Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Parenting Heart First

I could be extremely unpopular after this, but here goes…this morning I was reading through the first couple of chapters in Luke. Women connecting with the gospel can begin here. Luke brings the stories of women out. It is refreshing to read. In that small space you have young women betrothed, mature women barren, and young mother. All have such an interesting portrayal of the heart of a woman.

In the story of Elizabeth, Luke 1:16 & 17 tell us what John the Baptist will do before he is even born, “He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” So, John’s job is to turn many of the people of Israel to God and throughout the gospels, this becomes pretty evident. He will also turn the disobedient to the WISDOM of righteousness. Wisdom and righteousness are linked, inseparably, but that is a blog in itself. There is one more, however.

With all of this turning hearts in preparation for the Lord, John is going to turn the hearts of parents to their children. All of John’s “life tasks” reflect the brokenness that exists in relationship. Here the relationships inside the home are exposed. I see the disobedient and have been the disobedient, and I have turned away from the preparation for the Lord, which was the last thing on my mind. So, today I feel led to talk about something with which I have no experience. Let’s speak specifically of parent’s hearts turned away from their children. As someone who does not have kids, I will be the first to admit that I have no authority in these matters…but, from the outside it sure looks like this to me.

Side note from a married without children: One of my favorite actors was being interviewed and when asked how his children were, he said, “They are average; not to fast, not to slow, not annoyingly smart, not dumb”. I applaud this mentality because there are too many “yes people” in our world. Normal children are great and most kids are normal. I can’t tell you all of the people that try to tell me that their children are really smart, or well behaved. It is as, though, they assume that without children, I have no power of discernment. If you have to tell someone that your kids’ are smart, they might not be…and if you have to tell someone that they are well behaved, they are not. I have dogs that are neither overly smart, nor well-behaved. I am too lazy to take them to doggie school and I want someone to be uncontrollably happy to see me when I get home, so I have pursued neither and now they are too old. I digress.

So, I can’t imagine the overwhelming nature of parenting. I can’t imagine having someone who talks to himself/herself around me all the time. I can’t imagine never getting ready in one shot again. I can’t imagine anyone ever attempting to wake me up in the middle of the night…that might be the worst one. So, there are lots of things that I can't understand, but I can observe…oh, and I can read, in fact it is the same parenting manual that you are using.

In order to survive parenting, I have observed that sometimes it is easier to turn your heart away than carry it into battle, even the friendly ones. These battles can be about cereal or toys, new shirts or curfews. Parenting, as in every other aspect of the kingdom relationship, requires that hearts are present and active. A heart that is turned away cannot be prepared for Jesus, and it certainly can’t be prepared for children. This type of heart turning seems harmless, just a little bit of protection or solace for a parent, but kids know when the emotional shoulder has turned. They know before you do. There are so many areas of life that would be easier if we could just spare our hearts a little. The problem comes when you look at scripture. I see no where that tells the believer to pull their heart out of the fight.

Later, in Luke, we can see that it wasn’t easy for Mary, either. That’s right, the mother of our Lord. Most of you have never had the promise of greatness for your child from an angel. That had to play in her mind every day. So, she might have had some expectations of the best kid ever. Remember when Jesus was lost in Jerusalem during the festival of Passover? They traveled one day and realized he was gone, so they came back to Jerusalem and looked for Jesus. He was gone four days. Jerusalem was a big and bustling place. The time of Passover would significantly increase the population of Jerusalem. Mary must have been freaking out. It took at least two days of being in the city to even find Jesus. Seriously, that is an amber alert.

So, loving mother finally finds her kid at the temple. Pleased or not, she has been looking for four days. Luke says, “When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” Translation, “What do you think you are doing? Your dad and I have been worried sick.” I would expect some gratitude, some hugginess…something. Jesus just looks at Mary and says, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house? (Luke 2:49)” I just love it. Mom, why are you freaking out? Where did you think I was gonna’ be? Beautiful, and very like Jesus.

No one has it easy…and then Mary watched her son go to Calvary. There is no time to save our hearts in this life. They are of no value turned away from anyone, and the damage that occurs when children cannot get a straight line of sight into your heart is devastating.

How did Mary deal with this? She treasured all these things in her heart. I am amazed at that. I can’t think of many parents that would not have lost their minds in this situation. The first time that she treasured these things in her heart was when the shepherds came to Jesus’ birth. They were going crazy, praising God with what they had seen and heard, and Mary just treasured. Now, after her son just “back-talked” her on the steps of the temple, she did it again. Her heart was fully invested and soft, willing to be in relationship. She did not turn away.

We have to position ourselves in this life. We have to set a course for our hearts understanding that they are already in the right hands, and safe to point our heart toward our children, our mate, and our friends. Every relationship is to refine us, to sanctify us, to get us to rely on Jesus just a little more, especially that of a mother. Let’s rely on Jesus to take care of our hearts so that we can care for the hearts of others.

Father, thank you for the gift of children. Thank you for the stories of these amazing women that taught us how to treasure moments of relationship in this life. Teach us to put our hearts back in these key relationships so that we are prepared for you.

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