Living with other believers, wife stuff

The Only Way to Truly Live Titus 2

I ran across this commentary while catching up on the writings at a woman’s teaching blog. It is written by a theologian born in the late 19th century, Charles Elliot:

“So here this special work was left for the elder women among the faithful to carry out. Such a reformation, not only in the discipline of the Church, but also in the individual life and conversation, as St. Paul desired to see in Crete, would never be brought about by a sermon, or even by many sermons, however eloquent and earnest, from Titus. It would be a matter requiring long time and patience, and would, as observed above, rather follow as the result of patient individual effort and holy example.” [emphasis added by me]

I don’t often agree 100% with the old commentaries written to wives, namely because I don’t think any man, regardless of title, is qualified to offer detailed prescriptions to another man’s wife on how she should walk out her day to day duties. I am of course, not referring to spiritual truths, but so many of these commentaries go well beyond those boundaries that I ignore a lot of them. I choose instead to follow the lead of my own head.

This commentary however, is spot on; one of the best I have read on the subject to date. It’s ironic that I found it where I did, but the Internet is full of ironies. No sermons, blog posts, or emails can ever offer the kind of mentoring Paul commands in Titus 2. That is why I refrain from offering specific instruction to wives as a rule, offering only general advice and admonishing them to pray fervently for someone they can converse with regularly and in person to help them walk out their roles as wife and mother.

I am -for reasons I cannot fathom since I feel like such a mess- not only the mentor of my own young adult daughters, but have occasion to teach by example other young and not so young women.

They humble me with their insistence that I have something of worth to offer because I am a just a traveler on the journey, same as they are. Nevertheless, they ask questions, seek advice and counsel from me, and with that I feel an even greater burden to be oh-so-careful not to espouse my opinions and judgments as if they are an oracle from on high.

Whether it’s through conversations over a meal or just spending time with others in our home and among our family, I try to live a life that preaches far better than any lecture I could give or post I could write. I don’t believe the Bible means for us to be formal teachers of people who are unable to verify that our walk matches our talk. So when I offer words of wisdom (I use the term loosely), I have an example and the track record to back it up.

And that is what Titus 2 is all about.

 

 

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Humility is important, Living with other believers, spirit led living, wife stuff

Be appreciative rather than priggish.

Don’t you love the sound of that word; priggish? I assumes it’s where we got the word most of us are more familiar with: prick.

This is a bit of a follow up thought to a conversation my dear friend Hearthie and I have had numerous times over the past few years. This is just one instance. The issue of what she calls “survivor’s guilt” and what I have questioned as an undeserved life of an abundant amount of love.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote:

When I considered my friend’s sincere desire that I not underestimate what I bring to the table, for a split second I wondered if perhaps my near constant desire to exalt him means I am devaluing myself. Then it hit me: No.

Appreciating and relishing being loved by one who is excellent and worthy of praise humbles us, or it should.

My father was that rare combination of unabashed confidence and unquestioned humility. My man is more a combination of unabashed confidence and unrivaled compassion. Both combinations are great examples of people who appreciate that they have worked hard for what they achieved in their lives but without a smug sense of superiority over others.

These are examples I carry close to my heart and as the Scriptures says: Out of the abundnceof the heart, the mouth speaks. When yet another friend says “Don’t discount the good choices you made to have the life you enjoy”, I appreciate those words. It’s not my intent to dismiss them as one who can’t take a compliment

It is, however, much easier for me to accept a compliment on a dress, shoes or my hair than it is to allow myself to to indulge in the thought that I deserve a good life because of my wonderfulness. To take credit for it makes me uncomfortable and opens the door to judgement an a feeling of superiority. Not to mention taking glory for myself that rightfully belongs to Another.

We Americans are addicted to taking credit. I am not immune to it, and I used to like the saying attributed to Bear Bryant: “It ain’t bragging if it’s true.” The longer I live, however, the more joy I get from giving honor to others, even if partial credit for something is genuinely mine.

That isn’t to say we are to lie about what we’ve done good or right. For me, however, the acknowledgement of the contributions of others, no matter how simple, who made it possible for me to do or be a thing is important. It also makes for a higher level of peace. I can’t even express the peace that comes with the prayer: ‘Lord, help me get over me.”

It’s absolutely true that there were times when I made choices that led to a better outcome than other choice would have yielded (sometimes the more righteous choice, even), it’s safer and closer to truth to accede that my imperfect yet often charmed life is more touched by uncommon grace and love from those better than me, than made good through my feeble efforts.

If I have to err in this, I’d rather err on the side of being appreciative rather than priggish.

Let another praise you, and not your own mouth;
    a stranger, and not your own lips. Proverbs 27:2

 

 

 

Living with other believers, spirit led living

The desires of our hearts.

Hearth posted something this mornning that has kept me in a thoughtful place most of the day. I’m going to post a bit of a teaser here, followed by the comment I left over at her place. She wrote:

The hard bit is being asked to be honest about wanting the things I still want. I learned, veryveryvery thoroughly, the lesson about giving all your desires to God, and if something was becoming an idol, dragging it up to the altar and leaving it there. I learned the lesson about submitting my will and my desires to God’s plan, no matter how I felt about it.

That was a good lesson. That was an important lesson. But I can’t get on with learning new lessons until I stop obsessing about this one. It wasn’t the LAST lesson.

Not sure if I learned that lesson as thoroughly as she, but I’m certainly working on it. Except maybe I’m not because, as I noted in the comment I left on her post:

Getting things sorted, identifying what a tendency or feeling is at its root; yeah. I struggle mightily with that one myself.

Truth? I spend so much mental energy not desiring. It seems selfish to want anything when I have so much. I couldn’t begin to tell you what my deepest deisres are. I can tell you what I desire for my husband and kids -and by that I mean things that they would also desire for themselves- but for myself? I am confused.

I hardly ever think about what I want because asking for anything seems to me to like asking for a hot fudge sundae when set before me is my very own perfectly iced cake. I don’t ask God for much for myself besides the spiritual sounding stuff that *good Christian women* should ask for.

Suddenly, this tendency smacks to me of trying to manipulate God, because surely He knows that I have desires, including those “icky” temporal desires, even if I am hiding them from myself. I’m wondering now if my desires, wherever I have them buried, might reveal themselves to my conscious mind if I would be more careful to delight myself in Him.

File this one under the paradox of faith that wrestles, I guess.

 

Humility is important, Living with other believers, wife stuff

True love should humble us.

When we are well loved, it humbles us. This should have not been an epiphany for me today, but it was.

I was talking to a friend, and she was encouraged by a compliment I offered about my husband: “He is the one who keeps this ship afloat”. Because we spend enough time communicating and in each others’ presence that she knows how much invest in my husband and family, she admonished me not to underestimate what I add to him.

I don’t underestimate it. I just don’t think about it,  instead directing my energy towards honoring him rather than focusing on me. He is open about his appreciation for me also and is equally likely to extol my virtues when the occasion arises.

When I considered my friend’s sincere desire that I not underestimate what I bring to the table, for a split second I wondered if perhaps my near constant desire to exalt him means I am devaluing myself. Then it hit me: No.

Appreciating and relishing being loved by one who is excellent and worthy of praise humbles us, or it should. My husband is not perfect, but he is unquestionably an excellent man whom I have no qualms categorizing as exceptional. That he loves me at the level of intensity with which he clearly does is deeply humbling. It is not something I deserve.

It made sense today, more clearly today than it has in a long time, the passage describing the marriage relationship as analogous to the relationship between Christ and His church.

This is the advantage and strength, I am learning, of developing good friendships and prioritizing time with them. It’s not all fun and games. There are some things that can only be transmitted in one on one relationships.

Humility is important, Living with other believers, real living in a virtual world

Thinking about what we think about

That might sound redundant, but it really isn’t. One of the reason I was so animated by the post I reblogged on Saturday is because I read it on the heels of similar thoughts. As is often the case, the spark which ignited this particular train of thoughts started with something my Benevolent Dictator said.

We were riding alone in the car recently, and it was quiet. It’s rather nice to be able to spend time alone without feeling a need to fill the blank space with noise and words just so that one or the other of us can feel *okay*. Sometimes it’s nice to just think. As we approached a red light the man said to me, rather out of the blue (with a disarming smile), “We have had a good life.” I could only agree, and added that we’ve also mostly had a good time, even when things were hard. And the silence returned.

I was not only encouraged but struck and blessed by this living example of one of my favorite verses of Scripture offered as I am working and praying diligently to master my own thoughts. Winnowing my thoughts, if you will. There are at least a few things my man could have used that time as opportunity to correct, admonish, or guide me about  doing them better. Instead he was considering how blessed we are. I wonder how often Christians actually think about what we think about.

Our culture has trained us to think of ourselves primarily in terms of what we do. How much we do, how well we do it, how much better we do it than others. Christian culture does this as well, but we’re mostly conditioned to think in terms of what we don’t do. You know, the *big sins*. Christians don’t steal, cheat, commit adultery, fornicate, drink (I grew up Baptist), dance (I grew up Baptist), or listen to worldly music (I grew up Baptist). I wanted to include lying, but it’s one of those things that get little more than lip service. I think my point is clear either way. To the extent that we meet the requirements of our “good Christians don’t do checklist”, we feel free to rest on our self-righteous laurels.

We give short shrift, however, to things we do that are equally sinful and even more damaging, because they are things which are harder for those on the outside looking in to see and identify. Rather than feeling compassion towards sinner and the struggling we take the position of the Pharisee, smug in our righteousness, good health, prosperity, and comfort, never really stopping to consider what these kinds of thoughts reveal about us, our lack of gratitude and our misunderstanding of grace.

Every moment we spend judging, criticizing, or comparing is a moment we are not spending focusing on the noble, beautiful or true. Crouching criticisms, comparisons and judgements in religious sounding jargon doesn’t change the what they are. Lipstick on pigs, and all that good stuff.

The question of course becomes, “How do we winnow our thoughts, training them and directing them into the place where they produce positive action rather than passive, smug self-satisfaction?”

I’m still working that one out in my own heart, but I wonder if we will ever reach a place where we commiserate and bond over the good, beautiful things rather than the bad*? It seems like a tall order which, at least for me, weighs on the heart a little.

*I have some thoughts about this in the lives of women in particular, but it will take some time to work them out enough to articulate well.

 

 

cultural absurdity, just for fun, Living with other believers, real living in a virtual world

The bliss of ignorance in a world of pots projecting and kettles kvetching.

This is a reboot of the conversation on faith that wrestles. The first post is here.

Projection is as much a part of being human as breathing. We all do it, since we cannot help viewing things through the lens of our experiences. However, as we grow up, and particularly as we grow spiritually the desire, followed by the skill to temper that impulse, should grow as well.

This culture however, offers us every opportunity to spend our entire lives projecting our issues onto other people, judging, and engaging in smug, self-righteous finger pointing while neglecting to confront sin in our own lives. The Internet exacerbates this tendency for obvious reasons. I don’t want to park here yet, although I will return to this point. When our older girls were young I told them often:

“Respect others’ right to be different from you.”

General principles of right and wrong are one thing. Expecting that to translate into the same look for others as it does for you means you’ve overstepped your boundaries. To the extent that you need to pick someone apart over the insignificant, it reveals discomfort with yourself, your choices, and your life, regardless of claims to the contrary..

With our younger children I find a different lesson emerging more often and it’s very helpful that it can be quoted verbatim from the pages of Scripture. Paul admonishes those who judge others for the very things that they themselves do:

in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.  And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things.  But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God?

To use a well known colloquialism: The pot calling the kettle black may annoy me, but more than that, it annoys God.

I also recently reminded them how strongly God hates our complaining, using Numbers 21 as an example. We err when we presume upon the grace we have been freely given and use it as an excuse to live a life without intention, ignoring the “minute” sins we engage in daily. Sins which we condemn in others and yet excuse in ourselves. Everywhere you look, listen and read, our culture is full of this. Complaining is the most ubiquitous.

Women complain about men complaining about women. Men complain about women who complain about men. Whites complain about blacks who complain about whites while both complain about Hispanics. Democrats complain about Republicans complaining about Democrats. Communists and Alternative Righters complain about them both. News articles and programs are speculation masquerading as facts. OpEds are mistaken for news, and we are constantly invited to point and stare at personal train wrecks made news which in years’ past we were able to live blissfully unaware.

Whole forums and platforms are chiefly dedicated to picking apart and condemning others for their views, lifestyles and choices. On and on they go. The most ironic and catchy title is one called ‘Get Off My Internets.” Christians, who should know better, have increasingly joined the fray.

I’ve made a pretty big push over the last couple of months to eliminate these kinds of things from my life, but as I noted before, old habits die hard, and it’s very hard to un-know something once you know it. None of this is to say that it is wrong to commiserate online or offer commentary on controversial topics. I have no intention of fully withdrawing.

It is, however, becoming increasingly obvious to me how much happier are the people who live blissfully ignorant; not only of news which they can do nothing about, but without a care in the world with regard to anyone but Christ’s opinion -along with those they are truly accountable to- about what they do, what they think, and how or whether they express it.

It’s one thing to understand clearly and without wavering that stealing is wrong, that lying is wrong, that divorce is bad, or that murder is evil. It’s also wise to be willing to acknowledge that not all choices are equal regardless of circumstance. These are things that we should encourage one another in so that we all come to a fuller measure of faith. Too often however, we use the worldly maxim “public knowledge means fair game” to allow ourselves a wide berth in condemning others without ever once stopping to consider how we might feel if we were in their shoes.

All of this points to something we neglect to consider. Just as nature abhors a vacuum, so too do our spirits. Absent the spiritual sustenance we need to think on the Beautiful, the intellectual stimulation we need to think on the True, and physical challenge required to keep us actively productive, we’re left with nothing more than spiritual death, mental junk, and physical atrophy.

This approach to life outside of eternal matters and minding our own business is greatly underrated:

don't know don't care

 

Humility is important, Living with other believers, real living in a virtual world

The paradox of faith that wrestles.

I’m gonna keep this short and sweet because I’m probably going to unfold it over several conversations over several weeks. It’ll be interspersed between lighter subjects, but it’s something I am curious if other believers think about.

I’ve never been able to relate to people with no tension in their Christian faith. People who somehow walk in the certainty that they are doing Christianity right leave me incredulous (stay with me because I understand that we don’t *do* Christianity). Despite the fact that I have spent the lion’s share of my adult life -including my young adult life- living what most anyone would declare the “good Christian life” of a “good wife and mother”, the comfort of having seemed to do a few things right eludes me.

This is primarily due to an intimate knowledge of the inner working of my mind and the struggle Paul writes about so eloquently in Romans 7 and Galatians 5.

It is largely understood that the former passage of Scripture denotes a season of the journey that everyone must go through. We should surely graduate from the place of doing the things we hate. Most of us do, and I have as well. It’s a mark of maturity to rise above how we feel and do the things we should even when we don’t want to and to avoid the things that would satisfy our darkest desires simply because they are wrong. Since we live in a culture where people reduce everything to one subject, I’ll offer an example in line with what I am thinking of.

Transplanted Floridians are the worst drivers and traffic down here is absolutely terrible at all hours except those between 10 AM and 2PM. That’s only true if there’s no construction, and there is always construction.

When you live with a schedule in your head like I do (24 years of loving a spontaneous guy has NOT tempered the tendency), it’s a short leap from a tolerable drive to one where I want to 1) curse, 2) zip by someone and give them a dirty look or worse and 3) just flip out and start yelling. I know these things are wrong, so I don’t do them, but I want to. I want to several times a week.

There are those Christians who would say, ‘Well, you don’t do it so that’s good enough.”

There are others who would say, “You should be beyond such the temptation to temperamental reactions to something so mundane after more than 2 decades of walking in the Faith. You’re still a baby Christian.”

My thoughts hang somewhere in between the two of those places.

I don’t have much use for Christians who are so spiritual that they are no longer tempted to anything. I once heard a preacher refer to them as being so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good.

On the other, I wonder how good of a Christian could I possibly be if I think such thoughts in the first place.

I could go on but this road is windy, so I’m gonna park and rest for the night.

American identity, Common sense, Humility is important, Living with other believers, real living in a virtual world, wife stuff

Tending my own garden curbs the desire to tend others’.

I’ve thought a great deal about our culture’s tendency to formalize things which best happen organically. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t be intentional about the way we live, nor that formalization has no purpose (the Bible clearly references the need for corporate worship, for instance). However in the absence of familial and social infrastructures, we seem to have determined that the only way to insure certain things are done is to do them in a formal capacity.

Play dates. Bible studies.  Marriage conferences. Mommy and me classes.Titus 2 mentoring blogs, books and websites. Exercise classes. I could probably list at least twenty more with very little mental exertion, but I think you follow. I am not saying that these things in and of themselves are bad things. I do some of them myself as this is the postmodern way of life. Without them, many of us would never connect with anyone. However the proliferation of formal connections at the expense of organic connections is bad, especially since they don’t seem to be doing much to make life better on the main.

They speak to our inability or unwillingness to do the work required to achieve the ends these things are designed to produce: greater community, real and deep friendships, and most important, the accountability needed to motivate us to do the right things as we are inspired by these connections. Formalization makes it easier to disconnect from people. Heart connections don’t allow this as easily because when we love someone or something, it’s harder to drop them and walk off. Our practice today is to be just close enough for social connections but distant enough to be unencumbered.

These equidistant relations makes it easy for us to feign duty to others -by way of self-proclaimed authority- with little knowledge or appreciation of the fallout. It is this danger which gives me pause about being so quick to offer prescriptions for someone else’s life. Bible quotes sans relationship can give the erroneous impression that I got my spit together through stellar obedience when in reality my life is what it is due to heaping amounts of Grace, no small amount of good fortune, and the love and protection of excellent men. It’s easier to offer my thoughts when asked,  be succinct, and get back to minding my own affairs unless I’m dealing with people who know me well enough to filter what I say through the lens of knowing me up close and personal. And to whom I am close enough that I don’t disrespect her heart or trials with pat answers.

Despite every earnest attempt to walk out my “mind my own business” approach to life and family, we frequently find ourselves in situations where it feels like I should say something rather than nothing. I am sorely tempted to call every married woman I know and ask, “Please tell me you regularly find yourself in a position to share your philosophy on marriage! This I am told, is NOT normal and I would rather not live in the Twilight Zone if I can help it.” One told me”it must be God” and that’s not what I really want to hear.

Even more puzzling is that these opportunities present with people I barely know or don’t know at all. I pray thus: “Lord, when these things happen, give me the words to say that are most appropriate and will bear the most fruit.”

Benevolent Dictator takes these things, as he does most things, in stride but  I find my apprehension rising when they occur. I frequently wonder, “What is is about us in particular, that people feel comfortable approaching us with such statements and questions, even in jest?” Case in point:

We are doing some decorative updates to our home since we haven’t done that in a while. We went to one of the big box stores over the weekend to buy paint. I’ll spare you the back story but when I am picking out paints it is very helpful to have the Dictator around. I tend to look at the big picture and miss the details. He sees the details in relation to the big picture. To that end, he was asking me (ever so politely) to consider certain aspects of our house, walls, lighting, etc. as I was choosing the color.

We were having a good time, laughing with the paint guy about something, as my husband is usually having a good time no matter what he’s doing.  Another couple, about a decade older than us, walked by. The wife stopped and told my husband, “No matter what she chooses, just tell her she’s right and everything will be fine.” Her husband concurred in a less jovial manner, to which my husband laughed and replied, “We don’t really do it that way but thanks.” That should have been it.

But the other husband continued,  adding that as my husband gets older (he seemed to think we were younger than we are), he’ll find out this is “how the game is played”. [Sigh.] “Nah, we don’t play that game”, my husband replied. [omg what is happening here!!??] The man persisted, “You may say you don’t play it, but you play it.” [sigh]  I should say something.

Finally, I said, “No, we’ve been married a long time and we really don’t do it like that. I don’t need that kind of pressure in my life, to always be right? I gladly let him have it.”

The wife looked as if she had heard something revolutionary and you could almost see the light bulb come on. The whole thing lasted about a minute, and unless life causes our paths to cross, I will probably never see that woman again, but I know I unwittingly planted a seed that will hopefully grow into food for thought. Which brings me to the point of this winding road of commentary.

I contemplate what it is I’m doing here in this space, what the end game is. I am loathe to declare it a teaching tool. I feel deeply that mentoring is best done in the flesh and I invite anyone who reads here to try and make that your reality. When I sit down or stand at my counter top and start typing, I am more interested in a conversation with other people (particularly women) of like faith about myriad thoughts that I may not get to hash out with a real life friend over coffee for two weeks or a month.

I want my girls to be able to come back here and contemplate the lessons we’ve gone over together and the conversations we’ve had that have touched on all of those subjects at some point.  To the extent that something I jot down here helps someone figure out some tangle of thoughts and emotions they are dealing with, I am eternally grateful. But these are seeds of thought, not pills offered as prescription.

It would be all super spiritual of me use a Bible quote if I were going to end with a quote at all, but I like this one, which I think applies to the faith journey as much as any other:

Perhaps the secret to living well is not in having all the answers, but in pursuing unanswerable questions in good company.

Common sense, Humility is important, Living with other believers, real living in a virtual world

A little, or even nothing, goes a long way.

The subject of language has been front and center in my mind of late. In part because of its continual decimation due to the ever shifting meaning of words and phrases for the purpose of political posturing, but also because we tend to utter words without proper forethought. Silence can reveal -or at least leave room for- assumption of knowledge. It’s an opportunity few of us take advantage as Proverbs invites:

Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.Proverbs 17:28

The type of speech we engage, or don’t engage in, speaks volumes. It draws questions without any faith identification. I spend most of my social and outside interaction with other home schooling mothers. The variety of people my family is exposed to, however, is one I haven’t experienced consistently since our children finished elementary school several years ago.

Two years ago for example, my husband spent a year working at a large company overseeing the transition of some of the internal workings of their system. During that time, he developed a rapport with a young man there. The young man never expressed any religious belief, and my husband never engaged in any sort of faith based dialog with him.

Near the end of his contract there, the man asked my husband to do something that startled him. He had a girlfriend and a young baby. He figured it was time to make it official so he asked my husband if he would be willing to marry them. They could do it right in the cafeteria of the office building over lunch, since they weren’t interested in any kind of big wedding event.  He assumed my husband was a minister of some sort. As an Asian man raised without any religious tradition, he didn’t know what sort of clergy my husband might have been and I don’t know that he cared. He simply respected him, and wanted his blessing on their union.

My husband’s first question was why this young man assumed he was a minister. There isn’t anything noteworthy about my husband which indicates minister, or even typical church guy. The response was telling: “It wasn’t anything you said. It was what you didn’t say. You’ve been hear nearly a year, and I never heard you curse.”

Our daughters have had a similar experience on their jobs. Usually after about 3 months, someone notes that they never hear them use a curse word. Apparently, unlike when I was a child, profanity is like a tattoo. You don’t stand out if you do it. You stand out if you don’t.

I find this interesting because none of us flinches, winces, or gets offended when anyone uses profanity in our presence, and we don’t assume that people who do so are necessarily  irreligious or bad Christians. It’s basically a holdover from how each of us were raised. My husband’s father wasn’t a saint, nor would he ever be mistaken for one. He just didn’t curse. Neither did my parents. We just sort of picked that up, as did several (though not all) of our siblings.

Profanity is an example I used here because it recently came up in our conversations about language, but it’s just one example among many. I am keenly aware of the issues that can come from mistaking propriety for piety. It’s one the thing I loathe most about certain strains of American Evangelicalism. But there is a lesson to be learned here about the importance of keeping a lid on it.

It really is possible to get through an election season without getting into a debate with your family members whose political opinions are different from your own. It’s possible to inspire or motivate others in areas where you may have been especially graced or worked hard to overcome without preaching to everyone you know or beating them over the head with your hard won knowledge.

People naturally tend to ask questions of those they see succeeding or accomplishing at the things with which they struggle. They almost always solicit the prayers of the least vocal but straightest walking believers they know. We don’t need to be nearly as vocal as many seem to think in order for others to glean from the wealth of knowledge and wisdom we presume we have acquired. Most of all, we can all save ourselves a lot of trouble if we would learn to be quiet:

Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.Proverbs 21:23

I think about this often in the rough and tumble world of Internet communication, where people feel not only compelled but entitled to say whatever pops into their head with as much veracity and acidity as they can muster to get their points across. There also the saccharine treatise laced with contempt, and veiled in passive aggressive attacks. After a while the stealth sweetness is lost and the malice seeps through. Whatever the tactic, it’s the opposite of this:

Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body. Proverbs 16:24.

Using the logic of if this, then that, it is safe to conclude that: rude speech is like wormwood, bitter to the soul and sickness to the body.

I think I’ve said enough, so I’ll stop right here.

family life, Humility is important, Living with other believers, real living in a virtual world

Adam’s father was perfect, and yet…

It is characteristic of American culture, and increasingly by extension American Christianity, to view life and temporal prosperity in it as accomplished through the successful execution of specific formulas. While there are certain areas of life where formulas produce success, for most people this is usually most readily seen in areas where we are dependent more on the immutable laws of nature.If you burn more calories than you eat for a long enough period of time, you lose weight. If you get enough sleep for enough nights you tend to be less fatigued. Some formulas work.

When human nature is added to the mix, however, the wheels can fall off no matter how well we execute the formulas we believe will produce a spiritually superior church, happy marriage, or well behaved children.

Most Christians have reduced the Bible to a formulaic rule book. If you’re not prosperous, you haven’t worked hard enough. If you don’t have a blissful marriage, you weren’t a submissive enough wife, or you didn’t lead well enough as a husband. If your children are not walking in truth (in ways that compel others to compliment you on the way they turned out), you didn’t “do” Proverbs 22:6. If you did, you didn’t do well enough or consistently enough to produce the right results.

There seems to be a total disconnect from the reality that God has given husbands, wives, and children all the same opportunity he gave each of us; the choice to choose the right way and walk in it or not. We thrive on the belief that when things turn out well, we can take some credit for it. We are very careful to give proper lip service to God for His word and its formula that we followed so well, but we cannot resist the urge to determine that what has gone well in our lives is because of our innate goodness or execution of the formulas. In other words, God couldn’t have done it without us.

Where parenthood is concerned, even as someone whose children are regularly commended, I have always felt sub-par. All of our children’s best character traits are easily recognizable as having come from their father, or as gifts from God that they seemed to have come with standard. All their worst traits? Those seem most easily recognized as having come from their mother.

As a wife, however, wallowing in haughtiness comes easy to me. I *get* how to be a good wife, or at least that’s how I used to view my wifely tenure; as perfect execution of the Biblical formula to be the perfect wife.  See? I recognize the tendency. None of us is immune. The trick is being willing to recognize it and shut it down.

None of this is to say that what we do doesn’t matter, or that there aren’t directions on how to live given us in the Bible. Of course we are supposed to study and obey. This is to say however, that when we think that we have the power to direct how others act or turn out, we have gone far afield of the message of Scripture.

Enter this message from Voddie Baucham which I listened to over the weekend. Twice in fact, because it’s that good. Bro. Baucham reminds us that we are all just sinners in need of redemption and that whatever good we do, if it’s not done to the glory of God, or we are tempted to take any credit for it, we are back to square one. Square one is our need for redemption because the minute we say, “I did X and my children turned out God fearing, obedient people as a result” or “I did A, so my marriage is the best one I know of bar none” we are guilty of the sin of pride. Time to confess. Back to the cross we go.

One of the best parts of his talk is indicated by the title of this post. If there were anyone who was graced with perfect everything (parenting, surroundings, companionship of the Lord Himself), it was Adam and Eve.

And yet…

Listen to the sermon here.