Confessing Their Sins

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Sin is contagious.  I’m sure you have heard the saying, “bad company corrupts good morals”.  Sometimes we think we are strong enough to be salt and light, to be the good example, and a witness to those in sin.  Many times the Lord uses our faithfulness to lead others to himself.  But if we are dragging sin around with us, our saltiness can lose its flavor.  Remember the first time a woman sinned and how easily, how quickly, her husband jumped in after her.   It isn’t just the visible sin that is contagious, it is also the secret sin.  Sin clouds and confuses and creates all sorts of blindness, not only for us but for those around us.

We have had a seriously rainy season here in Louisville.  I can only remember five or six sunny days since February.  Maybe there have been more, but my point is that we have had days upon days of rain.  In this area of the country we also have thunder and lightning with our rain.  Being a Georgia born girl, I love a good, loud thunderstorm.  I love the smell of the rain, the rumbling thunder through the clouds, the sudden black cloud cover as the storm rolls in, and the freshness in the air as it rolls out.  My daughter does not feel the same way.  She is terrified.  It started with a fear of the being struck by lightning.  We never ventured out in storms.  Her fear escalated over the months to the point where she would close the curtains if she saw a cloud, or refuse to go to the park if she saw a thunderstorm warning on my weather app.  We prayed, we talked about being brave, we read books about weather, and researched how to stay safe.  But still, if a cloud appeared the poor girl was curled up in the corner of the house afraid to move too close to a window.

It became apparent to me that things were getting a little ridiculous, and the issue was far beyond thunderstorms.  Her fear was very real to her and she was fighting with learning to trust in the midst of fear.

I pray for my children often, for their futures and for their present struggles.  I prayed for my daughter to have courage and to learn trust.  But what I kept realizing was that I was making the same request for myself.  My own struggle with worry and fear and forgetting to trust a God who has always cared for me is constant.  My sin, although silent, was contagious and contaminating my daughter.  Instead of praying that she would have courage, I began confessing my own lack of courage.  Instead of praying that she would learn not to be afraid, I began confessing my own fear.  I cringe when I realize how many thoughts I have wasted in being afraid of things that are not happening, of being worried about possibilities.  If I do not confess my own fears and worries, my children will not be able to conquer their own.  I will keep infecting them.

We opened the front door to watch the lightning last week. She sat next to me on the stair, squeezing my hand, but she did not cry.   She hasn’t checked the weather app in days.  Her courage is growing.  The root of the struggle is being uprooted, beginning with the uprooting of my struggle.  The speck in her eye is coming out, beginning with the plank in mine. In the spiral of confusion as I tried to lead through this struggle, I found my foothold in confession.  People say that children are like mirrors, and people are right.  They do not just mimic our outward personality traits and our open struggles, they also mirror our inward sins, our fear, our discontent, our silent disobedience, our dishonesty, our worry, our disrespect, our ingratitude, our envy, our bitterness.  Sin is contagious even in silence.

We have been talking a lot about the Israelites on their first visit to Canaan.  They peared over the wall and were afraid of what they saw.  Their fear was legitimate.  The Canaanites were strong, they were many, and they were powerful.  In comparison the Israelites were like tiny grasshoppers.  From a practical standpoint, the odds were against them.  But they forgot how full of power their God is, and that He can make a city fall with only the sound of a trumpet.  THe Lord was not happy with their fear and He sent them back into the wilderness to live the rest of their days.

“Do not be afraid” I tell my daughter every day.  “Do not be afraid.” I tell myself.  I could spend a long time explaining that the fear of a thunderstorm is unfounded, but that is not the point.  She will eventually find something to fear that is real, something that can actually hurt her.  So I tell her not to let fear control her actions, to have courage, and to believe that the God who has crushed enemies with their own city walls holds her in His hand and we are very safe.

Who Is My Neighbor?

When I was expecting my first child, an older woman gave me the best nugget of parenting wisdom that I have.  She told me to always remember that my child is my sister-in-Christ before she is my daughter.  I have clung to these words in so many situations as I am learning to be a mother, and found this to be an extremely helpful perspective to have even when my children are young.

For this season, the Lord has handed me the authority to teach and train these people.  But this season is temporary, and ultimately these children belong to Him.  Their lives are a story that He is writing, not me.  As much as it feels like they are just part of me, they are not.  They are God’s, and they are my neighbors.

Many confusing moments in parenting can be solved with remembering to treat my children like they are my neighbor.  It is not my responsibility to make sure that my children are perfect.  I gave them to the Lord, and He has them in His hands.  He told me to train them, to teach them, and to love them, but their personalities and their characteristics are created for His purpose.  This perspective influences my decisions, my words, and my attitudes.

When my children are continuing to disobey after many corrections, I am called to be patient, just like I would with any brother or sister in Christ.  Instead of sharing embarrassing stories or sins that my children have fallen into, I am called to kindness.  I am called to be self-less, to consider them more important than myself.  I am called to protect them, to hope in them, to persevere with them, to believe in them, to love them.  I have witnessed many parents being more kind to strangers than they are to their own children; yelling at their children, but speaking kindly to everyone at church; giving time and resources to others, but being stingy with their children; giving encouragement to friends, but criticizing their own children on every front; showing compassion and understanding to other children more than to their own.

I recently read an article entitled “The 10 Most Annoying Things About Kids”  The list was something like this…

  1. They are always there
  2. They never stop asking questions
  3. They are sticky
  4. They never listen
  5. They are loud
  6. They are always whining
  7. They are perpetually covered in snot
  8. They are filthy
  9. They are the kings and queens of inconsistency
  10. They are clumsy

Maybe this is why parents have such a hard time treating their children with the love they would show to a friend.  But isn’t this what I have been called to in Christ?  To love the unlovely?  To take a snotty-nosed, whining, loud, clumsy person and show them love?  To wash them and feed them and fix their hair and buy them pretty clothes and teach them patiently and correct them kindly?  When Christ was asked “Who is my Neighbor?” He answered by giving a story about a mess of a man who was cared for by a kind Samaritan.  When my children are throwing fits and refusing to swallow bites of meat and annoying each other, when they are generally just a big mess that is getting in the way of my quiet, clean life, can I take them up and care for them with limitless generosity like that Samaritan?

Obedience has a funny way of carving the path of our perspective.  The more I obey, the more I love, and the more I pour myself out for these people, the more my perspective changes.  I don’t see them as snotty-nosed, whining, loud, sticky, clumsy, selfish people.  I see them as princesses and princes of our King, the King we both serve.  When I obey, I see them as my sisters and my brothers in our Lord.  Although they are helpless, when I am kind to them, the annoyances of caring for them quickly melts away.  And what is left?  Gratitude for the years we have together, and with gratitude, love.