Monday, June 20, 2011

Teaching Grace

God has been teaching me about His grace in my life and it's such a simple yet complicated idea to understand. As I teach Lily her school and how to pick up after herself I want her to know that following the "rules" won't make me love her more. She is such an over-achiever (like her daddy and me) that I want to be careful to teach her without making her feel like she's doing something wrong or that I'm mad at her or that if she makes a mistake I'll stop loving her. I've been looking to how God parents us and I want to be like that. We should obey God and do good things, but they are not tied to His love for us. He won't love us more or less by what we do. If His love was contingent on the good works that we do, then He would not be perfectly Holy (and He is holy.) He loved us while we were sinners and sent His son to die in our place and pay for our sins. As Christians we are born again and have a NEW LIFE in Christ, and yes, He has good works for us to walk in, but He does not love us less when we "fail"... because it's not about "us"... it's about Jesus. Grace is "unmerited favor" and just like he saved us through grace
we continue on in that grace until the end of our lives.

I would be a wonderful "religious" pompous prideful prick if I could have mustered up the strength to "look right"... to follow the "spiritual rules" of waking up early and reading my Bible every morning on the dot and being the perfect homemaker. The truth is I never could. I was always failing. My journals as a teenager are filled with prayers that start with "HELP" because I couldn't do anything "right"... I wasn't diligent and "religious" enough. Now I understand that "religion" is wrong. It's NOT about what WE do.
It's about Jesus. The good news is that he paid the price. He lived perfectly so we don't have to (because we can't!) but the rest of the good news as Christians is that it's still about Jesus! The things that I want to do (the good things of course because as a "new creation in Christ" my desires are redeemed as well) I can actually do them through the grace that He gives me each day.

So, the other day when I wrote about the "other side" of my days. It was pretty funny of course, but in all seriousness I couldn't help but wonder what I could or should have done differently.

As I thought about the day and all that I wrote about it on here, I realized that THAT day was really pretty much like every other one. The real difference was my attitude. Normally, I'll start the day by making breakfast while I check Facebook and then listen to a sermon. I'd been thinking how I probably shouldn't be on the computer so much and in a "religious moment" decided to not get on my computer all that morning. Why? Because religious people make you feel guilty about everything. About having a TV, using Facebook, about wearing opened toed saddles, reading "Harry Potter," choosing not to have 20 children, having short hair, and a number of other things. Is there anything wrong with choosing to NOT have a TV or NOT use Facebook or dressing in a certain way. No, there's nothing wrong with choosing to do or not do something. It's between you and God, and that's the thing. When I made my "no computer religious moment rule" it was only because I thought I "ought" to. But God is bigger than my computer. Sure, I can be prone to spend too much time on Facebook (or writing blog posts) but is the answer to stop? Or to use it for God's glory. I don't mean preaching. I have no idea who I will annoy with this post or who will be encouraged by it, but I don't write to all of you (whoever you might be)... no offense or anything... But I'm not writing this to fix anyone else. I'm just writing now and have before because I need to remind myself of these things.

"...whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." Phillipians 4:8

How well was I doing that the other day? The reason my day was so frustrating was that I was complaining in my heart. I wasn't thinking of my children as blessings, I was annoyed.

The good news of course is even in those bad days God still loves us. I know that, but I also know that I'd rather have the better days (with twinkly lights) more often. God wants that too! Think of it. Why does he want us to not sin and to worship Him and do the good things that He's prepared for us to do? Because He wants us to have communion with Him. In a similar way to how I want the housework to run smoothly... it's not to find perfection... it's about spending more time with my family and with people.

Religion sees that God doesn't want us to sin and He wants us to do good things and so forth, but makes the mistake in thinking it's about what we do and what we don't do. Religion wants the perfection for perfections sake. God wants to help mold us into the image of Christ, not so He can love us more, but because He wants the best for us because He already loves us.

When I fail to see this, my day falls apart. I become frustrated and am easily angered. I try to make myself feel better in everything apart from God. Too much chocolate? = gluttony. Appease myself with shopping? = coveting. Finding fulfillment in my children or husband? = idolatry.

But is the answer for gluttony to go on a diet? Or is the answer to make a "rule" about something- to become "religious" and EX it out of our life? OR should we stop looking at ourselves and our problems and simply worship Him. Everything else would start to fall into place if we did so.

Looking at these things from this angle, now the spiritual disciplines of Bible reading and prayer and going to church and listening to sermons and singing praise songs are not about an "ought to" but just as a way to help us think of Him know Him and worship Him. Helping us to find our fulfillment in Him and teach us to turn to Jesus instead of anything else. I've gotten into the habit of listening to sermons online (here) when I start to feel discouraged or discontent. This works well for me at this point in my life because I have so much to do around the house. I can do the dishes that need to be done or pick up toys while I listen. I can pause it or back it up if I need to take care of a little girl. It's been so encouraging, but it's not because I "should" it's because I want to.

I want my girls to learn their letters and make their beds, but do I want that simply to make my life easier or because I won't love them if they aren't perfect and obey me? In our fallen nature we can be selfish enough to treat our children in that way, but not God. Our heavenly Father wants us to follow His rules because he doesn't want us to suffer the consequences of sin and He wants us to be joyful and blessed. My selfishness does not understand why serving other people can bring me so much joy, but Jesus understand this. When he spoke the world into existence it was perfect and without sin. Sin and disobedience is what hurts us. God loves us so much that he doesn't want us to be hurt anymore. Obeying Him is for our benefit not His. Jesus dying for our sins took care of the need for perfection and the penalty for sin, so obeying Him as Christians is in a different place than where religion says it should be. Because rules and perfection are not the point.

So bringing this back to parenting and homeschooling and homemaking and just my whole life right now in general, is that while I think of and write out ideas and "helpful hints" and so many other things to help make my days run smoothly, Jesus has to be at the heart of it all or it will all fall apart.

It's not about me or even them. It's all about Jesus.


Cathleen said...

Thank you for sharing. This gave me alot to think about and reminded me of how God had healed and delivered me several years ago of being "performance driven" in my walk with him and my interactions with others in authority. I too do not want to pass this on to my children. I want them to obey but I also want them to know they have my unconditional love and acceptence.
So thank you again for reminding me of God's unconditional love and grace.

Natalie Minnich said...

Great stuff Lynne'! Sooo thankful for Grace!

RachelCapezza said...

I love "Because religious people make you feel guilty about everything." I had to laugh! It's true. And also, we can often fall into the trap of trying to portray a godly image (that's actually fake) in order to be accepted by them. We want to feel good about ourselves, and that's often our motivation for doing "righteous" things. But that is completely missing the mark. And it's missing grace.

Anonymous said...

Amen, girl.

What a beautiful photo of your family!