Tuesday, December 18, 2012

This Baby...Jesus

The reality of Jesus coming to earth as a baby should never cease to amaze us.  My thoughtful husband shared these words at our Young Life Christmas party last night and I thought they deserved repeating.

The irony of Christmas is this...that this baby, who is completely and utterly dependent on Mary is also the one who is providing for her every need, and ours as well.

-Jesus was formed in Mary's womb, but he knit her together in her own mother's womb.

-Mary met Jesus for the first time at delivery, but Jesus knew Mary before time began.

-Jesus needed to be fed at Mary's breast, but he is her bread of Life.

-Jesus caused Mary's arms to tire and her back to ache as she lugged a growing baby around; but he is her light yoke and her rest.

-Mary swaddles Jesus and holds him tight, but through him, Mary is held together.

-Mary loved and cared for Jesus, but she is only capable of love because of his love.

-Mary trained Jesus in righteousness, but only through him is she made righteous.

We are like babies.  Totally needy.  Utterly dependent.  He understands.  He's felt that.  And in that understanding and with love, he will be faithful to provide everything we need. 

 This baby...Jesus.  Almighty God.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

All is Grace

In AnnVoskamp's book, One Thousand Gifts, she says this.  "All is grace."  And I believe that's true.  How could I not?  I believe God is good and he is sovereign and so, whatever situation I find myself in gives me an opportunity to see his grace at work in my life.

It's just that, sometimes, it's easier to see than others.

Not too long ago, I had a rough day with Ava.  Not a little hard.  Not some difficult moments.  It was rough...from beginning to end.

When, finally, she was sent to bed early, for coloring on the couch with a marker, (why???????) I climbed the stairs to wearily tuck her in and repeat the traditions that have become bedtime routine around here.  Sing an old hymn, pray with her, give her a hug and a kiss before turning out the lights.  None of which I am too keen on doing when a child has been sent to bed for misbehavior.  And I know how that sounds, by the way.  I'm not proud of it.  But, it's honest.

When I got there, she was already close to tears and my heart melted.  For all her stubbornness and impulsive bad decisions, that child feels our disappointment deeply.  I told her I didn't like it when she disobeyed. That I didn't enjoy punishing her and that it was really hard for us to have a fun day together when she was disobedient.  I told her how much more we could enjoy the day if she would just obey.  And, with her lip trembling she said to me, "I can't mommy."  "You can't what?" I asked.  "I can't obey and (fully crying now) I don't want to be Ava."   

The accusing, mean-spirited part of my brain spoke up lightning fast.  Oh where have I gone wrong?! How can I have a child who wishes she was someone different?!  Does she even know how much I love her?!  How much I love every bit of her personality? I. Am. Failing.

I tried to tell her how special she was.  How much I loved her.  "You're special, too, mommy." she cried quietly. " And I don't want to be Ava.  I want to be you."  I hugged her tight, with tears running down my face and told her I didn't want her to be me.  That I was so glad she was Ava and that God had made her so special.    We tickled and giggled and both promised to have a better day tomorrow.  And when I turned off the lights, she was smiling again.

I walked downstairs with a heavy heart, worrying myself silly that my child had no idea how wonderful she was.  That I had done some irreparable damage that would affect her forever.

But, all is grace.  And I know that now.  So, I took a breath and began to thank God for that moment. And here's what came to mind:  I'm thankful for...a child who knows right from wrong and aches when she disappoints, a child who's very words speak scripture to me and mirror my own heart (Romans 7:19, "For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do - this I keep on doing."), a chance to tell her how special she is and how glad I am that God made me her mommy, the unbelievable understanding that she sees me as an example of obedience and good decisions and the grace she obviously has for me, the power of touch...of tickles, and hugs, and kisses, the promise of new mercies every morning...for both of us.

In the midst of that, I also realized that Ava's response to her own disobedience is not all that different from my own.  "I've done it again, God.  I just can't seem to get it right.  I wish I wasn't so full of me.  I wish I was more like you."  And I realized that maybe...just maybe, instead of seeing her response as insecure and full of self-doubt, I could see it as an open hand, ready to receive grace.  Because receiving grace always begins with the acknowledgement that our need is beyond our own ability to meet and that there is something far better to cling to than who WE are.  That reaching for Him, replacing US with Him, requires an open hand...and the realization that, "I don't wanna be who I am anymore."

And maybe starting to learn that at three years old isn't such a bad thing.  Even though that train of thought wouldn't win me any awards in pop psychology, I'm pretty sure it's important when trying to raise kids who will follow Jesus.  Because I know that, at least in my own life, the kind of humility that has most often led me to transforming grace began with a trembling lip and words like, "I can't seem to obey...and I don't wanna be who I am anymore. Change me, Lord."