this past june, due to the generosity of others, shanna and i had the opportunity to head to puerto rico for a week to celebrate our 10th anniversary. for those of us who live in the polar vortex that is the northeastern US, this was a significant upgrade!
for months prior to the trip shanna had been praying we’d get a specific room at the resort we stayed at. we had booked the cheapest room/package, and it was all set… so i honestly couldn’t understand why she was praying for this at all.
but she prayed nonetheless. and she prayed for the room next to the ocean, with the jacuzzi tub, and all the extras.
might as well go for it.
when we landed in PR and checked into the resort, i could see her nervously fidgeting as the receptionist rang us up. then, sure enough, the person helping us told us they had space and had decided to upgrade our room to an ocean-side suite, with the jacuzzi tub, and all the extras.
shanna just smiled and walked towards our room.
this may sound like a small thing, but for a pastor often jaded because i’m sometimes too close to the work of God in the lives of others… this was a profound and very special moment i won’t forget.
i believe the God of heaven intervened to give us a message i had long lost sight of:
he’s a good, good father who loves to give good, good gifts to his children.
“which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? if you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (matthew 7:9-11)
here’s why this kind of a truth is hard for me to sometimes accept:
we live in an extraordinarily, unbelievably, broken world.
we all are well-aware of our own brokenness. and we can just turn on the news to see the rest of humanity’s brokenness. however, on top of that, i often get to see the brokenness that doesn’t make the news. i have wrestling matches with God where i peg him with questions wondering why the h*** he didn’t step in and keep something horrible from happening? or why a newborn baby had to pass away at 2 weeks old to that family? or why so many dear and close to me struggle with relentless hurts, pain, and temptations with no promise of relief this side of heaven. i interact and engage with a level of brokenness every week that most of the world tries to ignore or sweep under the rug.
many times i wonder why God doesn’t just end it all, if in fact he truly is a good, good father.
it’s like a friend of mine recently stated after describing a situation illustrating an acute example of our brokenness:
“all i could do was lament that christ has not come back to heal all this already.”
fast-forward to this week.
this song has been playing in our home all week in the background.
there was nobody in the house wednesday morning when it first came on, and this song turned my busy morning into an impromptu worship session for me. tears flooded my eyes and i couldn’t get them to stop.
to my friends reading: you may not be there yet, and i want you to know that that is ok. though i’m here right now, i may not be here next week either.
today i believe he’s a good, good father. there is a coming a day when he will make all things right. and we hope for that day. we expect it to occur. and we groan for it.
“i consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. the creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. for the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. we know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:18-23)
here’s something we’ve been trying lately that’s been working for us:
kids love games. so we made one up.
(really, it’s just 2 questions that we all ask each other… but since we called it a game, that’s what adelina thinks it is.)
the rules of this “game” are quite simple:
everyone has to answer.
and everyone has to be honest.
when it’s your turn, you have to share one BAD choice you made that day, and then you have to share one GOOD choice you made that day.
shanna has been really great about helping our kids focus on choices as either good or bad. we’ve been trying to avoid referring to people and ourselves as good or bad (the theological component of that will come later when they’re older), but rather, as people who either made a good choice or a bad choice, at a point in time.
on top of that, it’s important for our kids to see that we as parents blow it too from time to time. every day actually. and there is something powerful in the faith development of children and teens when they know they’re being led by people who are real and transparent about their shortcomings.
let’s face it… we all know they know we’re not perfect. and us telling them isn’t giving them license to do it, if it’s framed and explained in the right way.
these 2 simple questions have given us many great in-roads to celebrating and praising good behavior, as well as conversations (without being in the heat of the moment) where we can explain why certain behaviors are bad and not something we want to continue. some nights, apologies are given and moods are turned completely around.
what do you do around your table to make the conversation meaningful? i’d love to hear what’s working for you in the comments!
i’ve been thinking lately about what it is in people that makes us perceive someone else to be “safe” while others to be “unsafe”. i’m not talking about the ‘hey-little-girl-want-some-ice-cream?’ kind of unsafe here… but rather, the degree in someone that communicates to us that it is not ok to open ourselves up to. or the degree to which i can look at someone and trust them and be totally comfortable sharing the real me without sugarcoating and hiding and glossing over the truth.
let’s face it… some people have it. and some people don’t.
over the years, there are definitely some people i’ve not shared certain things with. part of that has been due to my own immaturity and need to be comfortable with my own imperfections, but they are still worth noting. real ministry is done in the context of real relationships, and if these things mark your life, you probably aren’t (perceived as) a safe person.
when you only share the good things in life i wonder if you’re safe.“do you ever struggle, or am i the only one?” if you only share the good, people will tend to think that you’re not comfortable talking about the bad. they know it’s there in you just like it is in them, but if you’re not cool with going there, then they know they can’t truly fit in around you.
when you spiritualize everything we talk about i wonder if you’re safe.“do you always have a verse for everything?” i’m not knocking scripture memory here or bashing the value of talking in ways that ascribe glory to God… but sometimes i think people hide behind spiritual cliches because it gets them out of uncomfortable moments. when i’m hurting, sometimes the best thing you can say to me is nothing at all. just being there with your mouth shut will communicate trust in ways that your words never could.
when you never share details about your life that could make you vulnerable i wonder if you’re safe.“do you ever stop managing your image and let down your guard?” if you’ve never inadvertently asked me to extend grace to you because you’ve shared something potentially vulnerable about yourself, what makes you think i will share something vulnerable about myself and expect to receive grace back? relationships are a two-way street, and the best way to get something out of me that will make me vulnerable is to lead the way by sharing something about yourself that makes you vulnerable.
so how do you be a person that others open to?
do the opposite of the above.
share the good… but also the bad. and don’t leave out the ugly. talk about your losses just as much as your wins. when someone asks how you’re doing, give them an honest response, and watch for how they react. share the things about you that are messy and raw. and let people in on the parts of you that God is still working on.
our generation is hungry for authentic people to open up to. will you be the one to lead the way?