Sunday, July 16, 2017

family issues

our family has its issues.

i don’t know if it’s because we’ve all been home a lot this summer or it's the southern heat and humidity or what, but it seems like our short-comings are all especially noticeable these days. seems as if our flaws and foibles and personal hiccups are all hanging out a bit. okay, a lot. like i keep wanting to buy and hang that sign that reads, “your crazy is showing, you might want to tuck that back in.”

we can call it our “crazies” on a cute, little sign, or we can call it what it really is, and that’s probably our sin. our sin is all hanging out. everywhere. all the time. like a big ole sin-party happening right here under our roof — smack dab in the middle of my kitchen. i don’t mean that to be especially harsh, only realistic. i am absolutely ga-ga over my family, but like i said, we’ve got our issues.

i think in a past post i might have once (or 16 times) lovingly referred to my kids as a "bunch of little sinners." but when i’m honest, i’ll tell you, sisters and brothers, i'm the chief offender. and that knowledge makes me only want to finger point and find fault with others around me. i don't want to see my own issues. it’s kind of how we are designed, right? deflect. detract. defend--anything but face up to our own stuff.

before i go too far down this issue-path, however, let me first state, that even in our messiness, it has been wonderful having everyone home this summer. wonderful to have the college kids sleeping in their bedrooms and sitting elbow-to-elbow around our kitchen table. so much fun for all of us: chatting together on the back porch, swimming in the pool, playing board games, doing puzzles—normal family stuff. we moved this past spring—one of the reasons my writing here on the blog has been scarce—and so it’s been a blast being together and creating memories in this new space. i’ve loved it. even the messy parts. and especially the messy people.

but when we are all together like this for an extended time our best behavior can easily fly right out the window. we let down our guard on being good … we don’t have to get along perfectly and be all proper and polite. why? because we are family. and, in families we are, for the most part, pretty darn real with each other. which can mean at times a little bit ugly. all seven of us, we know each other’s short-comings and weak spots. and, of course, we know exactly which buttons to push. i suppose this is true of families everywhere. it certainly was in mine growing up. and still is.

when you operate in a family setting. you become fully known. it’s hard to hide or pretend or play the game.

and, i think that’s one of the reasons why we need time with our families: to see ourselves for who we really are----

when we head off to work …. it’s easy to be professional.
when we sit in our classrooms … it’s easy to be obedient.
when we check out at the grocery store … it’s easy to be polite.
when we meet a friend for coffee … it’s easy to be attentive.
when we sing songs in church … it’s easy to be holy.

but when we wake up in the morning and stumble down the stairs with bed-heads and bad breath it is much harder to hide behind the mask of good behavior. when our sister steals our favorite shirt or our brother bruises our ego or our mother makes too much of something small or our father has a short fuse … it’s harder to handle. and so we respond not always rightly or righteously, but real and raw, and oftentimes, flat out wrong.

does that happen in your house too? i thought maybe.

this summer i’ve been doing some thinking about all of this. wondering, as the mother, what i can do to best encourage all of us to be better. and interestingly enough, the first thing i realized is that my problem-solving personality is actually at times a part of the problem: i love to conjure up quick-fixes and configure 5-step-strategies. i could easily sit down and whip up a chart or a competition to improving our family relational skills. but, the truth is, most of my kids are too old for that and, even more importantly, it’s not about working harder or smarter. it’s about working deeper. deeper into what is happening in our hearts. deeper into the corners of our quiet times. deeper into who we really are and what we are really all about.

we are a family of “try-harders” and “do-betters.” i'm probably to blame for that. like i said earlier, i’m chief. it’s always been a part of my motherhood-mantra because it’s intrinsic to my wiring. if i just try harder next time, i will do better. and where some of that mindset is helpful in some areas of life, it is not the answer all the time. because, unfortunately, our issues are usually bigger and badder than just doing better. we don’t need to put on a band-aid, we need to prepare for battle.

another thing i've learned as a try-harder type: since working on ourselves isn’t exactly the most natural plan, we are in desperate need of God’s supernatural power.

so, dear ones, how do we access God's supernatural power? two ways: prayer and God’s word. and as much as i want to include a chart or insert a quick step here, i cannot. my try-harder, work-faster approach isn’t going to cut it. the only way to receive God’s power is spending more time in prayer and more time in His Word. nothing else i come up with is going to make much of a difference. i mean it---n o t h i n g.

"i have hidden your word in my heart that i might not sin against you." ~ psalm 119:11

this past weekend i shared these thoughts with my family and in a very weak analogy explained that us trying to fight off sin by ourselves is a lot like fighting darth vader with a kitchen spoon and a rolling pin, while we have luke skywalker and his light saber standing close by. okay, i know that’s kind of hokey, but it was what immediately came to mind. goofy or not, you get the idea. we have all this power from God waiting right there for us and yet we continue to fight the-not-so-good-fight with our meager measures and our small swords and our tiny tools. everything we bring to the table of ourselves and our natural world is, simply put, not enough. not going to cut it. not going to fix it. not even close.

but that doesn't stop us try-harders from trying, does it? oh mercy me.

recently, i came across a message of john piper’s from 1998, "open my eyes that i may see" basing his message on psalm 119:17-24, he uses the (much better) analogy of a train track. the two rails: prayer and time in God’s word work together to lead us closer to Him. spending more time in the power of God’s presence with His word and His Spirit, IS HOW WE ARE GOING TO GET BETTER. doesn’t much matter what our issues are, nothing is too much for Him. He promises to empower and equip us for every trial and temptation ahead. but there's a catch: we MUST spend time meditating on His word and meeting Him in prayer.

“praying before the throne of God and meditating on the word of God are like parallel rails that enable the train of our souls to stay on the track that leads to holiness and heaven.” ~ piper

spending time with Jesus literally opens our eyes to our sin. but it doesn’t just leave us there to wallow and wish for better. it equips us with truth and allows us to call on His power. (think light saber). the good news, family members and friends: we can confidently put down our rolling pins, our kitchen spoons and our quick-fixes when we are willing to pick up His word and the pace of our prayer time.
"if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then i will hear from heaven and i will forgive their sin and will heal their land." ~ 2 chronicles 7:14
it is what He lovingly and lavishly calls us to. that longing in our heart for something better or more beautiful? that’s His voice wooing us to His presence. because He loves us.

it might not be a quick-fix, but, dear ones, it is an eternal solution.