My two year old is growing up in a very different society than the one I grew up in. It has me a little nervous, to be honest, because many voices in the media and in the world are going to do everything they can to make him believe whatever idea they support. Not all of the ideas are negative, for there are some truths being magnified. Some habits and mentalities are now being shown for what they are: unhealthy, unwise, and destructive. More and more, our country is being reminded that we still have a long way to go in eliminating ALL racism. I’m sad that we haven’t accomplished this yet, but I’m glad this bubble of illusion has burst. We have a long way to go, though. The parents, educators, and mentors of this world have much work to do. Our formative years in our early youth can either prepare us for the challenges of maturity or set us up for destructive lifestyles and mentalities. This is why us parents and caregivers really need to take the initiative in our children’s education and building up the community we live in. Every one of us needs good direction, to be taught discipline, and we need the right kind of affirmation so that in confidence we can walk in a way that is healthy and wise. Without this, life can be even more of a struggle than it already will be….because let’s face it: life is hard. Whether or not we follow Christ, life is hard. Some days are glorious. Some days are boring. However, as someone quoted to me this week, usually if there is not one challenge, there are two. Since I have chosen to follow Christ, my hope and peace is anchored in God’s presence and the joy of my salvation. It is possible to have joy and give thanks in all circumstances when our focus is on God’s goodness. Hallelujah!
I must admit I have not spent enough time praying for my son and being grateful for him. Some days I give in to my selfishness and spend too much time on the internet, cleaning, and running errands Don’t get me wrong, I do pray for him and I am grateful for my sweet son. However, in my imperfect humanity I do things I know I shouldn’t and fail to do things I know I should. I can do better, and that is my goal. My son is so bright; his imagination and ability to learn blows me away already. He looks to both his dad and me for a reaction whenever he tries something new. He is usually seeking our approval at this point in his toddlerhood. I love to watch him when he accomplishes something he’s been working on for awhile. He tends to lose patience quickly, but when he holds out long enough to get something done, we can see it was worth letting him struggle. Elated, he will jump up and down and say, “Mommy, Daddy, I did it, I did it!” When he learns a new word or a new song, he says/sings it over and over and over again. Practice makes perfect! Repetition is learning. I am just waiting for the next phase of toddlerhood: the “why?” question being asked over and over and over again. My child needs my affirmation and my recognition of his learning something new. And soon he will want to know why everything is the way it is. I must be prepared for how I will answer him, for I do not want to crush his craving for knowledge or squelch his passion. I do not want to ignore his questions. One day, I hope he feels comfortable enough to come to me with the big questions so that I can help guide him to the right path of knowledge. The Hand that guides me is the hand I want guiding my son.
I think we as we age, we tend to feel less ecstatic when we accomplish something, but our need for affirmation is still very present. We become educated with a wider variety of truths, opinions, and realities, so it is no wonder many of us feel lost or confused in our teenage years and especially early adulthood. We tend to seek out people with the same questions and the same opinions in life, making connections that help us feel understood and loved. Every one of us has this deep longing to be loved for who we are. We desire to be seen, recognized, and affirmed. We seek approval from those closest to us, though I doubt many realize it or want to admit it. When we don’t find it there, we tend to look for it elsewhere. The difficult thing is that we don’t always know the right or best way to love each other. We can leave such deep voids when we do not invest in our loved ones the right way. This is where the church is so important. The church has an opportunity to help fill in the gap, reach out to the broken with love, and point people to Christ’s hope and healing.
Love is on everyone’s lips lately, and it seems that we all agree that we need to love one another. The problem is, we do not agree about what love means. This is probably one of the biggest concerns for me as a parent. I really want to make sure Levi learns what love really is and that he has the wisdom to discern love from lust and apathy. Love has become so misunderstood, misrepresented, and misinterpreted, and I don’t think this is a new problem. Love is a decision that requires action. Love is not a feeling, no matter what movies and books would lead us to believe. It seems the way relationships are represented that love is undisciplined, temporary, dispensable, shallow, impetuous, unforgiving, approving of indulgences, and self-centered. What happened to this definition?
“Love must be sincere. Love does no harm to its neighbor. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered. It keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love does not fail.”
Some of us may be able to quote the verses that contain this definition of love. Yet, do we act and speak in love in everyday life? It is no easy feat. Honestly, it seems like some of us Christians put more emphasis on only a portion of this description. It is not right for us to encourage and live out one while leaving the others to rot. This goes for all of us. I am definitely at fault for not always acting or speaking in a way that shows love for others. My need for Jesus is great, and I am still a work in progress…this also goes for all of us. Jesus made it clear that loving the Lord with all our hearts, mind, strength, and loving others as ourselves was the most important commandment…in doing this, love fulfills the law.
So what does this mean and what do we need to work on? Is our love for one another sincere? If so, we will not say one thing and act another. Are we harming our friends, acquaintances, enemies with our words and actions? If so, we are not showing love. If we love someone, we will not push them faster than they are capable of going. This is patience. We gotta stick it out, for love perseveres. Sometimes loving someone means keeping the communication lines open even though you have been hurt by your beloved. Love means we will not be nasty to each other, that we will not put each other down by name calling, using harsh language, being overly critical. If we are showing love, we will not use our pasts against each other, especially when forgiveness and apologies have been declared. Do we think more highly of ourselves than others? Are we overly vocal and proud about what we have accomplished or about the way we are living? If so, we are not showing love to anyone. Are we quickly losing control of our tempers and lashing out on others? This is not loving. Are we skeptical of our beloved, thinking the worst of them? There is no love in this. (There is a difference in not trusting someone who is regularly deceitful and thinking the worst of people that have not earned distrust.) If we give up altogether on our beloved, then we are not acting in love. If our primary objective is seeing what we can gain out of the relationship, then we are not presenting love. Love does not self-gratify. More and more, the world is presenting the idea that love celebrates whatever makes our loved ones happy. What if what makes them happy causes incredible agony later on? What if what makes them feel comfortable leads them down a dangerous path? Love does not take pleasure in seeing someone do something wrong or remain in a broken state. If we do not care about someone’s future or soul, proclaiming “to each his own”, then we are not rejoicing in truth. Yet remember, love is kind. Condemnation and conviction should be left in God’s hands.
Love and affirmation. All of us need it. The void and misrepresentation of them can cause so much pain and so much harm. We need to act and speak with REAL love to all people. We need to guide our children in truth and provide the appropriate affirmation. We need to spend more time in prayer for each other. We need to be aware of the Deceiver that walks the earth seeking whom he may devour. Sometimes what seems most freeing and most gratifying can be the most destructive. Sometimes we know it is wrong and indulge anyway. Other times it is wrapped in pretty packages, presented as the perfect solution to our situations. There is a deception designed for each of our desires. This is what the enemy of each of us works hard to create: an illusion of enlightenment and entitlement. He sells the lies that self-gratification is deserved, freedom is living the way we want, and that the world should support our journey of it. Too many of us have bought the lies. Too many of us have suffered because of it. We need to pray for the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth, for sometimes even though we have spoken it, hearts cannot accept it.
Finally, we need to remember that God is for us and loves us purely, and sometimes that means we get disciplined and re-directed when we are wrong. Not every path is prosperous or good, even though it may feel right. Our contentment with life and the highest affirmation we need can only come through a relationship with God. The more we seek His approval and His guidance, the more confidence and joy we will have. It will not always be easy or have the quickest payoff, but the benefits far outweigh every challenge.
I know these thoughts are very unpopular right now. The fact is that when we let anyone other than God and His Word influence or determine our decisions and beliefs, we risk disillusionment and misdirection. This is why Bible study and prayer is so important. We really need better guidance and need to learn to truly seek the word of God for truth before we act and speak unwisely. All of us need to be very careful about using scripture out of context. It is easy to do with our internet search engines and lack of Biblical education. We have come to a very pivotal time in our country where Christians are warring against other Christians, few people want to truly walk in God’s ways, and more and more scripture is being twisted for self-benefit. No matter where we stand on some recent heated topics, if we claim to follow Christ, we need to seek Him in all things for His approval and affirmation.
Sometimes we have to let go of everything we think we know. Sometimes we need to stay silent. Sometimes we need to stand up for truth. Whatever we do, may we be very careful how we do it. There are souls that need Christ. There are lives that need His affirmation and healing. The world is watching our reaction, and whether or not the world realizes it, it needs the hope we have. Let’s not take our voice for granted or use it destructively, even though many will scoff at our faith. Whatever we do, may we show the complete and abounding love of Christ and display His mercy and grace. We’ve got work to do, Believers.
“Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this IS good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” 1 Timothy 2:1-4