During my holidays I was thinking of doing at least something, be it a blog or sermon on what becoming a parent has taught me about God and life with God. I am writing this on Thursday as it so happens to be Joshua’s 1 month birthday.
So surprise, surprise here we go; 3 surprising things I wasn’t expecting on becoming a parent. Some of you may resonate with some of these, for some they may be new or different, but I hope and pray that for all of us, they will result in a better understanding of God.
- The Danger of Over-managing Life.
Matt 8:18-22 When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. 19 Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”20 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”21 Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”22 But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”
Let me begin with the obvious stuff. When a Baby turns up, your previous schedule goes out the window…..even if it’s shut. However when that inevitably happened with Joshua I began to realise that this isn’t really a bad thing. I realised that with a Baby, you cannot say; “I am really busy right now but I will schedule a cuddle with him at 3 o’clock.” If you do, here’s what happens, 3 o’clock comes around and he’s a) screaming his head off, b) in the middle of a feed c) sleeping like, well, a baby and you don’t want to wake him or something else.
You have to take advantage of every opportunity, otherwise you’ll never have a relationship. When the ‘feelings are flowin’ take advantage and share that special moment.
How much joy, how much adventure, just…plain….how much do we rob ourselves of by micro-managing life? One thing John Lennon got right was when he said: “life is what happens while we’re making other plans.”
In this Scripture, Jesus came to people with the greatest opportunity that there can ever possibly be, an offer to follow him, which is in turn an offer of relationship with the God of the universe, and you know what? They were too busy.
Babies don’t play by our ‘adult’ rules. If I try and schedule Joshua into my agenda, I’m going to miss out on a relationship with my Son. But God doesn’t play by my ‘adult rules’ either. If I, if you, try and schedule God into the gaps in the agenda, we’re going to miss out on a relationship with him. Maybe that’s why no one can come to know God lest they become like a little child?
One of the best decisions we can make is to allow the Spirit to come in and overtake our busyness with and urge to worship.
- We Squirm out of Ignorance.
Isaiah 28 11-13 Very well then, with foreign lips and strange tongues God will speak to this people, 12 to whom he said, “This is the resting place, let the weary rest”; and, “This is the place of repose”— but they would not listen. 13 So then, the word of the Lord to them will become: Do this, do that, a rule for this, a rule for that.
So when a Baby comes into your life, they speak a different language than you. You speak a different language form them. Partly because you’ve learnt a language but mostly because you understand things about life that they don’t. I know stuff that Joshua doesn’t know. No big news there, I have a 31 year head start on him. I also know that one, day when I’m old and decrepit I may well be relying on him due to things he knows that I don’t.
But right now It’s my job as a parent to do certain things that he doesn’t understand. When I’m removing his clothes for bath time, it can get pretty cold for a moment. He doesn’t like that. I’m sure any one of you who has had to change a nappy or swaddle a baby will know that they tend to slither and squirm more that skink’s jettisoned tail. Moreover, my guitar amp was….the loudest thing I had ever heard before he was born.
I’m sure there has, is and will be many times when he thinks that I am being unreasonable in the very least. One night while he wasn’t quite settling, I was trying to change him and he was having absolutely none of it. Then in my rising frustration, I had a thought of absolute clarity come into my head:
“oh my goodness….you’re me with God.”
God was trying to bring the Israelite’s to a place spiritually, emotionally, mentally and even physically of REST…..And they riled and writhed against him. I began to wonder, how many times do I look back and realise that all this time God was out for my good and yet all I could do was squeal and squirm. I didn’t understand.
One of the best Tim Keller quotes I have ever heard is “God gives us everything that we would have asked for if we knew everything that he did.” This is not talking about evil and abuse done to us by others. That is the result of sin. No, this is talking about our prayer life. What worries me is that the only way to progress is to listen to God and learn his language. This is getting harder and harder for people to do in an atmosphere obsessed with self-awareness, mindfulness and eastern styles of meditation. In short, we’re increasingly told to look inwards rather than upwards.
But the hardest things that God has to say, are emanating from a heart of sheer love. Trust that.
There’s only one path to understanding, stop squirming and wait for the Lord.
- It is better to give than receive.
Acts 20:35 In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”
This is perhaps the most surprising one. Let me give you some context first. There is a commercial for ‘open universities’ on T.V. at the moment advertising on-line study. Totally nothing wrong with that but the way the ad goes is interesting. It’s the woman pointing at degrees on the wall and she’s like “Emma secured a job in cyber security, Lee got his dream office view,” (But then amidst language all about upgrading she says something really interesting) “Seriah went from building a family to building an amazing career.”
I guess it just kind of strikes me as a bit, how can I put it: ‘Seriah, upgraded from the drudgery of nurture, to doing things for herself.’ Meanwhile, we hear a lot of stories about how kids can come between couples, how they are a bit of a time vacuum and all in all an inconvenience to our own dreams goals and visions.
In fact, in a world that is all about ‘breaking out and breaking free’ of everything that impinges on personal liberty, the Bible says; actually life is a series of giving up your freedoms. When you come to Christ, you give up a certain lifestyle, When you get married, you relinquish a part of your individualism, having children means sacrificing a schedule, caring for others means inconvenience, ageing and death means accepting physical limitations and so on. Not only is this a fact of life, but it is the path to real freedom.
Jesus teaches us what Henri Nouwen called: the ‘art of relinquishment’ and I was reminded again in the past few weeks that IT WORKS, IT’S TRUE.
Why does this happen? For two reasons
1) Jesus is God and he knows what we were really created for so he knows more about how life actually goes than anyone else does.
2) As we live according to God’s Word, we are putting faith in his word and faith is creating the space for God to remodel and renovate the heart. You can’t really take someone at their Word without doing something about it and visa versa. When we step on in applying Scripture, In that moment we’re saying “God, you know more than me.”
The strange thing is, this opens the door to the greatest joy that a human heart can possibly know: the sensation of pleasing God. This sensation simply pours oil on the fire of desire to love.
As a Dad, as a Husband, there’s so many opportunities to apply the word of God. As I found myself doing evening bath time, getting a water bottle for Alycia, changing nappies, mixing formulas, running errands and the other million little things that family life demands, I found myself not getting more frustrated, but rather falling more in love with Alycia and Joshua, not (please hear this) because, I am someone particularly special but because Jesus was right.
Matt 6:21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
That is the biggest and deepest truth of the past 7 weeks and if that’s the case, there’s a decision to make.
What am I going to treasure?
Am I going to treasure that which will all one day evaporate like the world keeps telling me to? Or am I going to treasure God and the things that he sends into my life as opportunities for worship?
What are you treasuring right now?
Here’s the good news: I don’t know where your heart is at but I know this; while there is breath in your lungs it is not too late to take God at his Word.