Because this morning, God spoke to me. In case you're wondering, I will admit that it was not an audible discussion, but it may as well have been. Sometimes--or more truthfully, often--I forget that God does speak to us, as clearly as if we were standing right in front of him. The question is, are we listening?
I will no longer hold you in suspense. Here is the story:
Last night, at the dinner table, Eric and I were discussing whether or not children are a product of their environment. We were able to look at several children we knew, their families, our own, and come to the conclusion that yes, children are surely a result of their environments. For instance, what are the values that parents are instilling in their children, and how do we see that play out in their behavior? What birth order are they? Oldest? Youngest? Were they sheltered and hugged every time they took a tumble, or were they picked on by siblings? Et cetera...
Nora is a little spitfire, as I've said in previous posts. She will allow only a certain amount of cuddling before becoming frustrated with the confinement and trying to escape our kisses. Surely a result of how much we smothered her with love when she was a baby--and, I might add, would continue to be doing if she let us. Apparently there is such a thing as too much lovin'.
Anyway, I went to sleep last night feeling a bit overwhelmed by it all because, if the above is true, then isn't it my job, as a parent, to do my best to control that environment that shapes my children? If I don't protect them from those experiences that could harden them to life, make them bitter and angry people, isn't that on me?
This morning, God said otherwise.
I was doing a devotional reading in 1 Peter 1:1-9. For the sake of making an already verbose story a bit more concise, I will only delve into the relevant part of the passage which begins like this: "1) Peter, an apostle of Jesus the Messiah, to God's chosen ones who live as foreigners among the Dispersion of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, 2) who have been set aside in advance by God the father, through the sanctification of the spirit, for obedience and for sprinkling with the blood of Jesus the Messiah. May grace and peace be poured out lavishly on you!" (1 Peter 1:1-2)
The commentator to the devotional, NT Wright, starts right off the bat by explaining: "This is what Christians are: chosen; set aside; sanctified for obedience; sprinkled with the Messiah's blood!" So, then, is it not about our ancestry, social status, class, birth order, family name, or anything else? If we take what the Bible says to heart, then it's about only one thing: our identity in Christ. This alone ought to be what shapes us.
Even more, Wright encourages us to remind ourselves daily of who we really are, or else we will begin to listen to the "insidious messages we get from the world around (that we are who we are because of who our parents are, where we live or how much we earn)."
...Seriously, could God's voice get any clearer?
The world is always trying to shape us. Its voice seems, at times, much more persuasive than God's. The problem with not understanding who we are in Christ, is that it can make us give up on evolving into a more mature character and faith before we ever really get going. How easy is it to lower your own expectations for yourself, telling yourself that you are a victim of your upbringing? You don't expect yourself to be any better given the circumstances, and neither does anyone else. How easy to compare yourself to others who have had similar experiences, and feel better about where you are--but not compelled to go any further.
Unless we know who we are and the designs that God has for our lives, we will allow our environments to shape us. Maybe without us even knowing it.
But when we know that he has called us to greater heights and greater depths, perhaps we are more willing to live into those things. Perhaps we will actually believe we can reach those places and make the consequent changes in our lives.
As a parent, I am learning that, although the environment that Nora grows up in is important, teaching her of her identity in Christ is exceedingly more so. If God's voice is louder and clearer than all the other voices around her then it won't matter what earthly experiences she has. This is what it means to become like a house, built upon a rock. Steady and sure, by God's great grace.