“My son, pay attention to what I say; listen closely to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to a man’s whole body. Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you. Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; keep your foot from evil.” Proverbs 4:20-27
If there was a way as a parent I could keep these words ever before my children, I would. This is just a few lines of wisdom amid the thousands that God’s word gives us to live well and make good decisions. Solomon is specifically speaking words to young people in these first few chapters, although the principles are beneficial to all believers. I have tried to guide my children in God’s ways and shown His love for them the best I knew how yet they have still been given the gift that we all have in this world. Free will.
Free will when not guided by godly principles can lead to difficult circumstances and hard consequences. Yet God is compassionate and slow to anger and desires that all will come to Him. In His economy, there is always a point in the pain or He can take what the enemy intended for evil and bring good out of it. I believe a subtle lie that the enemy tells is that if we do right things that will bring a right result. So, for example as a parent, I can guide them in all the right directions, leading from experience and what God’s word says but they still have the ability in their free will to choose outside of that. Stuff happens. Decisions are made based on wants or needs or wounds or lack or fleshly desires and those do not go unanswered. The ‘right result’ as we may see being fit, did not occur from right things.
As people we have a false sense of having more control over others and situations than we actually do. It plays into our fear and so we grab on even harder. This is not to say that we give up trying to be a moral compass and pray like crazy that Holy Spirit will guide our children or others into right behaviour. It does mean that we need to give the reins over to Him and trust that the struggle that comes from these situations will strengthen our faith and help us to release control.
I am reading “Idol Lies” (Facing the Truth about our Deepest Desires) by Dee Brestin. Let’s just say it is a timely kick in the butt. It is bringing even more revelation to how often, easily and in what ways I turn to other things before God. It gives me more grace for the free will ability we operate in. And a greater understanding of the grace of God when we constantly are turning from Him and breaking His heart even more. His heart breaks because He knows the idols we run to are blocking our intimacy with Him.
I used to parent so differently when my daughters’ were younger. Until they were 11 and 9, I did not know Jesus. I parented those younger years under the illusion that I was the end of it all, that I had to control them for the ‘right’ behaviour’. Be good, look good, act good, my wisdom was all there was and it was warped because it was based out of my own insecurities and sense of unworthiness. I thought the way my children behaved had a direct correlation to my character. I performed for love out of my lack of identity and so inadvertently, I taught them to do the same. (Insert broken heart here)
But Jesus came. He forgave me my sins, He gave me eternal life and I love Him. He redeemed me and showed me a new life, new hope, new desires for my children. There are many ways my life and others around me have been impacted for what He has done in my heart. But there are parts of my heart that I kept hidden away, areas where my trust had been broken and so I held them as a shield but it actually created areas of stone that God could not transform. One I am realizing through Dee’s book is my idol of control. I missed the memo that God just wanted me to be faithful and the results were up to Him. Yikes.
I began this post with a proverb and I love how Dee clarified the purpose of a proverb. “The book of Proverbs, like every book in the biblical canon, is divinely inspired, but we must understand its genre. A proverb is a maxim (statement expressing a general truth or role of conduct) that we should follow because it leads us to the wisest path. But it is a probability, not a promise.” She says one of the most misunderstood verses is Proverbs 22:6 ‘Train a child up in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.’ This may be true and is the wise direction to head toward but it is not a promise.
I write this to say that nothing is too hard for God. I am saying despite the stones in our hearts and the way we have been taught and trained is not the end of the story. He does not just want to give us salvation and eternal life but soul transformation and abundant life here and now. We are not a lost cause. Hope Lives! God is in control, not me, not you. We will experience frustration, guilt and discouragement if we try to be. Trusting God will bring peace, freedom and encouragement. The solution does not lie in ‘doing more’ but in having a better understanding of the gospel and Christ’s love for us. In this understanding we will be far more willing to turn from our idols and run to Him.
My heart these days is best described in Lauren Daigle’s song ‘Once and For All’ when it says, “Oh let this be where I die, My lord with thee crucified. Be lifted high as my kingdoms fall. Once and for all, once and for all.”
To my children and grandchildren, beautiful and broken and pretty darn amazing, God is not finished with us yet. The best is yet to come.