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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Golden Goggles

What a difference perspective makes.

One Olympian is devastated to receive a silver medal while another makes history with a bronze. One Olympian rejoices like the greatest victor making it to third place while another Olympian totes a sour demeanor as a second place finalist.

Throughout the Olympics I’ve noticed a recurring theme transcending every event. There are athletes only happy with a gold medal, and there are athletes who would be happy with any medal at all. There are countries who have never received medals in certain events and others who are expected to receive gold in every event. For me, the layperson at home, I marvel at the attitudes of some receiving silver or bronze medals. One athlete even sobbed uncontrollably at their disappointment receiving a silver medal.

If there was an event for coffee drinking I might have a chance at Olympic gold, otherwise my days will be spent in the mediocrity of mundane every-day living while the “real” champs make millions in endorsements.  I’d like to think if I was talented in a given sport, was honored enough to make it to the biggest forum the world has ever known, and took away a silver or bronze medal-beating dozens of other world-class athletes-that I’d be thrilled beyond comprehension. I’ve seen that response in a few athletes, but the overwhelming take-away from many post-event interviews is that anything less than gold is trash.

And what does this message teach? If you work hard, sacrifice much and come in second place you’re a worthless piece of garbage? What a shame. I’ve seen interviews where athletes are practically defending their silver/bronze medals to a broadcaster determined to squeeze out a dramatic interview. “Oh, you must be so disappointed you didn’t get gold.” One athlete responded to this statement (loosely paraphrased)”I’m at the Olympics and I’m on the medal stand-I think that’s good enough.” Bravo.

And how often does this type of thinking play out in every-day life? We have big goals, big dreams, and great ambitions-and then we fall short. We feel there is only one outcome that will work, and when that outcome isn’t realized we are sobbing in second place. Our golden-goggles blur our vision of greatness.

Could it be that maybe, just maybe, our less-than-grandeur finish was what God had planned for us all along? That perhaps our un-notoriety was the greatness God destined us for? Isn’t His plan the best plan, and His outcome the best result?

There’s nothing wrong with high aspirations, but we must remember our plans are not always His plans. When we’ve done our best and come up short of what we expected, we have to trust His purposes. That place of trust is the only place that soothes lost dreams and dashed hopes.

“Commit your actions to the Lord and your plans will succeed.” Proverbs 16:3

If I commit every action to the glory of God, the outcome will be a success in God’s eyes, though not necessarily in man’s eyes. I want to wear the golden goggles of God’s success. I want to be okay with His outcome. I want to have His perspective.  What color goggles do you have on today?

“We can make our own plans, but the Lord gives the right answer. People may be pure in their own eyes, but the Lord examines their motives. Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed.” Proverbs 16:1-3

Dear Critical Christian….

Dear Critical Christian,

I was so delighted to hear your request to understand my purpose in your life and the life of other Christians. I will address a few issues you seem to have recurring trouble with, and offer suggestions to help eradicate those feelings.

Critical Christian, I realize the family around the corner may appear to be in constant financial distress, but please try to refrain from suggesting the wife get a “real” job. What you may not understand is she is doing exactly what God has called her to do by raising her children at home and teaching them as instructed in Deuteronomy 6.

Critical Christian, I know the music is a bit loud every week at church but your mind may be put at ease through demonstrating your acceptance and understanding of your Pastor’s worship decisions. Reading 1 Timothy 6 will prove beneficial in this area. If it seems more than you can bear, you could consider a different congregation with the more aesthetically pleasing sounds you prefer.

Critical Christian, I understand you hold personal convictions regarding the use of alcohol, but I must refer to Romans 14. The family across town may not hold the same convictions as you. Just as you believe going to the theatre is perfectly fine while they choose to not own a television or view any secular media. Each person is subject to God equally, and will answer for their choices. Pointing fingers at everyone else’s decisions is tiresome work and I wouldn’t want you to get an ulcer.

Critical Christian, I know you feel bitter about the success of the family next door, but I would like to point out they have worked hard for more than three decades to attain what they have. They did not win the lottery but saved and sacrificed most of the time to make ends meet. Their hard work paid off, and now they enjoy the fruits of their labor as well as generously sharing their goods with their neighbors.  Be assured if you work hard, be a good steward of God’s blessings, make wise choices and generously give to those in need as God leads, you too will reap great rewards. I cannot promise your reward in this life on earth but can assure your reward in the Kingdom of God will be great. Matthew 25:14-30 illuminates this principle well.

Critical Christian, I sympathize with your ill feelings towards the family across the way and their poorly behaved children. I understand they are loud, rude, and often troublesome. I thought you may want to know that despite appearances, their parents have recently given their life to the Lord. As new believers they are uncertain how to apply Biblical principles. It may be good to remember you never really know what’s going on behind closed doors, and it’s probably best to focus on your own family and training your kids as commanded in Deuteronomy 6. As you understand my work in your life to a greater degree, you will be given opportunities to share it with other believers.

Critical Christian, my time is running short and there are many others requesting my presence in their lives, so I must end this letter.  I pray you come to a perfect place of peace, letting nothing offend you as is written in Psalm 119:165.

Love God’s law with all your heart and serve Him with gladness. Memorize Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 and practice it always.

Preach truth with your life always more than your words, for your life will validate your words.

Read Matthew 5-7. Study Matthew 5-7. Invite the Holy Spirit to live Matthew 5-7 in your life daily.

You may also enjoy reading words of wisdom in James 1:20-26.

Finally, Critical Christian, remember that to speak the truth in love first requires a heart of love. Any words of truth from a heart divided will certainly fall on deaf ears. You may consider memorizing Ephesians 5:1-2 as well.

Study Jesus and His example, for he and I are intertwined as one. There is no greater demonstration of my work than through His life and message.

A final warning: your experience of me may be hindered if you become deceived with your fleshly desires or the Enemy’s lies, so keep in fellowship with the Father always. John 15 explains this well.

The best advice I could leave with you regarding my work in your life is found in 1 Peter 5:5-10. Clothe yourself in humility and my presence will pour over your life continuously.

Sincerely,

Grace

Free to Fear

Suggested Reading: Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

“Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.” Ecclesiastes 11:9b

The decisions of today affect the experience of God’s kingdom tomorrow. We weren’t created for this moment, we were created for eternity. Likewise, our choices have an eternal weight. Life is fleeting, our youth wanes, but His word endures for all time.

We are free to choose fun, free to choose hobbies, free to choose jobs, and free to do as we please but God, enthroned above all, is free to judge His creation.

“Fear God and keep his commands” is undoubtedly the wisest advice ever penned in Scripture. Obedience in this point will result in obedience in all points. One choice stands between mercy and wrath; judgment and reward; ruling on high or regret down low.

Freedom for pleasure or freedom to fear; I choose the latter.