It’s Ash Wednesday, the day the Lenten season begins. Lent is a time when we imitate Jesus’ own time of testing in the wilderness by confronting the sin and idols in our own lives.
We will observe Lent this year by preaching on the themes in Tim Keller‘s book Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters. Some of you have insinuated my blog could use a ladies’ touch. Well, here to prove I’m responsive and always a good listener, to reflect on the book, I’ve asked Julie Pfister, one of the most authentic Christians I know, to blog her way through the book.
I have had them myself; stickers on my shiny new SUV (not new or shiny anymore) showing that my family was on its way. A few of the right schools, waiting and hoping for that empty spot on the back window to have just the right University stickered to it showing the world just how smart and perfect the little family that I had made was.
Like most of us, I didn’t realize it as it was happening. Pride, like any other idol can be insidious, and so difficult to spot. But my children, my seemingly perfect little family was on its way. I wanted room in my car to carry around the whole hockey team. I wanted my kids to want to have their friends come to my home where I could serve up the milk and cookies.
They did for a while. Then, things started to awry. As Keller put it, its not that I loved my children too much, I just didn’t have any room left in my heart or time in my schedule (or theirs) for God. I wanted my children to be happy, successful, loving and to love me! Perhaps it is partly because of the culture I grew up in that the desire for the perfect little family was so important. Having happy, successful, smart, athletic, caring, loving children would validate me as a person – especially since I had quit my job and “sacrificed” (oh please) my career to raise my kids.
Like any false idol, it didn’t take long for the cracks in my perfect little life to really start to show. My children and family are a wonderful gift and precious blessing to me, but I learned a long time ago, what Keller reminded us, that until or unless we stop trying to map out perfect little lives for our children, and trust God to be their God in the inevitably bumpy and even tragic path that HE has for them, we will be brought to our knees.
Do we pray that they will be Humble, shunning the world and the trappings of success and searching for God? How do we view others children who go off the chosen accepted cultural track…high school, college, graduate degree, career, family, Do we think that there is something wrong if our children “choose” a different path? Are we not quick to give a qualifying response when we tell someone that our son or daughter is not in college? How honest can we be with each other when people ask how we are? How is Sally….Can we really just honestly pray that they will know God? Will we or they be ok if we pray that God will use them, that they will seek God and God will seek them…..if that means that they go against the cultural norms? How can we as parents hope that God will break our children’s hearts so they can be desperate for HIM. Do we trust God enough to want that sort of brokenness for them? What if we pray that our children KNOW God? Do we trust him with the pieces of their broken hearts? Do we trust Him to ???? It is so counter-intuitive for me as a mother for my children to want to feel the emptiness and desperation that I have felt. Do I want my children in the pit of despair?
That same pit that Christ reached down and pulled me out of and set my feet on firm ground and put a new song in my heart! I loved teaching at the Day School. With each new class I always felt a twinge of envy along with the joy of meeting the bright and shiny precious, babies and the hopeful, loving parents that brought them. I wondered how they might feel if their child called them something horrible and told them they hated them.
I hoped and prayed that their child would never get beaten to within an inch of his life or disappear for days and weeks at a time. I wanted to go all Isaiah on them and belt out….Get on your knees NOW and study and learn all that you can….not from Dr. Spock but from the Author of their Life….the Ultimate Educator….so that you are as ready and STEEPED in God and His Word that “when the rest of life unravels” He and his Word will be such a part of your fabric that you will not.
Some people still tell me, hoping to not offend, that I used to remind them of Barbie….Unless I missed the happily broken, God fearing, Grace loving, sinner Barbie, there is no resemblance.