8.31.2007

What I Want For My Boys

I heard a speaker (Jim Birchfield from St. Andrew's, speaking at Forest Home) say that, for our children, we all want a story like his wife's story (a faithful Christian since her youth who avoided all the pain of a time of sin and rebellion) rather than a story like his story (a convert in his 30's after times where he disappointed himself, wife, and girls.) I have been considering that "truth" ever since, because I realized then that I was an exception to his understanding of what we all want for our kids . . . and I needed time to be able to explain why.

What I want for my boys -- especially for Mike, Josh, Noah, and Brooks, but for Tyler and Cody and for my husband, too -- is that they would all be well-prepared for an eternity of loving and serving Jesus in resurrected bodies living in the new earth and new heavens that we are promised in scripture. I don't just want them to make it there, rather than to end up in "the second death" into which death and Hades are to be cast. I want them to be prepared to thrive and enjoy fully our "forever and ever". This is no different than most parents not just wanting their sons and daughters to survive to adulthood without dying, but also wanting them to be happy, productive, loving adults.

I do want a joyful life this side of the resurrection for all of us, of course . . .

Real joy requires sorrow and failure, because we do not understand life until we have experienced great sorrow and failure.

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I was just cleaning the little boys' room, and thinking about what life was like for me when I was the age of my oldest son Mike. I had a baby, a toddler just 12 months older than the baby, and a husband who was "dying" of acute myelomonocytic leukemia. I remember getting our lawyer to come to intensive care to have him sign his will, and being told he would not survive the night. I remember a year later the dire predictions of the doctor for his survival. And I remember a year later, when he finally had achieved his first good remission after a couple of miserable years of illness and treatment, and the predictions that -- even with a good remission -- he would not survive another year.

He is still alive . . . married to another woman, and with two children that they had together. He survived. Our marriage didn't. But God is good!

I would not be who I am without having gone through the misery of those years of his treatment, where his parents and mine took care of our boys and I "lived" with him at the hospitals he was in. In facing his always-just-around-the-corner death, I also learned to face my own. I have kept that perspective. I see things from the end of this life looking back, even when I first wake up each morning. It casts conflicts and choices in a very different light.

And other experiences of mine have taught me the reality of my own depravity. I don't have to hide the fact that I am a sinner. I know it. I'm okay with you knowing it. And I know that God loves me so much that He did everything that He needed to do to rescue me from bondage to sin and to set me free to the abundant life I find in walking with Him each day.

Knowing that I am capable of the worst things people do, and knowing that I will die, and perhaps die soon . . . or perhaps not . . .

There is no one that I can sustain anger against for long. It could have been me that did that to them.

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There is no need to focus on following all the formulas for "a good life" that we get from our cultures and religions and communities. I have found the Good Life.

I love understanding the Kingdom Values that Jesus taught about before His death and resurrection . . . they are TRUTH.

But they are not one more "secret to the good life" that just work better than the kind of new-age stuff in the book The Secret that I've written about in older posts. The Christian life -- our Abundant Life lived in His Kingdom, right here and right now -- is not about all the characteristics of our values and behaviors and outlines of how things work best for everyone. The Good Life is not something I can wish for my children to enter into without experiencing failure and suffering . . . it is not something that they can attain by studying Jesus' lists of Kingdom Values and being smart enough to avoid experiencing life's negative stuff.

My prayer for my boys is that they will let all their experiences point them to the One that made them, and that they will increasingly walk through life with Him as their comforter and guide. In tagging along after Jesus like a toddler tags along after his mommy, they will experience Him, and He is the good life.

My prayer for my boys is that, when they fail morally -- when, not if -- they will not be able to cover it up. If they can cover it up, they may walk on putting on the act of the "good life", and never know the Way, Truth, and Life.

Our church is full of people who think the Christian life is just a better, truer philosophy than that found in The Secret . . . that will create a better world for us all, and that once we have our "ticket to heaven" our duty is to work together with each other toward that better world for us all. They think that's God's agenda. And so it makes sense that what they would want for their kids is for them to get their "ticket to heaven" early on, and make a good contribution toward that better world for us all, and avoid the pain of moral failure and suffering.

A real reading of Jesus' teachings about the Kingdom would blast that perspective to pieces, so it is no wonder that the Bible is so confusing to them. It doesn't fit.

But when I surrender myself to Jesus, and my kids to Jesus . . .

I see what discipleship for them means. It means that they experience moral failure clearly enough to get their utter dependence upon Him. It means that they experience the sufferings that will give them His heart for a suffering world. And then their lives and choices will not be motivated out of a fear of anyone figuring out what they really are. Then their lives and choices will be motivated by the joy of knowing Who Jesus really is.

May it be so.

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