Soul-Trading

mark 8-36If you’re a parent, I would venture to say you spend a lot of time helping your children explore their interests, find their passions, make friends, and grow in their abilities. Outside a typical school day, you cart them to swim and music lessons, sports trainings and games, tutoring.

You make sure they don’t miss the party invite (what if they don’t get invited again or are left out on the playground at school?)! We only have Wednesday afternoons free and the school just opened up a term of Oztag… perfect! Sign us up! Wait… what’s Oztag?

My own daughter tried ballet, hip hop, gymnastics (at two different gyms) before we realised her passion was music and art. She now also plays netball for both her school and club.

How do we, as parents fit it all in? What’s the motivation for all this, (shall I daresay “over-scheduling”)? We tell ourselves we want what’s best for them. Some of us believe our kids are stars and in order to get ahead, they must perfect their trade. We must set them up for success. And… Kids are demanding at times. They tell us what they want to do and we jump through every hoop to make it happen. I mean, how guilty would we feel if right down our very own hallway slept the next Mozart and we didn’t pay for that extra term of piano lessons?

We live in crazy times! All this taxiing our children to and fro. Then, what’s left of us, these devoted, well-intentioned grown-ups?

Soul weary, budget busted, time strapped adults whose sleep patterns are poor and marriages are weak.

In the pursuit of fostering well-rounded, talented, happy children who have friends and self-confidence, we can lose our own souls. What happened to regular date nights? Adult friends who party with us while the children go to bed?

What are MY interests?

Didn’t I have hobbies once upon a time?

Where are friends who make me laugh, those who spur me on towards becoming my best self?

All of our choices come at a cost. This over-scheduling and saying “yes” to the aforementioned litany of options means saying “no” to other things. Unfortunately, those “other things” can be the very ones which sustain our souls. The fun. Spiritual growth. Marriage. Small group at church. Rest.

Let’s don’t mistake “good parenting” for soul-trading.

Kids need parents who love each other and they need to see us taking care of ourselves, embracing a hobby, setting boundaries, living within our means. The lessons WE teach through lives devoted to Jesus, the church, our marriages, and sabbath rest far outweigh any weekly half hour lesson you could pay for with someone else in charge.

“What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for” (Mark 8:36 MSG).

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Embracing the Grit

cleaningI hate cleaning; not solely because of the time it takes or just because I’m afraid of cancer-causing chemicals. Cleaning toilets with three boys in my house means finding wee in places it doesn’t belong; however, I hate cleaning mostly because once I start, I find out just how dirty things really are. I’ll be dusting the window ledge and then I see that the frames have little tiny black spots of mould on them. Or, I vacuum the carpet and find so many dust bunnies under the couch that I’m afraid a real rabbit might jump out of one of them! Or, what about the bathroom drawers? I am wiping the outside while finding toothpaste and hair covering the inside.

It’s just so much easier to throw in the towel than to keep cleaning. I mean, I didn’t even think about the inside of the drawers until I started cleaning the outside. Maybe I should just leave it all and live in squalor?

My Christian journey is a lot like this: I start out all gung-ho when I first experienced the presence of God. Like putting on a new pair of cleaning gloves and pulling out all the supplies, there’s excitement for what’s to come. How great will my house smell this afternoon? How shiny will the mirrors be? How exciting to dream about God giving me the desires of my heart and multiplying my blessings!

Then, I look closer at the mirror and I see that there’s actually a layer of dust all around the edges. I reach those “up-high” edges and now I glance at the top of the vanity. Uh-oh… I’ve never even seen up there and it’s covered with dust too. I clean that and then decide to look the cabinet and find a dead roach. EEW!

What was supposed to take 2 minutes has now taken 10 and I’m utterly discouraged.

Everyone at my new church was SO FRIENDLY when I first came. I wondered if these people were for real. They seemed so genuine and so kind. Then, I looked closer and realised there were some cliques. The lady who greeted me those first few weeks doesn’t even remember my name. And, the Pastor didn’t talk to me this week.

Now, that feel-good endorphin that was released when my “floral scents all-purpose cleaner” made its way across the kitchen is suddenly overridden by my disappointment that this journey with God requires some work.

Like the blinds on our windows, I find a collection of grit just under the surface. I liked that part of the Bible that told me how much I was loved and forgiven, but I’m not so sure I want to see it from the angle of “sanctification.” I like spraying the counter top and giving it a quick wipe, but don’t make me move the toaster, kettle, and canisters out of the way.

I have bad habits I need to break but I’m not even sure I want to. I hold onto anger and resentment like it’s a high school boyfriend I can’t afford to lose. I have always done it and I’m not sure who I am anymore if I stop. I’m happy to sweep or vacuum, but please don’t ask me to move the furniture or clean behind the toilet.

I’m afraid of what I might find.

I hate looking closer at myself and picking at old wounds that have scarred and crusted on my heart, covering it like soap scum covers my shower door. I like not being able to see inside myself. What I see causes me to feel vulnerable. It causes me to take responsibility for my own actions and feelings. It forces me to have grace for others and I’ve always been able to judge others and point the finger.

I must embrace the grit to experience the gloss.

Only when I put elbow grease into something can I erase what once stood in my way. No one can do it for me. Just like no one is going to come and inspect my house with a white glove and then offer to clean for me, no one is going to inspect my heart and remove the callouses. I’m the only one who can keep my eyes clear enough to see the beauty of Christ and all that he offers me. I must choose each day to not let the sediment fall on my heart, drying it up and losing all tenderness.

Becoming more like Christ is a never-ending journey. Just when I think I’ve have mastered one area, I find myself seeing three more that need work. Kind of like getting all caught up on the washing only to find some dirty PJ’s shoved under my 5 year old’s bed…

The good news is that I have the Holy Spirit on my side, empowering me and cheering me on in my daily detox. And, unlike house chores, there’s actually an inheritance awaiting me when I allow God to purify my life.

But John intervened: “I’m baptizing you here in the river. The main character in this drama, to whom I’m a mere stagehand, will ignite the kingdom life, a fire, the Holy Spirit within you, changing you from the inside out. He’s going to clean house—make a clean sweep of your lives. He’ll place everything true in its proper place before God; everything false he’ll put out with the trash to be burned.” (Luke 3:16-17, MSG)