Tag Archives: Adult

The Continued Exodus

The Continued Exodus (CaD Ex 40) Wayfarer

Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled upon it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.
Exodus 40:34-35 (NRSVCE)

In my current waypoint in life’s journey, I find it fascinating to observe the change in relationship that occurs between parent and child across one’s lifetime. I’m speaking, of course, in generalities, for every family system has unique elements based on the individual personalities, temperaments, and relationships in a human family system.

Both a child, and then as a parent of young children, I experienced the combination of love and fear that accompanies the parental-child relationship. A small child knows the love, hugs, cuddles, protection, and guidance of a parent. The child also has healthy respect for the parent’s size, power, authority, and wrath.

I can remember when the girls were young and would sleep together in the same room. When they were supposed to be in bed sleeping they would sometimes giggle, play, and get themselves riled up. All it took was for me to open the door and step in the room to change the atmosphere of the room. I wasn’t even angry or upset, but they reacted to my presence with a behavioral reset.

Now that our daughters are adults with their own family systems, the relationship has matured. I feel from both of them genuine respect, gratitude, and honor. Long gone are childish fears of parental wrath, which are replaced with a desire for healthy relationship void of disappointment, shame, control, enmeshment, and conflict. There is still a child’s natural desire for affirmation, encouragement, pride, guidance, and support from dad.

In today’s chapter, we finish the journey through the book of Exodus. The Hebrews have been delivered from slavery in Egypt. They have been introduced to God by Moses. A covenant between God and the Hebrews has been established along with a code of conduct and a system of worship complete with a traveling temple called the Tabernacle. Exodus ends with the completion of the Tabernacle and God’s “glory” descending in the form of a cloud that filled the tent and surrounded it. At night, the cloud appeared to be filled with fire. Even Moses, who had repeatedly been in the midst of God’s glory, was afraid of entering in.

The cloud and fire of God’s presence have been mentioned multiple times in the journey through Exodus. I couldn’t help but notice that the reaction of Moses and the Hebrew people was like that of Taylor and Madison when I would enter the room of little giggling girls who weren’t going to sleep. There is respect, a little bit of awe, and a little bit of fear. I keep going back to my podcast Time (Part 1) in which I unpack the notion of human history being like a natural human life-cycle. Moses and the Hebrews are in the toddler stage of humanity. For them, God is this divine authority figure who loves them, delivered them, protected them, provided for them, and did mighty works they couldn’t comprehend. There is both appreciation, devotion, but also awe and fear.

Fast-forward 1500 years. Humanity is no longer a child and ready for the divine rite-of-passage. Father God sends His own Son to live among us, teach us, and exemplify His ways in humility, pouring out, surrender and sacrifice. The night before His crucifixion, as He is about to consummate this eternal rite-of-passage, Jesus speaks of the relationship between humans and God the Father in very different terms:

Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

“All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
John 14:23-27 (NIV)

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.”
John 15:12-16 (NIV)

Can you feel the difference? This is no longer pyrotechnics and daddy booming “GO TO SLEEP!” to wide-eyed, little ones who have little cognitive capacity. This is the dad talk at the waypoint of launching and releasing into adulthood: “I love you. You’re ready for this. I’ll always be right here for you, but it’s time. You’ve got this. Remember what I’ve told you and shown you. Love, be humble, be generous, do the right thing, and love, love, love, love, love.”

In the quiet this morning, I’m reminded that it never ends. For those who ask, seek, and knock. For any who truly follows and obeys. This dance, this relationship, this journey never stops progressing. It keeps changing as we change. It keeps maturing as we mature. It keeps getting layered with more, deeper meaning, and deeper understanding.

Do you know what Exodus means? It’s defined as a “going out; an emigration.” God led the Hebrews in a going out of slavery, into the wilderness, toward the promise land. Jesus led us in a going out from a different kind of slavery, into a different kind of wilderness, heading toward the ultimate Promised Land.

That night that Jesus had “the talk” with His followers, He began the talk with these words:

“My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”
John 14:2-3 (NIV)

That’s where this Wayfarer is headed as I “go out” on another day of this journey. Thanks for joining me, friend. Cheers!

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Parental Covenant

Parental Covenant (CaD Ex 19) Wayfarer

Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples.
Exodus 19:5 (NRSVCE)

Our daughter, Madison, just closed on her first house this past week. We’re so excited for her and her husband, Garrett. What an exciting waypoint in their journey.

As we were discussing home ownership, the subject of paperwork and bureaucracy came up. I told Madison, “Just wait until you close!” There is nothing like sitting there with a stack of paper that requires your signature and initials everywhere for everything. Even if you’re trying to be careful and understand what you’re signing it all becomes a fog. By the end of it my brain was fogged over and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome had permanently settled in my left hand. The closing agent just kept thrusting papers in front of me and I kept signing.

All the paperwork, of course, is part of a complex contract between buyers, sellers, real estate agents, government, and financial agents. It is an agreement between parties.

In ancient times, this type of contract was known as a covenant. It was the ancient form of a binding contract between parties. It’s already come up in the Great Story. God made a covenant with Noah after the flood. God made covenants with Abraham. In today’s chapter, God makes a covenant with the Hebrew people. The concept of a “covenant” between God and people was unlike any other religion of that day. But the Hebrews would have understood the concept because covenants were common in personal, familial, business, and international relationships. Two parties agree to binding terms and obligations. While the “Sinai Covenant” in today’s chapter is like other ancient covenants, scholars point out that it is unique and has no direct parallel in antiquity.

The covenant in today’s chapter is quite simple. God agrees to make the Hebrew people His “treasured” people, a priestly kingdom, and a “holy” nation. In return, the Hebrew people agree to be obedient and keep their obligations as will be set out in the commandments and laws given through Moses.

In the quiet this morning I find myself mulling over one of the commentaries I read about this text:

Typically, both parties to a contract, treaty or similar legal agreement could expect to benefit from their commitment. It is not at all clear that the Biblical text wants its readers to believe that Yahweh will receive some benefit from this relationship with the Israelites that he would not otherwise be able to obtain. The text speaks of great benefit awaiting the Israelites for their consistent obedience to their covenantal obligations. For Yahweh’s part, his actions do not appear to be based in self-interest but in a willingness to be gracious and to extend freely his blessing.

What is Yaweh getting out of the covenant? “His actions do not appear to be based in self-interest but in a willingness to be gracious and extend freely his blessing.”

I couldn’t help but think of these words from Paul’s letter to Jesus’ followers in Philippians:

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
    did not regard equality with God
    as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
    taking the form of a slave,
    being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
    he humbled himself
    and became obedient to the point of death—
    even death on a cross.

God is establishing and foreshadowing the core theme of the Great Story. What was lost in Eden? Relationship. How does the prophesied story end at the end of the book of Revelation? Restoration and relationship. In my podcast Time (Part 1) I talked about the Great Story being like a human life-cycle from birth-to-death-to-rebirth.

What is a parent’s relationship like with a toddler? The parent dictates the rules and asks the child to obey. Rules and obligations. Parents graciously extend protection and provision. They expect obedience. While the child can’t cognitively understand just how graciously his or her parents are being, they simply understand that when they obey things are okay and when they disobey they get in trouble.

At Sinai, I believe that God and humanity are in the toddler stage of relationship.

I’m looking at it, of course, from 2000 years past Jesus’ death and resurrection. We’re much further in the life-cycle of the relationship between God and humanity. There are a couple of things I’ve learned in my parenting journey now that our daughters are grown and have established their own adult lives and families.

First, the desire and willingness to be gracious and extend blessing never ends no matter how old your children are. Second, the desire for relationship with them does not end, but only gets stronger. When they come home, reach out, call, or write it is the best blessing ever.

The bottom-line. God desires relationship with me. The Father graciously sent His Son to suffer on my behalf. The Son willingly did so. The Father and Son sent their Spirit to abide in me. Everything is about inviting me into this relationship, this circle of love, this divine dance.

I just have to choose in.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Assumptions, Miscommunication, and Conflict

source: loonatic via Flickr
source: loonatic via Flickr

“But this is what you concealed in your heart,
    and I know that this was in your mind….”
Job 10:13 (NIV)

A couple of weeks ago I sat with my daughter and we had a very frank discussion about life and relationship. We talked about a myriad of things. It was one of those intense and emotional conversations that, once it is over, is hard to recall in anything but bits and pieces. It was time to clear the relational air over which a fog has existed for some time. I recognized that it was a conversation that happens to provide clarity and definition between parent and child when a child is transforming into an adult.  It wasn’t a pleasant conversation, though I believe that it was both healthy and necessary. Clearing the air is sometimes a prerequisite to making progress in life. It provides necessary focus to answer the questions:

  • “Where have I/we been?”
  • “Where am I/are we at?”
  • “Where am I/are we going?”

In the midst of this event I was reminded of a truth I’ve come to realize and embrace along life’s journey. Most conflicts can be traced back to miscommunication. The miscommunication can be an incorrect assumption about what another person thinks, believes, or perceives. The miscommunication can be confusion over the meaning and intent of something that was said. The miscommunication can be confusion over what was said and what was heard. Conflict can almost always be traced back to miscommunication.

I was struck this morning as I read Job’s diatribe how many assumptions he makes in his conflict with God:

  • “But this is what you concealed in your heart” (I know what God thinks)
  • “I know that this was in your mind” (I know the mind of God)
  • “If I hold my head high, you stalk me like a lion” (I know God’s intention)
  • “You bring new witnesses against me and increase your anger toward me” (I know that my sufferings are an execution of your misdirected justice)

That’s a lot of assumptions to make, especially about the Almighty.

Today, I’m thinking about my own penchant for making assumptions about what others think, believe, intend, and feel. I am seeking forgiveness for my foolish pride, which motivates and is at the root of such assumptions. I am seeking to make a little progress in the area of actually communicating with others rather than assuming I know what is in their hearts and on their minds.

Joy in an Empty Nest

X0866smSensible children bring joy to their father;
Proverbs 15:20a (NLT)

The house is quiet this morning. Wendy is still asleep. I will likely be leaving the house before she wakes to have coffee with a friend. Across from my home office is Madison’s old room. The bright orange and deep purple walls have been muted by a more gentle color as it has been transformed from teenager’s cave into a guest room. Around the corner, Taylor’s bedroom of Tiffany blue is preparing for its own overdue coat of paint. Another single guest bed is there, but it has become largely a transitional storage room for things we’re not sure what to do with. Her tiny walk-in closet has become storage for seasonal clothes for which there is no room in our own small bedroom closet.

There will be no rumbling and rustling this morning. No muffled fights of two girls fighting over the bathroom, or clothes, or schedules. Mid-afternoon as I work in the office there will be no streak across the hallway as a teenager goes to her room to shut the door and get on their phone with friends. No mumbled “Hi dad.” No family dinner tonight.

The nest is empty. It has been for a few years now. Some days I still find it hard to get used to. Yet, it is good. It is the way of things. It’s all part of the journey.

Those who know both Taylor and Madison can attest to the fact that they are very different ladies who have struck out on very different paths. One still in Iowa. The other in Colorado. One is into art. The other has found an entrepreneurial spirit for business. One married early. The other is single. It has been fascinating to watch our girls strike out on their own respective paths, but they have both been a source of great joy. What emerged out of those teenager-cave bedrooms are sensible, capable and amazing women who are each seeking God’s path in their own way. They both stumble. They both struggle. They face their own unique obstacles. They both make mistakes.

The experience of becoming an empty-nester has revealed to me two unexpected truths:

  1. I experience far more emotional stress and anxiety over my adult children then I ever did when they were teenagers living in my house. I realize now how much I appreciated feeling like the ever present dad who could fix anything for his little girl. I struggle now with feelings of being the impotent father who must look on from afar as they struggle with broken cars, broken hearts and life wounds that are not my place nor in my power to fix.
  2. I experience far more joy than I ever thought possible as I watch them become the women God intends. The first truth is tempered by this one. I read the proverb above this morning and felt it in my soul. My heart whispered, “I know that joy.”

For parents of young children, let this old man share with you one more truth I’ve understood as I now look across the hallway from my office at an empty bedroom. The adults your children become hinge upon the time, love, and attention you invest when they are toddlers and young children. Do not wait. Do not believe that someday you will make up for lost time. Take them on dates. Take a personal day and lay on the couch with them when they are sick. Go to their games. Be patient when they want to avoid you like the plague and be present when they actually want to talk to you. Once they are gone, so is your opportunity.

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 33

Crying
Crying (Photo credit: Onion)

The Lord looks down from heaven
    and sees the whole human race.
From his throne he observes
    all who live on the earth.
He made their hearts,
    so he understands everything they do.
Psalm 33:13-15 (NLT)

The other night we were at our friends’ house. Wendy and I had brought the gift of books for their two young boys and enjoyed watching them unwrap their gifts. It was fascinating to watch as the older child spied to see what the younger child got (“Did he get a better book than me??!”), then attempted to grab little brother’s book right out his hands for inspection. We then watched as the younger one played the victim card with pitch perfect precision: screams of rage and crocodile tears turned on with an invisible switch on his brain. Back and forth the sibling rivalry and angst flowed. The adults watched with patient understanding and the parents did their best to navigate the bubbling cauldron of childish emotions.

God reminds us time and time again that our relationship with Him is that of parent and child. To God, we must all be like little children acting out. Even as adults, our emotional tirades and self-centered actions must seem to Father God as the acts of a toddler to us.

Today, I’m glad that my heavenly Father knows my heart, even when this grown up child is naughty.