Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Free Falling In Life

Tracy at The Best Parts has a series on my favorite book (at the moment) Families Where Grace is in Place, by Jeff VanVonderen. Please go over and read the past few posts and then buy the book. It has been a paradigm shift for me as I re-evaluate my past parenting and marriage and what I want to become in the future.

One part of his book that still has me thinking is the whole idea of what and who we are on the inside and what and who we pack onto the outer core of ourselves that people see.

He addresses it like this (my paraphrase). You have two children. Both children do not really yet know that they are loved by Father (God). Both children are empty on the inside and long to be validated. They both long for belonging. They are both lost. But one child packs on “good behavior.” They get good grades, go to church, are the leader in their youth group, don’t smoke or drink, wear dress up clothes without screaming, and would never think of marriage outside another church kid. The other child packs on “bad behaviors.” They dress Goth, listen to the wrong kinds of music, hang out with “undesirables,” won’t play by any of your rules, bad grades and all the rest.

VanVonderen asks us, which child needs loved, needs God and needs to shed all the outer lining of their lives and become real to know Father in his Love and Grace? Both children are headed toward the same place of emptiness. One just looks better getting there. We are so much more at ease with the first child than we are with the second. (I realize that some of this is because the child with good behavior will not have to face the same consequences as the child with bad behavior.) But the point is – both children are empty inside and need love and need to know that Father loves them. Only then will the outer shell truly reflect who and what they are and healing will be able to happen.

I understand this. I even like this. But I hate living with this. Here’s how:

I feel like I have no measuring stick. No way to determine if my kids are doing well or not. No way to know how to accurately judge anyone else let alone know how to even judge my own heart. It is a free falling feeling with no base or ground. Only God really knows their heart or mine. I, on the other hand, have only the exterior to figure out how someone is doing and now I can’t use that measurement in the way I've been accustomed.

I can’t describe to you the sheer, unnerving frustration of not having any way to measure myself or others (Note: not that I'm saying it ever really worked). In my kids’ lives, if they were doing well – we basically left them alone and felt good about them and ourselves (but sometimes only to find out that they really weren’t doing well at all inside – where it counted). The child with bad behavior got the attention but only to attempt to get them to exchange bad behavior for good behavior. We knew only God could change their hearts but it did not make us stop trying to pack good behavior onto their outer self. I was still sure that right choices would produce a right heart. “Do right, Feel right,” was my motto.

But now that all “rules” are falling off - now that I am exploring walking with Grace, I find it unnerving to lack of a set of parameters to assure myself that all is well. How do I evaluate my own heart today? Am I OK? Should I be doing something more? Less? Am I learning to trust Him today? Should I pray for this or that? And how about my kids? How do I help them “walk with God?” For instance, how do I decide if a man is right for their lives? A year ago this man had a very, very narrow door to fit through to be deemed appropriate for my daughters. Now, what do I judge it by?

Being a Pharisee was so much easier. Now don’t start yelling…I know it wasn’t really but it did give a false sense of security that I found attractive and addicting. A false sense of security that I wrapped around myself with a sigh of relief. The law made me feel more secure. I knew what I had to do, I knew what others needed to do and I knew how to determine if we were winning or loosing.

Now that the false security blanket of Law and Rules is gone – it feels so…..out there. I’m free falling and I don’t have a clue. I hope the “Whoever” that packed my parachute was trustworthy and being particularly careful. He promised He would be. If not, there is going to be a terrible mess.
Picture from here. I loved that there was a community falling together. I think ultimately that is what everyone has been talking about the past few days.


Fred Shope said...

One thing I've had to come to terms with in living in grace and dealing with others, including my adult children, with grace is having to completely trust that the Father knows what he is doing, and that the Spirit is big enough to work in their lives as well as mine and form us all into the image of Jesus.

Barb said...

I have notice that...I have a much bigger God who needs to be involved much more than before. Good reminder.

Jeannette Altes said...

Hmm... free-falling. A very good description. I feel like I am doing so without a parachute. I have to trust that I am really in His hand, not falling...

Anonymous said...

Relax..... We didn't really know anything before, We just thought we did......

Love ya,

Barb said...

But we were SO SURE!!!!!

Anonymous said...

As the kid of parents who went through a very similar situation at our church as you and your husband did at your CLB, I've gotta say, I'm on the same page with you in a lot of ways with this post.

What stick do we use to measure things once the pharisitical views of a church no longer hold? Five years since I've left my church, and I'm still struggling with that idea. I have trouble seperating the "rules" from what really is true. I swung from the extreme perfect little christian girl to badass college student and am just now finding that both were equally unfulfilling. So now, I'm journeying to find the real truth to "measure" my life, my heart, and my own decisions by.

Here's to hoping all this free falling leads us somewhere.

Barb said...

GKWV, Great example of emptiness in both places. Thanks. I think it is our older children who will be even more effected than we are/were. Thanks for commenting.

Anonymous said...

You know, I never thought about things in that way. I think the key is to keep pouring into our kids' lives regardless of how we may view their journey. We need to always view them as individuals (not expecting one to be like the other or comparing them to one another) and keep open communication so they know we love and support them. Ultimately, the most important thing we do for them is pray! If we pray and seek God, He can give us true insight into what our kids are going through and what they need from us as parents.

Anonymous said...

My wife and I are reading through that book right now. I think that it was published quite a while ago, but is so timely for us today. Just the week prior to picking up the book, we had been talking with our young married Sunday Bible class about the curse and how our churches are teaching marriage and family principles based on the curse of Adam. No wonder we argue about headship and such! We are using curse principles to run our families! We are having so much fun "breaking the rules" within the confines of an organized church.
Keep up the good grace!


Jennifer @ Conversion Diary said...

Yet another great post. And yet another occasion where, despite our different backgrounds, we're in the same place!

Since we converted to Catholicism there's no shortage of guidelines for living. However, I worry that my children will get comfortable just following the "rules" and never take the initiative to ask the tough questions as to the how's and why's behind them, to really make the faith their own.

Also, given my background, it's so unnerving to me to be raising Christian kids. I've never really seen it in action. I've never seen a family pray together, never seen parents talk to their kids about Christ and what he did for us. I have no idea what are the right ages to introduce all the different lessons about God and some of the more tough stories from the Bible. I worry so much that I'll somehow mess it up, that I'll do something wrong because I'm so out of my element.

Who knows...maybe this is God's way of leading me to lean on him more. Knowing me, if I felt confident in my ability to raise Christian kids it'd probably be an opportunity for pride to slip in, and for me to fall into the mentality of not needing God's help as much.

Anyway, thank you for another great post!

Barb said...

Tiffany, that is so true. They are each such individuals. I have trouble praying for them sometimes now though. Mostly because before I was so SURE what they needed. Now I am so sure that I DON'T know everything. I find it comforting to just pray for their "daily bread" - what they need for this day today. And mine too!

Barb said...

Kevin, Yes it was published in 92. Im amazed I just found it as I love to read. Sounds like a lovely group you belong to. Glad you have found people who like the rule breaking life!

Barb said...

Jennifer, I love your stories of how you talk to your kids. It seems so fresh. I like that you are having to invent those things to say to them and that they have not been repeated to you throughout your lifetime. I hope you always keep that approach and never let any group speak for you to the point that you quit speaking to your own kids. So much of my life I didn't realize how much I let the "church" do the work for me. Now I actually pray for opportunities to share with them and they happen at the most crazy moments.

I'm grateful for your example.