapstick sort of way). He is doing great and pretty much potty-trained (I saw "pretty much" b/c nighttime is still an issue.) But he is finally able to use the potty, get his outfit on, wash hands, and is a little more motivated to do it himself. I never envisioned that teaching a kid to get their clothing back on without throwing a fit would be an issue in potty-training, but it almost seems more of an issue than the actual "potty" part!

He has recognized his numbers and letters for a while now and is getting even more proficient with lowercase letters, as uppercase came easily. He has started spelling things out loud which I love to hear because I'd normally have to trick him into any kind of activity and once he figured out he was learning, he was done!!

I'm proud to say that now he's doing his A,B,C's and puzzles and counting like it's a piece of cake! In fact, his little sister has already started counting and will sometimes finish our sentence if we count in order one to ten. She doesn't know every number, but I'm impressed that she's not even 2 yet and she's repeating numbers and letters. I'll have to give a Sophers update in another post. :) Back to Chase...

One day Chase surprised us by successfully completing one of those magnetic pattern activities that Melissa and Doug makes. It takes a lot of tedious hand strokes to not drop the magnets in the wrong slot with the wand and lo and behold, I showed him once and he came out of his room with the whole thing done! It was incredible! When he brought it to show us, Brian asked me if I did it for him?! Ha! Hardly! I don't know that I have the patience to do that!

Chase is becoming very knowledgeable in his children's Catechism. He really likes the Adam/Eve questions and knows where we came from, why we were made, that we have a soul and who is in the Trinity! It's funny how I can't seem to get him to sit and color (pretty basic, right?) but B can somehow get his attention long enough that Chase is interested in learning about the Bible! I am humbled daily!

Chase currently loves his kid-camera. It is digital and he can even take pix/videos of himself if he tilts the lens towards himself. He is quite the techy kid and has discovered how to use an ipad to draw, do puzzles, trace, etc. At first I was very opposed (and kinda sad, honestly) as I longed to just enjoy the fundamentals of learning and teach Chase not to give into this tech-obsessed culture! But then I saw how much more receptive he was to techy things and started thinking, is that such a bad thing? I'm still pretty strict with use of those things as I don't want to teach that we NEED high-tech things to be satisfied, but if he's learning to trace letters and it's not a discipline battle to get him to do it just b/c it's on this fun thing called an Ipad, I'm down with letting him try!

Here are some funny pix Chase took and/or edited :)

Ok, I'm signing off now with Chase banging on the xylophone as he sings the alphabet song (in the background). Most of you know how I loathe kid's music/annoying noisy toys, but it honestly brings joy to my heart that my son has embraced learning and I don't have to force it!! I can't tell you how proud it make me as his mama! Go for it, buddy. Sing it! LOUD and proud!