May 27, 2011

‘Raising The Fruitful Child’: Complementarity and Family

My 'guest blogger' today is my friend Wendy Lin. Wendy has kindly contributed this very helpful piece as part of my on-going series - 'Complementarity and Family'. Thank you Wendy!

When I think about which parts of Scripture have greatly impacted our family relationships, there are many parts I could choose from – great promises of God for salvation, the assurance that grace alone by the blood of Christ has saved us, how God’s love has changed us, and many more.

However, when Sarie asked me to write this piece, the one verse that kept coming to mind was Galatians 5:22-23a:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” 

-Matthew, Zoe & Amy Lin-
I have always loved this verse, since my early days in the faith – it seemed to cover all aspects of the Christian life. It was a goal to aim for, even if I knew I failed. Now, as a parent, I find these descriptions now on my tongue, more than they ever were before.

Since the children were born, my regular prayer point – both for my own personal prayer, and for anyone who prays for me – was that I would be more a patient, kind and gentle mother. This is from someone, who at one point, would have thought she really was a rather patient, kind and gentle person! Boy, did having children ever cure me of that delusion!

I find parts of this verse ringing in my ears regularly. That is for many reasons:

-    even at the moment, Geoff, my husband, is preaching through the fruit of the spirit, and I have enjoyed listening to his sermons, and being challenged about my own ‘fruitiness.’

-    we listen to a lot of kids’ Christian music in the car – Colin Buchanan has this verse as a memory verse on ‘Boom Chicka Boom’ and he has other songs about self-control, etc. Also, the ‘Sovereign Grace Kids CD .To Be Like Jesus, focuses on the fruit of the spirit. 

I suspect sometimes the message is more for me, than them!

I now purposefully use the ‘fruit of the spirit words to encourage my children in godliness:

o      ‘It’s lovely to see you being kind to your sister’

o      ‘I know he was annoying you, well done at being self-controlled and not fighting back.’

We try to use these terms to challenge their expectations of the world around them. My girls love to think they are pretty. They put on a new dress - ‘I look pretty’. I do their hair a special way and they say ‘now, I look beautiful’. While we affirm that yes, they are beautiful, what I find myself saying again and again is “You are beautiful, and you are beautiful because you have a kind heart.”

When my son struggles to tame his anger, we can talk about self-control. We talk about how it’s OK to feel angry and upset, but we still have to be self-controlled about how we express it.

As I’ve thought about it though, it’s easy to focus on some fruits of the spirit rather than others and some fit more easily into conversation – kindness, gentleness, patience and self-control, for example. We use them to define expectations of behaviour in our kids.

However, what about peace? Joy? Faithfulness? Goodness? How to teach these to our kids?

The same way we teach everything, we model it ourselves. As we continue to try to live our lives in a ‘manner worthy of the gospel’ (Phil 1:27) it can be our hope and prayer that our children will see and learn from us. We can talk about being thankful for the things around us – that Daddy is paid to talk to people about Jesus, that we have a house to live in and food to eat.  Does that correspond to joy?  I hope it will, and that our attitude of expressing thankfulness is a joyful one.

If I were to think about each of the fruits of the spirit and how I want to model them to my children, perhaps they might be these:

-       Love – that they always know & believe that they are loved. By God and by Geoff and I. To tell them often that we love them and that God loves them.

-       Joy – for them to know that we have joy in the promises of God, whatever our circumstances. That we speak more of being joyful. That we are thankful for the many blessings of God and we talk about it.

-       Peace – that loving others is more important than winning the fight, or standing up for our own rights.

-       Patience – that we are patient with them, and we listen.

-       Kindness – that we speak kindly, not quick to raise our voices, but calmly. To each other, to the children and to others.

-       Goodness – that we always try to point out the good in a situation, and that we look for the good in others. 

-       Faithfulness – that we have an ongoing committed faithfulness to following Jesus and God’s word, and giving it priority over everything else.  But that we are also committed to keeping the promises we make - to everyone.  If they see us always keeping our word and valuing honestly – I think an understanding of faithfulness grows along with that.

-       Gentleness – in some ways this seems like a mix of patience and kindness, perhaps it adds an element of touch?  That we touch the children gently – give them cuddles and hugs and we speak gently, rather than harshly.

-       Self-control – this can cover everything – self-control in our speech, our actions, our attitude, the way we manage our lives.

By no means am I saying we do all this! This is more like my own ‘wish list’. There is nothing like caring for children to point out your own sinfulness, your pride and your selfishness. At the same time, caring for them has instilled such a desire to teach them of God and to live a life that is worthy of the gospel. By God’s grace, as we continue to try to live godly lives, it’s our prayer that our children are also learning to do the same. 

-Wendy & Geoff-

May 19, 2011

Grief Just Is...

My 'guest blogger' today is Narelle Jarrett. She ministers as the Archdeacon for Women's Ministry in the Sydney Diocese. 

Thanks yet again Narelle for your wonderful wisdom, insightful teaching and godly example.

I have written this in response to an article on 'singleness' that I read on the web this morning.  Unfortunately I've since lost the link and haven't been able to track it down again. The article was largely exhorting singles to be 'content' and not 'self-pitying' or 'complaining'. 

Here is my comment to the writer of that article.

"Thanks for your article on this topic. However I wonder if you move too quickly to the resolution of 'trusting in the Lord and the wonderful promises of the resurrection' and, consequently, haven't given any time to reassuring singles that what they suffer is 'grief', that grief in singleness is OK and that grief refuses to be dealt with by logic. 

Grief demands to be recognized and allowed to be what it is - an uncontrollable emotional response - sadness - in the experience of a great loss. 

No one chooses grief - it just is
It sweeps across us unexpectedly, it catches us by surprise and it refuses to disappear just because we want it to. 

It demands acknowledgement, it demands that we pay attention. That is why it is so cruel when we are called to 'trust God and get on with serving'....  In most instances we are in fact already doing just that. 

We have been trusting God throughout our lives and the sudden onset, or the re-emergence, of grief doesn't mean we have stopped trusting God. Rather, it is the demand of our emotions to us, to pay attention to what is happening inside us - that we are grieving. 

It is only as we allow ourselves to grieve and talk with God about our grief that ultimately we will recover our equilibrium and find our settledness again. As with all grief, it is beyond our control.

Because the griefs of singleness and of not having children are so deep, so real and so totally right, they can't be dismissed or dealt with by anything other than allowing ourselves to grieve.  Grieving with the friends who understand and who don't imply we are being self centred or self-pitying or even that we're doubting God's goodness. Such hurtful and totally inappropriate, even cruel responses to women and men in grief, do not help. In fact they add to the isolation and loneliness of grief.

It is true that God binds up the broken hearted and He does that as we are allowed to express the grief we feel. As with all grief there is no timetable for recovery. Grief just is. 

How good it would be if preachers began speaking of the reality of this grief and affirmed the single in the reality of their grief and prayed for them.....without any tag lines like 'and help them to serve you Lord and to find their contentment in the wonderful opportunities you give them for serving'. I have never yet heard a preacher speak to discontented marrieds in such terms. Nor do we imply that marrieds are being self centred or doubting God's goodness.

I know singleness from the inside; I serve the Lord with a glad heart. I've been an adult single for over 50 years; I've learned to grieve and to live with what is an extended grief. I've learned to allow myself to be a human being, and I've also learned that servant hearted women who are single need to be set free to grieve.  In such a context of loving concern there is great comfort and support.

And finally, if anyone is worried about this, you can be sure that God will look after growing us to Christian maturity in His time and in his way for, each one of us is very important and precious to Him, and He loves us dearly". 

We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers.
We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ”.
-1 Thess 1:2-3-