Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Every Square Inch

Last weekend, the day after Luke graduated from college, I was standing in his kitchen washing the breakfast dishes. My father-in-law quietly walked over to me and said, "You know, I forgot to mention it to you yesterday, but that was your celebration, too. You got him here." I managed to get out a 'thank you' and starting scrubbing harder because a lump was forming in my throat, and I was on the verge of losing all composure.

Brett and I take a covenantal view of raising our children. That is, we assume that their default condition is 'will be saved' unless the evidence proves to us otherwise. I'm not saying that our children are born believing. Everyone is dead in their sins until their conversion. I am saying that we set them apart, raise them, treat them like co-members of God's covenant. I am saying that children born into covenant homes have a distinct advantage over children not born into covenant homes.

We spent a week with Luke and his wife and daughter in their home. It was wonderful to watch him 'walk' at graduation. But it was more wonderful to watch him walk as a husband and a father. Seeing your kids established in their own homes is where you really get to see them in action. Watching him love his wife and love his daughter...Watching him work the stuff of young marriage or the challenges of a budding, busy toddler...Watching him take his family to church...

Most wonderful of all was the walk he and I took, just the two of us, through a cemetery across the street from his house. It was a crisp day, and we ambled up and down hills under beautiful, tall trees. We talked of life, of marriage, and of babies. We talked of academia and faith and God. I told him the things I see in him. There were serious moments, and there was laughter. And we ended back in his driveway with a big hug.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...
Eight of the kids were holding down the fort under Zach's care. We were gone over a Sunday, so they took themselves to church. During the Lord's Supper, a friend snapped a picture and sent it to us. There were the rest of my kids, grouped together around the elements. And there was Zach, leading his brothers and sisters through communion. There was my firstborn, this little guy with the fat feet and the weird obsession with F-150's and ant piles, all grown up and standing in proxy for Brett, passing around the elements. I look at this picture and know the struggles of each of these precious people the Lord has blessed us with. I can tell you where they are now and how much they've grown and how far they've got to go. So there I sat, in Luke's home in Michigan, seeing my other kids standing together back home in Texas, sharing the Lord's Supper, and my heart smiled. It smiled big.

Here's what twenty-five years of parenting in a covenant home has taught me. Some conversions are like a knife through warmed butter. Seamless. Easy. The kid just steps into God's kingdom and never looks back. Some conversions are hard. Every square inch is hard-fought, hard won. Satan snarls over every square inch, refusing, absolutely refusing, to give ground. Kuyper notwithstanding, every square inch comes with grit and sweat and warfare.

Both types of conversion are cause for vigilance and cause for worship. The angels rejoice over both types of conversions. And I'm learning that moms can rejoice over both types of conversions, too.

Too, parents are parents for every square inch. When the kids are young, we make choices for them. As they grow, we 'help' them make choices. Then one day they become adults, and we take a step back to watch them make their own choices. But we're still parents.

We still find things coming out of our mouths like, "What were you thinking?" when they do something foolish or "ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND?" when they're considering doing something foolish. We don't weigh in like this because we don't love them. We weigh in like this because we do.

Bilbo Baggins, do not take me for some conjurer of cheap tricks! I'm not trying to hurt you; I'm trying to help you!

The effectual love of a parent abounds in knowledge and depth of insight. We need to pray for our adult children that their love will abound this way, also. What does love look like when it abounds in knowledge and depth of insight? DA Carson, in his book, Praying With Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation, says it this way:
Without constraints of knowledge and insight, love very easily degenerates into mawkish sentimentality or into the kind of mushy pluralism the world often confuses for love. Christian love will be accompanied by knowledge--that is, in Paul's use, the mature grasp of the meaning of the gospel that is the fruit of sound instruction and full experience. Christian love is also accompanied by "all insight": the 'all' here signifies not total insight or 'depth' of insight (NIV) (sic) but rather breadth of insight, that is moral perception across the entire gamut of life's experiences. (106)
If Paul is correct, loving cannot operate outside of thinking. Unthinking love is not love; it is only 'mushy' and 'mawkish.' True love must be constrained by the knowledge of and mature grasp of the gospel.

And why is that? Carson continues, "The point is that Christians must abound more and more in this quality of love if they are to test and approve what is best. So what is best must be delicate or subtle or difficult to spot for those whose love is not abounding in this way." (emphasis added) In other words, if our love is not a thinking love, we will not be able to spot what is best. And if their love is not a constrained love, they won't, either. Yikes.

I've started praying this prayer over my children since I read this a couple months ago. I'm praying that we and they may walk every square inch with the kind of love that abounds more and more in knowledge and depth of insight.

Yet--and here's the kicker--at the same time, sleep. The farther I walk down this path of parenting, the more I'm realizing that I don't need to get rattled by the crossroads of Foolishness and Wisdom. That's not to say that my kids don't throw things at me that aren't worth getting rattled over. Oh sister, they have, they do, and they will. But time and again, I get my chain yanked, and then I see God come through. And I wonder why I ever doubt.

Because it's not over 'til it's over.
And it's not over until God says it's over.

There may be warfare over every square inch. But Jesus is Lord over every square inch, too.
He's Lord when they're young and high-maintenance.
He's Lord when they hit puberty, and you wonder who this alien child is.
He's Lord when they burst into adulthood.
He's Lord when they wonder; He's Lord when they wander.

My father-in-law was kind to affirm our parenting. But we both know Who gets our kids where they need to be. We both know that only Jesus can fill them with the fruit of righteousness.

I've only recently been able to articulate a recipe for rattle-free parenting:
Bring your kids to the cross.
Preach the gospel to them.
Pray Philippians 1:9 without ceasing.
And sleep.

Think back over the many ways God has been faithful to your children, and smile.
Smile big.
Jesus is Lord over every square inch.

And this is my prayer, that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless in the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ--to the glory and praise of God. Philippians 1:9-11