Sunday, September 1, 2013

Blessed family

It's Sunday morning here in Rockford and know that hundreds of families all over the world will be just be getting home from or going to church of some sort.  And some will be dressed up.  They will have that plastered smile on, Bibles in hand, traipsing in an entourage of children in white anklets and Mary Janes.  The buzz cut boys with suspenders on and winged-tips shined will open the doors proudly for their mamas.  And the music starts.  The patriarch of the family puts his arm around his filled-out wife who lovingly gave up everything to surround him with a quiver of whipper-snappers.  And we say "isn't that a blessed family?"

And it is.  sort of.   Probably the preacher is praising them right now, in front of everyone, making sure everyone "knows" what a blessed family looks like.


And behind them, several rows back sits a highly tatooed woman with her second husband.  He loves Jesus, but he's out of work.  His self esteem is on the floor, and the kids show it.  The little ones are burping and wiggling and passing gas.  The older daughter is wearing a low cut tank and skinny jeans, arms crossed; thick eye liner covers her sullen eyes.  Yeah.  Now they're not getting any praise from the preacher, but they listen intently to every thing he says.

Of course they were late--they always are.

But their bright eyes are just shining for Jesus.  Just that morning they committed (again) their future to a loving, provider.  And they are able to put their urgent needs aside to eagerly drink in the word of God.  And they have so many.. so many needs.  Should they focus on getting the older sister saved? or the little ones trained?  Should they look somewhere else for work? And the list goes on and on.  Sometimes the Dad just buries his head in his hands and weeps during the entire meeting.  But when he leaves, he knows God loves him.  He and his little wife are trying so hard to make up for the lost years of living for the devil, but it is so hard.. so hard.  But just last night, despite his reading difficulty, he tried reading the Bible out loud to his wife.  She listened intently and tried to be respectful and hopeful. This was an attempt at spiritual leadership, and she wanted to be grateful.  Anything..  Lord, so me anything.. by way of your leading us.  And for the moment, she was encouraged.  And she occasionally just wanted to hide under the bed from her kids, her life.. Was it supposed to be this hard? And why is it that the preacher gave all the praise to this family over there?  Oh, if only her husband could be like him-- a true spiritual leader. But in her heart, she had a peace.  Her mind was made up.  When she gave up her wicked lifestyle and surrendered her life to Jesus, everything changed. The alcoholism, the fornicating, the swearing.... she even made her man move back in with his mother until the wedding.  There was no turning back now.  She was forgiven, and this is what God provided.

And the front row family?  Pride and fear of failing expectations kept them from getting help for the real problems surrounding their lives.  Ever since the preacher starting holding them up as the example, they felt they had to be impervious to the general struggles of others.  They weren't allowed to have doubts, fears, and pain.  In fact, in order to cover that pain, they became out of touch with their real feelings and soon lost the ability to be transparent in front of others.  Soon enough the desire to appear to have it all together would overtake their ability to even be transparent with God himself.  And, as expected, a great shallowness of faith permeated their very beings.  And God wasn't doing his part.  He wasn't answering prayers or "blessing them" as they used to know in their earlier years.  And quite honestly, it was just too plain hard to trust God anymore.  Following rules, performing externally were far too easy than going through the emotional struggle of figuring this out.  And so they memorized religious catch phrases.  They trained themselves to do perfunctorily, almost as if, belching out God's praise.  This too, eventually, became an anathema to them, since it represented a time in their not so recent history that they sang the praises of God from the heart.  Yes, that seemed like an eternity away.  And they comforted themselves that they were clearly in the line of God's blessing because of the deeds of obedience that they were performing, and trust me, they were performing many: homeschooling family extraordinaire, singing, orchestra, modest clothing blogs, men's ministry, women's ministry, hospitality, and so much more.

And we sit back and wonder..   Yes, this is a completely fictional story.  And no, it is not autobiographical or biographical.  It has been written to point to the two extremes.  

And to answer the question: Who in this story is the most blessed?

4 comments:

Mrs. Santos said...

My prayer always, "For me to live is Christ!..." And "Christ, who is our life..." "It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me..."

If we, as Christians, believed this and lived it nobody would be put on a pedestal but Christ. This story reminds me of the two men praying, the tax collector and the pharisee.

We boast in our weakness...Such a good post. I love the way you can paint a picture with words. God bless you.

Karen Peatt said...

This has really made me think. I am not religious at all (in fact for a long time I have believed that no god would be cruel enough to cause my disabilities. Your post has changed my thinking.

kathrynwarmstrong said...

Great contrast between a dying, superficial relationship with God and the deeply moving work of grace...like the "one who has been forgiven much loves much." I'm reading a book by Tim Keller called "Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism" and one of the (many excellent) points that Keller makes is that we can see God's work most clearly in those who have departed furthest from the Truth. Unbelievers can look at many Christians and think, "Well, they're no better than I am," or "I'm better than they are" but that's not the point. The real point is: how far has God brought them from where they were?

It's all God's work regardless...His mercy, His grace, His work. It's just our job to believe and by God's grace abide in the Vine.

Herding Grasshoppers said...

It's often easier to put on the outer "godliness' than to face up to the inner yuck.

In your story, well... I hope both families are blessed, but the second seem more honest.

Julie