Thursday, November 10, 2022

baggage

You may not know it, but back in the midst of the craziness of 2020 our family grew from 4 to 7. It's not really something I talk about a lot, despite how it changed our lives. It may be a surprise if you only know me from my writing here, but I'm a very private person. I'm not good at small talk, but I'm not one for dumping out my entire life story, either (On that note, I once took a train from Toledo to Kansas City and sat next to a girl who had told me most of her life story before we even pulled out of the station...). Part of my silence about our adoption is simply due to the fact that I tend to keep to myself.

Part of being quiet is because I'm still not sure how much of our kids' stories are mine to tell. It's a delicate balance, a tightrope walk of sorts, trying to figure out who in our lives needs to know how much. Some of it is mine to relate simply because I'm a mom who needs to make sure my kids are taken care of. Other parts, though, aren't mine to tell.

One of the biggest reasons I keep quiet, though, is quite simply because I don't like the awkward praise that usually follows after somebody finds out that some of our kids are adopted. I'm sure it's genuine and not meant to make me uncomfortable, but I'm not good at dealing with praise in any situation... let alone in one that's so hard just by its very nature. But any time somebody finds out, they almost immediately say something along the lines of, "Oh wow--that's so amazing! I really admire you for adopting. I could never do something like that." I'm sure there's a good way to handle that and a graceful way to continue the conversation, but I haven't found it yet. Instead I tend to stammer something and change the subject really quickly.

Because honestly? This adoption thing is hard. For that matter, this whole parenting thing is hard. I can't count the number of times I've questioned just what God was thinking when He put these kids in my care. I wonder on an almost daily basis if we're messing them up. 

Are we too strict? After all, our kids have daily chores, limited screen time, no social media accounts, no cell phones, high academic standards to meet, are ready for bed and in their bedrooms by 9...

Or too lenient? They watch things I'm not a fan of, don't have to keep their rooms clean, don't have a bedtime on the weekends, listen to music I don't screen, have friends I'm not a big fan of, have (almost) total control over how they dress...

I'm sure I'm not the only one out there trying to navigate the parenting world and sometimes feeling like I'm just wandering aimlessly. And while parenting is, by its very nature, excruciatingly hard at times, mixing that with adoption brings on an entirely new set of challenges.

Because the truth is, not every adoption story is the result of a young mom who lovingly makes the choice to give up her baby because she knew someone else could provide a better life. I'm sure those stories are filled with challenges of their own, hard things that those kids deal with and that their adoptive parents have to walk through with them. But many, many kids come out of hard places and have huge amounts of ugly baggage they carry with them. Then they get put with other people who have baggage of their own, and together a whole bunch of broken people have to figure out how to navigate life together.


 Kids who have been in foster care have hard histories many of us can never imagine. Older kids, like mine, have been forced to navigate hard roads where they've developed unhealthy coping and survival mechanisms that will take years (maybe even a lifetime) to unlearn. Their cognitive and emotional ages very rarely match their biological age, and the difference is more pronounced the longer they had to be in the system. They've had adults who were supposed to protect them let them down instead, often more times than they can count. They've had to figure out ways to try to protect themselves, which usually means they've built walls around their hearts that could rival those of any fortress ever erected. They've learned to manipulate adults to get what they need. They've focused on survival for so long that the idea of just living life as a kid is a foreign concept--trusting your life to someone else seems like a dangerous idea.

And those of us who come alongside them in the mess? We aren't saints. We aren't heroes. We're broken, imperfect people trying to learn to dance to music we can't hear, following the lead of kids who have never been taught the steps. We are struggling through tough choices on a daily basis, trying to figure out how to be parents to kids who, in a perfect world, never should have faced life in a different family, never should have been ours. At the same time, we're asking ourselves whether we made life better or worse for our biological kids--in protecting one set of kids, are we opening the other set up to pain they never should have experienced?

 We deal with pain, anger, fear, frustration, and disbelief on a daily basis, both from ourselves and our kids. We struggle with exhaustion, confusion, and feelings of incompetence and ineptitude. We question if we're doing the right thing, if we're helping, and if we're anything more than just a landing place. We spend sleepless nights questioning everything, trying to figure out the right way to move forward after what feels like a thousand steps back.

But at the same time, we deal with hope. We see glimpses of who our kids are becoming. We see 5 kids treat each other as if they've been siblings for their whole lives, picking on each other one minute and standing up for each other the next. We see unguarded smiles that were incredibly rare just a year ago. We see growth that may not be obvious to the rest of the world but means the world to us, even when it's just a single step forward.

Honestly? We're dealing with the same questions and concerns and issues that parents have faced forever. Some of those are magnified, but that's what we signed up for and what we knew (though couldn't have fully understood) we were getting into. I know it's well-meaning, but please don't tell me how amazing we are for adopting. Instead, do what you do with any other parent--ask about our kids and give us the opportunity to do a little bit of bragging--or venting, depending on the moment.


 

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

"protecting" our kids?

 Last Christmas, my parents gifted all of us season passes to Silver Dollar City. A couple weeks ago, we decided to surprise the kids with a day at the amusement park. It was a beautiful day--we let them sleep in, then took them out for burgers before heading up to Branson. The park was all decked out for fall, full of carved pumpkins, fall colors, and the tastes of the season. The rides were open after dark--and oh my goodness, there's a whole different feeling when you're on a roller coaster and can't see the track ahead of you! We had a wonderful time making family memories (though as is always the case, things weren't quite as perfect as I had hoped: notice that one kid is missing from the pictures because he had no interest in going).










We had arranged for a day off of work in advance, then gave the kids an unexpected day off of school. What we hadn't realized, though, was that one of our kids missed a test that day. When he got back to school the next week and asked his teacher about it, he was told that it was an unexcused absence and he couldn't make it up--he would have to take a zero. He was mad and we were frustrated, but it was our fault. We knew the policy and should have thought about it in advance. We messed up, and his missing grade was the consequence.

We could have gotten mad. We could have gone to the teacher and tried to convince her to let him take the test. We could have done what many parents today do and go over her head to the principal and convinced the office to mark his absence as excused. We could have thrown a fit and gotten worked up and threatened and most likely gotten our way.

The thing is, though, we were the ones that messed it up, not the teacher or the school. Our son shouldn't have had to pay the price for our mistake with his grade, but that was the school policy and we knew it. So instead, he had to learn a costly lesson that wasn't really his to learn at the moment but an important one anyway--you have to stand by your principles even when there's a cost. It wouldn't have been right for us to go in and throw a fit to get his absence excused. Thankfully, that grade was at the very beginning of the 9-weeks. It will take some work on his part, but he'll be able to pull his grade back up to an A by the end of the semester.

As parents, we all want to make life easier for our kids. We want to rush to the rescue--fix the grade, stop a kid from being picked on, always deliver the forgotten homework or forgotten uniform. Sometimes, that's the right choice. Sometimes it is our duty as parents to step in and fix bad situations.

Other times, though, we as parents need to take a step back. While it's normal to always want to come to the rescue, it isn't what's best for our kids. We can't go ahead of them making sure nothing ever goes wrong, and we can't follow along behind them fixing every mistake. Failure is a part of life, and part of our job as parents is to make sure that our kids are prepared to face failure and have the tools they need to get through to the other side.

Failure isn't meant to be final, especially for kids. Sometimes that failure comes in the form of a test they didn't study for, or riding the bench on the ball team, or getting made fun of for something they did in front of their peers. Sometimes it's missing out on something they really wanted to do because they didn't meet the requirements. In the middle of all of those things, our job as parents is to guide our kids to handle them the right way. If they see and hear us blame the teacher or the coach or talk about how we're going to make sure those other kids get in trouble, they will definitely learn something. Our kids learn from everything we say and do.

The problem is, what are they learning? They are learning not to take responsibility. They are learning to blame other people for their problems. They are learning that it doesn't matter if you work hard for something--it's the people who throw the biggest fit who get the results they want.

I'm not sure what the reason is, but our generation is raising the next generation to be entitled and lazy. We are raising kids who think they can do whatever they want without consequence. We are teaching our kids that you throw a fit to get what you want--something that past generations of parents worked hard to get their kids to stop doing as toddlers. We are teaching them that merit and hard work are meaningless, because everybody "deserves" the same thing.

We are supposed to be raising the generation that will take our place as leaders in the world. We should be teaching them to work hard and earn the things they want instead of expecting those things to be handed to them. We should be teaching them about honesty, integrity, and values. We should be teaching them responsibility instead of how to get away with not doing things they are supposed to. We should be teaching them to make the right choice and do the right thing even when the consequences aren't what we want.

Until we start doing that, we will be failing our kids.

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Christians in public school?

 I'm sure you've seen all the craziness that's surrounding public schools right now. They've been in the spotlight for quite a while--test scores have been on the decline for much longer than anyone wants to admit, then parents were called domestic terrorists for standing up to express their concern at school board meetings. You've probably seen the videos put out by some of the individuals to whom parents have entrusted their children 5 days a week, videos that are alarming at best and in some cases downright scary. You've heard of critical race theory being pushed in classrooms, of the 1619 project being pushed instead of true American history, of some educators pushing the idea that 2+2=4 is racist and that expecting kids to behave in class and do their work is simply a result of white supremacist thinking.

If you're a Christian, I'm sure you've also seen people calling for you to pull your kids out of public school. Just today I read a post with a list of questions they wanted parents to ask themselves, questions that pointed out how your kids are in danger of indoctrination in public schools and reminded parents that the "lifelong well-being of your precious child" was at stake.

I understand that homeschooling is a calling for some. As a former public school teacher, though, I also understand that homeschooling can be used as an excuse for parents who don't want to mess with school... but that's a whole different issue. There is no doubt in my mind that as parents we are responsible for the education of our children. As Christian parents, that's even a biblical directive:

"Teach a child how to follow the right way;
    even when he is old, he will stay on course."
(Proverbs 22:6)

"Make the things I’m commanding you today part of who you are. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you’re sitting together in your home and when you’re walking together down the road. Make them the last thing you talk about before you go to bed and the first thing you talk about the next morning."
(Deuteronomy 6:6-7)

There are many who believe this means that Christian parents have no business having their kids in public schools to begin with, that the directives outlined here mean that parents should be solely responsible for teaching their kids or that their kids should only be enrolled in private, Christian schools.

Let me tell you something as a former private, Christian school teacher as well--just because a school has that int heir title doesn't mean they are getting a high quality education, either from a biblical perspective or a purely academic one. Some of those titles are little more than words.

I'm not here to tell you that you should homeschool, or that your kids should be in public school, or that they should be in private school. I truly believe those kinds of decisions are between each family and God, and I think He calls different people to different things.

What I would like to suggest, though, is that telling all Christians to pull their kids out of public schools may not be the right answer.

As Christians, we are called to be salt and light. Whether we like it or not, if our kids are followers of Christ they are called to the same thing. I'm sure at first you think, "Of course I want my kids to be salt and light!" But think, for a minute, about what that means.

Being salt means fighting corruption and decay in this fallen world. That's not an easy thing to do, and it means the salt has to first be exposed to the corruption and decay. As much as we want to protect our kids from the ugly parts of life, if we want them to be willing and able to take a stand against those things they will have to know about them. You can't fight an evil you don't know about. We can't expect our kids to be mighty warriors for God if they haven't ever seen the weapons the enemy uses.

Being salt also means being a preservative. Just like salt is used to protect and preserve food, our kids need to be the protectors and preservers of those around them. They need to be able to step in when they see their friends and classmates in danger from something that could hurt them, being the voice of reason that points others in the right direction--toward God.

The same goes for being the light. A light shining only in the presence of other lights isn't really all that useful. It's only when you put that tiny flame in a dark place that you truly see it shine. If we want our kids to be lights that God can use to point people to Him, they will have to be able to shine in the darkness.

I'm like everybody else--I would much rather keep my kids protected from all the bad things in this world. If I could build a wall around our property and keep all the bad outside of that wall, I would probably do it in a heartbeat. If I did, though, what would happen to my kids once they grew up? What would happen when they stepped outside of that wall for the first time and were expected to go out into the world? What would happen if they were bombarded by all the evils of this world at one time, right as they were trying to spread their wings on their own for the first time?

Those precious babies of mine would probably crash and burn.

So instead, as much as I hate it, I'll let my kids be introduced to the evils of this world while they are still safely under my protection at home. I'll have those hard talks about why our expectations for them are so much different from the expectations placed on most of their friends. I'll explain how the values of the world contradict the values of God, and remind them:

"Don’t you know that making friends with this corrupt world order is open aggression toward God? So anyone who aligns with this bogus world system is declaring war against the one true God."
(James 4:4)

It may change in the future, but for now my kids will stay in public school. I will pray for them to have the faith and the strength to stand up for God's truth, for them to be salt and light in an ugly, hostile world.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

11th commandment

 “Christians today hold firmly to the 11th Commandment, and the 11th Commandment is, 'Thou Shalt Be Nice,' and we don’t hold to the other ten.” ~Vodie Baucham

I have to admit, I've spent a lot of my life focused on that non-existent  11th commandment. It's changed a bit in this second half of my life, the half after everything got flipped upside down. I don't focus quite as much on being nice despite the consequences, though I still hesitate to speak up with the truth if I know it's going to hurt somebody's feelings.

The world today, though, doesn't need "nice" Christians. The world has enough "nice" people who validate every feeling and whim, people who go along with anything and everything, who think that the way to best help people is to confirm their every desire. What the world needs right now is followers of Christ who will stand up like He did, followers who will point out sin when needed so that people can be saved from it, followers who are willing to topple tables when the money changers set up shop in the temple, followers who are as blameless as a lamb but as ferocious as a lion when needed--

--just like the Lion of Judah and the Lamb who was slain.

Being "nice," especially in today's world, is a matter of being politically correct. It's saying and doing the things that are deemed socially acceptable at the moment.

It's telling:

  • a woman that an abortion of convenience is fine as long as it makes her happy in the moment
  •  a boy that he can pretend to be a girl if it feels right
  • people searching for truth and meaning that all they have to do is try to make their good deeds outweigh their bad
  • a thief that stealing is okay as long as it's from the rich
  • our teens and 20-somethings that sex is nothing more than a way to know if you're compatible with someone
  • a coworker that the ends justify the means
  • our kids that their happiness is more important than their character
  • women that their role in society is the same as the role of men
  • students to focus on self-fulfillment instead of being of service
  • people they can riot in the streets and destroy whatever they want over hurt feelings
  • lost, hurting people that there are innumerable ways to God--and that it doesn't matter which way you pick as long as you're sincere
  • young kids that "love is love" while ignoring God's design for love within the covenant of marriage between a man and woman
  • those dealing with life-stealing sins that they don't have to change because "God made you that way"

"Being nice" is a whole host of things, and most of them do nothing to help people. Most of the time when we're concerned about trying to be nice, all we really mean is that we don't want to be truthful because we'll most likely ruffle some feathers. If I'm focused on "being nice," I'm more worried about what somebody's going to think about me than telling them the truth.

I'm not saying it's time to start bashing people over the head with Scripture (though sometimes all of us seem to learn hard lessons a bit better that way). Though I've seen people take that approach many times in the past, I can't say that I've seen it work out very well. I am saying, though, that we have to stop filtering our words through the filter of political correctness. As Christians, our entire faith distills down to the fact that Jesus is "the Way, the Truth, and the Life" and the one and only way for us to come to God. If we let people believe anything short of that--or, as is sadly the case more and more right now, actually tell them it doesn't matter--then we are failing them and failing God. If we let people believe that they just need to focus on doing the right thing or on making a difference instead of making sure they know that it's all about becoming a follower of Christ and accepting His gift of salvation, we are deceiving them (and ourselves, most likely). Even more than that, though, we are calling Christ a liar. If He is not the only way to the Father, then faith in Him is worthless and His death was a waste.

"I can’t dismiss God’s grace, and I won’t.
If being right with God depends on how we measure up to the law,
then the Anointed’s sacrifice on the cross
was the most tragic waste in all of history!"
(Galatians 2:21)

Earlier in his letter to the Galatians (1:10), Paul wrote,

"Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God?
Or am I trying to please people?
If I were still trying to please people,
I would not be a servant of Christ."

Too often, I find myself more worried about winning the approval of people than I am about pleasing God. I hear something I disagree with and I stop myself from speaking up, a little voice in my head telling me that if I say the wrong thing that person might not like me anymore. In today's society, speaking up can have what seem like serious repercussions. People who say things that go against the popular narrative find themselves shut out and "cancelled," to use the wording of the day.

But at some point, all my concerns for what people might think of me have to be set aside. At some point, each one of us is faced with the decision Paul faced: do I worry about what people think, or do I worry solely about pleasing God?

That decision doesn't look the same for everyone. For some, that stand is one that gets put on display in front of millions. It's a stand that requires great earthly sacrifice--career, friends, aspirations, goals--and has direct, painful ramifications. For others, the decision to focus on pleasing God instead of people is quieter. It's the decision not to go along with the crowd, despite the lure of social standing. It's teaching your kids that what feels right doesn't mean anything in light of what actually is right.

It's time to stop focus on being nice and instead focus on doing right. We have to stand for God's truth despite what society says, because how else will the world see that there is salvation from everything that leaves them broken and hurting?


Saturday, August 20, 2022

back to school

To my kids:

It's that time again--back to school. Seeing as how I've spent pretty much my whole life in school, I know the feelings well: a strange mix of excitement and nerves and fear and all of it ties your brain and your stomach up in knots. I'm teaching again this fall after 3 years away from the classroom, and I know that even though I've faced a new semester 58 times before (believe me, I counted), I'll still have butterflies in my stomach when I walk into a new classroom for the 59th semester. I know you get tired of me giving you advice, but I also know that you realize it won't ever stop... so I'm going to take that as an open invitation ;)

First, embrace discomfort this year. The world teaches us to chase after comfort, but that's not what's best for you. You don't do much growing when you're comfortable--mentally, physically, emotionally, or spiritually.

  • Mental comfort keeps you from learning new things. It keeps you in a place where things come easily, but if you stay in that place you are going to miss out on so much. For me, the comfortable place for me, mentally, was always words. I've always been a writer, and words always came easily to me. If I had stayed there, though, I would have missed out on so much. My studies in physics have opened up entirely different aspects of the world for me, and I can't imagine what life would be like today if I hadn't embraced the discomfort of those studies.
  • Physical comfort is misleading. In all honesty, if you are always comfortable physically, you're probably actually getting weaker. You don't better yourself by only being willing to be in situations where you'll come out on top--you get better by pushing and failing. It is incredibly easy for physical comfort to turn into laziness, which will bleed over into other areas of your life. Push yourself. If you feel like you can't run any further, force 10 more steps. Learn to deal with pain (you know, like when I ever so lovingly tell you to "walk it off," sharing the wisdom of my father); you can handle a lot more than you think you can, and most of it's just a mental game.
  • Emotional comfort usually means you aren't taking emotional risks. It's easy to convince yourself that that's a good thing. I did that myself for a long time, so I understand the draw. When you put yourself in a place to be emotionally uncomfortable, you're making yourself vulnerable. Being vulnerable is a scary thing, because it's easy to get hurt when you're vulnerable. The thing is, though, if you aren't vulnerable from time to time you'll miss out on so many amazing opportunities. Yes, you'll get hurt if you let yourself embrace emotional discomfort. That's a given in life, and you don't avoid being hurt by avoiding discomfort. But you do miss out on a whole lot of other amazing things.
  • Spiritual comfort isn't something you see very much of in the Bible. For Christians in the United States, though, it's really common. Most of us get into a routine with our spiritual life--we have specific habits when it comes to church attendance, prayers, Bible study, service, worship... if something comes along that's outside of our spiritual comfort zone, we're quick to brush it aside. The thing is, in our comfort we often miss out on what God has for us. In Genesis 12, we see the following command: "Eternal One: Abram, get up and go! Leave your country. Leave your relatives and your father’s home, and travel to the land I will show you." God called Abram to leave everything he knew. I can tell you, that doesn't sound very comfortable to me. In 1 Kings 17, we see the same thing for Elijah: "Eternal One: I want you to travel away from this place and go east. Keep yourself hidden near the Cherith stream, east of the Jordan." Time and again we see the same thing--God has amazing things in store for people, but they have to step out of their comfort zone if they want to actually be part of it. Ruth... Moses... David... Esther... Boaz... Elijah... Peter... Daniel... Joshua... Mary... Paul... none of them were given quiet, comfortable spiritual lives. Each one had to risk everything they knew to follow God. Don't limit yourself by sitting quietly in your comfort zone. Be willing to do the uncomfortable when God asks--and He will, I guarantee it.

Second, don't take yourself too seriously. I'm probably not the best example of someone living out this piece of advice. I tend to overthink things (okay, pretty much everything) and have a hard time just letting go and enjoying things as they come. From time to time, though, I've actually succeeded at doing just that. And let me tell you, those are some of the best memories I have. Those are the times when I've really seen the joy and beauty around me, the times my stomach and cheeks have hurt from laughing so hard, when I've stopped worrying about how my face looks when I'm really wrapped up in something, and when I've just let go of all the insecurities for a little while. When you get the chance to really enjoy something, don't worry about how it will make you look. So if one of the elementary kids asks you to swing with them or play tag, go for it. Join in with joy and show them how great life can be if you let it.

Last, and most importantly, do everything you can to keep your focus on God. The world will do everything it can to get you to focus on other things--success, friends, grades. Those aren't bad things by any means, but that's what makes it so hard. You have to make the conscious decision to put the best above what's good. You can't be close to God unless you make Him the priority--before family, friends, sports, school... none of that can be put above Him. This world is spinning into chaos. If your life isn't built on God's truth as your foundation, then everything will crumble.

I hope that this year will lead you closer to finding out who you are in God's plan. I pray that you will be drawn closer to Him by everything that happens, and that He will give you wisdom and peace. I pray that you will be shining lights in a dark world, pointing others to the source of all hope and all that's good.



Saturday, July 9, 2022

praying for rain

Here in our little corner of the world, it usually seems a bit like paradise. We're tucked into the hills and the woods, and you can't look out without noticing God's beauty. Right now, though, sometimes it's hard to see the beauty. Like right now--we haven't had rain in about a month, and the ground is so dry that it is cracking. 

The small creek that runs through our property is the lowest I've seen it in all the time we've lived here. 


This time of the year is normally hot (typically with highs in the mid to upper 80s), but this year we've had highs in the mid to upper 90s. Our cows are never still, roaming over every inch of of property looking for grass. It's so dry that we had to feed hay this week, in the first week of July, and that was only because a neighbor told us he could spare two bales--no more because he doesn't know when he will have to start feeding his own cows. 

Our driveway is nothing but powder. When we drive down our dirt road, all the plants along the side are brown because they are coated in dust that's blown up as people have driven down the road. Everything around us is desperate for rain, crying out.





We've been praying for rain, as I'm sure can be said for many of our neighbors. It's been hot and dry for too long, and people are getting worried. It's always a scary thing when you have to start feeding hay to your livestock so early in the summer, especially when there's no rain in the forecast. From time to time we get some clouds that roll in--they even look promising, as if they could open up and send moisture down to a parched land at any time.
We had some sprinkles yesterday, but it was barely enough to dent the dust of the driveway.

Sometimes life is just like that--dry to the point that the ground starts crumbling under your feet. You're desperate for the rain to fall, for it to quench your thirsty soul, to bring some kind or relief, but the sky refuses to open. When it gets like that, it can feel like God has abandoned you. After all, He knows what you're going through. He knows that your soul needs to be revived, just like He knows that our dry and thirsty ground needs the rain to fall, so why isn't He doing something about it? Why isn't He sending something to restore your dry and thirsty soul? Doesn't He see? Doesn't He care?

It's easy to forget that seasons are a part of life. We know it--in our heads, anyway. We know that we have to take the good with the bad, the feast with the famine, the tears with the laughter. The problem is, when we're in the middle of the bad and the famine and the tears it's hard to focus on anything else. When it feels like God has forgotten about you, it's hard to remember that He is always good. Our circumstances, as overwhelming as they may seem, don't determine God's goodness. In the hard times, we use Jesus's lament on the cross--"My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?"--but we forget that He was quoting a Psalm that goes on to say, "Still, You are holy." (Psalm 22:3a)

Yes, even in the dry times, God is good.

Even if He chooses to leave you in the desert, He is good.

Even if He doesn't send the rain, He is good.

Even if you feel abandoned, He is good.

 

"Sometimes sorrow is the door to peace
Sometimes heartache is the gift I need
You're faithful, faithful
In all things

In every high, in every low
On mountaintops, down broken roads
You're still my rock, my hope remains
I'll rest in the arms of Jesus
Come what may"
(We Are Messengers, Come What May)

"The sparrow's not worried ‘bout tomorrow
Or the troubles to come
The lily’s not thinking ‘bout the seasons
The drought or the flood
A tree that's planted by the water
Isn't fazed by the fire
So why should I be?

’Cause You take good care of me
You take good care of me
You know what I need before I even ask a thing
And You hold me in Your hands
With a kindness that never ends
I'm carried in Your love no matter what the future brings
Yeah, You take good care of me"
(Cory Asbury, Sparrows)

"Oh, my soul
Oh, how you worry
Oh, how you're weary, from fearing you lost control
This was the one thing you didn't see coming
And no one would blame you, though
If you cried in private
If you tried to hide it away, so no one knows
No one will see, if you stop believing

Oh, my soul
You are not alone
There's a place where fear has to face the God you know
One more day, He will make a way
Let Him show you how, you can lay this down
'Cause you're not alone

Here and now
You can be honest
I won't try to promise that someday it all works out
'Cause this is the valley
And even now, He is breathing on your dry bones
And there will be dancing
There will be beauty where beauty was ash and stone
This much I know

Oh, my soul
You are not alone
There's a place where fear has to face the God you know
One more day, He will make a way
Let Him show you how, you can lay this down

I'm not strong enough, I can't take anymore
And my shipwrecked faith will never get me to shore
Can He find me here?
Can He keep me from going under?

Oh, my soul
You are not alone
There's a place where fear has to face the God you know
One more day, He will make a way
Let Him show you how, you can lay this down

'Cause you're not alone

Oh, my soul
You're not alone"

(Casting Crowns, Oh My Soul)

And even when you feel like He is distant, God hasn't left you. He's right there with you in the dust, close enough to you that He can say,

"After all, it is I, the Eternal One your God,
        who has hold of your right hand,
    Who whispers in your ear, 'Don’t be afraid. I will help you.'"
(Isaiah 41:13)

Saturday, June 25, 2022

dangers of affirmation

When my daughter was about 3, she would have told you, without hesitation, that she wasn't a little girl--she was a puppy. She would be a puppy at the grocery store, much to my embarrassment. She was committed, let me tell you. There was more than once that we had to get onto her for licking somebody or for barking in response to a question she was asked, or to tell her to get up off the floor and walk on her feet instead of crawling on all fours.

Why do I bring that up? Because we have somehow decided that kids are capable of making life-altering decisions when they are at an age when it used to be considered completely developmentally normal for them to pretend to be any number of things, from a puppy to a train. What has never been normal, though, is to tell a child that they actually are whatever they are pretending to be.

Now, though, we're supposed to go along with whatever someone is pretending to be. 

We've come to a point in our society where it has somehow become "normal" to have to ask what someone's pronouns are before speaking to them. People have started putting their pronouns in their email signature. If you "misgender" someone, you're considered a hateful bigot. We have the concept of "deadnaming" someone, meaning you call somebody by the name they were given instead of the name they chose for themself when they "transitioned." We are supposed to "affirm" everyone, and to even suggest that it could be harmful marks you as hateful. And now, there's even a trans-Barbie (not a joke, though I wish it was) and drag queen story hour--and yet we're not supposed to think that our kids are being targeted by LGBTQWXYZ-activists?

Pronoun cards 2016-02
from https://uwm.edu/lgbtrc/support/gender-pronouns/

What has happened to us?

It has even come to the point where we are being told we are possibly breaking the law if we don't use someone's "preferred pronouns." Think about that for a second--if you don't use the specific term someone has decided they like the most, you could be committing a crime. That's not something that should happen in the United States, something that has been obvious since the 1st Amendment came into being.

More importantly, though, the ideology of transgenderism not something that people who claim to be followers of Christ should be going along with.

As Christians, we are supposed to believe that each one of us is an individual who was created by God with inherent value simply because we are a child of God. We are supposed to believe that God knows what He's doing and that He doesn't mess up. We are supposed to believe that God designed the world we live in, and that what He designed was good. That means that when God created my daughter, He specifically chose to create her as a little girl--not a puppy...or a boy.

Why is it a big deal? You'll hear a lot of people claim that the loving thing to do is to just go along with it, to call people whatever they want to be called. The problem with that is two-fold.

First and foremost, to go along with the ideas of transgenderism and sexual identity politics is to go against God's word. It is to blatantly say that biological truth doesn't exist (what happened to "follow the science"?), that biblical authority doesn't exist, that God's truth doesn't exist. There is only one truth. It isn't subjective. It doesn't matter what your "lived experience" is, or what seems true to any one person. God's word is truth, and if we say anything different, we have no right to claim that anything in the Bible is true. Jesus Himself confirmed that, saying, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." (John 14:6)

People twist that thought, saying that if we believe that God doesn't make mistakes we have to believe that God made people with sexuality or gender issues "just the way they are" and therefore they are just living out their true, authentic selves and God would be happy with that. The problem is, that's just plainly not biblical. God created us, but ever since sin was first introduced into the Garden we are all born into a fallen world. The whole story of salvation is that in our own fallen, human self, none of us is good enough. We are all sinners, and we have no chance of being right with God unless we repent of our sins. Repenting means turning completely away from the things that go against God's will, no matter how much we want to do them. It's not easy and it's not popular, but that's not a surprise either: "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow is the gate and difficult the way that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:13-14) We are called to set aside our old lives and every sin that holds us back to pursue Christ. That means that my thoughts and plans for myself, no matter what they are, have to become secondary to God's plan.

Second, it isn't loving to go along with someone when they are doing something that is harmful to them. It isn't a popular opinion, but I truly believe that the vast majority of people dealing with issues related to gender and sexuality are people who are struggling with much deeper hurts. That's backed by studies that have shown that someone changing their appearance to look like the opposite gender doesn't reduce their risk of suicide or improve their mental health. If someone is trying to cover up a deep wound by hiding behind something that is, in the long run, going to cause them nothing but pain, what is loving about cheering them on?

It's here that I'm reminded of Jesus with the woman who was brought to Him after being caught in adultery. First, the fact that she was "caught in adultery" comes with it's own set of questions--why didn't they bring the man, too? And how in the world did they catch her? Second, though, is how Jesus addressed her after all the men wanting her stoned had left. He didn't excuse her actions. He didn't tell her that He loved her just the way she was. Instead, He told her, "Go, and sin no more." He didn't condemn her, but He didn't excuse her sin, either. He didn't affirm her choices, just like He doesn't affirm ours when they go against God.

We as followers of Christ need to find a better way to reach out to hurting people--I have no doubts about that, and no doubt that these are hurting people. When the Obama administration looked into sex-reassignment surgeries, they found that people who had undergone such surgeries were 19xs more likely to commit suicide. That leaves very little doubt about the true depths of pain these people are feeling. We need to do better about offering true hope to the world around us.

That doesn't mean, though, that we ignore God's will. It doesn't mean that we brush off the things He condemns. Yes, we can come to God just as we are. That's something we should all be incredibly thankful for, because otherwise we would all be in a mess. The thing is, the fact that we can come to God just as we are doesn't mean we can stay that way after. God demands changed lives. He demands that we die to the past in order to live for eternity with Him. He demands that we sacrifice ourselves and our desires--our only identity after coming to Him is the identity we find in Him, and we are called to continually strive to become like Him.

I wish this was an issue that didn't have to be addressed. It makes no sense to be talking about using the right pronouns for people, or affirming their gender identity. For thousands of years, people have known that boys grow up to be men and girls grow up to be women, as is determined by biology and always has been (yes, I know intersex is a thing... that affects roughly 0.05% of people). It isn't something that can be ignored, though, because it's something that's being pushed to our kids. Blue's Clues, a t.v. show aimed at pre-schoolers, had an episode with a "Pride Parade". Public libraries host drag queen story time. Kids are taken to events like "Drag the Kids to Pride" where they are exposed to men dressed in skimpy women's clothing who dance in front of them while the kids are encouraged to stuff dollar bills into their waistbands. Kids movies show same sex couples kissing, and those who oppose it are "idiots" who will "die off like dinosaurs." And now, parents are being told that they are unfit if they refuse to "affirm" their daughter saying she's supposed to be a boy. Health clinics are starting to say that kids as young as 12 can hide their medical charts from their parents, despite the fact that it has long been understood that minors can't make health decisions for themselves.

Even if you disagree with me on quite literally everything else, think about the insanity of letting a kid make a life-altering decision simply because we are supposed to go along with their personal views. We have age limits on pretty much everything in society because we have long acknowledge the fact that kids simply aren't capable of making certain decisions for themselves. Besides just personal observations, we have science to back up that kids' brains aren't fully developed until they are in their mid 20s at least (though many researchers say it's more likely the 30s). When kids are put on hormone blockers to "affirm their identity," or worse yet, subjected to surgeries that are supposed to change their sex (a biological impossibility), they are doing things that will affect the rest of their lives. They are being put at risk of low bone density, stunted growth, and future infertility. That doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of all the mental and emotional issues. Kids are being allowed to make decisions that are based on thinking logically, planning for the future, and weighing risks and benefits before their brains are actually developed enough to consider those things. Kids can't even be counted on to have the same likes and dislikes from one week to the next, so why let them make decisions like this? That's something that has to be considered since as much as 20% of those who identify as transgender in the U.S. are between the ages of 13 and 17.

This isn't something we can just ignore, hoping it will go away or saying it isn't any of our business.


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