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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I have always been intimidated by water.  I’m not a strong swimmer so being in water with people splashing around me or in the ocean with big waves makes me nervous.  I don’t like the feeling of being in over my head.  Training for a triathlon in college was the first time I learned to swim with a proper stroke, wearing goggles and a swim cap.  My coach taught me an important lesson the first day.  I was so tired after just 50 meters because I was fighting the water instead of letting it hold me up.  When I learned to relax and go with it, I actually found a smooth stroke and could swim for ages.  I had to trust her advice and have courage to try this new approach before it would work.

Courage isn’t just bravery or boldness.  Courage means we trust GOD in any situation despite our circumstances or fears.  It means having the audacity to step out in faith even when we don’t know what to expect or how big the task.  Courage that says we are willing to get in over our heads with God.  Wading out into unknown territory with Him instead of splashing around with our floaties on or staying where we can touch the bottom (having control), we let go.  Instead of fighting against his will, we learn to relax in his embrace, letting him guide us.

This reminds me of a vision God spoke through the prophet Ezekiel where water was gushing from the Temple; God was leading Ezekiel out where the water flowed.  He first describes it as being ankle deep, then knee deep, then thigh deep, then a river that was so deep he could not touch the bottom.

Many interpret this vision as the gospel going out into the earth, starting small and growing into an overwhelming force;  it could be the process of the work of grace in our hearts as we learn to let God take over every part of our being.

I, however, think about courage when I read this passage.

It takes courage to trust God to lead us through any situation.  No matter how big the waves of life crash against us, no matter how muddy the bottom (our future) may seem, be courageous.  Choose courage no matter what lurks around the next bend in the river.  The undertow seeks to get us off course, but God gives us the determination, fortitude and endurance to withstand it all. Courage is not a genetic trait like our height or skin color.  We aren’t born with courage.  We choose courage every time we can’t control our circumstances, yet wade in a little deeper with God anyway.

God isn’t going to lose us on his depth finder.  When we wash away in his will and his plans, he sees us.  Like the inter tube holds us afloat on a lazy river, God’s loving arms are holding us no matter how deep the water gets.  If you can swim, it makes no difference if the water is 10 feet deep or 100.  If you are jumping in, you’re getting wet.  No use in trying to keep your hair dry.

As we embark on this journey to plant a church in Australia, there are those who think what we are doing is crazy.  Some admire us for taking a leap to start over our lives at our ages and with three children.  Many people have said they could never do what we are doing.

We are not brave.  We’re not special.  We are choosing to trust God.  And when fear starts to creep in, I lay back and let His living water hold me up.  When you know that God has called you to do something, you can let it sweep you off your feet.  You can step in past your ankles.  You can melt away and let God’s path take you anywhere. Even all the way across the Pacific Ocean.