Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Growing Down

I started this blog post around Easter time, and am just now finishing it. I don't know what that says about my pace of life. Sometimes I think I'm busy, but then I realize I stay at home, and just orchestrate naps and eating times and bath times and bed times. It's not that busy. But let's be honest, my ability to multi-task is waning. So I finished it, a few months later, but at least it's finished.

I think Easter is my favorite holiday. Especially since moving north, its definitely the one that brings the most hope. I've been trying to explain it to Eden, and I just keep telling her it means we get to go to Heaven. But it's more than just that. Easter means we get to operate as if we already are in Heaven while we are still on earth. "If any man is in Christ his a NEW creation. Old things have passed away, behold, all things have become new!" 2 Corinthians 5:17

I wish I could live with that Easter-reality every day. Every morning is new, every day I wake up and get to behold the newness of life. I get to start over again, again.

I feel like in some ways I've really embraced getting older. But in some ways, I'm still trying to hold some things at arms' length. I still forget that I'm 25, and a mother of two. And to a lot of people, I'm old. I was on a run Saturday, pushing/heaving/wrestling our double jogger up a hill when I saw a very familiar neighborhood interaction between two girls and a guy...which culminated in a lot of sideways glances and no words exchanged. (I was going slow enough I got to really watch the entire thing) And I was struck at how long ago all of that feels. Not that I miss it. But its amazing how resolved those issues are now, when I used to so struggle with them: am I beautiful? Will someone notice me? Will someone love me?

Maybe the largest evidence of my age is the fact that Chad and I were ecstatic after we bought a Honda Odyssey a few weeks ago. We gush over its space, its recliner-like seats, its navigation/bluetooth/back-up camera, and its sliding doors...because its a van. A VAN. And I'm excited about it. Ever since we put our car up for sale, we've been back and forth trying to decide which car will suit our needs. A few months ago, I swore I'd never get a van. I was set on anything BUT a van. But then as Chad and I were discussing our options and we both came to this conclusion: the only reason I was avoiding vans was for image. And what's interesting is, I no longer/maybe never even fit the image I think I am trying to protect. In fact, the sobering thing is that no one we know would even be surprised that we would be driving a van. It's kind of a running joke in our house how trendy we aren't. So it's not like I need to maintain my coolness. I walked out of the bedroom the other day ready to go shopping only to realize I had Cade's spit up down my shirt. Can't get more classy than that. The more I try to avoid looking like a mom, the more I realize its what I am. It's my season right now. But before I go making our identity about how un-trendy we are, let me just say the point is that the Lord has really used this whole van-situation to highlight my own ideas of my identity. 

Its funny how quickly we like to categorize each other. I moved a few times growing up, and I can remember I used to sort people into groups...and ironically, every new place had similar "types" of the people I left behind. The funny ones, the serious ones, the athletic ones, the flirtatious ones, the melancholy ones...etc. But sometimes this grouping can become really crippling. Even in marriage, I've put Chad in the even-keeled category. He doesn't fluctuate in emotions very much, and he is basically the same person in front of every person he knows. Which is wonderful...but that category I've put him in doesn't lend itself to alot of leg room. I can remember the first year of Eden's life Chad would suddenly start getting a little teary-eyed when she would hug him, or when we would watch videos of her, and I'd be kind of frustrated...like, dude there is only room for one emotional person in our relationship. But I am learning to stretch his box. To not keep him so confined. It's okay for him to be multifaceted and for him sometimes to not act exactly in accordance with his category.

Its interesting how what we think of ourselves dramatically affects how we interact with each other, but chiefly, how we interact with God. A few years ago I was giving Josh, my younger brother, a free lecture on life and he dismissed me by saying, "Charis, you've always been the deep thinker in our family." Which probably launched a debate between Lindsay and Josh and I about who really is the deep thinker...and I can resolve the argument only by saying that each of us thinks deeper about different things. But regardless, it was the identity Josh had given me, whereby he got to dismiss any truth I might say because it wasn't HIS identity to think the same way. Don't we do this all the time? And don't we do it to ourselves? We let our decisions define us. We let our occupation define us. And in my case, recently, I let the car I drive define me. But I want to slap a bumper sticker on the back that says, "I am not JUST a van-driving mom".

What I believe about myself determines how far I will go, how deeply I will press in, how much hope I will have. Just like that verse in Proverbs 23:7 says, "For as he thinks within himself, so is he." I've realized during exercise how necessary it is for me to talk to myself about my ability. If I get to a hard part in a run or half way through a set of burpies and I start to say, "Charis, you just had a baby. You aren't in good shape right now..." I will give up. But if I get to the point where I want to stop and I say, "You can run for three more minutes"...or "You can do this last rep"...I can perform.

I love having Eden interact and talk, and its so great to train her to love God from a young age. Not in a forced way, but talking about Him to her, about what He created outside, what He does for us, how much He loves us. Recently she got up from a nap and told me she went to Heaven and saw Jesus. Who knows if that actually happened. But why not? The great part about being two and a half is that Eden doesn't have an identity of herself that gets in the way of her willingness to believe. She doesn't sit around lamenting all her sins, and worry she isn't worthy of going to Heaven. So she goes to Heaven at nap time, or dreams about it, and doesn't have a complex about it. She's not acting prideful, and she isn't living in fear of condemnation. She just takes Jesus at the words we tell her about Him. Obviously, she doesn't get every part of it. She probably repeats what we say a lot, but sometimes its just amazing how out of the blue she'll look at me and tell me, "Jesus loves me so much." And I'll tell her, "Baby girl, if you can believe that truth now, you're set for life."

There is something about growing up that hardens our willingness to believe. I know it happens for some people earlier than others. We get jaded by failure on the part of others, on our own part, and what we perceive to be on God's part. So we lose our hope.

I was doing homework for the James study I am in this morning, and one of the questions was about what things die when we give in to sin. I started to think about the times in my life where I've wrestled with habitual sin, and even right now, my inability to stay patient and live without anxiety. And I realized that when I give in to sin it kills off my ability to dream. My horizon gets clouded, and I start to think thoughts that isolate me from the nearness of God. Thoughts like: "I am just a failure. I won't ever produce the kind of fruit God wants, so He won't ever be pleased with me. And if that's the case, I'd better just throw in the towel." I've dealt with guilt and shame just like everyone else has in their lives, and its exhausting.

As we get older and get to see our own failure, we start to 'fret against God'. Proverbs 19:3 says, "The foolishness of man twists his way and in his heart he frets against God."

I have seen some amazing people emerge from addictions and abuse, and turn to follow God, but in a few steps they take a stumble, and rather than reach up and grab God's hand, they just close down their hope. They draw the curtain on their hope and they decide they're going to stay down. Sometimes we let sin become our identity. Or we think thoughts like, "I've never really been the spiritual one, not like [so and so]. So I might as well keep doing it on my own." It's that trapping identity that can often bring such paralysis.

There is a decorative block above our guest bathroom toilet that reads: "Live as if you'll die tomorrow; learn as if you'll live forever." Not sure that anyone ever gets a chance to read it, but I love it. Because the reality is, we will live forever. Somewhere. And I want to keep growing the older I get. A pastor I love says that we don't grow up in Christ, we grow down. The end goal is to be like little children who inherit the Kingdom because they don't think they have all the answers. Eden's new favorite question is why. We ask it about everything. Why do I wear lipstick, why did Poppy paint his hydrangeas blue, etc. She knows she doesn't know. She knows she wants to know. She knows to ask. And we all need that grace, to ask and grow and admit we don't have all the answers, and what is more, we don't really know who we are without the illuminating grace of God in our lives. I don't want to get old and excuse any discipline or change or diligence by saying that I'm just made "this" way...I want to get old and every day be transformed "into that same image, from glory to glory." 2 Corinthians 3:18.

And if I've placed you in a box, I'm sorry. I don't want to box you in, and I don't want you to box me in. Among all the creatures on earth, we are the only ones who have the capacity to be transformed from the inside out. To die differently than we were  born. In essence, the only ones to be redeemed.