Monday, May 28, 2012

A Mother's Example

The silence following my raised voice was deafening. Ben glanced at me, head hung, then turned and slowly walked upstairs, no doubt to seek solace in his Legoes.

As for me, I couldn’t believe I’d yelled that way — full, louder-than-loud yelling — over a neglected cat litter box. That box pushes my last button when it stinks up the basement, but at the moment, I stunk far worse. My own head hung, I turned and slowly walked out to the deck, where I could talk this over with God.

When Matthew and Ben were younger, I discovered I had a temper, and battled it fiercely. I prayed and memorized passages of Scripture. I remembered my own mother as gentle and calm, such a good example to me of what I wanted to be. And yet, I felt unable to control my temper, setting such a bad example for my sons. But I’d yell anyway. Sometimes, my throat would hurt afterwards. To me, it was so shameful that I could yell at these tiny people I loved, entrusted to me by a loving and patient God.

But as they’d gotten older, I’d done it less. I didn’t know if this was a credit to their growing maturity or my own; I was just thankful I wasn’t yelling anymore.

Until the day I yelled at Ben.

Out on the deck, I told God about it, asking His forgiveness — but I still felt like a heel. All the things I know about God and His perspective don’t always sink deep down right away in the heat of the emotion. Things like: God has forgiven me utterly! He sees Jesus’ righteousness when He looks at me. He is never surprised or undone by my many mistakes, character flaws, offenses and plain old sin. I am a work in process, and He has promised to keep on working and never give up. He loves me as much right now as He ever has, and will never love me any less or turn away from me. Even if I yell again tomorrow. His grace staggers me every time, energizing me, keeping hopelessness at bay.

After 10 minutes or so with God, I went upstairs to make things right with Ben. I found him on the floor with his Legoes and knelt down beside him. My voice trembled as I asked his forgiveness; he easily hugged me and gave it. Then he said something that strengthened my motherly heart.

""Mom, I knew you’d be coming soon to tell me you’re sorry."

"You did?" I asked, wondering why.

"Sure. Because it’s what you always do. Whenever you yell or do something you shouldn’t, you always come quickly and ask us to forgive you."

It was then that I really did cry. I want my sons to be the best they can be — which means loving Jesus and seeking Him in everything. But even if Jesus is their greatest desire, they will still sin against Him and others; they will still need to know what to do with their sin against God and others.

I cried because, while my example of an out-of-control temper is not something I ever want them to emulate, I clearly had set an example of asking forgiveness of God and of them when I did yell. Maybe he was learning not from my example of a quick temper, but from my example of being quick to repent. Maybe I wasn’t such a failure as a mom after all.

Some weeks later, I read this in a blog called MomLife:

My imperfections will find a way to weasel their way into my day, whether I like it or not.

So, what’s a mom to do?
· Accept the fact that we will never be perfect. Nor will our children, our husband, or our house.
· Ask God to give us the grace we need to be an example of love to our children.
· Learn to apologize to our children with humility when we make mistakes, and we will make mistakes, all the time.

 You want to know my definition of a "good mom" these days? A good mom is someone who loves her kids fiercely and with abandon, as God first loved us.

... A good mom isn’t someone who never loses her cool, but someone who loves her children enough to show them how to gracefully handle it when she does.

"Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins." -1 Peter 4:8

Friday, May 18, 2012

Moses' Middle Forty

The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me;
your love, O Lord, endures forever -
You will not abandon the works of your hands.
(Psalm 138:8)

No doubt about it, Moses led a uniquely exciting life.

His first 40 years were spent in Egypt. Having narrowly escaped infanticide, he was raised by the Pharoah's daughter, educated in the wisdom of the day. But after defending a Hebrew kinsman by murdering a man, he fled as a fugitive to Midian, where he spent his next 40 years.

At the end of the those 40 years, Moses heard God speak to Him from a burning bush, calling him to rescue the Israelites from more than four centuries of slavery. He returned to Egypt as an instrument of the Lord's power and judgment upon Egypt and its idolatry. After leading millions of Israelites to freedom, crossing the Red Sea in a dramatic miracle, he spoke with God atop Mount Sinai and received His law for Israel. In those final 40 years, Moses served God as Israel's Liberator and God's Prophet. The Lord Himself described Moses as a faithful and humble friend (see Numbers 12:3-8).

But as we review the spectacular events of this great man's history, we tend to overlook one large segment of it: the middle 40 years Moses spent in the wilderness, living among Midianite nomads, raising a family, shepherding his father-in-law's sheep. It's not hard to understand our oversight: the Bible spends a scant seven verses on this period! Moses led a quiet existence on the backside of a barren desert, all but invisible.

What was going through his mind during those decades? Did he count himself a flash in the pan whose time had come and gone? He named his first son Gershom, which means, "I am as a stranger in a strange land." Did he imagine his remaining days would be lived in exile from his home and his people?

A good friend remarked to me that the Lord was training Moses during those 40 long years in the practical skills necessary for his later ministry, most likely without his awareness of it. He would have learned of the flora and fauna of the region, along with methods of surviving such a harsh landscape. Notably, Midian was located in the desert of Sinai, where Moses would later lead Israel to God's promised land! Through those 40 seemingly uneventful years, God was strengthening Moses spiritually as well. The man who had once boldy delivered a slave by taking a man's life now shied away from God's call to deliver Israel, doubting himself worthy of such a task.

When outwardly it seemed virtually nothing was happening, God was in fact preparing Moses for a mighty work. The Lord used those years to form Moses into a man ready to follow God instead of his own rash impulses, equipped to obey God completely as he led a rebellious people through a forbidding wilderness.

What does this mean for us, all these centuries later? Do you feel like your best years are behind you, that God has used you in the past, but has now put you out to pasture? Do you see your life as descending into the daily grind, lacking purpose or direction or excitement?

Remember Moses' middle 40.

In those years, we see that God is always at work in and through His children, every step of the way, whether our steps are grand - like scaling a mountain to meet God - or common - like herding our flocks (of children!). There is no day or month or moment when God has overlooked us or His purposes for us.

We may spend our days doing unspecatacular things like changing diapers, comforting sick children, packing bag lunches or putting away groceries. We might envision the gifts and dreams that God has given us just sitting on a dusty shelf, all but invisible.

But through those ordinary tasks, in our daily faithfulness, God is working His plans in us, to humble us, to train us, to prepare us for His mighty work - for now and for the future.

May we be found faithful in serving Him and trusting His purposes wherever He may lead us.