Tag Archives: Godliness

Forever Young Maturity

What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but the people of Israel, who pursued the law as the way of righteousness,have not attained their goal. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works.
Romans 9:30-32 (NIV)

A few years ago our daughter, Taylor, was living in a Catholic Worker commune. Her fellow residents and the people “The Worker” served each day came from some very different realities than those in which Taylor grew up. One weekend when she was visiting with Wendy and me she shared about a moment of realization listening to all these people who were living on the razor’s edge with no safety net and no back up. There was no “Plan B” if the shit hit the fan.

I realized,” Taylor said, “that I will never know this reality. I have a huge safety net, people who love me, and I will always have a safe place to go.”

When Taylor and Madison were in the toddler phase of life, they were suddenly introduced to all sorts of rules:

“Don’t touch.”
“That’s a no-no.”
“No! You never hit your sister.”
“I said, ‘Put the toys away. Now!'”
“Wash your hands before supper.”

In the toddler phase life is pretty black and white for a child. There is a seemingly endless list of do’s and don’ts, and parents add to the list incessantly. If you follow the rules life hums along relatively swimmingly, and if you don’t follow the rules you learn about parental wrath and punishment. For children, life feels a bit like a legalistic system of merit. Parents and authorities reward me when I’m good and punish me when I’m bad. From a parent’s perspective you certainly love your child no matter what, but I wonder how much a young child comprehends this when the merit system rules his or her existence.

As the girls moved into adulthood our relationship changed as they became mature in their understanding of themselves, their parents, and the world around them. They began to make their own decisions and had to experience the natural consequences of their words, actions, and decisions on their own day-to-day realities. As a father, I still desire for them to make wise decisions. I’m happy to provide advice if asked. Ultimately, however, they have to choose for themselves because it is the right choice, not because of their father’s approval or wrath.

At this stage of life, like Taylor’s observation at The Worker, I’ve watched the girls come to an understanding, now more than ever, that our love and support for them is ever-present, unwavering, and unconditional. They’ve learned the lessons of their childhood. They’ve matured.

I’ve always pondered the notion that God’s relationship with humanity across the Great Story is a bit like the natural human life-cycle. When God gave Moses “The Law” it was essentially the toddler stage of humanity. Things were simple, brutal, and messy. A simple black-and-white system of rules is what humanity in the toddler stage needed, what it could comprehend and understand.

The period immediately following Jesus’ resurrection and ascension is essentially a major life change. If feels a bit like a rite-of-passage shift into a new relational reality between God and humanity made possible by Jesus’ sacrificial atonement. Paul’s letter to the Jewish followers of Jesus in Rome reads like a sage telling the young adult that it’s time to wake-up, and grow-up, into a mature understanding of their relationship with God. Gone are the toddler days of rule keeping, now it’s time to step out and start walking in the maturity of faith in God’s love, grace, forgiveness, and righteousness made possible – not because you kept the rules – but because God showed love for us in this: while we were yet knuckle-headed, foolish children who sometimes go our own way, Christ died for us.

This morning in the quiet I’m looking at a canvas I discovered under the guest room bed this weekend while Wendy and I were cleaning-up. It’s a little something Taylor made for Milo while she was pregnant. It’s now sitting next to my desk, and I think I’m going to hang it in my office while the kids sojourn in Scotland. It’s the words of a song I sang to her repeatedly at bedtime when she was a child. It’s the words of a parent’s faith, hope, and blessing to a child, anticipating that the child will mature into a person of wisdom, Godliness, and yet retain the one thing that Jesus said was, ironically, a prerequisite to a mature person’s entrance to God’s Kingdom:

Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Toddlers, rules, grace, love, maturity, wisdom, parenting, Taylor, Clayton, Milo, Maddy Kate, Garrett, Jesus, Bob Dylan, child-like faith. That’s what’s tumbling around in my heart and head on this Monday morning.

May you stay Forever Young.

Have a great week my friends.

Chapter-a-Day Proverbs 23

The father of godly children has cause for joy. 
      What a pleasure to have children who are wise.
Proverbs 23:24 (NLT) 

I once worked with a pastor whose children were going through a rowdy, rebellious phase. One of the more self-righteous, overly negative members of his congregation made a snide remark about his children behaving badly. Exasperated by her back-biting and malice, he finally snapped.

“Lady,” my friend said to the snooty woman, “my children are not immaculately conceived. If you don’t believe me, I’ll drop trow right now and show you the plumbing that got the job done. Being as my children are bred of two flawed human beings, you might extend a little grace rather than expecting them to be perfect.”

That story always makes me laugh. Despite my friend’s sharp tongue, I appreciate the truth of the point he was trying to make.

I never expected my children to be perfect. I have had people ask me how I raised great kids. I always struggle to answer those questions because I feel like the outcome is far more about God grace and about their own wise choices than it is about parenting. There is no secret formula nor are there guarantees or sure outcomes. I only had a few guiding principles I attempted to follow…

  • Rather than trying to get them to go to church, I tried to model for them an active faith.
  • Rather than telling them “no” all the time, I tried to find healthy ways to tell them “yes.”
  • Rather than fearing the worst in them, I tried to trust the best in them.
  • Rather than holding them back out of fear of what they might do, I tried to release them with faith that they would do the things that they should do.
  • Rather than trying to love them with lots of things, I tried to love them with time, affection & attention.

I am not a perfect parent and my kids can provide you a list of my failings. My children are not perfect children (and I could provide you with a little list of my own). You will never find marble statues of my family erected in honor of our perfection, virtue, character, wisdom, morality, intelligence, or spirituality. Nevertheless, I resonate so deeply with King Solomon’s words. I have cause for joy today and every day because I have three good kids who love God and who love others well. I can’t ask for more than that.