DIFFERENT PEOPLE. DIFFERENT VALUES.
I love being a mom. I think I'm a good mom. I have some parenting strengths that have helped me maintain a solid connection with these little (not so little) people through all kinds of ups and downs. I've developed deep-seated values along life's way that make space for the soul, prioritize a connection with God, and pay attention to the heart "for from it flow the springs of life" (Proverbs 4:23, ESV). In many ways, these serve me well and remain solid value systems in my life today.
Still, whatever these strengths represent, they have some serious downsides when raising little people into future adults. So often I can't decide whether to laugh or cry as I watch Brent step into fatherhood like an absolute hero and try to correct all the crazy ways I"ve messed them up!
I am an artistic personality and decided early on that life was something more than a clean house, a list of tasks, and a tight schedule. If the girls want to pile all the pillows in the house on the living floor and have a sleepover inside their "nest," I say, "Sure!" If it's raining in that perfect warm downpour outside and the girls want to put their bathing suits on and run out into the puddles, I say, "Do it!" In these moments, I don't care about chores. I don't care about homework. (Selfishly, I care about the repercussions I'll experience on the other side, particularly the amount of time it will take me to clean up the mess...). Still, what could be more important than connecting with nature, making room for a surge of creativity, and expressing our delight in being alive!?
Imagine a family unit where I am the sole parent. My personality, values, and preferences are shaping the culture of our home and the lives of the littles within. Boy, were we a soulful, connected mess when we met Brent!
Though Brent is the master of spontaneity and wild adventures, he values discipline and responsibility as a dad. He has excellent boundaries and objectivity in parenting. When we set out to go somewhere, he expects us to arrive at point B in a timely manner. When we start a project, he expects us to finish it before moving on to something else. He tends to move from task to task, project to project, with some spontaneous adventures thrown in as often as possible.
So while brent is working to keep us on task and moving from point A to point B on any given subject, I stop everything and say, "Look, girls! Look how that vine is weaving itself up the tree! Doesn't it take your breath away (even though we've seen it a hundred times before)!" or "Oh, is there something stirring in your heart? Let's push pause and explore what's going on to deepen our connection with God and each other. Our task can wait for another day."
So often, in the run of a busy week, Brent and I collide into the tense friction of opposing values. Diversity presents itself not only in the global varieties of our current culture but in the most intimate places of our lives and hearts.
UNITY IN DIVERSITY
Learning how to blend our parenting, hearts, and lives have been one of, if not the hardest thing either of us has ever set out to do. Why? Of all the things? Of all the challenges? Why this one?
At the core of our fallen selves is this need to shape the world according to our own desires and preferences. We create a world in which we are at the center, and therefore diversity becomes a severe discomfort! There have been times in our blending that I have looked back to widowhood and thought, "At least I could live how I wanted to live and parent how I wanted to parent." Doesn't that sound just like the Israelites who longed for the soggy food of slavery in Egypt (Exodus 16:3) when God was leading into wealth and abundance?
Our selfish minds trick us into all kinds of bad thinking. We were better off alone. If only we had someone to meet our needs. Somewhere back there we had more control. We start to crave an imagined happiness that flows from an imagined life revolving around ourselves. Deceptively, this appeals more than the life of cost required to build anything new or that blesses many.
KINGDOM LIVING AND GLOBAL COMMUNITY
Right now our world is a clash of values. Though a global community is championing tolerance, acceptance, and unity in diversity, our selfish hearts struggle to build such a reality in our families, neighborhoods, and communities. Even within the church, we have allowed dividing lines of separation and a tribalistic culture to mute our testimony to the Truth of Jesus and His incredible vision (and provision) for the whole of creation.
Though good people are doing good things everywhere, Jesus longs to restore our hearts to unity and oneness in Him! In Him, we find a way of life that meets the needs of our individuality as well as the whole. In Him, we discover an uplifting life of purpose through our humility and self-sacrifice. All these things come into a life-giving balance when we align ourselves to Him.
Losing our lives to find Life in Him is how we become people who change the world.
God is stirring in this generation a breed of disciples who advance across dividing lines and demonstrate a love so captivating that it calls the whole world to attention.
But how do we get there? Where do we start? We learn this courage in the context of our marriages, our friendships, our relationships with parents, bosses, coworkers, and kids. We learn the way of Christ in the smallest and most invisible places of our lives before fruit can manifest itself into a global movement.
This generation may want to end slavery, but we will not accomplish it if we don't learn how to love our neighbor. Our lack of love will continue to draw lines of separation that create spaces of slavery for other people.
There is slavery in marriage, in parenting, in teams, and on playgrounds. Unity in diversity happens only one way, as we learn how to love.
LEARNING TO LOVE
Jesus' love is so radical because it doesn't see lines. It doesn't notice separation. It doesn't realize, "Oh, I'm not supposed to talk to that person, touch that person, or become friends with that person."
Jesus sees humanity. He honors the one within the whole. Every one has dignity and is an essential part of the whole that is humanity. In fact, the one is the whole and the whole is the one.
This is the simple profundity of Jesus' ministry. "Love your neighbor," He says, as though it was easily done (Leviticus 19:18, Matthew 5:43, Matthew 19:19, Matthew 22:39, and more)!
START WITH THE PERSON IN FRONT OF YOU
Brent and I pay what is often a painful price seeking to live as a unified whole, but man, have our kids benefited. Our sphere of influence has widened and the wealth of our lives has deepened. There are times we've felt crushed under the weight of compromise and self-sacrifice, but the culture of our home is expanding and morphing to represent new, diversified values that feel like kingdom living. Slowly but surely, we're learning how to love.
Where is there tension and friction in your small world of up-close relationships? Who do you avoid due to opposing values, unhealed wounds, or lack of preference? Where are you lashing out in fear or withdrawing your voice into a constructed and controlled reality (self-protection)?
This is where God's kingdom is nudging, asking to break out, in the secret places of our hearts and the invisible spaces of our intimate relationships.
Start here, and before long, we'll be equipped with the kind of love that can restore a broken world to unified oneness.