Thursday, April 8, 2010

Anything BUT Natural

I had an interesting conversation with my sister the other night. We were discussing the difficulties of raising godly children and sharing thoughts about consistency and laying down of self, specifically for the cause of raising our kids to be "others" focused. And how hard it is, sometimes even within a church community, to stay intentional with those goals. Let's face it, when you are a mom, those to character traits are KEY to getting through the day without losing your mind. But they are so much bigger than surviving a day with teens who know way more about life than Mom does or with toddlers who wake up determined to test every ounce of patience and selflessness you may have gained to this point today. (Not that my kids ever behave in those ways. . . . snort!)

We've been talking a lot in recent months, The Boss and I, with our Gang about this idea of laying down of self. We usually call it teamwork around here.  I have found myself discontent with how easy it has become for all of us to play the blame game. By how quickly we all default to the mode of  looking out for self.  We all do it, it's our flesh's natural inclination. We are bombarded every day with messages to "look out for Number One" and "get your name out there," or "I deserve this . . " and other self-promoting agendas.

I realize that training myself and my children to conscientiously look out for others and intentionally take care of those around us (especially those who cannot speak for themselves) is pretty counter-culture. I get that outside the four walls of our home, and beyond the community of believers with whom we relate, this sounds like the fast track to nowhere. But as I keep chatting with my kids and processing out loud some of the things we feel that the Lord is calling us toward, I keep coming back to an old song that nails it for me, every time.  Some of you will remember this one:

This week, as I've been praying for my kids and for some keys to breaking through these "natural inclinations," I found myself reciting a verse I learned back in high school. If I remember correctly, it was no easier memorizing this section of the Word back then than it is now. And just as hard to put it into practice, then as it is now.

Philippians 2:1-4 (The Message)
"If you've gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don't push your way to the front; don't sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don't be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand."

When you throw in the necessary element of consistency and mix it all up, it seems almost like an impossible mission. I mean, I've been working at this effort of laying down my flesh and trying to be consistently submitted to those around me in a loving and selfless manner since. . . . well, for a long time now.  (Ha, you thought I was gonna type that huge number out loud here, didn't ya?!)  It's hard. It's really hard and it's made harder each time I choose to walk out my doors and interact with the world around me. The pushing and jockeying for position at the express line. The search (and LOSS!) of the perfect parking spot in the rain. The rushed and harried driver who passes on the right, breaking both the speed limit and the sound barrier simultaneously. The warm, soft couch vs. the pile of dishes in the sink. Even if it ISN'T my dish day.  Ouch. It's hard.

A friend reminded me today (as she told me a lovely story about her son's exploration into trying harder to be what God calls us to be . . .) that this is why we need forgiveness. And why GRACE is such a gift. Because our natural inclinations are only too selfish and sinful. And forgiveness and grace help us be more like Jesus every day. And that's anything BUT natural from where I'm sitting.


Territory Mom said...

Wow!! From God to you to me. Thank you, thank you.

Beverly said...

You have hit upon my constant struggle...Well said. Love ya Yankee twin!

Kevin, Jake and Violet said...

A nice lesson, and one we should all strive to match, though it is tough and a constant battle. I've been following another family that went to Xian, and it is amazing how much I've missed it. I've been searching out all the Shaanxi moms, and I realized I hadn't visited you guys in a while. Looks like your crew is doing great.
Lately I've been thinking about the future and returning to Xian. I wonder if it would be better for a crowd of us to go on legacy tours or just or family. Maybe someday we can go back. Until then, I'm enjoying my wonderful child here on U.S. soil and trying hard to teach him the lessons you've spoken of. Good luck and God bless.

Aus said...

Wow - ya'll were Inspired - kinda neat how it feels when the Spirit moves in you eh? (He did BTW - in case you didn't notice!) Better message than I've heard in a long time!

Timely for us too - we're on spring break - we've had a transfer at work and are short handed until the spot is filled and so there was not much off time for me....and the kids (who are just being kids) are in the 'stage' that you describe - too young to understand, but old enough to need - and it takes it's toll on Mom (and dad once I manage to get home!)

Thanks - I really did need that!

hugs - aus and co.

Julie said...

We are working on these same things with our teens. It is tough. The world wants to sell them a lode of lies, sometimes I want to lock my family in the house and never leave:)

Great post!

Christie said...

So, so true....sigh

Loved it

Our Journey to Rachel said...

Beautiful and so very true!