When the Past Collides with the Present and Little Hearts are Broken

 

I was at my wits end. Throughout the day I had told my child to do one thing or another, and over and over again she flat—out—refused! Now, my daughter is typically described (by teachers and babysitters) as a well-behaved, well mannered, obedient child. And normally I would agree. Disrespect, lying, and especially disobedience are not tolerated in this household. Having an only child and not being able to have more, it’s sometimes difficult to be consistent with discipline, but overall my husband and I agree about most things in that area and stick with our bottom lines.

And now I had come to that moment of extreme frustration. Baffled by my child’s blatant disobedience I knew she needed a punishment that would get her attention to the seriousness of the situation. “There will be NO Easter basket tomorrow,” I told her, “And NO restaurant.” The only thing Samantha had wanted for Easter was to visit her favorite restaurant and of course, get an Easter basket like nearly every other young child on the planet. But it wasn’t happening this year. With only hours to go until Easter, I phoned my husband, who was still working out of town, and relayed the message. He was disappointed because, like me, he enjoys giving things to our daughter. But he agreed with me (and despite our “faith” differences, one thing we agreed on from the beginning was to raise a calm, well-behaved, obedient, and respectful child because they are quite hard to find these days).

In an instant, as the sentence was laid down, my little girl’s heart broke. She cried for several hours repeatedly recounting her sorrow for her disobedience. With her sorrow came the request, “Can I get an Easter basket now? And go to the restaurant tomorrow?” And each time my reply was, “No.” And I would be met with a fresh wave of tears.

In that moment, holding my daughter’s sobbing body in my arms, I knew it was time. It was time to tell her what Mommy had done so very long ago. It was time to tell her, though she was still young, how serious sin is and why sometimes the consequences of our choices are not removed.

“You know, Samantha, when I was young I made a very bad choice. I not only disobeyed my parents, but even worse, I disobeyed God. My sin was very serious.”

“What did you do, Mommy?” Her eyes were wide with curiosity. She was realizing her Mommy wasn’t perfect after all.

“Well, I can’t tell you what I did just yet. It was very bad. Maybe when you’re older I will tell you exactly what happened. But for now, all you need to know is that I disobeyed God’s commands as well as the instruction of my parents. I wanted my own way, but what I got instead was a very serious consequence.”

(And, after a few moments of explaining what a “consequence” was, our conversation continued.)

“So, after your Mommy sinned, I received a bad consequence for my choice. I became sick with a disease, something that will never go away.”

Samantha began to cry again, “Are you going to die?!”

“No, no, no. I’m not that sick. It’s just something that will stay with me for the rest of my life, and it causes me a great deal of pain at times. Even though I told God how sorry I was, and even though I asked Him to take away the sickness, He chose not to remove it. Now the sickness reminds me of how important it is to follow God’s word and how God gives me ‘rules’ in order to protect me. ‘Rules’ like obeying my parents even when I don’t like what they’re telling me to do.”

“Ohhh…” She nodded in understanding.

“So, tomorrow, you will not get an Easter basket and we will not go to the restaurant. I know you’re sorry and God knows you’re sorry. I forgive you and God has forgiven you. But that doesn’t take away the consequence of your choice to disobey. Sometimes God doesn’t take away the consequences. And you know what? If I didn’t discipline you for your disobedience, then I would be disobeying God’s instructions. And I will not do that. So, unfortunately, we will not be doing the things you want to do tomorrow.”

We proceeded to discuss examples of people in the Bible who sinned, and whose consequence was not taken away (Adam and Eve, Lot’s wife…etc.). But we didn’t stop there, we also discussed the concept of mercy, and how when Jesus died for us, He showed us mercy in not giving us what we deserved. So now, because we believe in Him, we get to live with Him forever, even though we don’t deserve it. Sometimes we get mercy, and sometimes we need to experience the consequences of our choices to help us remember to listen to God.

We also talked about how our sin not only affects us, but others as well. Her daddy and I were both disappointed that we couldn’t give her the things we wanted. Not only does sin hurt us, it hurts others.

It was a great opportunity not only for Samantha, but for me as her parent. I admit, I was struggling with the idea of not getting her something for Easter, because I knew she would likely be met with a class full of children in Sunday School excitedly talking about all the neat things they received. I didn’t want her to feel left out. But I knew this life lesson was far more important than a few pieces of candy and some plastic eggs.

And you know what? Easter came, and she and I went to church with joy. In Sunday School she received a pencil and a single plastic egg filled with candy. She was so ecstatic at this gift! She practically skipped to the car as we left the church exclaiming, “God showed me mercy and I got something for Easter!”

As a Jesus-loving parent, I cannot tell you how much those words warmed my heart. It wasn’t easy to stick to my guns, as a parent, and enforce this punishment. After all, Easter only comes once a year. But in the end, God was faithful as I was faithful to obey Him (in disciplining my child and actually enforcing it). We both learned that obeying God is better. For her, she realized that the consequence is so not worth the temporary choice to have her own way (and now she’d have to wait another whole year to receive an Easter basket!). And for me, I learned that good discipline goes beyond making sure my child “fits in” or gets what all the other kids are getting. What’s more important than her measuring up to other kids is that she knows Jesus, loves Him, worships Him, and obeys Him even when it goes against what everyone else is doing. These are the life-lessons that will benefit her for an eternity, and that she will remember for years to come. Compared to a candy-filled plastic egg, that’s a pretty nice reward, wouldn’t you say?

I hope you all had a blessed Easter (Resurrection Sunday). In the Aarup household, it was the best we have ever shared together.

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profilepic3Rebecca Aarup is a redeemed prodigal, set free from over a decade of mental illness, eating disorders, addiction, and more. She now enjoys sharing her story of freedom and transformation with a lost and hurting world, as well as teaching about spiritual warfare and the importance of understanding our identity in Christ.

Rebecca is also an author and freelance writer, having written devotionals and teaching articles for a variety of publications including The Secret Place (Judson press), Evangel (Light and Life Communications), and Mustard Seed Ministries. Beyond writing, Rebecca is a wife, home-schooling mom, and Bible student at Liberty University. She lives in Glendale, Az with her husband Chris and daughter, Samantha.  You can read more from Rebecca by following her on twitter and facebook.

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So, what is YOUR word?

psalm143“What will you do?”

As I’ve heard sermons, read books, and sat through lectures throughout the year, I’ve heard the voice of the Spirit resounding loud and clear, “So, what will you do about it?” God has strategically batted that ball back to my side of the net over and over—spurning me to embrace an active faith, and it makes me uncomfortable. But then I remember a prayer I uttered, albeit not well-thought through at the time, for God to make me uncomfortable. Really, that prayer should be right at the top of the list of “things you don’t ask God”, right behind praying for patience or a spirit of forgiveness. Well, I’ve learned my lesson—God answers prayers for sure, especially the character building ones.

At the start of 2012 a friend of mine posted a blog about a challenge (read it here: MY One Word), a challenge to ask God about what “word” to focus on for the following year. That sounded neat, so I gave it a go. I cheerfully got on my knees and asked God what my special word for the coming 2012 year would be, I anxiously listened, hoping to hear prosperity, success, purpose, or anything along those lines. Instead, after a few moments of silence, I heard “perseverance”.

“Um, Lord, really? I mean…really?” Some of my friends were getting words like “go” and “action” and I got perseverance? I didn’t like it; I wanted to take back the prayer. What was God thinking, anyways? I had always been somewhat known for starting things and losing interest over time, eventually abandoning the project or idea. But looking back on 2012, I can see how God used the trials of one of the most difficult years I have faced to break my pride, provide me with ultimate spiritual freedom, as well as teaching me self-discipline and yes, perseverance.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t happy to start a new year, because even though it’s just another day on the calendar, somehow turning the page and writing a new number (2013) just feels like a fresh start. I’m looking towards 2013 with great expectation—expectation in God’s revealed will (HIS Word) and not my own clever ideas. I still haven’t prayed about the new word for next year, but I’m not as scared about it as I was last year. Looking back I know that no matter what, God knows what He is doing and I can really, in fact, trust Him in all things, even the hard, painful, and uncomfortable things. That no matter what the situation, His character is constant, even if I’m not feeling like it is.

His character is constant, yes, perhaps the biggest lesson I learned this year. My character? Not so much. Which is why the prayer, “Lord, change me” has been cried out more times than I can accurately recall.

So, mingled in with words like illness, death, betrayal, loneliness, slander, hatred, consequences, loss, depression, despair, relapse, and uncertainty have been the words of truth—healing, restoration, freedom, hope, peace, purpose, fulfillment, grace, mercy, understanding, and love. All of the awfulness has actually taught me how to be an optimist of sorts. An optimist in God, not in myself. An optimist in His character, not in my ability.

I’ve asked, He has answered, and none of His responses were as expected. Through all of this I am learning that maybe, just maybe, He really does know better than I do.

“Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.” Palm 143:10

What theme has God brought to your year? What “lesson” have you learned through trials or blessings? Post your comment here or join the discussion on facebook.

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profilepic3Rebecca Aarup is an author and freelance writer. She is also a health columnist for The Christian Online Magazine, a contributing writer for Encourage 365, creater of S.E.R.V.A.N.T. Sisters women’s ministry (online), and has written devotionals/studies/articles for a variety of publications. She just released a new Bible Study The Word: Six Lessons from Psalm 119 which is available as a free download on her website or in print form from Amazon. Beyond writing, Rebecca is a wife, home-schooling mom, and Bible student at Liberty University. She lives in Glendale, Arizona with her husband Chris and 5 year old, Samantha.  You can read more from Rebecca by subscribing to her blog (it’s free) and following her on twitter and facebook.

Why…why…why?

Why….why…why?

As a mother of a toddler I couldn’t possibly recount all the times I have heard this question, “Why, mommy?”

“Because I said so,” I have caught myself replying.

However, the Holy Spirit began to convict me that my curt reply was not good enough. He brought to mind my own childhood, and how I felt about such responses. I know my parents did the best they could with what they had, and I certainly don’t blame them for my own choices, but I do wish I had been given better answers to the “whys”.

As I stood outside this morning I felt the Spirit prompting me to make a list of my purposes. He asked me, “What is your purpose?” I would think, as God, He would know! Of course he knew, but I am the one that didn’t really know, and my lack of effectiveness showed that I didn’t know. I needed to unpack my purpose and define it. I needed an answer to the “why”.

Immediately He began speaking to me, and I couldn’t write fast enough. Not just another list of dos and don’ts that I will never be able to live up to, rather a list of purposes, and why they are my purposes.  I’ll share some of them….

My first purpose was easy, “To love the Lord with all my heart, mind and strength.”

Why?

Because:

“You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and all your strength; and you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands.” Deut. 6:5-6

Next I wrote under my purpose and verse:

What have I done to accomplish my purpose today? And then I left myself several lines to record what I am doing today (and every day for a week) to reach this life goal.

Having goals is good, but knowing why you have these goals is better, and pursuing God’s goals for your life is the absolute best.

Why did God command me to love Him with all my heart? Because He created me, He knows me better than any human could ever know me, and He knows what is best for me. He also knows the only way I will ever be truly happy is to walk in His will (Psalm 1:1-2), and I need to pursue him with all that I am in order to uncover his will. Notice I didn’t settle with, “because God said so,” (Even though that statement is perfectly valid.)

This isn’t just my purpose; this is the purpose God has given to all His creation. Every human being on this planet has been given this command. It’s universal and personal.

My next purpose is another universal purpose, but also very specific for me.

“Honor my husband through becoming a true woman and wife of God, as He has commanded.”

It was challenging for me to put this next on the list. I was tempted to put a host of other things there, like loving my daughter or getting healthy (which are elsewhere on my list), but God has said in his word He is to be first, and our spouse second before the children. Ok, I need to trust God has a reason for this. (Maybe that reason is that honoring our spouses happens to be one of the hardest things to do naturally.) My “why”:

“You wives must accept the authority of your husbands…you should clothe yourselves with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.” 1 Peter 3:1, 4

Next one:

“Serve my daughter as a good mother, defined by God’s Word.”

Why?

“That they may learn to fear me all the days that they live upon earth, and they may teach their children.” Deu.t 4:10

“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Prov. 22:6

Why wouldn’t any parent want what is best for their children? The key to teaching our children comes with our primary purpose, loving God with all our hearts. Out of that first purpose will flow the rest; our children will witness us living our God-given purposes, see the blessings and reward (Psalm 37:4), and want that for themselves.

My list has nine purposes, all with a verse to answer my “why” and space to write how I am living out my purposes every day. This process has really helped me break down the questions and work to find the answers in God’s Word, rather than in man’s philosophies. Being positive and motivational is great, but it takes on a whole new meaning when we find from God’s Word why He wants us to be that way (encouraging rather than discouraging). There is a reason for the commands we are given, and it isn’t simply “Because God said so”. It is so much deeper than that. I believe this is why I have failed at so many attempts to “do” certain things. I never really unpacked my purpose and discovered why I am doing those things or how they will benefit me. It is important to find out the “why” of obedience and share that with our children, spouses, friends, neighbors, and coworkers.

Why do I have my daughter help me clean at such a young age? Because God has commanded that we be good stewards of our earthly possessions, and I not only want to show my thankfulness for Gods provision by taking care of it, I also want to teach that to my daughter.

Why do I want to eat healthy and exercise? Why do I encourage my daughter to do this? Is it so I can be liked and admired? What’s my motive? It’s because God has told me my body is a temple, and I am to honor that temple as the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. That purpose should motivate my daily decisions regarding food, activity, and what I allow my child to eat and do. When she asks me “why”, I want to give her a good reason, the best reason. This is what God says and this is why; he loves us and wants us to be fulfilled in the purposes he gave us.

When I was growing up, I really got tired of hearing, “because I said so.” Once I became a teenager that reasoning no longer held any weight with me. I wish I had fully understood how much God loved me and why he wanted me to stay abstinent, be pure, love him, and remain in church fellowship. Unfortunately I never understood those “whys” and decided my own reasoning’s were better. For several years I made many poor choices due to my misunderstanding of God’s love for me, and my lack of trust in him. These choices had many terrible consequences, some of which will remain with me until I am made perfect in the presence of Jesus.

As I teach my daughter what it means to give to others, share, love, show compassion, and serve, I want to be able to tell her why these things are important. I want her to grow up with more than a, “because I said so” response. But really, the ultimate teacher is the one who practices first what they preach. Being a doer and not just a talker, this is the greatest example we can give to those around us.

The next time someone asks you “why,” be ready to give a good Godly answer.

I challenge you to make your own list of purposes, then search the Scriptures to make sure they are in line with God’s Word as well as the “why” of that purpose.

Perhaps you could share one or two of them with me, so we can stand together in accountability. I look forward to hearing your responses!

Preparation

“Before I was afflicted I went astray.” Psalm 119:67 NIV

Preparation

What types of events might you find yourself preparing for? Perhaps it’s a musical performance, teaching a class, taking a test, promoting a product, making a speech, or running in a marathon. At one time or another we have all experienced a time of preparation. If we prepared well, we likely did well in the event, however if our preparation time was lax, our performance probably showed the effort.  I remember a piano recital where I did not give my best. Truthfully, I didn’t even give 50% of my best. I was a teenager, and I was consumed with the object of my current affection; piano recitals weren’t really a priority. Over a decade later and I still remember that day, what a humiliation! It was a dreadful performance to say the least, and I couldn’t wait to get out of there! I was too focused on what I thought was more important. It may have taken several years for me to learn my lesson, but God has drilled it into my heart that when it comes to musical performance, I can never be “too” prepared.

“…I went astray…” vs. 67

This word should be translated “to sin ignorantly”. We’re talking about a major lack of preparation.  To keep our feet on the path planned for us we need to prepare for the journey. We must know the word of God in order to follow it! If we do not know the word well, we will come under affliction, or discipline, until we have learned what is necessary to mature.

“I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” Psalm 119:11

We prepare for life by memorizing the word, storing its truth in our hearts to be ready for spiritual warfare, sickness, doubt, discouragement, confusion, or any other arrow hurled our way.

Our natural inclination:

“All of us like sheep have strayed away. We have left God’s path to follow our own.” Isaiah 53:6

We prepare for the journey by studying the word of God and being able to discern what’s “good” from what’s “best”. We need to know the difference between a counterfeit happiness and a true joy. We want to stay on God’s path, because our own path will inevitably lead to personal pain as well as pain for those around us.

“A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it. Humility and fear of the Lord bring wealth and honor and life.” Proverbs 22:3-4

Wisdom foresees temptation and has discernment; humility brings true wealth in God’s economy which leads to the life God intended us to have!

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10

When we are ignorant in the word we will stray from the path He made for us. We will fall into error and we will be disciplined (Hebrews 12:6) by our loving Father until we return to the life he designed us for.  This doesn’t mean that every “bad” thing that happens is a result of our ignorance, or sin. There is a whole book in the Bible dedicated to this common misconception (Job). However when we do find ourselves in trials, tests, and difficulties we should take that time to make sure our feet are on the path they are meant to be on. We must ask God to search our hearts and make sure we have not wandered away, chasing after a counterfeit happiness. Are we on God’s “best” path, or just our own “good” path?

The Psalmist was thankful for the affliction that brought him back to God’s path, and back in line with where he needed to be spiritually. He declared

“…now I obey your word.” vs. 67

Let us never find that our sin was caused by ignorance of God’s plan for our lives. His will is laid out in his word; it’s our responsibility to be prepared.

Prayer

Thank you for your word that guides my path! Thank you for designing a perfect plan for me and loving me enough to discipline me when I wander from your directions. Lead me to the truth that you would have me hide in my heart and help prepare me for the battles ahead. Give me wisdom and discernment that I might not ignorantly sin against you.

“Good” Parenting Starts in My Heart

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.” Deut 6:5-8

How to be a good parent in one sentence.

Society chooses to fill the minds of children with useless garbage, yet we as parents have a choice as what to teach our kids. What we allow them to spend time with, what we allow them to read, watch, and DO. All of these things truly effect their eternity, and it falls on US to teach them the right path. It is our responsibility as parents, and indeed, we will answer for our choices to teach our children-or not teach them the only thing that truly matters. Sounds serious? This is serious! Life is not a joke, and we are responsible with equipping our children with the appropriate tools to deal with life in a godly, wise way. We can’t expect them to do this unless we ourselves are living it. After all, we are immitators of Christ, and this is what we want our children to immulate in us.

We are quick to quote Proverbs “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it”, however, that training involves a lifestyle, not just filling our children’s minds with knowledge or sending them to Sunday School once a week. This passage from Deuteronomy is perfect; we are told to walk it, talk it, live it every morning noon and night. It is a way of life. It starts with us as parents. Do WE love the Lord our God with all OUR hearts, soul, strength, and mind? Let’s start there, and we won’t need to worry so much about what happens with our kids…

“Lord, change ME, teach ME, and let my child see YOU in me, and grow to love YOU as they see me loving You!”

The Song of Psalm 119

The Song of Psalm 119

 I am but a foreigner here on earth;

I need the guidance of Your commands.

 

Along the path of Your commands…

is where my happiness is found.

Give me an eagerness for Your decrees.

 

Turn my eyes from worthless things;

give me life through Your word.

Your laws are all I want in life.

Renew my life with Your goodness.

 

I will walk in freedom,

for I have devoted myself to your commandments.

Your promise revives me;

it comforts me in all my troubles.

 

Your principles have been the music of my life.

Lord, You are mine!

This is my happy way of life.

 

I will hurry, without lingering,

to obey your commands.

I am firmly anchored to your law.

The suffering You sent was good for me.

 

You made me,

You created me.

Give me the sense

to follow Your commands.

 

You dsiciplined me because I needed it,

Now let Your unfailing love comfort me.

If Your law hadn’t sustained me with joy,

I would have died in my misery.

 

I will never forget Your commandments,

for You have used them to restore my joy and health.

Your word is a lamp for my feet

and a light for my path.

 

I have suffered much, O Lord;

restore my life again,

just as You promised.

Your decress are my treasure;

they are truly my hearts delight.

 

Do not let my hope be crushed.

Sustain me.

Come and show me Your mercy.

Your decrees are perfect,

they are entirely worthy of our trust.

 

As pressure and stress bear down on me,

I find joy in Your commands.

I stay awake through the night,

thinking about Your promise.

All Your words are true;

all Your just laws will stand forever.

 

I rejoice in Your word

like one who finds a great treasure.

Those who love Your law have great peace

and do not stumble.

O Lord, listen to my cry;

give me the discerning mind You promised.

 

Let my lips burst forth with praise…

Let my tongue sing about Your word…

Let me live so I can praise You.

*I used the New Living Translation and portions from the following verses:

Psalm 119:19,35-37,39-40,45,50,54,56-57,60-61,

71,73,75-76,92-93,105,107,111,116-117,132,

138,143,148,160,162,165,169,171-172,175

Song of Psalm 119 arranged by Rebecca Aarup 5/5/11