Tag Archives: false gods

Worth in the Wrinkles & Grace for the Grey

One night a couple weeks ago my husband and I were eating dinner. It was just the two of us that night. I don’t know what we were talking about but I do remember when he looked up and out of the blue asked, “Do you think you will grow old gracefully or fight it as long as you can?”

Had I not just seen for myself that very day the grey hairs framing my face I wouldn’t have known what he was referring to.  But as it was I instinctively knew he saw exactly what I had – all those wiry greys! It was as if he read my mind because since seeing how obvious they had become I had been thinking maybe it was time to add a little color.

Fast-forward a few days to when I was looking over the headshots a friend took for me.  My husband’s question floated back into the forefront of mind. This time it wasn’t so much the greys bothering me, but the wrinkles around my eyes. It would be so easy for my friend to smooth those out a bit in the pictures. (And to be honest, in one she did). But apart from a miracle cream I don’t know about it, those lines in real life aren’t ever going to totally disappear.

My insecurities over these visible signs of aging got me thinking about how alike we women are to our daughters. Here we worry about how they see themselves and the pressure to be perfect, but we are no different. Whether we admit it or not, we too look to our appearance as an identity.

By this I mean we base our worth on how we look. Our weight, the wrinkles, the grey, the sag or flab, it can consume us. Only made worse when we look around and compare how we stack up to others. So at any given moment – at a party, the gym or scrolling through Instagram – we have those same thoughts as our daughters. I’m not enough. I need to be better. Everyone else is perfect. And just like our daughters, we also exert alot of energy trying to make ourselves enough, better, perfect.

Now I’m not saying there is anything wrong with taking care of ourselves and wanting to feel and feel good. The problem is when our appearance becomes the measuring stick for determing our worth, and the worth of others too. What we turn to for our identity.  What we think if we attain or maintain will make us happy and give us life. And in its ruling over us, we will in direct and indirect ways communicate to our girls and others that appearance is where their value comes from too.

But if my true identity is found in Christ, then the extra pounds, the wrinkles, the grey hairs, my grey tooth (yes, it’s true I have one!) or whatever else it is that bothers you about yourself is not what defines us!

I’m writing this for myself, because what I saw in the mirror and reflecting back at me in the photos knocked me off this gospel truth. I didn’t want others to see the wrinkles or think I looked old because of them. But it takes a constant reorienting to remember who we are. One minute I know the truth and feel secure, and the next minute I’m looking to false sources to make me okay.

Because this is true of me, what better entry point to help our daughters see we are in the same boat. We understand her self-obsession because we too become self-consumed.  So what we both need is to see our false identities as the sin it is, and point each other back to who Christ is for us.

In Christ, I am perfect and perfectly loved. An his opinion, truly, is the only one that matters. If only I could always fix my eyes on this truth, maybe I could grow old gracefully (with colored hair or not)! By his grace. 

“Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed (Psalm 34:5).”

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The Heart of Middle School Meanness

Last week this article was published by Rooted, but for all my blog subscribers who may have missed seeing it circulate on Facebook, I am reposting. Whether you have middle schoolers or not, getting to the heart behind bad behavior is where we all need to go in order to deal honestly with our own sinfulness, and to help us treat others with compassion and grace.

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It doesn’t matter where you live, what type of school system you are in, or who your kids’ friends are, there is no fool proof way of avoiding middle school meanness. That is not to say the meanness doesn’t start before middle school, nor does it necessarily end before high school (or even stop in adulthood for that matter). But by and large the drama, the cattiness, the dismissiveness, the name-calling, the online bullying, the rejecting, and the outright hateful words and mean behavior start to blow up big-time around middle school.

We are left wondering why these kids who used to be so “good,” kids who should “know better,” are behaving so terribly. And how do we handle it? Whether our kid feels like the victim, whether they’re caught in the middle, simply a by-stander, or they’re the one misbehaving (we are fooling ourselves if we think our kids won’t ever be this one!) – parenting through the drama and meanness is hard.

External factors (like family, environment, friend groups and situations, etc.) may contribute, but they are not the primary problem in middle school meanness. The problem is our kids’ hearts, and our hearts too (it’s a universal human heart problem). Therefore, we must deal with the heart to properly address the problem.

If we only deal with the outer behavior, we will never effectively change what’s really going on.

To get to the heart we must chisel down beneath the behavior, to see what’s driving it. Again, external factors can influence, but we all act according to our will. And whether we or our children are Christians does not preclude us/them from our natural bent toward sin. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). By the grace of God only do any of us have the contrary influence of the Spirit.

We have sin-sick hearts. All of us.

When we understand our true diagnosis as an across-the-board condition, we can start from a place of compassion with and for our own kids, and for others acting in their sin and brokenness. When our child knows this is our condition, too – that we are in the same sin-ridden boat – they will be much more softened to receive our probing questions, helping them get to the root of their behavior.

The root (or the heart) is the driving force behind what and why any of us do what we do. So whatever is ruling our hearts (whatever we worship or whatever means the most to us) will be the influential tug that determines our words and deeds, our motives and hidden agendas.

If Jesus is at the center of my heart, my words and action will reflect Him. The problem arises, even for the most well-intentioned believer, when something other than Jesus becomes more valuable to us. Whatever it is (and it can be anything) – a person, an object, a desire – that we seek to find “life” in apart from God is the false god, the ruling idol of our heart.

By “life” I mean whatever we try to find an identity in. So for our middle schoolers (and again, us), false gods are found in appearance, acceptance, affirmation, significance, popularity, love. This means whatever it takes to get what they think they must have, they will do. Their ruling idol – in the classroom, the lunchroom, on the stage, the field, and social media – will determine why they do what they do.

Now it makes sense why a thirteen-year-old girl would make a snide comment to another girl if she feels jealous or insecure, if she doesn’t know her worth. In a twisted way, she feels better by making someone else feel worse. Take a kid who is starved for attention and love at home – now it makes sense why he craves attention from other people, even in negative ways. He is looking to know his worth; to know he is accepted and secure.

Ultimately, only God can fill us. Only God can make us whole. Only God is big enough to fill the hole in our soul that drives us to turn to false gods.

So when we talk to our kids about mean behavior and don’t get into idolatry, we neglect to help them learn to discern the true nature of their dissatisfied hearts – to see the depth of their sin, and their great need for a loving Savior.

But when we dig deeper with our kids, and they begin to grasp the extent and frequency of god-replacements popping up in their hearts, we shepherd them to want to obey out of worship for the One who rescued them from the depth of their sin. In having these hard and complicated discussions about the reality of the human heart, we raise kids who have compassion on others who are similarly ruled by false gods, but don’t know the full acceptance, love, and worth they have in Jesus.

 

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For the Love of the Game

I’m in a pickle. Along with our sixth grade son.

He’s our baseball lover. A lefty, who my husband dreams will reign in his pitch because when he does zing it across the plate it’s gooooood. But for most of the past seven years, first base has been his mainstay. Five of those years, he has also been on the same team, with the same coaches and almost all the same boys.

At the end of last season though our team made the decision to disband. Some boys were done with baseball, others are playing year round and one can play school ball as a sixth grader. For the public school kids, baseball doesn’t start until eighth grade so we need a new team. But so far there is no new team to be found.

Well, there is one he can possibly try out for. But after reading the five page document about the team’s goals and hired professional who will run practices and the three tournaments a month through half of summer, I don’t think it is the team for us. Yet, the very realistic consequence of choosing not to go this route is our son not ever getting to play for the school team. Because. if every other kid who wants to play high school baseball is doing this, how could he compete?

But why does it have to be this way! Why do we have to treat our kids like mini-professionals when it comes to sports? What happened to free afternoons riding bikes and playing with the neighbors? And just enjoying the sport in season for the love of the game?

Why do they have to choose at such a young age to specialize in a sport and not just specialize, but make it their life. And not just their life, but that of the entire family it effects.

Now hear me, I am not condemning all tournaments and sports commitments, but I am asking us to consider why we have gone to such an extreme?  For some the goal is college athletics or beyond, but for relatively few that will transpire.  However, from the time our kids are little we set our eyes on doing whatever it takes to make them the best. By the amount of time and expense we devote and at the sacrifice of so much else, this functional sports’ god is teaching our kids something more than just perfecting whatever the sport.

What our kids are learning best is to find life in something other than Christ. Regardless of what we say we believe, that is what we are pushing them toward – life found in being the best and life found in baseball (or whatever the sport). No wonder they struggle with identity if this is what it is built on!

I wonder what would happen though if we made Sunday morning worship the priority so they learn what orienting their lives around the gospel looks like instead? What if we took a stand and said ‘no’ to gain back family time?  What if the weekend actually was relaxing and our kids weren’t completely exhausted every Monday and expected to then do whatever it takes to also excel in their academics?

That’s how it used to be.

For our sanity and spiritual health, do you not crave to go back to that?

There is obviously so much good and many life lessons learned from being on a team and working hard.  And so much joy in watching our kids compete in their sports, so I hope my boys will have the opportunity to do what they love in high school. What I want them to love most though are things from above. I want them to grow up into godly men who prioritize His word and His people above all, but it starts now – with us.

For the love of the game, may sports be just that – a game we love but not what rules us as if it’s the One true love.