Friday, June 11, 2010

MY KIDS AND ME - Chapter 3

“Give it to Me!”

I’m writing this from my living room…the room that probably holds more memories of our child rearing years than any other room in our house. Our old carpet has been replaced with beautiful tile, but if I close my eyes, I can see my children lying on that old carpet in front of our record player, some on their tummies, some propped on pillows, but all totally focused on the old 33 rpm. Is it some western story? Is it the strands of an orchestra? No, they’re listening to the classic sermon by Dr. R.G Lee, “Payday Someday.” Sometimes I think children’s imaginations were much more active in the days of records and cassette tapes. Our children grew up on “Odyssey,” and early every Saturday morning, they would pile in our bed while Daddy tuned it in on our short wave radio. Uncle Charlie followed, and by then the French toast or pancakes were ready, depending on which Saturday morning it was. But the story that captivated our older children most was the one by Dr. Lee, as only that old famous preacher could tell it.

The story came from the book of I Kings. It’s the tragic story of King Ahab, and his wicked wife, Jezebel. Ahab wanted a vineyard of herbs that belonged to Naboth. But the vineyard was an inheritance, and Naboth was forbidden to give it away, no matter that it was to the king. Ahab offered to buy it from him, or to give him another one in its place. Up until then, Ahab was in his right. But instead of honoring Naboth’s explanation, he pouted, and went home to the palace. It is my personal opinion that he made a big show of his emotions in front of his wife, because she was a manipulator. He knew she was sinister enough to get him anything he wanted, no matter that he was a wimp, and didn’t have the backbone to fight for himself. There is a similarity between Ahab and a lot of children, and even grown ups. When we don’t get what we want, we pout, or we sulk. Children should never be allowed to pout. The sooner your little one learns that all the sulking in the world won’t get her what she wants, the sooner she’ll get the message of the futility of her little shows. Sometimes, though it’s just plain ole easier to give people what they want, than to put forth a little effort to do what’s right.

The story of Ahab ends in tragedy. Jezebel consoled her pouting husband by promising that by hook or crook, she would get him Naboth’s vineyard. And she did. She ordered Naboth killed, and then soothed her coward of a husband by telling him that she had indeed gotten him the vineyard that he desired.

If you are a mother of a child two years old or older, one of the phrases you will most likely hear “from the mouth of your babe,” is “GIVE IT TO ME!” Children are born with self-centered instincts. From the moment their little head or feet enter the world, (and I’ve often wondered if they aren’t shaking those little tight fists,) they’re demanding everyone’s attention, from the hospital staff, to the one who brought them into the world, and for the next two years, from anyone within screaming distance.

That’s where we come in. We must teach our babies and little ones that there are other people in this world, and the sooner they learn that principle the happier they and everyone else around them will be. They’ll be able to adapt to society more easily. Mothers who dote over their children, and give them, and promise them anything their little hearts desire, just to have some peace and quiet while trying to do their grocery shopping, are in reality harming their little one. In the culture where I live, and where we raised our eight children, this is the norm. I’ve seen mothers standing in line in the super market, trying to man-handle a screaming two-year old, while promising her “when we get home, I’ll give you some candy.” Not only is she training that little one to scream in order to get what she wants, but she is teaching her little girl that it’s OK to lie, as long as it’s for a general good purpose…in this case, to shut up her little girl, so that those around her won’t be disturbed.

When we give children everything they want, we’re training them for life to expect others to do the same, whether in school, on the job, or in their marriage.

Even as grandmothers, we’re notorious for giving our grandchildren those things we couldn’t give their parent.

But this can also apply to us. What do you want? What do you feel is rightly yours? I’ve made a list of things that I feel are mine, things I feel I deserve. I’m doing this, because right now I feel like I’m being cheated out of a lot of things I actually need. They are:

1) MY time. I’m 66 years old. Wouldn’t you think a woman my age would have oodles of that commodity on her hands? When our children were very small, we lived in a little village. I had four children at the time, and my baby was about six months old. A very sweet couple came to spend six weeks with us in order to work with my husband, and get medical training for mission work in Colombia. We lived in a little travel trailer, so we fixed up an apartment for them in our boys’ dorm building. They would basically come over for meals, make trips to San Cristobal with us, attend services, and accompany my husband when he would go to deliver babies or stitch up machete wounds. But I was tied down to my children. It seemed like I barely had time to breathe, and often I would look longingly at my friend, who had no children, and I even ventured to tell her one day, “I can’t imagine having as much time as you do.” She bristled, and said, “Don’t think that mothers are the only ones who have a lot of work to do. I have demands on my time, too,” and then she proceeded to enumerate her various responsibilities. I did a little bristling myself, but now that I have no little ones to care for, or even a husband to cook and wash for, I can identify with my motherless friend. There are demands on my time, deadlines, and interruptions. Time is of great value to me, and sometimes to my shame, I feel myself once more bristling, as I silently scream, “GIVE IT TO ME! IT’S MINE! I’VE WORKED HARD ALL MY LIFE, AND I DESERVE SOME FREE TIME, OR AT LEAST ENOUGH TIME, OR MORE TIME!” There’s a story that our family came across many years ago. A friend gave us an old cassette tape of a missionary to, I believe, New Guinea. It’s called “The Pineapple Story.” It’s a classic, and I’ve never been the same since I heard that story. This missionary struggled to protect his pineapple field which he had planted in his back yard. He suffered trying to protect his prize possession. One day after going to several lengths to get back and fight for what was rightfully his, he decided to give his pineapple field to the Lord. He could then look out his window, and peacefully say to the Lord, as he watched the natives stealing his green pineapples which hadn’t even had time to ripen, and pray, “Lord, look what they’re doing to YOUR pineapples.” It was then that the Lord began to work not only in the missionary’s heart, but also in the hearts of the natives. He was able to teach them valuable lessons that they would never have learned had he not exchanged the concept of, GIVE THEM TO ME, for, “Lord, they belong to You.” The Lord says to me, in times of struggle to be mistress of my time, GIVE IT TO ME. It belongs to Me, anyway. It’s then, and then only that I have peace, even in times of pressure to produce more than my time allows. Even though I’m not under the pressure of meals, homework, and laundry, there are other things and people who demand my time. What a joyful peace floods my soul when I give my time to the Lord, and let Him manage it.
2) MY privacy. MY space. Now I’m going to be very, very transparent here. Sometimes I feel like unless I get up long before daylight, I won’t get to have time alone for the rest of the day. I live very close to some of my children and grandchildren. Because I’m alone now, and I have a nice four-bedroom home, which at one time was occupied by my husband and me, and our eight children, there is a tendency to continue occupying what should be, and what I deserve to be unoccupied space. I am basically always surrounded by people: my children, my grandchildren, a little Indian girl who is my housekeeper, and since my house sets right across the drive from my church, church members and Sunday school classes routinely occupy MY space. While I’m addressing mothers and grandmothers, this is a lesson everyone, including single ladies could benefit from. If you’re a college student sharing a dorm room, or if you’re sharing a room with your little sister, learn this lesson: you are going to have to condition yourself to function in a decent and orderly fashion in the midst of people, people, people, as though you were living on an island. You almost have to learn to detach yourself from your surroundings. You can do this. Did you know, I can lie down on my living room couch and go sound to sleep with five grandchildren under the age of 5 years old playing on my living room rug? I can pray in the super market, and in crowded airports. I can read my Bible while my grandchildren play (quietly, of course) on my bed. I’m writing this chapter in my living room, while my daughter is homeschooling her children. I just stopped to look at my granddaughter’s ring, and I kissed her little hand. I waved to one of our preacher boys, as he was leaving out my front gate. Do you know why? I’ve given MY privacy, and MY home to the Lord. When I got up this morning, I started praying, and I asked the Lord to give me enough peace and quiet to coherently write this lesson that has been on my heart for several weeks. And He did. Sometimes I have a sudden urge to pile all my material into my car, and drive downtown to a little coffee shop, and work to my heart’s content; or to check myself into a hotel for a couple of days in order to work in MY own space. But because I’ve given MY privacy, and MY space to the Lord, He works things together so that I can produce more, and more effectively than if I had taken things into my own hands, demanding that He GIVE IT TO ME, and worse still, demanding others to GIVE IT TO ME. When in a million years would I ever be able to teach you this valuable lesson, sitting in the quiet corner of a coffee shop, wondering if I should order more coffee, or leave an extra tip for having occupied a table for the past two hours? When you give up what you feel is rightfully yours, you’ll learn lessons you would have never learned had you demanded your rights. The Lord says, “You want your privacy? GIVE IT TO ME, and I’ll give you peace in the midst of the noise.
3) MY possessions. I have a car, and a house, and a piano, and a computer. I have a kitchen, and dishes, and a yard. I made this statement to one of my son in laws not long ago, “Possessions mean nothing to me. I’ve come to the point in my spiritual walk with the Lord where things mean absolutely nothing to me.” As if the Lord were ridiculing me, He showed me the next day how absolutely wrong I was. Things indeed do mean a lot to me. They provide security, and peace of mind. They provide comfort, and joy. Don’t deny that. Go ahead, say it with me, “I love my house; I love my collection of __________; I just love to come home at night to my __________. I just couldn’t part with my _________.” Don’t be a hypocrite. Don’t tell me, you’ve never gotten mad at your computer, and been tempted to smash the screen. If you don’t admit you are attached to certain possessions, you will never, never know the joy of giving them to the Lord. Say with the missionary, when you see someone destroying your lovely flower garden by running the lawn mower over it, “Lord, those are Your gardenias; Father, remember when we planted Your geraniums? Doesn’t it hurt You to see those beautiful rose bushes being cut down?” It feels good, like dumping a burden on Someone Else’s shoulders. More than that, you feel like you actually have Someone to commiserate with you. I never realized how much my things meant to me until someone suggested I move out of my large house, and into a small apartment. “This would not only give you more privacy, but you don’t really need a four-bedroom house.” Before I could think, I responded, “But I love my house.” This is the same person to whom I had said only a few minutes before, “Things don’t mean anything to me.” Oh, really? Then why do I love my house? While I am a believer in caring for the possessions the Lord has entrusted into our care, and we should certainly carry out the Bible teaching of being good stewards…or are we stewardesses?…of our possessions, in reality they belong to the Lord. When I grieve over things lost, or destroyed, or stolen, He says, GIVE IT TO ME. That car belongs to ME in the first place. It’s then, and then only that I can resign to the fact that they’re not mine in the first place. They already belong to HIM.

Now, it’s easy for me to give my time, my privacy, and my things to an Invisible God. That’s symbolic. I can say to the Lord, “Lord, this kitchen belongs to you.” But He’s not going to come down in bodily form, and clean up the sink full of dishes left by irresponsible people. I must find a body to wash those dishes, because they’re not heavenly. Dirty dishes are earthy in every sense of the word. I must find peace within my heart, by speaking to others, and gently asking them to clean up their mess, or by asking the Lord to give me joy as I work into the midnight hours cleaning up my treasured kitchen. When I consider my work as a ministry for the Lord, only then am I truly giving everything, dirty dishes included, to the Lord.

Do you feel like you’re being cheated by having to stay at home with your children while your husband trots off to the office every morning? The Lord says, GIVE IT TO ME…give me your resentment, give me your boredom, and I’ll give you joy, and I’ll let you have fun.

How do you feel, single mom, when you watch from your window, your neighbor as she waves good bye to her husband as he leaves for work, and then returns to her house in her robe, to leisurely care for her home, while you hurry the children to Day Care in order to get to your job on time? Don’t you feel a little bit of envy? The Lord says, GIVE IT TO ME, and I’ll give you grace and strength to be mother and father to your little ones. If YOU keep it, it will turn into bitterness, and anger and resentment. It could even end in wrecking another home, or in adultery. Is this sometimes the root of child abuse? Uncontrolled anger stemming from resentment can easily be taken out on defenseless children.

What is that sin you’re clinging to…that habit that is possessing you, or ruining your health, or your marriage, or your relationship with the Lord? He says, GIVE IT TO ME. You’ll never be able to control it. No organization in the world can break your will, or enable you to get the victory over those things you cling to for security, but that are destroying something in your life. If you give it to me, I can give you a clean heart, I can change your desires and your longings. I can satisfy your needs.

Guess what! Those children aren’t yours, did you know that? I recently told the ladies in my Sunday school class, “Those children aren’t yours, they belong to the Lord.” How easily we “give” our children to the Lord when we take them to the front of the Church when they’re newborns, and the Pastor prays a special prayer of dedication, “giving them to the Lord.” But that’s not really when we give them to Him. You give them to the Lord when you drive off and leave her standing on the college dorm sidewalk, while she is crying, and you are crying, and everybody is crying. (This is a true story.) The only way you will ever get through an experience like that is to say, “Lord, she’s Yours. You take her life, and do more with her while I’m thousands of miles away, than I could do if she were sleeping in her bedroom next to mine.” And He’ll do it. Do you have ambitions for your son? Do you have your son in law picked out? Wrong. Leave your children’s future to the Lord. Let Him plan it. Let him use your children the way He wants to use them. Train them, teach them, and protect them while they’re little. Guide them, discipline them, put hedges around them while they’re at home. But once they leave the nest, GIVE THEM TO THE LORD. Keep your hands off. They belong to the Lord in the first place. He gave them to you, and they’re not yours to keep.

Are you putting demands on others?...even on yourself?...on the Lord?

Do you have your life all planned out? Maybe you’ve even figured out your own way to go to Heaven. No, He says “GIVE IT TO ME. I have a better plan. I have a perfect plan, a way you can know for sure when you die you can go to Heaven. YOUR works? Even your good ones are as filthy rags. That’s YOUR plan, YOUR way, because it shows how good you think you are. Unless you give it up, and GIVE IT TO ME, and accept MY way, you’ll never make it to Heaven.”

“GIVE IT TO ME…your heart, your plans, your dreams, your future, your space, your time, your possessions, your children, and I WILL GIVE YOU happiness beyond your wildest dreams.”

4 comments:

Jolene said...

Such a great chapter, Mom!

And I am so thrilled to be giving you another grandchild next year... whom I will actually be giving to the Lord! What an honor to be called a mother!

AntfarmMom said...

Amen! What a wonderful reminder for me today. Thanks for sharing this here.

Molly said...

Wow, Billie! I just read this and saw myself in such clarity! Thanks!

TABB's MOMMA said...

Absolutely wonderful!!!

Robin