Monday, May 14, 2012

The Gift of All Things New

 At the Daddy's Girl retreat last weekend, we learned that fatherhood wasn't necessarily something created, but that God just WAS the perfect Father, that He IS the perfect Father.  We matched up multiple verses with multiple categories discovering that He is the perfect Provider, Protector, Defender, Caregiver, Teacher, Leader.  Then we transferred them to the wall, bold reminders of what fatherhood (motherhood, parenthood, too) is supposed to look like.
 The next morning we looked at the story of Tamar ~ raped by one brother, told to keep it a secret by another, and left completely undefended and devastated by the anger, yet total passivity of her own father ~ David. Nope, fathers (brothers, uncles, pastors...) don't always look like the Heavenly Father now that sin has entered the world.  They sometimes don't defend, protect, advocate, lead, provide, or properly teach and discipline like they should.  So, we wrote down our hard, dark, difficult, painful experiences with our dads, moms, anyone who was supposed to care for us.  We wrote them on black poster board and marred up the beauty of created fatherhood that had been reassuring us from the wall since the night before.  And I say "we" because being the teacher/speaker for the weekend certainly doesn't exempt me from the effects of the fall.  In fact, the girls may have been a bit taken aback by the stories of fallen-ness from my childhood home and family.
All of Saturday the black sin of neglect, selfishness, passivity, abuse, and betrayal  marring the created intention left us a little hopeless, but with a realistic perspective. These things are inevitable in a fallen world, unavoidable, a given. I wish I had understood this sooner. What I did realize, by grace, pretty early on in my life was that Jesus is my only hope ~ for forgiveness, for eternal life, for joy, and for choosing (by grace again) a different course.

So, Saturday evening we read the story of Jesus and the woman caught in adultery.  You know, the one where Jesus says, "He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her" one.  The "I do not condemn you either. Go. From now on sin no more" one. The one where Jesus perfectly stands up to the woman's accusers, defends her, protects her, provides for her, and leads and disciplines her all at the same time.  It is a return to created, intended fatherhood.  Jesus even says to Philip, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father."

So we covered all the sin with bright, fluorescent, pink crosses, and we soaked in this reassurance:

"For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me up." Psalm 27:10

He ~ and He alone ~ can be counted on to always protect, provide, care, nurture, teach, discipline fairly and justly, lead, and defend.  And not only that, but He also provides for a making of all things new.  He promises that though we suffered at the hands of our own fathers and mothers, our children need not.  At least not to the extent that we may have.  (It is a fallen world, remember.) 
In our breakout sessions in the afternoon, I loved sharing the story of Ruth with the girls as well as this strange proclamation of the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel:

"As I have watched over them to pluck up, to break down, to overthrow, to destroy, and to bring disaster, so I will watch over them to build and to plant," declares the Lord. "In those days they will not say again, 'The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge.' But everyone will die for his own iniquity; each man who eats the sour grapes, his teeth will be set on edge."
Jeremiah 31: 28-30

We talked about this beautiful promise of God ~ that we can rise above the dysfunction of our families of origin, and not have to repeat it in our future families. Our teeth don't have to experience the tartness of the "sour grapes" that our fathers have chosen to eat. Now each person will reap the consequences of their own choices ~ good or bad. We talked about how we as children may have to choose a different path from our parents, may need to for the sake of our own children, for the glory of God.  Ruth did it.  She left "her people and her gods" and said to Naomi, "Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God."  She chose to leave the Moabites (hardly a noble heritage) and surround herself with the people of the one true God ~ the Israelites. We may need to do the same.  I needed to do the same.
Sadly, my guide for parenting has often been ~ "Just do the opposite of what you saw done in your own family." So....marry a loving believer, don't get divorced, don't criticize your children, teach them about the Lord and His Word, discipline fairly, no sexual inappropriateness, no yelling and screaming, take care of your health, tell the truth, apologize and ask for forgiveness when you hurt another, eat healthy meals, provide protective boundaries for kids, encourage their gifts, take them to the doctor and dentist regularly, talk to them about what they're learning, what they are feeling.....and on and on.

But that isn't really a fair or proper way to go about mothering or fathering, and honestly it's not even possible.  Jesus is the way.  He is the "source and the model" ~ as Robert likes to say ~ for this long parenting journey and for all journeys, really. 

I was able to share quite a bit with the retreat girls (just love them!) about my relationship with my dad, for which I am very thankful. It wasn't always very enjoyable when I was a girl, but because of Jesus, it has only grown and deepened and improved as the years have gone by. I am continually blessed by his provision for me, his desire to spend time with me and my family, his two-way conversation, his appreciation of me and of Robert, his wisdom regarding work and finances, his regular phone calls, and maybe more than anything, his defending me when I chose to (at least for the time being) not be in relationship with my mom ~ something he wasn't necessarily comfortable with. I didn't expect it, but he stood by me and even comforted me in the choosing.

Mother's Day is bittersweet for me, but I'm thankful for the promise of newness, and of hope in my own mothering through Christ.  I fail often, and I repeat the patterns that were so hurtful to me as a girl, but Jesus doesn't condemn me, and He enables me to forsake sinful patterns and even be like Him toward my family ~ nurturing, loving, teaching, forgiving.  It's a miracle, really. He accomplishes it in me.  It is not of my doing.

Robert and the kids gave me a very beautiful "booklet" of prayers and photos for Mother's Day.  I went back and forth from tears to laughter as I read the things they thanked the Lord for in me, but I was especially struck by something Cooper wrote in his prayer:

Thank you for giving me a mom.....who is a very real and not a perfect mom.

Exactly.  Real ~ as in admittedly sinful and fallen. And definitely not perfect, but miraculously being made so by the only One who is able to accomplish such things.

"And He who sits on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new."
Revelation 21:5

Yes ~ Created, Fallen, and now Redeemed in the midst of fallen-ness.

All things new! What grace!

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