Saturday, February 13, 2010

Secret Keeper

Being able to keep a secret is a good quality in a friend. There are those friends you can tell your crazy life story to or your deepest, darkest secrets and know that you are safe. I have some friends like that and cannot tell you how thankful I am.

There are times, though, when keeping secrets is not a good thing. It seems I am a pretty good secret keeper with my own heart. I'm in the process of learning that there are parts of my life and heart that I have not been willing to give to my husband. There are things I am too embarrassed to tell him, things I don't want to share, things I just want to keep for myself.

I have tried to cling to the fact that I deserve some personal space. Do I get nothing to myself? Can I not just hold on to these few things? Are some places too deep and emotional for me to share?

God is helping me open up in a whole new way in my marriage. I am enjoying the intimacy of the vulnerability of sharing everything. It's not stifling like I thought it would be. Vulnerability has helped me unlock places in my heart and share them with him. It makes me eager for time alone with him. I get excited for the kids' bedtime not just for peace. Not just for the chance to do my own thing. But because it's just the two of us. Why did I think my way would be better?

I have known that marriage is a reflection of God's love for his church. I've read it, I've heard it, I've said it. The amazing thing is that as God deepens our marriage, He doubles it up by deepening my relationship with Him. And guess what? There are areas of my life and heart that I have not been willing to give to God either. I foolishly try to hide things from the all-knowing God.

Pouring out and giving over all those parts of my heart is opening the door to a new level of intimacy with Him. He longs to have me give every part of my life and heart to him. He welcomes even the bad parts. He loves us. In that place of love, I have found out how much I love Him. I don't just love the things he can offer me, but I love who He is.

I need to allow my heart to be cracked open and poured out. I want my hurts and fears to be heard and comforted. Vulnerability shouldn't be something I run away from in my marriage or my walk with God. Keeping things to myself is not a statement of independence, it's a statement of ignorance.

So it turns out there are times I shouldn't be a secret keeper.

Psalm 86:11-13
Teach me your way, O Lord,
and I will walk in your truth;
give me an undivided heart,
that I may fear your name.
I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart;
I will glorify your name forever.
For great is your love toward me;
you have delivered me from the depths of the grave.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010



Forgiving is difficult and I'm finding it a hard thing to teach my kids. When a friend or sibling wrongs them it's easy to get angry and look for revenge. I know that is not the way I want them to respond. Nor is it the right response.

I have not always been the most forgiving person. It sometimes feels good to hold a grudge. It gives me a reason to be self-righteous and prideful by focusing on the terrible things other people have done. But that's not God's way.

In Matthew, one of Jesus' disciples asks Jesus how many times should he be expected to forgive his brother. He thinks maybe seven times is a generous start.

Jesus responds, " I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times." Matthew 19:22

That seems a bit excessive. I usually feel pretty indignant. How could they do that to me? That is way more than I could possibly be expected to forgive.

But Jesus goes on to tell the story of the Unforgiving Debtor. It's found in Matthew 18:21-35. There was a king who forgave a large debt after the debtor begged for mercy. When the debtor left the king he ran into a man who owed him a little. This man begged him for mercy and he grabbed him and began to choke him. He refused to offer mercy and had him thrown into prison.

When the king finds out about it he calls the servant in and says,
"You wicked servant, he said, I canceled all the debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you? In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he could pay back all he owed." Matthew 18:32-34

It's easy for me to be critical of the debtor. How could he in all the mercy he had been given be so cruel?

Jesus says, "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive you brother from your heart." Matthew 18:35

How could I be so blind to the forgiveness God has given me? He has forgiven me each and every time I have sinned. He suffered and died for my unrighteousness, bitterness, and gossipping mouth. How could my gratitude of forgiveness not flow right out of my heart into other people?

I've heard people say there are certain things they could never forgive. But God generously offers everyone forgiveness. No one is perfect except him. Forgiveness doesn't mean brushing things under the rug. It's about getting things out in the open and giving them over to Christ.

What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. As it is written:
There is no one righteous, not even one;
there is no one who understand,
no one who seeks God.
All have turned away,
they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
not even one. Romans 3:9-12

I've always thought that it's important to forgive because it will eat you up if you don't. There certainly is truth to that. What this story spoke to my heart this week was that when I refuse forgiveness I am playing God. Forgiveness is God's gig and He offers it to all. Who am I to say that someone doesn't deserve the grace I have so freely and generously received?

So along with teaching my kids to have a soft heart of repentance, I want them to have a heart full of forgiveness. It's not easy to talk about sin but that is the pathway to God's sacrificial grace for us. That is the crux of the gospel. Forgiveness takes on a whole new meaning when we are the one that needs it. I think that is how God opens up the floodgates of forgiveness; by showing us OUR need to be forgiven.

As I work with my kids on forgiveness, God is opening up my heart. I think I'm going hang up some signs around the house that say "70x7" as a reminder.

Who do I need to forgive? Who do you need to forgive?

"Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive and the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity." Colossians 3:13-14

Monday, February 08, 2010

Soft on the Inside

Our kids bicker a lot and I don't know why. Maybe it's because there are so many or because they are so close in age. I wish they didn't. Hopefully we will move in the direction of peace but I know there will always be skirmishes.

The worst offenders are Jenna and Abby. They are different as night and day, 18 months apart and share a room. Abby has 50 Barbies and Jenna wants to throw up when touched by Barbie hair. It's pretty much a recipe for disaster.

Last Friday they came in the house yelling and crying. Jenna shoved Abby and when I told her to stop she slammed the door in her face. Abby really tries to be nice but Jenna will have none of it. After several infractions I really had to get Jenna's attention. I had to push her to brokenness. The more I talked the angrier she got. But sometimes the process of getting a soft, repentant heart hurts.

I found myself telling her the very thing God is showing me. We've got to have a heart that is open to correction. A hard heart won't be changed. And we all need to change. It's the whole point of reading the Bible, praying, listening to the Holy Spirit, and following Christ. He changes us to be more like him.

I am stubborn and like to dig my heels in. I don't want to change. I definitely don't want to admit I'm wrong. And if I won't, why would my kids?

It's a more important lesson than to stop being mean. It doesn't need a punishment like being sent to your room. It's a heart problem: pride, selfishness and anger. Those things need to be washed away by Jesus. I want my kids to be willing to take correction, admit when they're wrong and change with Jesus' help.

The amazing thing is that while I didn't think I was getting anywhere a little ray of hope broke through. Jenna had a friend over and Abby brought their drinks to the table for them. Jenna said, "Thank you Abby." in front of her friend. I felt like a had witnessed a parting of the Red Sea type miracle.

I am so thankful for and amazed by the work of God in our lives. Through tough kid situations like living with a little sister and tough grown up situations, He softens our hearts and changes us. He washes away the yucky stuff and replaces it with His joy.

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow leads to death. 1 Corinthians 7:10

Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance? But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.
Romans 2:4-5
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart,
O God, you will not despise.
Psalm 51:17