Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Missing Link

“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;”
I Timothy 2:5

Are there people in your life who don’t get along? What can you do when you love two people who seem to hate each other?

In the Bible, the book of I Samuel 14, we find a story of a beautiful friendship between two young men, David, who was a shepherd, and Jonathan, the son of King Saul. In Chapter 18, and verse 1 the Bible tells us “that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.” From his youth, David had been anointed king of Israel by Samuel, the prophet. We won’t go into the whole story, but with the passing of time, there was a certain tension between Saul and David. In the same chapter, verse 9, Saul watched David suspiciously. In verses 6 and 7, returning from a battle, Saul heard the women singing the praises of David, because Saul had slain his thousands, but David his ten thousands.

On several occasions, Saul threatened David’s life, and tried to kill him. Jonathan was David’s best friend, but he was also the king’s son. There’s a very sad passage, where Jonathan appears to convince David that his father, the king, would never try to kill him. He wanted to “fix” the relationship between his father and his best friend. In a certain sense, Jonathan became a “mediator” between these two men whom he loved dearly. He failed. Saul was a deceiver, a liar, and a hypocrite, and once when it would have been very easy for David to have killed Saul, he saved his life instead. Saul cried, pretending to humble himself before David. But the first chance he had, he tried once more to take David’s life.

A link is one of many rings that form a chain. The dictionary uses the word “bond.” If only one link is missing, the chain loses its unity, or its bond. It’s broken. In a sense, Jonathan tried to be the missing “link” in the relationship between his father, Saul, and his best friend, David. Without a doubt, Jonathan loved both men. Perhaps he suffered, because of the enmity between the two people in his life whom he loved most. Surely he felt a great sorrow having to live between two men who couldn’t get along.

Perhaps you have two family members who don’t speak to each other. Maybe your parents are divorced. How sad when we love two people with all our hearts, who are enemies. And sorrow upon sorrow when they’re our parents! Think very hard before you even consider divorce. Think of the effect it will have on your children. Even though your children are grown, they need that security that “my parents love each other.”

What can you do when you love two people who don’t get along? Perhaps because of a problem, two of your children don’t speak to each other. Maybe two of your siblings, perhaps two of your dearest friends, can’t stand to be together. In a significant way, you can be an “intercessor,” the “missing link.” It’s possible that those two people in your life love you dearly, as you love each of them. Just as David loved Jonathan, I believe King Saul must surely have loved his son, also, although he tried to kill him once. (I Samuel 14:39) Had it not been for his being rescued by the people in verse 45, he would have killed him. Although Jonathan failed in his effort to restore the relationship between David and his father, and he was never to put that broken friendship back together, to a certain extent, he was the “missing link.”

When friendship’s chain is broken, it’s because of a missing link. And you could be that missing link. What should we do to repair a broken chain?

1. Pray for both of them. Remember, you can do a lot to help a relationship, but only God can change hearts. When two people don’t get along, it’s because there’s a problem in their hearts…in one or both. Ask God to change their hearts.

2. Ask God to show you any fault you may have in this broken chain relationship. Sometimes, we’re so close to two people that we don’t realize that we may have a negative influence. Our prayer should be like that of the Psalmist David: “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23, 24

3. As much as possible, don’t take sides. Try to remain neutral. That’s hard, because sometimes it’s obvious who has the blame. Do you find yourself in that kind of a relationship? Are there two people in your life whom you love with all your heart? They may not hate each other, but they at least show disgust toward one another. It hurts. It makes us shed tears. In broken relationships, rarely is only one party at fault. To some degree, both are responsible. But you can see the great part of the blame lies in one of the two people you love dearly. Try not to take sides against him or her. Do you know why? The chain is already broken, and you don’t want to break another one…your relationship between them and you. When you begin to take sides, you risk damaging the relationship you have with one of them.

4. Sometimes, when we’re with the person who seems to be the innocent victim of a broken chain, there is a temptation to speak badly of the guilty one. Gossip, criticizing someone is a sin, and even worse when you are criticizing their enemy. That makes the situation worse, and you, who should be the strongest link, instead of repairing the chain, are making it even weaker. Watch your mouth, especially when you’re in the presence of one of your loved ones.

The Bible teaches that when a person rejects Christ, she’s an enemy of God. There’s like a breach, a gulf between the two. Ezekiel 22:30 says, “And I sought for a man among them that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none.”

Jesus loves us. He loves His Father, and when He sees that the relationship between two people that He loves is broken, it makes Him sad. The Bible says in I Timothy 2:5 “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;”

There is only one Person Who can “fix” the relationship between God and the sinner…Jesus Christ. There’s no one else. There is absolutely nothing we can do to deserve God’s love. It’s all by grace. “For by grace are ye saved through faith;…Not of works,…” Ephesians 2:8,9 You may think you have no enemies, but if you don’t have an intimate relationship with God, you’re enemies. Remember, Jesus not only wants to be our Friend, He paid the price so that you could have His Father as your best Friend.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

With my youngest grandbaby, Elisa

Me with Elisa Faith Knabb, daughter of Jason and Sarah, missionaries to Vera Cruz, Mexico

Saturday, May 8, 2010

MY KIDS AND ME - Chapter 2

“Falling in Love” or “When Mama Ain’t Happy”

Now, some of the titles for this book may seem a little strange to you and totally unrelated to life with my children. This book is about what I learned from them. One of the great lessons of my life has been that I affect those around me. My mood swings, my disposition, my attitude all affect not only my children, but the people with whom I live and work.

This is valuable knowledge in living a happy life, whether you’re raising children, flowers, or chickens. If you believe you’re an island, you’re going to have a hard time raising children…at least happy ones.

Did you know God saw the importance of “atmosphere” when He created the earth? It was “without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.” So the first thing He did was to create light. He could have made us in such a way that we could have moved about in total darkness if He had wanted to. But He made light so we could enjoy the beautiful flowers He intended to make. He made night, so we would feel drowsy in front of a cozy fire, and He also made night for romance. Didn’t He? Yes, He did. Romancing with your Sweetie takes on a dreamy dimension at night…candlelight, soft music…Don’t you ever think about why God did what He did in the beginning? Or do I have an over-active imagination? I don’t think so.

The memory of the atmosphere we create in our home is going to stay with our children for the rest of their lives. Their disposition and their temperament largely depend on the atmosphere at home. We’re taught, and I agree, that children are born with certain “bends.” In a family of say, eight children, for instance, all raised in the same atmosphere, same parents, same night time routine, one child will be easy-going and always happy. Who cares that not everyone loves him. He is going to love you, and get along with you. Sleeping in the bedroom next to him will be a little girl who has fought her entire way through the day. She loves the challenge of keeping everyone in line. She doesn’t really care how many enemies she makes during the day, just so by bedtime she’s been able to get at least one sibling in line, with as much punishment as possible.

But at least from my experience, when children grow up in an orderly household, where Mama is happy, usually everybody else is, too. And if she ain’t…neither is anyone else.

So what does “falling in love” have to do with anything? I pray this prayer for several of my children every morning: “Help _______ and _______ to fall in love with ________ and to love it more than any other place on earth.” Because if they don’t, neither will their children. Their children will grow up hating the place where God has called them.

I say this from experience. I literally hated San Cristóbal when we moved here thirty-eight years ago. I won’t even be pious and say like I have in the past, “but as I got to know the people, I began to fall in love with San Cristóbal,” because that’s not really true. I’m not talking about people…I’m talking about places. I’m talking about the place where you are right now. Maybe you’re lying in a hospital bed; maybe you have to cook dinner from a wheel chair, or in a hot steamy kitchen. Ask the Lord to help you to fall in love with where you live.

I can still remember the almost eerie feeling of walking the streets of San Cristóbal when we first arrived. There were no flowers in the yards, or at least if there were, they were not visible from the sidewalks, because San Cristóbal is a colonial town, and everything is gray, and concrete…that was my first impression. Gloom, adobe walls, narrow streets, ugly, ugly, ugly everywhere you looked. That was in February, 1972. Thirty-eight years later, the streets are still narrow, the walls still hide what could possibly be lovely gardens, and the sound, almost like a castle-echo, is what you hear if you walk down the streets this afternoon. So what has changed? I have changed. Not even the people have changed. They’re still very “Coletos,” a term applied to people from this little mountain village. No, the one who has changed is me…or is I…or am I, to be grammatically correct.

I love my town more than any other town on earth. The climate is an average 72 degrees. I live on the outskirts of town, but it’s still noisy, with street vendors, and occasional religious parades, and water trucks that sell my bottled water. I love sitting in my bedroom with the drapes drawn before daylight, and knowing exactly when to turn off my porch light, because the birds start singing at precisely dawn.

No place on earth can compare to my town. I wasn’t born here, and I didn’t grow up here, and I’ll guarantee you, it wasn’t love at first sight. It was a gradual falling in love.

I don’t know if my children were old enough to feel my hatred for this town years ago. They may not have known what made me cranky, or critical, or crabby. But I was, because I lived for the day when we would make cross-country trips from southern México where San Cristóbal is located, to the United States. And I’m ashamed to admit the thoughts I used to have about never coming back.

In my book, Tom and Me, there is a chapter called “I Stayed.” I don’t know where you are, but if you don’t love the place where you are, more than any other place on earth, the only way you’re going to “fall in love” with it is to stay there. Stay put. Know how you do that? You don’t leave.

I’m afraid our children are growing up to hate the place where they live, simply because we don’t make it a happy place.

I don’t know what circumstances are making you unhappy with your surroundings, but you can make it very pleasant and a happy place for your children.

So if it isn’t the people that make a place happy, what is it? I say it’s the memories. We’ve made memories with our children in the most desolate situations, in the unhappiest times of our lives. I remember the time Anna was only two months old, and we were returning home from the States. We had a bad wreck, and our pickup and travel trailer turned over. Miraculously we survived. By then we had five children, and the trailer was actually our home. But some of the most precious memories I hold dear to my heart are those made that week in the hotel room where we stayed while our insurance company was settling with the man who caused the accident. With a family of seven, including a baby, you can imagine the laundry…and no laundromat! I laughed until my side hurt at the sight of my husband “changing cycles” as he washed clothes in the bath tub…from gentle to spin to regular to rinse…how the children laughed as Daddy did the laundry.

The scary moments?...the terrifying feeling of reliving every moment of the wreck…yes, they were there. But what I remember most was the picnic down at the river, making new friends at the hotel, hanging my laundry out on the hotel roof, and using the closet shelves as kitchen storage. Like falling in love in a romantic atmosphere, precious memories are what make for a life long love affair with the place where God has put us.

There’s a divine element in falling in love. Worldly love affairs are all about the physical. But true love from God is more about the spirit, that nameless, indescribable attraction toward the one we truly love. If you leave God out of the picture, and out of your life, I don’t know how you make sense of anything in the first place. That’s what tears families apart…looking for that perfect town, that perfect job, or school, or church, even, can create an unrest, a dissatisfaction not only in us, but in our children as well.

Whether it’s peanut butter sandwiches under a shade tree in the back yard, or reading to our children, or playing games, you can make some happy memories. When you’re not happy, neither are your children. Fall in love with the place God has chosen for you to live. And so will your children.