I was walking through my living room when I noticed an upside-down cardboard box moving kind of awkward-like down the hall. Two pairs of legs from the calf down were visible. The box bumped and bungled its way around as the two occupants inside giggled and talked. Watching my daughter's play make-believe in this manner put a smile on my face. How many card-board boxes have been turned into how many different toys?
Make-believe is great when you are a kid. Not so much for adults.
And yet . . .
I know some of the greatest players in the land of make-believe are adults. They put on a happy face and pretend everything is perfectly OK in their life. No marital problems. No questions about their faith in God. Firm grasp of Biblical understanding. Check. Check. Check.
This is not a bad thing on one hand. We don't want to be around people who carry their problems on their shoulders and spill their guts to us every chance they get. How many times have we slowly tried to edge away from someone we don't know who suddenly feels free to share intimate details of their personal problems with any stranger willing to listen? Some modicum of social decency says we are to respect the relational boundaries we have with others. On the other hand, all this pretending has also had a harmful effect. The festering wounds we suffer go unspoken, unnoticed, not talked about, and then when something visible happens, everyone is surprised.
I know of divorces I never saw coming, people leaving church for "no apparent reason", and spiritual lives that suffer to this day in deadly silence while smiles mask any hint of the personal pain they bear.
They are The Great Pretenders.
I remember having several teachers growing up who would echo a consistent message between them: "Does anyone have any questions? Speak up! Someone else probably has the same question and is just afraid to ask."
What questions are you afraid to ask? What are you afraid to ask about marriage, child rearing, your spiritual walk, your faith in God?
I have realized in recent years that the questions I have, and the problems I struggle with are not as unique to me as I thought. What's more, while I sit and worry about the problems in my own life being discovered, there are people all around me thinking and worrying about the same things.
Someone has to be willing to speak up and start asking questions.
For me, it was asking the hard questions about why my own marriage was not thriving like I thought it should. I looked around, and everyone else seemed to have it together. Smiles and happy faces all around. Everyone sitting as families together in church. Not a problem in the world among them. Then it happened. A whisper of a long-married couple was getting divorced. Shock was followed only by bowed heads wagging in wonder how it could happen. Thank goodness their own marriages were functioning perfectly fine.
The truth I know is that there are no perfect marriages.
I do not see behind your closed doors. You do not see behind my own. The struggles we have are common, though our knowledge of others' struggles is not. We hide these problems because we fear. We do not want to be judged by others. Seeking help would unmask the truth, and the truth must not be known for what others may think of us.
So, we pretend.
We pretend we do not have such problems. We pretend our marriage is just fine. We pretend we have no problems with our children. We pretend we have no questions about our faith in God. We pretend we have understanding on spiritual matters where we may be confused. We pretend . . . . and we keep up the charade, yet secretly hoping someone will figure us out and come and help us. Until then, we pretend that our lives are full of nothing but joy and happiness.
We are the Great Pretenders.
Help though is as simple as one person having the courage to ask a question. Who is going to ask the question everyone else is thinking but too afraid to ask because of what others may think of them? If we are to be men and leaders of our homes though, we must ask these questions. We must be willing to become vulnerable - not to the public at large - but to trusted Godly friends and Christian advisers who will seek to help, and truly want our greatest good. For that to happen though, we must stop pretending everything is always OK.
We cannot be the great leaders in our homes God wants us to be and retain the title of Great Pretender.
A tremendous amount of power and significance behind it.
The last few weeks I've not had much TIME to do anything more than work, study, work some more, and try to find TIME for family in there somewhere. As the weeks of my studies drew to a close, TIME became more and more of a precious commodity because I seemed to have less and less TIME to get anything critically important done. All things worked out though. Barely.
March 14th was my daughter's ten-year-old birthday. Every year on each of my daughter's birthdays, starting back when they were five years old, I began taking them out for an all-day father-daughter date. Not this year. I finally did get around to taking my oldest out on that father-daughter date - over two months later. There just wasn't enough TIME on her birthday. Maybe things didn't work out so well after all.
We had fun, but she noticed the difference. She had counted the days. She had counted the TIME that had elapsed between when we were supposed to go out on the date, and the day we actually went.
Its my fault. I had no idea the classes would be so taxing. Working a full-TIME job and trying to hold onto a part-TIME job to make ends meet certainly strained any free TIME as well because of my class load. Seems to be an all-too common complaint. I just don't seem to have enough TIME.
While talking with my daughter over some serious issues, one of the things that came up is TIME. She can tend to get frustrated with her younger sister. My youngest seems to pick the wrong TIME to want to be around my oldest who really would like to have some TIME to herself. That's when I told her, what her younger sister really wants from her is some TIME.
When someone calls your name, they are asking for your TIME. When someone calls you on the phone, they are asking for your TIME. When you get an email, a letter, or someone tries to get your attention, what they are asking you for is your TIME. It is up to you to chose whether or not to give some TIME to them or not.
Some people take our TIME without asking and we can get frustrated with them. The person who seems to never stop talking, the car that sits on a green light, the lines we wait in, the constant grab of advertising, all are trying to wrest from us what we really do not wish to give in those moments . . . our TIME.
TIME, it turns out, happens to be one of the most precious things you can give - if you really give it. When we truly give someone our TIME, we slow down for them, turn to face them, actively listen and engage them, and give them our full attention. The gift of TIME is a wonderful thing when given freely. When you give the gift of TIME, you are telling someone that your TIME now belongs to them to use in any way they wish. Because it is theirs, they can do anything they want with it, and giving your TIME to them communicates that they are important to you. Not giving your TIME can communicate the opposite as well. TIME is a powerful thing that way.
Who gets your TIME? If you were at the end of your life, is there anything, or anyone you might wish you had not given your TIME? Are there any blocks of TIME wasted, spent, or otherwise given to people or things that really did not matter? What would you do if you could get that TIME back?
Alas, you cannot get TIME back. You only have whatever TIME you have left.
TIME, you see, is very limited.Today, who will get your TIME?
What do you think of when you think of freedom? Maybe, like most people, you probably think of things such as freedom from slavery, freedom from oppression, freedom from social injustice, and on and on that list seems to go. There's nothing wrong with setting captive individuals free, but lately I've been seeing the cry for freedom in American society take on other tones. In fact, it seems a lot of the talk of freedom has to do with breaking away from anyone or anything someone may consider personally binding in any way. It's as if there are people out there who want to be free from anyone telling them what to do in any way, shape, form, or fashion.
The problem with that desire is that the real world does not, and will not ever work that way.
Though it would seem obvious to say it, there appear to be those that do not understand that true freedom is not without its limits. The result of a society of people completely free to do whatever they pleased would be chaos, death, and destruction. The result of a person who takes such complete freedom to do whatever they want to do is always pain. Here we find a truth: in the pursuit of freedom from physical bondage, there is another, more alluring and evil enslavement waiting far on the other side.
Where freedom is completely taken away, you have one side of slavery and bondage. This is the lack of freedom we are more used to because it is felt, it is visible, and the suffering and pain it causes is immediate and obvious on its face. However, there is another, more sinister type of slavery that grips the person who would claim complete and total freedom.
I came across a blog article HERE that more deeply explores these two issues using the movie The Hunger Games as an example of the two views of slavery. It is worth taking the time to read and really understand. In the end the conclusion is the same. A person or a people completely free from everything are eventually enslaved to unconstrained desire; condemned to the foolishness and folly of empty lives of empty pursuits that never satisfy or fulfill, to put it another way. Whether chained to a wall, or chained to an empty life, both are lives of enslavement.
Do we not see this in the lives of Hollywood celebrities who seemingly have everything you or I could ever want? I can think of several celebrities in the news recently who have garnered vast amounts of wealth at very young ages, able to buy the freedom we all seem to think we want, only to discover for themselves an empty and hollow world of isolation and loneliness that could never be forged from metal bars and chains. So they turn to escape even this world in drugs and alcohol, and other pursuits, only to come crashing back to the reality of this existence, and their place in it. Having the world of freedom they so thought they desired, they learn only too late that they are now held tightly captive by form of bondage unseen.
As created beings, we are all fallen from God's grace, broken and in need of God's healing. The problem is that we resist that healing because to us, it looks too much like the opposite of freedom. It looks like more rules and restrictions than real freedom. Consider then the husband who, in pursuit of full freedom goes out and cheats on his marriage, or the willful child who resists all attempts to compel good behavior. The end of these paths are only pain.
Mark McMinn writes, "The consequences of unbounded independence are woundedness, brokenness, and pain."
The quest for the freedom that brings true happiness in life then is not the quest for complete freedom, but rather a quest to be the person God created you to be, in His will, under His rule, and under His authority. Real freedom is not marked by a complete lack of rules or laws, but rather by a submission to authority, a restraint in both word and deed, and a world that is ordered by purpose.
What do you think of when you hear someone talk about church? I'm sure there are those reading this that will say a local church is a local body of believers and part of the larger church which is the bride of Christ. This is true, but is it really what you think of when someone else is talking about church? I mean, really?!?!
I always hear people talking about going to church, as in the building. There are activities at church, services at church, weddings at church, and worship at church. For all those people talking about church, there seems to be a whole lot more talk about a building than a living organism.
When I was growing up, I was pretty much taught the same way. "Church is people, not a building," was heard from the pulpit, and then a new building fund would be launched to build, well, a church (building). So, like many people I went to church (building) with, I called all my fellow-believers my brothers and sisters in Christ and claimed them all as part of a larger family. Only problem was that I usually only saw this family on Sunday, they always dressed in their nicest clothes, and we went through this kind of ritualistic greeting time before the service, a shaking hands ritual called "time of fellowship" at some point during the service, and after the service my church family would usually politely say goodbye as they headed for the nearest exit.
Outside of this building called church, it seemed what was supposed to be my church family blended away seamlessly into the world, and became so diluted you never heard or saw from them again until the next service. Oh, each service they were plenty happy to see you, smile, shake your hand, engage you during the official time of fellowship, and then politely say goodbye. Each service, three times a week, this could be repeated in case you did not get a good enough dose of church at any of the other services. There are also lots of unspoken rules I'm not even about to get into. Suffice it to say, a lot of people are putting a lot of stake into those rules. If you think differently, by the way, you'd better not mention it because otherwise you're just causing trouble trying to change things.
While I know some reading this will say "Not at MY church!" the truth is, I believe this church experience is exactly like this for most people who walk in from the world outside church doors. All of last year my family visited around to many churches in my area. The pattern seemed to repeat itself everywhere. People gathering in a building smiling and greeting each other, singing songs, time of fellowship, service, polite goodbyes, and then (poof) everyone left. For each successive service, simply rewind and repeat. For all the differences churches like to promote about themselves, they are quite surprisingly very much the same as all the churches they say they are different from. Anyone who could stick around long enough to figure out this pattern could become an excellent church member in good standing in no time at all!
There was one exception, and it redefined what church meant to me.
When we first started going to this church, we were asked to simply give them a chance to get to know us, for us to get to know them, and to make an effort to attend for six Sundays to help accomplish this. We agreed.
In those six weeks, we did get to know some people there, and some of them came to know us. While we were not ready to commit to anything right away, something felt distinctly different. I felt like these people really cared. Fast forward to the beginning of this year, and as my wife and I talked about all the different churches we had visited, that one church kept coming into my mind. I wanted to go back to see how they were doing, like checking up on an old friend I had not seen for some time. We did. Then we went back again a couple of weeks later. After a few more weeks, I felt I simply could not go anywhere else and feel like I was going to a building where people met. I had found a real church, and this Sunday, my family became members of a body of believers known as Redeemer Church in Oxford, AL.
This was no small decision on my part. I had determined to either find a real church, or not go to any church and simply start one myself. I had become so frustrated with what church had become, I could not tolerate it any longer when I knew what it could be. What it is supposed to be. What God created it to be.
I am glad my family has a church home now. We will meet in a building, but it is very obvious to anyone who visits here that Redeemer Church is not a building, nor will it ever be. The focus of Redeemer Church is, and I believe it will always be, on the glory of God and the joy of all people - not just the ones who walk through its doors, but those far beyond the walls of whatever building they will meet in.
They do not say they care about people. They simply care about people, and their actions speak louder than words.
So, really think about that question I started with. What do you think of when people around you start talking about church? If you get a picture of a building in your mind, maybe you need to start looking for a real church.
I was reminded earlier of the different roles moms and dads have in a child's life as I thought about a former comedian who noted this particular difference: "A father will take his son out to a baseball field, teach him to hold a bat, teach him to catch with a glove, teach him how to hit a baseball, and practice for hours and hours, for weeks and years on end. The kid eventually grows up, gets a sports scholarship through college, and eventually makes it into the Big Leagues. On the day he makes his professional baseball debut, in his first ever interview and before the reporter asks the first question, this young boy whom the father groomed his entire life will look into the camera lens, smile, wave and say "Hi, mom!'"
If you're a mom out there, you're probably nodding your head thinking, "As it should be."
So, along those lines, here are some other thoughts on the differences between moms and dads.
First Aid Response: Moms vs. Dads
Mom - Rushes to the scene with a worried look on her face, tenderly looking over the child and searching for any obvious signs of injury.
Dad - Looks on from a seated position and commands the child to "come here" with a waving motion of his hand.
Mom - Upon further inspection and seeing nothing is wrong will repeatedly ask, "Are you sure you're all right?"
Dad - If the child has managed to walk to his dad, the dad simply assumes the kid must be OK because he just walked from where he was lying on the ground writhing in agony a minute ago to where dad has been patiently sitting and waiting.
Mom - After seeing where the child might have been injured, as indicated by the child pointing to an injury invisible to the naked eye, the mother will lean over and give it a "kiss to make it better."
Dad - Even if obvious injury is visible to the naked eye (such as a protruding bone) will scrunch his eyebrows, frown, and probably give one or both pieces of the following advice: "Walk it off" or "Shake it off".
If the parent was watching at the moment of injury:
Mom - will react with complete and utter horror, holding hand over mouth, and maybe actually screaming
Dad - if he has anticipated the event, will be reaching furiously for the video camera or his mobile phone trying to record the event
If the kid is essentially OK with only some minor scrapes:
Mom - "If you ever do that again I'm going to kill you!"
Dad - "That was awesome! Try it again, but this time wait until I give you the thumbs up that the video is on."
If the kid has a bruise:
Mom - will want to get some ice on it as quickly as possible
Dad - will congratulate the child with a slap on the back and a proud smile "Nice shiner you got there!"
If there is blood:
Mom - clean the wound and apply antibiotic ointment, spray, or both and wrap the wound
Dad - "Don't worry about that. Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Now get back out there."
Anyway, those are the ones I've observed at one time or another. What are some of the funny and different ways you have noticed moms and dads reacting to various situations?