“To the outcast on her knees, you were the God who really sees…
And by your might, you set your children free.” (Michael Card, “El Shaddai,” as recorded by Amy Grant)
Growing up in church, I can remember meeting many beautiful women.
As a little girl in rural and suburban Texas, there were so many ladies that you just wished you could be.
Not all of them, though!
Most of the church ladies were…just moms. Overweight, dumpy moms.
(I had no idea, then, that I had already internalized so much sexism).
But every now and then, you would sit next to a truly beautiful lady.
Blonde, with blue eyes. And pretty clothes. And she would be so nice to you.
And you would go home, feeling like you met Cinderella. And wish that you could be her.
And, over many years, in many churches, I accumulated a lot of these role models.
My role models were, of course, culturally determined.
The more someone looked and acted like Cinderella or Grace Kelly, the more I admired them.
And it’s cool to be beautiful. And kind.
But I think, looking into the Scripture, that something has been lost here.
Because the Bible didn’t leave us any portraits.
Not of hairstyle. Or eye color.
And God could have emphasized anything he wanted to.
What he chose to record were acts of courage and faithfulness.
That were potentially costly. And reflect real leadership.
So God chose courage, faithfulness and leadership.
And while we certainly value those things, and I have heard a lot on faithfulness, I haven’t heard much on courage and leaderhip taught, very often, in Southern women’s meetings.
And I don’t mean to be a critic; I have loved my church life and all of the leaders, teachers and other men and women I have worked with.
What do we value, in women, as a culture? Passivity. Personal appearance. People pleasing.
None of these meets the Biblical test; God simply doesn’t emphasize them. And being passive or a pleaser actually cuts across the grain of the Biblical accounts of godly womanhood. And the teachings of Scripture.
I recently taught a series of local Bible studies on Biblical women. Abigail. Ruth. Deborah.
When I got to Deborah, I found something very interesting.
The woman in my Sunday night gathering, at a local yoga studio, had never heard a sermon on her. They represented four different local churches.
Deborah was a mother in Israel.
She was a judge, like Samuel. That means (and we like to sugarcoat, or ignore, this fact) that she was anointed by God to lead the nation.
Just like Samuel.
I heard a sermon once where the preacher said that this was because Israel was so evil, in those days, that God couldn’t find a man to lead them.
Interesting thought, but, um…the Bible doesn’t actually say that. Like, anywhere.
The history of Christianity parallels the history of western science. Fascinating, actually.
After a time of great learning, science was lost.
Because much of it had been learned in Eastern and Middle Eastern nations, and Europe didn’t trust it.
And after an initial flare of glory in the first three centuries, Christianity was muffled. By institutionalized and politicized religion.
Now, I don’t blame the Catholic Church for the Dark Ages. They were the only church around.
I think any of us could have done it.
In a zeal to keep knowledge pure, they banned science.
In an effort to avoid doctrinal error and cult-like practices, they took the Bible away from the people.
Only the priests could read and teach it.
And we got the Dark Ages.
We have similar veins in Christian culture today, Protestant or Catholic.
And, if we’re not careful, we think it’s automatically spiritual to reject science. And education.
To mistrust those from different backgrounds.
To centralize authority and interpretation of the Scriptures in a few trusted male leaders.
And to keep women in their place.
But God had an answer for the Dark Ages.
It started with Martin Luther, we are told.
I theorize that it probably started before that, with prayer by faithful witnesses whose names we will only know in Heaven.
But it started. And God mightily used Father Luther.
“The just shall live by faith.” It was a revelation.
The light came on.
And out of that came the Reformation.
Followed, and paralleled by, the Enlightenment. Education was back. In a big way.
Western science took off, and became the model for the whole world.
And God has progressively revealed science and technology to mankind ever since.
And, spiritually, that “justification by faith” lightning bolt started a fire.
Followed by others, over the centuries.
Until, in the 20th century, we again saw miracles on a large scale.
The move of the Holy Spirit.
The Missionary movement of the 19th century.
The Word of God, preached through every possible technology, every available voice.
And spiritual knowledge has expanded and grown.
We keep taking steps into the Light.
But, it seems to me, that someone has been left behind.
Half in shadow.
Christian women, in my lifetime, have been taught a set of values that are more Victorian than Biblical.
Taught that, while US law holds us accountable for our decisions, actions and finances, the Bible says our husbands should actually make our decisions for us.
That we are to be quiet. Always.
That having a voice of authority, and using it, are….questionable.
In Genesis 16, God spoke to a woman.
Her name was Hagar.
And she had been bought and sold, and used for sex and breeding.
By, um, God’s man of the hour. Abraham. With his wife’s participation.
And then she had been treated harshly by her owner.
To the point that, while pregnant, she ran away.
Into the desert.
And there, alone and destitute, with no means of survival, God spoke to her.
Genesis 16:7-11 The angel of the Lord found Hagar beside a spring of water in the wilderness, along the road to Shur. The angel said to her, “Hagar, Sarai’s servant, where have you come from, and where are you going?” “I’m running away from my mistress, Sarai,” she replied. The angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit to her authority.” Then he added, “I will give you more descendants than you can count.” And the angel also said, “You are now pregnant and will give birth to a son. You are to name him Ishmael which means ‘God hears’, for the Lord has heard your cry of distress.
Abraham and Sarah’s actions weren’t without consequence…
Genesis 16:12 This son of yours will be a wild man, as untamed as a wild donkey! He will raise his fist against everyone, and everyone will be against him. Yes, he will live in open hostility against all his relatives.”
Ishmael would go on to become the father of most of Israel’s modern day enemies, including the Arab peoples.
It would be to a band of “Ishmaelites” that Joseph would be sold into slavery.
And it would be Ismael’s descendants with whom Israel would struggle in the future.
But God, knowing all of that, thought that justice for this one abused woman…was worth it.
He heard her.
But, wait…there’s more.
Genesis 16:13-14 Thereafter, Hagar used another name to refer to the Lord, who had spoken to her. She said, “You are the God who sees me.” She also said, “Have I truly seen the One who sees me?” So that well was named Beer-lahai-roi which means “well of the Living One who sees me”. It can still be found between Kadesh and Bered.
Hagar had not been truly seen as a human being by her owners, her forced “family.”
She had, apparently, not been seen in her childhood, to the point that she ended up as a victim of human trafficking.
But God…saw her.
Psychologists say that to be known, really known, by another, is the thing humans crave more than anything.
It drives us into inappropriate sexual relationships.
It underlies our fantasy-wish for fame.
The answer to that hunger is….
God sees you.
He knows you.
And He can create springs in the desert of your life.
And get the message you need right to where you are.
And even bring blessing out of the evil that’s been done to you.
Abigail…recognized that her husband was a fool and confronted a King who was about to commit a hot-headed sin. Read about her; God honored her for it.
Ruth…was a stranger, of another ethnic group, who worked, and loved, out of loyalty to one old, financially broken woman. She took the initiative to find a job,and went out with boldness and consistency. Read about her; God honored her for it.
Deborah…led a nation legally and in battle. And was a prophetess, who led them spiritually. She was bold and courageous, and brought deliverance to her people. Read about her; God blessed her for it.
And, if it seems to you that the current evangelical church might not put these woman on a “Top Ten Godly Woman List” if they weren’t already in the Bible…you may be right.
The Christian woman still stands in the shadows of our sexist Greek and Roman heritage.
But God sees.
It’s time to step into the light of Biblical truth.
Courage, compassion and leadership.
And maybe, just maybe, we can claim our inheritance among our brothers…and still be beautiful.
Job’s daughters did.
Job 42:12-15 So the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning….And in all the land were no women found so fair as the daughters of Job: and their father gave them inheritance among their brethren.
When I was a sophomore in college, I attempted to change universities. With disastrous results. And my mother came to help me race across two states to get back to my own college and sign in before they cancelled my scholarship. (It was, uh, before you could do all this online. We stood in lines. And did things on papers, which were filed in crazy big file rooms. And on punch cards for big computers. No kidding). So you had to get there before the line closed down.
And I was so grateful that we made it. But my 21-year-old foolishness was not without a casualty. My beloved VW SuperBeetle, “Buffy.” She died on the outskirts of Bryan, Texas, while we piled into mom’s rental and raced to sign the forms and claim the check. We made it, at 4:30 or so, on a Friday. 30 minutes to spare. Whew.
And when we got back to Buffy, the price became more clear. She was not to be resurrected. Not repaired. Because it had not occurred to me, on a 600+ mile trip, to put oil in the car. (After all, it was just one day of driving…one really, really long one).
And my estranged father, who had purchased my VW and rebuilt it, was not pleased to inform me that Volkswagens don’t take water. They are, apparently, only cooled by…oil. Oops.
He gave me his own SuperBeetle, and bought his wife a new car. And we all lived happily after ever. But it was a hard-earned lesson; I had truly loved that car.
And many of you, right now, are shaking your heads at 21-year-old impulsive college girls, attempting to be led by the Spirit, who make mistakes and fry engines.
But I have a question for you. What, in your life, are you failing to maintain?
If you have a wife, she needs constant affirmation. Expressions of caring. Understanding. Listening. Validating and respecting her point of view, even if you disagree. It may feel superfluous, ridiculous and unnecessary. But it’s what cools her engine, and keeps her from imploding.
If you are blessed to have children, they need constant monitoring. Again, affirmation. Time together. Laughter. Constant correction. Teaching. Discipline. Consequences. All wrapped up in a great big bow of love and acceptance. It keeps their hearts from freezing up, and helps them make the journey.
And if you are blessed to have a husband, I can promise you that his emotional needs are different from yours. While you are busy expressing caring, understanding, respect and validation, he needs your trust. Your appreciation. Your acceptance. And yes, even your admiration. (Just ask John Gray, who wrote a book about it). It’s the oxygen he breathes. And it keeps him from throwing a rod. Or whatever cars (and guys) do.
And I wonder why we, who are all so careful (once we grow up) to care for our homes, yards and automobiles, refuse to put in the gas and oil that could keep our relationships running smoothly for a lifetimes?
And what might be available to use if we actually maintained our relationships with each other?
The oil of joy. The gasoline of acceptance. The spark of communication..
My Volkswagen Bug was replaceable. Almost.
Our families aren’t.
I didn’t date a lot in high school. I was in a couple of great youth groups that taught the difference between dating and courtship. And, honesty, the trauma of my own parents’ divorce probably made me hesitant, too. So I committed my life to Jesus, and didn’t really…date.
Until the summer after I graduated high school.
My best friend, at the time, was a truly amazing, gifted, humble, kind, positive young man named Peter. He happened to be Hispanic; I hadn’t noticed. We shared together, for years, in a ministry team at a Christian camp, (and during the school year, church) kitchen. We had SO MUCH FUN. I can remember rolling down giant hills of grass, only to rush in just in time from our breaks and greet a suspicious supervisor with innocent smiles. I remember water fights while cleaning the bathrooms. Flipping canoes on purpose, just to give the lifeguards something to do.
Camp is a great place to go. And serve. And meet lifelong friends.
And, that last summer of our high school years, “Pete” asked me to go steady. For the summer.
So we did.
And it was a little awkward. And sweet.
I decided to go to an intensive Bible school, next door to the camp, before college.
And I would come out from all-day ministry curriculum to find a bag of warm cookies from the camp kitchen tied to the antenna of my Volkswagen bug.
I dearly loved this boy, but I wasn’t in love with him.
So, at the end of the summer, we headed off to different universities.
And I “broke up” with him.
And in doing so, I lost a friend. One of the regrets in my life.
But on its heels, I had another shock.
My estranged Dad, picking me up at camp for one of our frequent, though awkward, visits, dropped a bombshell on me.
“I’m so glad you broke up with that Mexican boy.”
What? Did I hear that right?
My open-minded, Spanish-speaking father, who never met a stranger?
The man who took me to Puerto Rico for part of my childhood, and raised me in two cultures?
He must have seen the shock on my face, and shrugged his shoulders sheepishly.
And, while I rarely confronted by Dad, because of the precarious nature of our relationship, I was incensed for my friend. And I said,
“Dad, I didn’t know you were prejudiced.”
And what he said next both disappointed and impressed me.
He said, “I am. I don’t think I can help it. It’s part of how and where I was raised.
But, Karen, I didn’t raise you to be.”
I had to give it to him. At eighteen years old, and close with my father, this was the first inkling I ever had of it.
And, while I could be (and was) disappointed that he didn’t work on himself, I was impressed that he wanted something better for the next generation.
So I have watched myself, over the course of my life. I am now about ten years older than he was the day he dropped that bombshell. And he has gone to his heavenly reward.
And I have to admit that I am a sexist.
Oh, I don’t want to be.
And that I’m probably a racist. (God, I hope not). Thought I actively work not to be.
Because prejudice, in this day and time, isn’t something obvious.
Prejudice, and its brother, discrimination, are very, very subtle.
My father told me a story once.
He and my mother got married while he was working in another state. Michigan. And every time he called for an apartment, it was “already rented.”He was so confused.nd a co-worker told him, “Jim, you have a deep voice. And a very southern accent. The landlords think you’re black. I bet if you go in person, they will rent to you.”
The first apartment he visited in person was available. Because he was white.
And when he would tell the story, I could tell that he was not OK with that. Even in the 60’s.
When I was in school, in the 70’s and 80’s, we were taught that prejudice and sexism had been conquered. That they were gone. The Civil Rights movement had triumphed, and opportunity was now equal for all. And my (few) black friends in our upper-middle-class suburb seemed to prove that this was true. And I didn’t believe in the glass ceiling. (Until I later hit my head on it 3 times, but that’s another story).
So I went off to college. A white one. But I didn’t realize that. The “black school,” PrairieView A&M, was a few miles down the road in another town. Oh, we had diversity. Just not much.
But, as I began to study education, I was challenged by my professors. To explore my own behavior. Did I cringe when a casually dressed black male got on the elevator with me? Hmm.
We videotaped ourselves teaching. And we had to count the number and type of questions we asked different students. And look for patterns of prejudice. Do you ask more math questions to boys? More complex questions to white students? It was eye-opening. Because these behaviors are so deep in the unconscious that we really don’t mean to be prejudiced. We just are. All of us. About somebody.
I have an amazing daughter. She is the athlete I don’t think I ever could be. A genius at math. And science. And a fiercely defensive personality. An ideal sweeper, or defender. And, one day, in an elite teen soccer training, I overheard her coach talking to a team dad. “You know, girls don’t have the spatial reasoning guys do. You have to coach them differently. They just can’t read the field.”
I was too shocked to say a word. I am not a stage mom. Not a helicopter parent. But it troubled me that this young man believed that. Because, if he didn’t believe they could do it, he would never teach them to do it. Self-fulfilling prophecy, because then they…wouldn’t be able to do it.
And I once made a perfect score on a national achievement test–in spatial reasoning. As a 16-year-old girl. And her father is an engineer. And Barbara was, actually, excellent at reading the field. So I screwed up my courage and walked over to this precious young coach.
“Coach, did you say that girls can’t read the field?”
“That’s right,” he said. “They just don’t have the spatial reasoning.” This was in the 21st century.
I looked him, gently but firmly, in the eyes.
The words hung in the air.
To his credit, he thought about it.
And then he said, “You know, she can. I hadn’t thought about it before. But she’s the exception.”
And maybe she was.
But I don’t know if she was the exception because her parents are both excellent spatial reasoners, or because she was raised to believe she could be. The lines get blurry.
But it was my oldest daughter who busted through my own prejudices.
You see, there are things you don’t know about yourself.
I didn’t know I had a temper…until I got married.
I didn’t know I could be prone to anxiety…until I became a mother.
And I didn’t know I was sexist. Until I had a little girl.
Joanna, or “Joey,” wasn’t an extrovert. She was happier in her bassinet than she was snuggling with me. And that rocked my world. Not in a good way.
She is beautiful, articulate and kind. But she wasn’t the type to dress in pink and make polite conversation over tea.
And I had to confront my own ideas of what a girl should be.
Funny how I never had to do that with my sons. I didn’t have as many preconceived ideas where they were concerned. It didn’t occur to me that that was sexism. But it was.
My amazing, beautiful, communicative Joanna now works for Google. As an engineer.
Because we learned how to let her…be her.
The way God made her.
And I had to learn, before I unintentionally harmed her, to confront and release my prejudiced expectations.
And so it was, that when I came to medical school, I came to Parkland Hospital.
And learned that, while black lives definitely matter, they were very different from the life I had lived. I saw people treated with unbelievable rudeness, discourtesy, and even disregard.
By white male doctors. Who were “too tired to be nice” that day.
I once saw a surgery resident cancel a clinic. Because he felt like it.
And I had to look in the eyes of a Hispanic grandmother that had been waiting for him, in a hard plastic chair, for six hours. Really.
Carrying it forward, when I entered residency, I asked to be placed in the clinic no one wanted.
In the “black” neighborhood.
And I learned more than I ever imagined I would. Policy matters.
Welfare is a trap.
And people can’t help being black. Duh. And they’re aren’t always at fault for being poor.
Or even pregnant. (I could tell you stories…)
Poverty is a killer. And it affects people of color disproportionately.
I don’t know why.
But I’m not sure it’s all their fault.
But the biggest lesson I learned in trying to learn how to communicate to urban black people in a lower income neighborhood…was that they weren’t as different from me as I thought. All they asked for was honesty, and a little respect. What works in the suburbs…works in the ‘hood. We are all people.
I could tell you so many stories, over the course of my medical career.
About speaking truth to power.
About losing jobs and committee assignments for pointing out that our policies were uneven toward men and women, whites and minorities.
But the story I want to tell gives me hope.
My oldest son is a West Point grad. (I like to mention that).
And, when he got there, one of the first things they learned was to respect diversity.
And manage their own prejudices.
Once, while he was home on leave, I took him to see the race-themed movie, The Help.
And I warned him it would make him angry.
But in the first fifteen minutes, when a white suburban housewife begins to go on about “darkies” needing separate toilets because they have “different diseases,” he came out of his chair.
His fist were doubled.
His jaw was clenched.
His body was taut.
And I had to remind him to sit down.
And finish the movie, because, really, it gets better.
And he did. And it did.
And I realized something.
He was way ahead in his understanding of racial injustice than I had been, at his age.
And, I think, that unintentionally I have done what my father did.
Raised my children to be better people, and less prejudiced, than I was. Am.
Jesus, help us.
In The Help a dark-skinned nanny helps a little white girl overcome low self-esteem.
Because she isn’t as pretty and social as her mother wanted; not what she thought a little girl should be.
“You is smart. You is kind. You is important,” she repeats with her, over and over.
And it’s true.
But I want to leave you with a powerful thought from a much more traditional female heroine.
Incredibly, my favorite advice for dealing with racism, sexism, and other discrimination, comes from…Cinderella. Sigh.
(The live-action version).
Where her dying mother’s advice is, “Have courage. And be kind.”
Have courage. Sometimes you have to point out discriminatory patterns.
And be kind. Because the people you’re confronting…Probably. Don’t. Know. They’re . Prejudiced. And they will be defensive. And hurt.
It is a great formula for promoting social justice. Confronting, gently, while loving.
Speaking the truth in love. Educating. Raising awareness.
Another famous mother once gave great advice, to a son.
Proverbs 31:1 The sayings of King Lemuel contain this message, which his mother taught him……
Proverbs 31:8-9 Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.
The Bible isn’t liberal. Or conservative.
It’s just true.
And we are charged to bring justice for those who have no voice.
If we have any voice at all.
And the first place to confront prejudice, of any sort, is with ourselves.
When my oldest son was about three, he did something I will never forget.
We were avid church-goers.
And, one day, my son and I were messing around. And he started singing. “Je-sus.” In his little sing-song voice. “Gah-ah-ad.”
My mother’s heart was thrilled. All that Sunday school, paying off in deep spirituality. In a three-year-old.
He kept singing.
“Je-sus. Gah-ah-ad. And the heli-cop-ter. Vroom. Vroom.”
I wanted to cry. Then I started to laugh. And then, I laughed until I cried. It’s so easy to put expectations on our kids. To want them to be the next prophet. Or president. Or astronaut. And to think that singing about a helicopter is way below-the-mark, compared with singing about Jesus.
But to a three-year-old boy, putting Jesus in the same category with helicopters means one thing. Helicopters are pretty cool. And therefore, so is Jesus.
Little boys can love helicopters. And they can love Jesus. For their age. And their stage.
And that’s fair.
So I dialed it back a notch.
God is always fair. And He parents us according to our developmental stage. (Although sometimes we expect things far beyond it from each other, which is another post entirely).
And today, I’d like to take a look at God. As a parent.
And what we can learn from it.
As parents, yes.
But also as His children.
So, let’s look at the first time God’s children disobeyed Him. You probably know that He had put them in a magnificent garden. And He only gave them one prohibition. Oh, He gave them more than one instruction. They were supposed to be fruitful. And multiply. And take dominion. And replenish the earth, and subdue it.
In short, to develop what they were given. To be so blessed and prosper so freely that everything around them was affected. For the better.
But there was only one thing that they couldn’t do.
Genesis 2:15-17 The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it. But the Lord God warned him, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden— except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.”
And of course, they did it.
So let’s look at how the ultimate Father handled the first act of disobedience.
1)God wasn’t afraid to let them make choices. Even wrong ones. Many parents today are terrified to let their children take a chance on…making a mistake. So they “hover” over their children. And if they see something even headed the wrong way, they jump in, take over and keep that child from making that choice. They “rescue.” And “hovering” and “rescuing” are the actions of a Coast Guard emergency helicopter. So, they have been dubbed “helicopter parents.”
The world is very aware that many Christian parents are terrified. Of mistakes. And it is fairly well-known that a lot of our kids don’t get to make any decisions for themselves. And that we often live in denial of the lives they have away from us. And, worst of all, that in order to breathe, as adults these kids frequently separate themselves from these parents, and the faith they blame for suffocating them.
But God, Himself, didn’t do any of that.
Fear-based parenting is not the role model.
And (shocker here) Adam’s mistake didn’t end the world or stop God’s plan.
It really didn’t.
Let’s look at what God didn’t do.
He didn’t keep the tree (and therefore the choice) from being present in the Garden. He didn’t rope off an area, and keep Adam away, so that he couldn’t possibly mess up. He didn’t hover. (Scriptures implies, incredibly, that he wasn’t even there when it happened. He had trusted Adam to make good choices). And He definitely didn’t jump in front of the tree, and shout, “Baby, don’t do it! You’ll hurt Daddy’s feelings! You’ll embarrass the Family!” He didn’t “rescue.” Not before the fact, anyway.
2) He gave them clear instructions, including consequences.
Genesis 2:15-17 The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it. But the Lord God warned him, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden— except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.”
God tells us, over and over again, in the book of Proverbs, to teach our children. While we walk, when we get up, when we lay down, while we work. Constantly. And he role-modeled it for us, by walking with Adam. And teaching him. Adam clearly understood what he was doing. And he knew the implications.
3) He gave them a chance to repent.
Genesis 3:8-13 And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden. And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. And the Lord God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.
God knew what had happened. He didn’t ask them where they were for His sake. He was giving them a chance…to repent. He called a family meeting. And, on that fateful day, these two “children” made very different choices. Adam had a choice. He chose to blame Eve, and by implication, the God who had blessed him with her. Eve, a separate, individual human being, made a different choice that day. She credited herself and the devil. But God had given them both a chance, and space, to make another choice. To choose to confess and repent.
4) He enforced the consequences, but their repentance affected the severity of the consequence. (And he helped them through the consequences). The Father now had to treat his two children very differently. They had responded differently to opportunity. And Eve, although she has been vilified through the centuries for being duped, actually did admit her guilt. Adam didn’t; certainly not at the same level. And, interestingly, it was to the woman that God would give the promise of bringing forth a Deliverer. To avenge her. Of her adversary the devil, and deceiver. Because she had repented. Adam got the consequence straight up, although being in a family with Eve meant he would be blessed with her promise. Food for thought.
And then, God killed the first animal and clothed them. In fur and leather. Not doing away with the consequence, but helping them to survive and cope with it. And showing He still loved them.
5) He never used a Guilt Trip. This has two very implications for us, which is really the point of this post.
Firstly, God never uses a guilt trip. Ever. He takes no joy in making us feel condemnation and unworthiness.
He just doesn’t. Why? Mainly, because the price for sin was paid by Jesus. From the foundation of the world. We don’t have to do penance. Sometimes we have to live with consequences, but that is a very different thing.
But God also refuses to use “guilt trips” because, quite simply, He is not afraid. Of our mistakes. Or our shortcomings. He sees the big picture. And He has a plan.
And the upshot of all this is that if someone is trying to “guilt trip” you, it isn’t coming for God. It’s coming from them. Oh, the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin. But never with condemnation. Or hopelessness. Or worthlessness. Never. It’s not the language of heaven. So, if someone (or yourself) is trying to invite you to take a guilt trip, politely refuse. Your Father didn’t plan the trip. It won’t be any fun. Or get you anywhere.
Secondly, (and this is very important), we can’t wait for an inward guilt trip in order to know if something is wrong. I really think a lot of Christian people (including me) have made major mistakes because they didn’t feel…wrong. God had told Adam very clearly not to eat that fruit. It didn’t matter how Adam or Eve felt about it. It didn’t matter that the Father didn’t jump in front of the tree and stop them. I really think that regarding decisions, say, like sex, or debt, we often reason that because we didn’t feel bad or guilty when we made choices, they weren’t wrong. And that is absolutely not true.
God loves us. And He’s really, really smart.
He’s given us His Word as a roadmap for life.
No, He’s not throwing lightning bolts from the sky. Or condemning us.
Not even criticizing.
But, if two people wait until marriage to explore their sexuality, they get all of the fun, without most of the problems. Teen pregnancy. STD’s. AIDS. Child support. Court. Wage garnishment. Jail. Cancer (really–check out HPV).
God loves us enough to save us some trouble.
And, if a person, or a family, chooses never to borrow money, they will never have a negative net worth. Think about it. And the Bible is also clear on this.
Romans 13:8 Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law.
But taking His advice is absolutely voluntary. When we borrowed money, as a young couple, for a new microwave it didn’t feel that wrong. And when I was kissing my college boyfriend a little too much, ti didn’t feel bad. I had to remember what God had told me, beforehand, to be able to make the right choices.
The buzz on helicopters.
Helicopter parents take…guilt trips. And they drag their “rescued” kids through the waves, in their rescue harness, with them.
And, if you see yourself in this, please take a good, long look at how you see the Father. How we treat our children is an amazing mirror of what we really believe. And He wants us unafraid.
And if you were raised like this, you can re-learn. God loves you.
Even when you make a mistake. And He’s the best parent and teacher there is. He can “”re-parent” you.
So… put away fear. The Bible says “Fear not” 365 times, I am told. Enough, incredibly, for every day of the year. Mistakes are not a reflection of bad parenting. Let your child learn from them, when he is young, and the stakes are small.
Many of you know that I once found myself in a Christian cult. (From which I have been thoroughly and miraculously healed, thank God). Many of my fellow cult members ended up there because all they knew how to do was obey.
And when they got to college, they had to find someone else to…obey.
Now, obedience is absolutely part of Christian parenting. It starts when you’re about two. But, if we never go on to empowering our young leaders to learn to make good decisions by trial and error, we are setting them up for failure as adults.
Mistakes are part of the learning process.
Without them, there would be no science. It’s a fantastic, organized, disciplined process of…trial and error.
Most of our greatest inventions were…accidents. Really. And science, real science, absolutely positively can’t be done if the scientist is paralyzed by the thought of making a mistake.
And, in parenting, God’s design is to let kids learn from mistakes while the consequences are small. Painful, but small. And to figure out how to make better choices as the stakes get higher.
Hey, don’t blame me.
God set it up.
And He doesn’t freak out.
He modeled it for us.
And it didn’t always work out well for His family, either.
(And He still didn’t freak out).
But the alternative is actually a type of bondage. No freedom.
There is no freedom if we are not free to err.
And free to learn from the consequences of our error.
So let’s beach the parenting helicopter.
And save helicopters for the real search-and-rescue missions, where they belong.
And, maybe, for the songs of a sincere little boy.
God loves us.
And it’s all going to be OK.
I like to joke that I want to write a book, and call it “Your Husband Could Be a Freaking Idiot and God Would Still Use Him.”
But it’s true.
God is a great affirmer of every individual, and a great respecter of chain-of-command. And, in my marriage, many times he uses my husband’s wisdom to help, support and even guide me.
You see, my guy isn’t an idiot. Not even close. He’s an engineer.
You see, engineers are a very unique people group. Oh, they’re smart. They are also focused on excellence. Attention to detail. They don’t mind correcting one another. Because getting the project right is more important then anyone’s feelings. They may not always be great with words, and emotions are either scary, or just plain alien, to them.
Perhaps not a stellar recipe for romance. Or for a parenting partnership with a teacher/minister/doctor who loves words.
And occasionally awkward in group social settings.
But my guy is more than just an engineer. He would take a bullet for me.
He has lived every day of the last 28 years trying to figure out ways to make me, and our children, happy.
Putting himself last. Staying in dead-end jobs so we had the finances we needed. Setting his own dreams aside while I lived mine. Funding every dream our kids wanted to pursue, to the best of his ability. Putting me through, ahem, medical school, while our 5 kids were in elementary school. Impressive.
He is an artist, and a musician. A lover of science. A man of great compassion, with a heart for special needs children. For babies. For animals. For hurting people.
With a great sense of humor, and a penchant for staying home with his family. For a girl whose dad always travelled, and eventually left us altogether, that’s pretty nice.
So I have learned to put up with occasionally awkward moments, with hours of silence together. With his idea of “togetherness,” which essentially means being in the same building, doing our own thing.
I have learned to like classical music (which I actually don’t–too many piano lessons in my past. It feels like work to me). I have learned to read Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle (science fiction, way beyond Star Trek) and watch Battlestar Galactica.
And it was all worth it. Because he’s great. Really, he is.
But there was one thing that was really, really hard for me.
He likes to remind me of things.
Like, “Do you have your keys?”
Or “Did you tie your shoes?” (Actually not kidding here.)
“Did you go to the bathroom before we left?” Seriously.
And, for a woman who has survived an abusive church and built an empowered marriage as a brilliant professional, it rankles.
I want to look him in the eyes and say, “Doctorate. Remember?”
“I’m. Not. One. Of. Our. Kids. Remember?”
But then I look down and see that my shoe is untied.
And I realize that God can use this guy, whose attention to detail is orders of magnitude above mine, to help me.
And, beyond that, with him in my corner, I can focus on big-picture ideas, concepts and dreams.
I can think about patients’ broken hearts, and writing a sermon for tomorrow, and calling my kids to see how they are, while he makes sure the stove is turned off. And here’s the kicker. He really, truly, doesn’t mind.
And, I realized something remarkable.
We are built to work in teams.
Even Batman, the ultimate loner, had an Alfred.
So, I decided, that if it was good enough for Batman, it was good enough for me.
I didn’t ask for it, but I, too, have my own ….Alfred.
A brilliant, organized man, dedicated to my happiness, and to my mission.
As I am dedicated to him.
A guy who makes sure the cape is ironed and Batmobile is gassed up.
Turning sexism on its ear.
Because the only way I can be a submitted wife is to let him help me.
It’s hard for me.
My pride doesn’t like it. A woman with 3 degrees ought to be able to tie her town shoes.
My religious alter-ego is embarrassed; shouldn’t I be the one helping him?
But I’ve learned to let it go.
God made us to be a team, and gave us different strengths.
We are better together.
My shoes are tied. My keys are in my hand.
I am ready to serve the people God brings across my path.
I didn’t forget my lunch.
And, hey, I get to be Batman.
I heard this word this week. In a church service.
One pastor, encouraging another pastor not to be afraid of the multiplicity of things God had for him to do. It was a lovely, challenging, mentoring moment, and I thought about…
Of course I did.
We all have so many things to do. Modern society is full of roles to take and hats to change in and out of. For men and women. Young and old. (I even remember reading about preschool stress syndrome once). Now we get work emails on our phones, nights and weekends, too. But when it comes to multi-tasking, no one has the strain young mothers do. (And I’ve been through med school AND residency, just for comparison). Maybe my oldest, during boot camp and then Special Forces training, approached this level of unforgiving intensity. But it was limited to 2 or 3 months.
But, Dr. Karen, you say, you had 5 children. All at once. Surely it isn’t that hard for mothers with 1 or 2.
One child rocked my world. Some people never recover.
And two? Two is where I went quietly insane.
Just kidding, but some days it felt like it. And it cured me of perfectionism. Forever.
After the second child, numbers 3, 4 and 5 were cake. But maybe it was me that had changed.
(I’m told it goes to another level at the sixth; I never felt led to try it out.)
And, I know that some of you reading still long for a marriage or a child. Don’t despair. You are not forgotten. And this article is for you, too.
Because God stretches us all.
This senior pastor, ministering to a pastor from another nation, quietly said, “Don’t be afraid of the multiplicity of things God has for you do.”
Such a simple statement.
And it struck me to my core.
Because I’m entering another busy season.
With Christian yoga workshops, teaching womens’ conferences, out-of-town women’s classes, ESL outreaches, and regular weekly ministry to young urban women. While also working full time. Oh, yeah, and I’m writing a book on the side. And, just to make it fun, in April I am due to retake my Boards. It’s been 10 years. And the American Board of Family Medicine sent me a lovely newsletter yesterday. They’re probably getting rid of the test. In 2017. Sigh. This year, those who are scheduled get to take it. Smile. They politely recommended studying 10-15 hours per week, graciously admitting that the test doesn’t match real-life practice very well. (Some years, 1/3 of practicing, experienced docs don’t pass.)
So I’m busy.
And I know I’m following the Lord in these things. Not just busy because I didn’t pay attention and took on too much. (Been there. I don’t like it.) This is a holy busy.
This happened to me once before. When I first came to Eagle mountain Church, I was a new-to-practice doctor. With five active, involved teens. And the Lord had me show up nearly every time the doors opened, because I needed it. And others …needed me. I joined the choir. Our choir director at the time was raised in the golden era of Black Gospel music in Chicago. And it was nothing like the “spirituals” I had learned from a very white high school choir director. This was a lovely, multi-racial church, and my fellow choir members didn’t have my Methodist/Baptist background. They were raised COGIC. (Pronounced “Kojik”)
I thought COGIC was a cop with a lollipop. (Kojak, anyone?) It isn’t. It stands for Church of God in Christ, and people from this church know Gospel music.
And COGIC people sing by ear. And I’m an alto. That means I was singing harmony. By ear. And I had to listen to the women around me for my part, watch the director, and try to keep my heart focused on the Lord. It was tough, but I could do it. And then, one day, in rehearsals, the director politely informed us that he wanted us to sway. In time. Together.
And, silly as it sounds, this is the point where I had to make a decision. I could’ve said, “This is too hard. I can’t do it.” I could have said, “I’m too busy”. “This isn’t my style of music.” I could have walked away from a team I was called to be part of, out of fear or embarrassment, or, even worse, a sense of inadequacy.
Or I could respond in faith. If I know I’m called to be here, and the director asks something of me, I can reach out to God for ability. Even if I don’t have it.
And I did. And, in those years, I learned to have a lot of fun worshipping God with music I had been unfamiliar with, swaying, smiling, singing and worshiping. In tune, while watching the director. And we made good music.
And, as I said above, I was involved in So. Many. Things. In those years. At home. In our schools. At work. In the community. At the church. And, one day, while we were rehearsing, and I was enjoying the musical challenges, the Lord spoke to me.
“This is not an accident. That you’re here, in choir, being stretched.” And He went on. “I want you to take this as a life lesson. Right now you have a lot of things to keep your mind on. But always watch me, like you would a choir director. I’ll cue you. And use your faith when it seems like too much to do.” So I did.
And I loved my life.
There have been other seasons. Seasons of rest. Seasons of healing.
The Bible says,
Psalm 31:14-15 But I trusted in thee, O Lord:I said, Thou art my God.
My times are in thy hand.
There are a seasons for everything. And I enjoyed them. Especially rest.
But now, I have come full circle , again. To a seasons of busy, varied productivity.
A season of multiplicity.
And I realized something.
The same God who made Adam and Eve, who Blessed them, who commanded them to be fruitful, said,
It’s a commandment.
And, just maybe…
MULTIPLICITY= MULTIPLY, in the CITY
So, in the years, when He challenges me with a multiplicity of things to do, in the city I’m currently called to serve in, I’m being very Scriptural.
Warmth and light filled the room, while snowflakes danced in flurries at the windows.
To the right of the platform, a giant Christmas tree twinkled hundreds of golden lights from its branches.
The twin video monitors scrolled matching electronic snowflurries and encouragement.
Christmas had come to CityChurch.
I sat near the front in the nearly empty auditorium while George prepared to play the keyboard, watching 4 or 5 adults move around the room getting ready for the service. High-energy updated Christmas carols fill the speakers, worshipful in their intensity.
Later that afternoon I would find myself across the street in a massive dilapidated warehouse, boxing hundreds of books, toys and clothes for kids who live…downtown. Without a lot of resources.
Behind me, the pastor’s wife walked in with 2 of her young daughters. Warm and secure in their winter finery, they giggled and laughed while a teenager teased them about crushing on boys. She happens to be white; her daughters black. No one notices, in this culture of love, service and frequent adoption. Many of the kids adopted by CityChurch families were once kids on our bike food routes and in our Bible club programs. When life falls apart, it seems like God taps someone on the shoulder to step in and help. We adopt kids we know. No one plans it; it just happens.
Next troops in the adult Sunday school class, fresh from meeting in the cafeteria. A CityChurch mix of skin tones, with clothes ranging from suburban to ghetto. Some faces ravaged by life; others serene. After class, they all look calm and peaceful. An older Hispanic woman is crying; she takes the seat next to me. The second row where I sit fills in with black and brown faces, mostly women and children. We hug each other.
At the back of the church I see a 13 year old black ballerina. Oh, she’s dressed for church, but in a bun and full stage makeup. A former dance mom always knows. Her brand-new sweatshirt reads “The Nutcracker.” Today, while I am boxing books and toys, she will be pirouetting before hundreds. Her mother doesn’t share her skin tone or genetic makeup either, but I have never known a more loyal dance mom. (And I’ve known a few). Our ballerina was probably once a kid on someone’s van route. I don’t know her story’s beginning, but I believe it will end gloriously.
Suddenly a wave of small children come in from preschool Sunday school, laughing and talking. Playing with each other without regard to height, gender or skin tone. By now the auditorium is almost full. Across the way, a white face and brown face, belonging to 2 of our female teenage church musicians, enter the sanctuary arm in arm.
The state of the art video cameras begin to roll behind me.
In the corner, our AV guy, the pastor’s brother , is DJ-ing with headphones on. Unaware of anyone else, he dances to the beat. He is middle-aged, balding and white, but the music is spot-on.
As the service starts, the pastor takes his seat…at the drums. Today he is shaking his official sleigh bells radically; two Hispanic preschoolers in the row in front of me shake the jingle bells on their Sunday school candycanes in time with him.
Later, he will take the pulpit and talk about how God sent the Christmas angels to…shepherds. Not middle-class, suburban, cartoon-character shepherds. But the down-and dirty, the pirates and construction-workers of their day. Making the point, without words, that God’s priority is the loner, the outcast, the desperate. The not-so-well-dressed, not-so-respected.
It is a message that resonates here.
Everyone in the room is a believer, or considering becoming one.
Trusting God is something we work on. Trusting people is harder.
But if we can be together as a community through the ups and downs of life, it gets a little easier.
And if we can address isues of race and poverty and crime and jail and marriage and sexuality and pain with love and wisdom, we are stronger together.
Our wisdom comes from the Bible.
Our love comes from the Holy Spirit.
Our identity comes from Jesus.
Everything else is negotiable.
Merry Christmas, y’all.
It’s funny how someone’s social media post can get you to thinking. One old preacher I used to listen to a lot, regarding thinking, says that “you can start off on an old shoe and end up in China.” Pretty much.
So, today, I saw a post about my children’s high school. This is a place I love. While each of my children spent several years there, I spent a decade. From Jeremy’s freshman entrance in 2003, to Molly’s grand exit in 2013. The five Smith kids, and the Smith clan, definitely made their mark on Grapevine High School. But GHS left a handprint on our hearts, as well.
During Molly’s Senior year, everything seemed to touch a chord in me. I realized, as she didn’t, that it was not just HER last Homecoming parade, or costume Pep rally, or competition trip, but that all of us, as a group, were coming to the end of an era. Molly would roll her eyes and say, “You’re not going to cry again, are you, Mom? It’s MY senior year.” And I would smile and promise not to cry. And turn my head away as the tears flowed.
Tears of what? Gratitude. I am not afraid of change. Dear Lord, a quick glance across my life would show that. I am not one to grieve for the past; I am usually too involved in the present. And dreaming about the future. But the past, and the present-that-is-rushing-to-quickly-become-a-memory, are treasures I savor. So much joy. So many precious people. Experience on experience, happening so fast you just can’t seem to catalog them all for memory. And I want to.
So I spent those years absorbing and cataloging. Watching. Letting my kids take the spotlight. Me, as the mental videographer. And this Facebook post brought back the memories.
It is, this week, the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Drill Team on which my youngest daughter was recently an officer. And, if that doesn’t sound very spiritual to you, let me tell you how it happened.
In 5th grade, Molly was at church camp. A really good one. Learning about faith. She was tall, and big for her age like women in my family can be. She was outgoing, talkative and still hadn’t learned how to tame her curly hair. (Like most of us, in my family, at that age). And she came home with a God-given vision.
“Mom, I want to be a cheerleader.”
Be still, my heart. Molly, please forgive me now, but at first I didn’t see it. She wasn’t popular. She was too tall. Too muscular. With braces and frizzy hair. And, in our upper-middle-class Texas neighborhood, you didn’t just try out for cheerleader. Molly knew this. So she proposed that she quit a lifetime of ballet training and requested…private cheerleading lessons.
If you’re not from upper-middle-class Texas, that probably seems ridiculous. These lessons are expensive. And absoutely, positively necessary, if you are to have a chance. She would be competing against girls who had been training, competing and winning medals for years.
And the first thought that tried to enter my mind was…fear. I don’t want my little girl hurt by these people. See, I still considered myself an outsider to the upper-middle class, if not to Texas. And on its heels, fear. Again. I don’t want my precious, compassionate daughter to become a shallow trophy-wife sort of woman. BUT GOD. (Isn’t that a great line?) But God helped me. You see, the children’s pastor had been teaching the kids to dream big. To believe God for His vision for their lives. Even if it seemed impossible. And she came up with this impossible vision at church camp. And I closed the door to fear ASAP and said, “Honey, I’m OK with that. Let’s use our faith together.”
She became a cheerleader. She became popular. Beautiful. In high school she became a dancer again. And from 7th grade cheer to Senior drill team officer tryouts, we used our faith every year. There were setbacks. But she flourished. And she used her gifts to help others. To be a leader in Young Life. Student body president.
There’s more to the story. You see, this wasn’t my first middle-class Texas rodeo. When I was in high school, as a frizzy-headed, braces-wearing science nerd, the Holy Spirit spoke to me. “Try out for the drill team.” What???? The drill team with short skirts, suggestive dance moves, and secular music??? Yes. The peaceful, gentle leading of the Holy Spirit was crystal clear. So I did. And found that, by the grace of God, I was the favorite, the first Girl-of-the Day, the likeliest to take the #1 spot. Wow. But, on the day of tryouts, I felt awkard. Afraid and uncomfortable. And, through a series of unimaginable setbacks, took place #29 instead. First alternate.
And had to use my faith to complete the project.
I prayed in faith, and left it in God’s hands. Waiting, for what I now knew He was working out.
In August of 1982, I got the phone call. A friend had moved away with her father’s job transition; my spot was open. Did I still want to dance? Oh, yes. And that year, my public high school saw a miniature spiritual renewal. A lot of it centered around the dance team. We broke through cliques. We openly served Jesus. And the favor and social positions God had chosen to place us in helped us to do it.
So, this video doesn’t just bring back memories of generations of pom-poms and dance routines. Not even just sisterhood and friendship. These are the situations of daily life in high-school Texas where my daughter and I learned to Use. Our. Faith. Like a tool.
And, now I find that I want to thank…my mother.
High-school cheerleader, college drill teamer, and lover of Jesus. In the 50’s and 60’s.
Maybe the greatest compliment I can give her is to know that I raised my children just like she raised me.
In the fear of The Lord. AND USING OUR FAITH FOR THE TIME AND PLACE WHERE WE FOUND OURSELVES, TO HIS GLORY.
The God that helped David kill the bear and the lion, helped him slay Goliath.
The God that helped us take on the BayCity Black Cats, Humble Wildcats and Grapevine Mustangs, with success and excellence, will help me build my medical and missionary ministry.
It’s the little things.
And the big things.
And I’m grateful.
Wow. Hold on for the ride; here we go again.
Guys are weird.
There’s just no getting around it.
They don’t talk about their feelings.
They don’t take hints.
They routinely miss what we’re trying to say.
They get annoyed when anybody tries to help them.
But they’ll take a bullet for you. And that may just be the coolest thing ever.
1 Corinthians 11:7 A man is made in God’s image and reflects God’s glory.
This is in a passage contrasting men and women. (Who, by the way, are BOTH very cool.)
The King James says that man “is the image and glory of God.”
What does that mean?
I used to read a lot of Tom Clancy. Some of it was a little too graphic for me, but I’m a fan of action adventures and tight, mathematical plots. If you’re a literary buff, you know that Clancey and Jane Austen have this is common. They always wrap up every loose end, and bring them all together in a fantastic finale. But don’t tell your guy that.
Anyway, one thing I noticed. Every time drug pirates or terrorists wanted to torture a man, they made them watch them harm his wife.
We have 5 children. And my amazing, low-maintenance guy suffered tremendously when I was in labor. At first, I was like, “Oh, puh-leeze…” And then I realized something. He would have been much happier actually delivering the baby, than to see me uncomfortable and feel helpless to fix it.
And that is exactly how guys are just like God. It’s hard-wired into them.
Several years ago, when there were shootings in movie theaters in Colorado, many men died. Most of them saved the life of their wife or girlfriend by covering her, instinctively, with their own bodies. Christian or not. It’s hard-wired into them.
And that’s love.
In God’s amazing design, men, at their best, have qualities that mirror God. Hard-wired in.
And women, at their best, have qualities that mirror the perfect church. How humans should react to God. Hard-wired in.
Neither is superior; the rest of I Corinthians 11 points that out graphically.
But we need each other.
And, together, we’re a perfect visual aid for what God wants in a much more important arena than marriage: our relationship with him.
My husband has supported me through thick and thin, through revisions, changes and re-inventions of who I am. He, quite simply, is happy if I am happy.
And pretty easy to get along witth. All I actually have to do is figure out what I want and be happy. He will go to the ends of the earth to make it happen.
I heard a famous doctor and his assistant speaking about the male and female brain.
The assistant said something like this:
“Ladies, you know that feeling you get when you see a baby?
How your heart just melts and you would do whatever it needed?
Men don’t get that.
They just don’t.
We all knew that. But she went on.
Men get that feeling when the women they love…
smiles at them.
I don’t think she knew how much she rocked my world that day.
A little secret. Your man is happy…when you are truly happy.
In the bedroom. And out of it.
So find your peace. And be happy.
It will bless him. Because he’s made in the image of God.
And God actually, truly, deeply loves you.
“Be fruitful.” That’s where we left off last week.
But….you can’t help but go on to the next phrase, if you were raised the way I was. Like an old song running through your head, and you. just. can’t. stop. the next line from coming.
And, if you have ever imagined how big God must be, and how much He has done, that’s a tall order.
He doesn’t just multiply; you need exponents on exponents to explore the scope of what He has done. And that’s just in nature.
One of my daughters majored in Math. Now, I like math. Don’t get me wrong. Even considered it as a major myself.
But these days, my life is VERY practical. And I don’t always understand what she is talking about.
But, last summer, she won a summer research position. And went off to Kansas (cue Wizard of Oz jokes right here).
And started doing research. In Math.
Why? Because mathematics is something we don’t fully understand yet. We are discovering it. And building ways to deal with what we discover. These young people go to the edges of what is known and start…doing equations.
Really. And they find out stuff. Because mathematics isn’t created; it’s revealed. God designed it.
Or, you could say we create mathematics to measure the infinite universe as we keep discovering it.
I’ll leave that up to the philosophers. Or the cosmologists (they seem to know everything, right?)
But the point is…we’re still finding out how big this thing called mathematics is.
The language of science. The measurement of the Creation.
When God multiplies, He multiplies. BIG TIME.
And, if I’m made in His image, and commanded to multiply, that’s breathtaking.
But today, I want to consider one very critical aspect of multiplying.
How do you recreate yourself in others, who can then take what you’ve done to the next level?
There are scads of leadership books written on this idea. Because it’s universal.
Real leadership is about multiplying yourself.
But getting it better in version 2.0.
They go beyond you.
So, here are some thoughts about parenting, with Divine purpose:
M–Make Them Kings. Psalm 45:16 says, “Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children, whom thou mayest make princes in all the earth.” Hmm. Wait…what? I thought God made them whatever they’re going to be.
Nice thought, but that isn’t what the text says. Clearly written to a mother, it says “YOU make them.” Wow.
So, do I make my child a “prince”? How do I make her a leader? How do I give him wings?
This takes something called “empowering parenting.” And I have a thought for Christian parents.
If we want our children to walk in the Power of the Holy Spirit, and exercise their God-given authority over the world and devil, why don’t we let them exercise any power at home?
How can they learn what they’ve never done?
So in our house we share power. On purpose. We delegate authority to the kids on certain issues, and in certain areas. More and more, as they get older. Because what we do tells our kids so much more than what we say.
“I trust you” doesn’t mean much, if I won’t let you handle the china.
“I believe in you” can be negated if I won’t allow you to choose your own classes in high school.
But, if I can stand on the sidelines and watch them make a mistake, without rushing in to help, the clear message is “You got this.” And, even more importantly, “I believe in you.”
Oh, I am present. My presence is there to support. And to give advice, if I’m asked. My children know that they are not abandoned or alone.
But the powerful combination of my presence and my lack of interference tells them what nothing else can.
That they can do it.
And I pray. A lot. But they don’t have to know all that right now.
I want them to get credit. And take responsibility.
Find out what happens if they make a wrong choice. And realize that they then have to fix it.
Now, when the stakes are small.
This is NOT something I want them to learn in college, when they are on their own.
Better to flunk a second-grade spelling test and learn how to study, than to try to overcome a 2.0 GPA later because Mom always told you how to do your homework. (Or, God forbid, did it for you…)
So, if you want them to be leaders, very simply…treat them like leaders.
They become what you truly expect.
U–Understand their individuality.
Every child has a unique set of attributes. Miraculously, no two of us are alike. Different styles, different temperaments, different gifting, different destinies.,…but each one of them marvelous.
You have to pay attention to who your kid is.
Not who you want them to be.
One of my daughters is extremely mechanical (OK., all of my daughters are mechanical. I married an engineer. And I appreciate it, because it’s not part of my skill set). When she was little, she would take apart radios. At other peoples’ houses. Making dinner parties uncomfortable. And…she wasn’t outgoing. Not always “sweet.”
And I didn’t know what I was doing. I let her, without meaning to, feel like she had failed me.
She couldn’t live up to my expectations.
In my world, men could be introverts. Could be straight-forward. But little girls? God made them to be “sugar and spice and everything nice.” Well, she was more “I’m busy right now” than “How are you today?” And it made me uncomfortable.
She isn’t autistic. Or rude. But she began to feel like she could never do anything right, because I had un-Biblical expectations.
There isn’t a single verse in the Bible that dictates what a woman’s temperament should be.
But I had swallowed a large dose of “Christian” culture along with the Word of God, and felt like a failure as a mother because my little girl was more interested in engineering than in people.
Thank God for wise husbands. Daddy figured it out and, without making me feel guilty, gently turned around my thinking. We practiced accepting her, out loud, on purpose. “Catch her being good,” and affirm it, became our watchword.
Today, this beautiful daughter has traveled to 5 nations representing a major company in the tech industry. She knows who she is. She knows that God not only loves her, but designed her. Just. Like. She. Is. She IS feminine, and kind, and beautiful. But she’s still an introvert. And, if you catch her on a bad day, she’d rather interact with her software than with you.
And that’s OK. I understand her. And enjoy her. But it took me a minute (my fault, not hers). And what I learned benefited the siblings who came after. (one reason I enjoyed having a large family; you eventually get it right!)
So…pay attention. Learn their love languages. Watch out for the things that “light them up” like a lightbulb; God’s calling is usually involved. And don’t push them into activities they aren’t keen on. Pay attention and pray. Especially if they aren’t like you. They aren’t supposed to be.
Affirmation is one of the most powerful tools a parent has. God uses it, with us. Note the times in the Old Testament that God was “pleased” with someone, or pointed out their righteousness. Noah, Abraham…these aren’t guys I would’ve called righteous! But God loves to affirm and praise His children. Oh, he corrects us, but His favorite response is, “It is good.”
What do we all want to hear at the end of our life? “Well done, good and faithful servant.” “Enter into the joy of your Lord.”
So, yes, while we occasionally correct and teach, our daily baseline should be acceptance and affirmation.
If a child is told, “You’re bad,” he begins to believe it.
T–Take Time for Fun.
Now, it’s easy to be very serious when you’re parenting on purpose. When you know that your young leaders hold the next generation’s direction in their hands. When you know that they’re called to make a difference. But sometimes you just have to get over it. In the end, we’re trusting God. Not pressuring them. And nothing says trust and no pressure like laughter. Your house should be full of it . It’s the language of rest.
If it’s in short supply, check to see if you haven’t slipped over into worry…just sayin’.
No one is born knowing how to parent. You have to learn. So…get started. Read everything you can. Listen to leaders and people that you trust. Talk to folks whose kids have turned out well. Find out what to do. You really can. Then…parent. On purpose.
I changed my major from pre-med to elementary-ed when I realized I was called to be a mother. So glad I did. I started off as a homeschooler. Then life intervened. I found a great Christian school. Then my oldest son and daughter needed more. I (gasp) found a great public school. We have educated our children just about every way that you can. Formal, informal. Public, private. With others. With just us.
But, in the end, I have always seen their education as my responsibility. (Along with their father, of course). So I use the schools God provides, to supply a piece of it. Some high-quality educational pieces have come my way through great teachers and great schools. And I have the property tax bills (It’s a Texas thing) to prove it.
One night, at a high school open house, I said so. I actually said to a highly educated, highly committed public school educator, “I see myself as the one in charge of their education. But this year, I’m happy to delegate Social Studies to you. We’re a team. Call me if you need anything.” Shocking myself–did I really just say that? And she surprised me. “You get it!” she exclaimed joyfully. “Thank you so much. I wish all parents understood that.”
We were intentional about our speech, about affirmation, about shared power, about overseeing their formal education, about their character. And God helped us; I am SO pleased with the results.
P–Parenting on Purpose
Discipline. It’s a word I heard a lot, growing up. My Dad was the “take a leather belt to your backside” kind of Dad. And he didn’t tolerate mess-ups. We minded our p’s and q’s when Dad was home.
But, in my work as a family doctor, I have met a lot of families that seem to think 2 things.
1) That discipline IS parenting.
2) That spanking IS discipline.
So, they reason, that if they spank their kids, everything will be fine. Right? Wrong.
The Bible says to TEACH your child. While you walk. While you sit. While you stand…get the picture?
It’s exhausting. Sometimes it really is. Never-ending.
But, if you begin with the end in mind, you’ll get there.
Discipline is a fancy word for training. Teaching. Coaching. Mentoring.
And, yes, sometimes it involves the rod. In love. When necessary.
But it is so much more.
It is about getting the vision for what your child is to be. Both general character and specific destiny.
Praying. Learning. And helping them get there. On purpose.
L–Love Your Child.
THIS is the foundation of parenting. It is, after all, a relationship. It changes and grows through the years, but the foundation is love. Acceptance. Rock-solid commitment to them. Without asking anything in return.
(Discipline and training are the second floor of the building; love is the foundation.)
This is how you handle is when something they do brings disappointment. This is how you stand by them if their actions embarrass you in front of the whole community. Been there. THIS is how you continue to treat them if they don’t choose to benefit from all of your efforts. At least, right now.
Why? Because it’s exactly how God treats you.
My children are bright. We came to expect academic success. But I made absolutely SURE that they knew they would still be loved without the report card.
Most honor students don’t know whether they would really be loved without the straight A’s. Or A’s and B’s.
Or great touchdown. Or home run. Or piano recital. Or sexual purity. Or whatever it is, in your family.
So I told them. Over and over. Until it was schmaltzy. “Baby, that report card is amazing. I’m so pleased with your efforts. But I want to be sure you know that Daddy and I would love you, even without it.”
They roll their eyes. But they hear me. And the next 6 weeks, they will hear it again. Because it matters.
Y–You. (Not. About.)
It’s. Not. About. You.
I can’t say this enough. Parenting is about being turned upside down, inside out, and emptied. For someone else.
Their accomplishments? Need to be theirs.
Their choices? Need to be theirs.
Their accomplishments? Need to be theirs.
Their failures? Need to be theirs.
And, if some idiot tries to judge you by your kids, or compete with you, or put you down, or idolize you…ignore them.
It’s. Not. About. You.
That’s what servanthood is all about.
And, in the end, it’s how God treats us.
And He’s the greatest Parent of all.