Whew! It's been awhile. Let me tell you why.
Loren and I, both of us, work with teenagers. He works with Young Life and does some amazing work walking alongside of teenagers who have, virtually, no interest in Christ, or Christians, and, least of all, any form of church. He gets to introduce them to Jesus, the real one, the one that is so much more than all the images and misinterpretations they have in their heads. He gets an up close view of the dark places in their lives and gets to speak Light, and really whet their appetites with a taste of full life. It's an amazing thing to watch and, when they really get it, it's a bonafide miracle.
I get to walk alongside some precious girls in our youth group at church. They are some of my most favorite people in all the world and I am so humbled by the way they have allowed me into their little worlds. We get to work through God's Word together and we get to discover, together, how it needs to change us. And, sometimes...sometimes (because honesty about the dark desires of our hearts are far harder to share for us good church girls) we have shockingly honest conversations.
The result of that for me in the last few weeks has been this: I have never been more scared to raise my children than I am right now. And it had me off and running.
And, for a while, fear ruled. My mind began making lists of all the things I could do to keep my kids safe, to keep them hanging out with the right people, to keep them happy, to keep them confident, to make sure they loved God for real (not just said they did), to keep them talking to us, to make sure their lives went the way they are supposed to. Which, of course, means that they grow up and only make mistakes that are fairly benign and will cause them no real harm or shame, and that they settle comfortably into adulthood with no major baggage from childhood.
And, honestly, I want those things because I love them so much. I know that God can use anything and everything for his glory. I know that he can draw them to him out of any circumstance. But, I also know that my deep desire is for that ideal scenario. You know, the one where they are raised in such a healthy way by parents who love God so much that it is only natural for them to love Him as well and to live out of that love. And, I don't really think that's a wrong desire. (It would be wrong for me to be demanding of God in that desire, "You better do this or else"...but, in general, not a wrong desire. Maybe hope is a better word...It's what I hope for.)
But, as it happened these last few weeks, my hope turned into fear. I was fearful about being able to do all that I needed to do in order for this little scenario to work out. I was fearful about what part other people, teenagers, etc. would play in their lives and how I would even begin to know what to do about that. And, I was fearful that, even with all my good intentions their little wicked hearts (how dare them!) would conspire against us (were even now conspiring) and would derail all our good work. It seemed overwhelming and somewhere along the way I began to sink into the sea of fear, grabbing at little buoys of hope whenever I could.
And then, this weekend, at a retreat, I was challenged about fear. The speaker said something that stuck out to me. She said that, too often, we make a place for fear in our lives. We give it a comfy little home in our hearts because, after all, isn't it good to have a certain kind of healthy fear about some things? Aren't we motivated to good things by fear? And besides, we have become comfortable with certain levels of fear and have even decided that they are loving in some regards. Uh...yeah....that's me.
And, as I began to look up scriptures (surely there is some mention of those healthy fears) I began to see that fear, besides, of course, the fear of the Lord, has no real place in our lives. In fact, over and over in the bible I saw negative references to fear. Fears about what God had commanded. Fear about his promises not coming true. Fear that puts walls between God and his people. And it just started to seem like fear was another way of saying, a lack of trust in God. And, I guess it is.
I'm not saying that we can't acknowledge fear when it comes up. When I hear about what is happening inside our high schools, what is happening among kids who know the Lord and who come from great homes, I get scared. I get scared for those kids and for my own kids and what it might be like for them in ten years. But, I know I can't let it take over. I can't let it make me doubt that God is trustworthy, or that he has ordained all the days of my children's lives before one of them even came to be. I can't let it make me work harder, and pray less. And I can't let it make hope something I vaguely see on the horizon every once in a while when I am able to breathe for a second. All of those things pull me in a direction opposite of where I am supposed to be headed...more trust, more understanding, more fellowship with God, more faith. And that can't be right.
So instead, I am doing a different kind of work. I am memorizing and meditating on Proverbs 31:10-31, one of my favorite passages, often called the "The Wife of Noble Character." And I'm doing it, not because memorizing and meditating have made my super valuable (insert sarcasm here) list of things I need to do to make life work right. I'm doing it because I need to read it and say it over and over. To let it find it's way into the cracks of my faith. To let it remind me of the woman I want to become, that I am becoming. That woman, "is clothed with strength...speaks with wisdom and faithful instruction...looks well to the ways of her household...LAUGHS at the days to come...and fears the Lord." Yeah...that's what I really want.