Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Do Hard Things

I stare at my five-year-old for the eight-millionth time as she offers the eight-millionth excuse for why she is disobeying in some fashion. (And there are many fashions: sassing, bickering, teasing--your typical laundry list of five-year-old depravity) And I ask her The Question.

"What is your job?"

She gets it right on the first try. (I must have pounded it into her head.) Without hesitation:
"Do hard things."
"Righto," I respond. "So...why are you bickering? Again???"
"Because (insert current justification for current indignation)."
"You can't bicker just because he (did whatever he did)," I say with eyebrow raised for appropriate emphasis.
"But he--"
"Yep," I cut her off. "He did. He was wrong. You still have to treat him right."
She splutters, "But that's hard."

I just stare at her.
Ah, yes. There is is. She has just connected the dots.
"Helen, the right thing is often the hard thing. That's just how God's world works."
She nods. She's not happy, but she gets it. We've had this conversation too many times. Yes, she gets it.
Sadly, sometimes she gets it better than I do.

Destroying things is easier than building things. (Katniss)

Such a stunning observation.
Simple, bordering on simplistic.
Yet so epically true of the human condition.

Here we are, created in God's image, made to be image-bearers of the Creator.
Made to build.
Yet, even in my redeemed state, I am more often an image-bearer of the Destroyer,
because, frankly, that's easier.
I don't even have to think about it.
I can destroy in my sleep.
I can destroy with one hand tied behind my back.

Building, though.That's a whole other story.
Building requires grit because it must oppose the forces of time, gravity, entropy.
Building makes us sweat because it is always laborious, often tedious.
Building is hard.
And being image-bearers of the Creator is hard.

And I am like my five-year-old. I can see where I have chosen the easy road of destruction over the hard road of construction, even just in the last week or so.

For what more important things are Christians called to build than relationships?
What harder things are there to build than relationships?
They require so much work.
And they require sweat equity which few of us are willing to invest,
just because it's painful.
And when relationships hit a snag, we must choose.

Will I destroy?
Will I close my spirit like so many Maxwell Smart gates, up, down, across, CLANG!
Will I let a veil drop behind my eyes?
Will I hear--but stop listening?
Will  I see--but stop looking?
It is much easier to lock down my heart and shut down my spirit and walk away.
That will destroy the relationship.
But it's, sigh, so easy.

Or will I build?
When I am the offended, will I have the guts to confront and the meekness to do it gently?
Will I cool off and take the time to make a humble appeal rather than a stormy condemnation?
Am I willing to make the investment and trust the strength of the friendship and say, "You hurt me"?
When I am the offender, will I be humble enough to quickly acknowledge my fault?
Will I be contrite enough to offer a no-excuses apology and mean it with my whole heart?
(Let me pause here to discuss apologies. When you are offended, there is nothing worse than getting a simpering, "I'm sorry if I might have offended you." Sorry is for sympathy, as in:
I'm sorry you lost your loved one.
I'm sorry you lost your job.
I'm sorry you lost your leg.
I was wrong is how to acknowledge fault, as in:
I was wrong for offending you. Please forgive me.
I'm sorry is a big no-no in our house; even my five-year-old gets that.)
Will I take full, broken-hearted ownership of the offense I caused?
This is what relationship-building looks like
if it is built with excellence,
if it is built to last.

Destroying things is easier than building things.
But destroying things brings death and ashes, whereas building things brings life and joy.

Lord, help me to build.
Help me to do hard things.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Redneck and the Blueblood

When my little sister got married a couple years ago, the wedding was held outside--on my parents' hobby farm. The reception was in the barn. Drinks were served in plastic baby swimming pools. When the thunderstorm began, the boxes of wine ... (Boxes. Of wine.)...began to my dad duct-taped them together. The mud created from aforementioned thunderstorm meant that all the big trucks got stuck in the pasture. So the wedding party and various and sundry wedding guests had to push, pull, and haul cars out of the mud. One particularly macho truck--belonging to one particularly oafish redneck--required the help of a towtruck...which also got stuck in the mud. After two towtrucks failed to remedy the situation, a bogger was sent out. A 'bogger' is a lightweight vehicle with big wheels and amazing towing capacity driven by men who work for beer. No kidding. And by the hoots coming from the pasture that night, as I gazed on in dignified horror from the front porch, they were having a great time. 

It was a marriage made in redneck heaven.
And that is my family.

Then there is Brett's family. They are all college educated. They wear oxfords and penny-loafers. They listen to Handel's Messiah at Christmastime. (We listened to Elvis.) They've been to placed like Broadway and the Eiffel Tower. They use cloth napkins.  They sing in harmony and play the grand piano. 

So when we got married, it was like the redneck meets the blueblood. 
A fairytale, really.

Last week, both of our families gathered here in our home for Luke's high school graduation. The house was abuzz with activity and family and games and laughter. 
And the Holy Spirit.

My dad led us in communion in church on Sunday with a beautiful,choked-up prayer of thankfulness.
My mom sat with Zach at the kitchen table one day, their Bibles each opened side by side as they had an animated conversation about what they were learning in the book of Daniel.
My father-in-law shared what he was learning about godly beliefs.
My mother-in-law prayed for my mom when she was down with a headache.
My sister and my mother-in-law went for a long walk together.
And there were giant family meals
and charades
and walks around the neighborhood.
There was even one dinner that went long into the evening as the adults lingered around the table, talking about worship and other kingdom matters.  
And there was love...
the love that comes from the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
the love that transcends tractors and cellos
and unites us under our King.

Over the years, we've had people compliment our family. But what they don't understand, and what I began to get a better picture of over this past week, was that our family, the part that people see...
our marriage,
our kids...
this is just fruit.

But the roots began a long time ago.
They began when our parents were young.
Our parents took their role as parents seriously.
They took their job of raising up a godly generation seriously
so that we could raise another godly generation.
And each generation can stand on the shoulders of the generation before it.
As grandparents, they are still very much involved.
They pray for us and for our children.
They pursue relationship with every one of us.

I look at my house, and I can see a sink that needs to be replaced.
A dishwasher that doesn't work.
A doorjamb that is rotting and leaky.
A van in the driveway with a dented door.
A child who needs braces.
And I could start to think of myself as needy.

But I look at my home, and I see my husband who loves me and lays his life down for me,
I see my children who love the Lord and love each other.
I see my parents and my grandparents.
I see Brett's parents.
I see God's grace pouring forth from generation to generation.
And I know the truth.

There is the kind of  heritage that gives us our blue eyes or freckles.
There is the kind of  legacy that pays off our mortgage.
And then there is the inheritance that steeps me in God's grace and undergirds me with generations of godly men and women.

As the psalmist wrote, "You have given me the inheritance of those who fear Your name." Psalm 61:5b

I am a wealthy woman.