When the Future Changes

There were two men in my life. They both wanted to officiate my wedding. They both decided – separately – that if they never met the man I married, I wasn’t allowed to get married. Or, as one of them clarified, if I did get married without them, they’d act like the marriage was a figment of my imagination until they could reinact the ceremony with their involvement. (I didn’t dare act like they weren’t serious.) 

Both Terry and Ray jokingly-but-not-so-jokingly fought each other as they planned for my future wedding together as far as who would get most of the limelight as the officiator of my wedding, who got to kiss my cheek first and who got to harass my groom the best. 

I could never decide if their surrogate- fatherly arguments warmed my heart or added to my anxiety. Usually, I just laughed instead of focusing on the confusion. I was loved, that’s what I needed to remember. I was 16 and both these men had higher dreams for my future than I did. When I nearly ruined my life with childish decisions at 19 years old, they both spent hours (and I mean hours) almost daily on the phone talking me through my decisions and asking me the hard questions no one else wanted to ask. 

Both of these men passed away within a year of each other.  It didn’t hit me until last night for some reason that neither of these men get to see my wedding. Neither of these men get to ask me the hardest questions of all: “Can you support this man when he seems unsupportable? Can you make him laugh when all you want to do is make him cry? Can you show him Christ when all you want to do is show him yourself?” 

Even at 16, they warned me about those questions. They told me what they wanted the answers to be and what they would do if my answers didn’t represent Christ. They were futuristically minded when I couldn’t be. They cared more for my future than almost any other nonrelated acquaintance ever had.

They didn’t plan on not being around to help me grow up, but they prepared me for the future just in case they weren’t.

What if we discipled like that more often? What if we strove to be involved with our mentees but prepared them to be just as godly, wise and prepared without us as they are when they are with us? What if we didn’t shield them from hard things but rather taught them that they can prepare for a storm before it comes? 

What if we discipled in such a way that those we disciple don’t pine after us after we’re gone but rather strive to immulate the Christ-like characters we focused on the most?

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Worst of Sinners

Growing up, the generations before me were still struggling with believing life was (almost) all about reputation. If you shared your life-lessons with anyone younger than you, your sin needed to smack of holiness because, well, you were a Christian, right? That was all fine and good when dealing with things like gluttony, pride and disrespect. Those were the “Christian” sins. You can still look holy while dealing with those. (No, Dear, you can’t…)

But dealing with sins on the ‘level’ of sexual sins, addictions, or manipulation? Yeah, no… We can’t Christianize those, so we didn’t talk about them. Or, if we did talk of any “serious” sins like those (they all separate us from God– they’re all serious), they were addressed using such broad terms, I left feeling very confused and like I couldn’t be a Christian and have questions about those things. But then I felt betrayed when I found out secondhand the Christian who shushed my questions was the very brother or sister in Christ who shared my silent frustrations.

One of my strongest fears as someone who journals her prayers is that someone will read my heart’s cries long before I’m ready to share them. However, on the flip-side, there’s also this innate desire to hand these heartfelt prayers to my future children as a way to remind them their mama never had it together perfectly either. Even with the fact that I have no idea when I’ll hand these journals off, I find myself wanting to manicure my prayers so I don’t have to revisit my struggles’ shame if my children read about my journey to become more like Christ.

Paul of Tarsus, one of the key writers of the New Testament, was self-proclaimed, “… The worst of sinners… (1 Timothy 1:15),” yet he had one of the strongest stances on redemption, justice, mercy and grace. He did not budge when it came to what was/is expected from a follower of Jesus Christ. Though he did everything within his will to lead by example, he did not hide his sordid past. If Paul didn’t, why do we?

I completely understand that there’s a time and a place for transparency. Though Paul was open about his past, we didn’t see him divulging everything he’d ever done every time he opened his mouth to speak about grace and redemption. But even still, when the opportunity presented itself to show people he struggled, he did it openly. That openness only comes with the understanding that it’s ultimately about eternal redemption, not temporary reputation.

I wonder how many times we as Christians miss out on showing people God really does accept everyone right where they’re at simply because we want to protect our reputations rather than herald God’s glory.