Would I do it over again if I could?

There are days, times, moments really, when I ask myself “If I had known, REALLY known, what having children entails, would I have still done it?”

Would I trade in everything I have for more down time, more me time, more free time, more freedom, more money, less “what the heck am I doing”, more sleep, etc.

Usually that question comes on the tail end of a long and busy season, like the holiday season for example. I am so wiped out. I feel like I have so little to give right now to anyone and it’s hard. These are the hard days for me. When I just want to disappear, I don’t want any demands placed on me, I wish I could just go on vacation from work by setting up an away email and not going into the office. The days where the reality of momhood weighs heavily on me.

I realize, though, that this moment in time is just that – a moment. It will be gone in a flash. My two very little children will be not so little children, then teenagers, then adults and it will simply fly by. Then I will have those days that I sometimes long for now, with little responsibility, lots of time and freedom (compared to having two very little children), and the ability to make choices based on adults and not necessarily on children. I will have the luxury and freedom to pursue my own interests with all the time in the world.

Sometimes I would love to trade in the cries and screams and poop and pee and tantrums for peace and quiet. Sometimes I want to wish away these little people and replace them with bigger people, more independent people, people who need their mama just a little bit less. Those days are coming, though, faster than I can breathe in today. Someday I won’t be needed to fill a cup or make a meal or change a diaper or get dressed. I won’t need to carry a screaming baby out to a car or wrestle a toddler into a carseat.

These days are so tiring, so exhausting. I don’t think I will really appreciate how much so until they are older. It’s like being sick for a long time – you forget what it feels like to be well. I think that’s the case with parents of very little children – you forget what it’s like to not be tired. Being tired all the time is simply normal and you push and pull yourself and move up and along. Someday I will look back and be amazed that either of us survived. I will know what it’s like to sleep all night with no worries, I won’t have to be so vigilant about everything, I won’t need to know where everyone is all the time. I will be able to trust the little people to be unsupervised and not die.

Would I do it over again? Of course I would. Even though there is so much sacrificing of myself as a mother, it has given me a fulfillment and purpose that nothing else ever has in my life. If I did not have children, I wouldn’t even know what to do with myself. It’s the hard stuff that makes the sweet moments even sweeter.

How about you? Would you do it over again knowing what you know now?

Multifaith cooperation initiatives?

I recently heard about the Tri-Faith Initiative undergoing development and construction in Lincoln, NE. My first thought was “Huh, interesting,” but I really didn’t know what to make of it or what to really think about it. To be honest, I’m still not sure what to think about it.

On the surface, it’s pretty cool to see the three Abrahamic faiths working together, cooperating, promoting understanding of their faiths, etc. However, as Christians, we are not called to “promote understanding of our faith” or to just be “united by Christ’s example, caring for one another, supporting one another and challenging one another to become all that God creates us to be (taken directly from the Christian church description of the Tri-Faith website).” We are called to live radically obedient lives in submission to Christ, working to draw others into a relationship with him.

It reminds me of the large variety of, but essentially the same, popular Jesus memes:

jesus_did-i-stutter

It’s great that they are so popular in that people may be inspired to seek out conversations about Jesus or even dig into the Bible or something to discover more about Christ. However, my problem with them is that they take the second greatest commandment and make it the first. The greatest commandment is to ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength’.

In the same way, this initiative may encourage people to seek out Jesus, but it seems the emphasis is more on being cooperative, promoting understanding, being active in social justice, and being “good people”. While these are not necessarily bad things, I do think it promotes the faulty notion that there is more than one legitimate path to heaven. People already think that these faiths worship the same God so it’s not a big deal, but I say if they worship the same God, why the wildly different religions then? Why the different books? Why the different customs? Why the different paths of salvation?

I agree that we should love people, but we should love them enough to get to know them and challenge them in their thinking and actions to seek out Christ – who he really is – and let that transform their lives. We cannot in good conscience sit back while others live life in a futile manner, chasing after the wind and whatever is popular in the world.

When I was in college and part of a campus ministry, I wanted to bring in speakers from other faiths so I could understand those faiths better. I’m not sure I was wise enough at the time to know that a greater understanding of the faith would make it easier for me to present the gospel to people of differing faiths, but I truly wanted to understand the foreign world of people who aren’t Christians. To this day, I still have pretty much no understanding of any faith outside of Christianity.

There is a great opportunity for discussions, debates, and other conversations within this Tri-Faith Initiative, but I have a feeling they won’t really happen. I have a feeling that in our society, it will be more of a case of live and let live. I suppose the best thing that could come of it is people could be willing to check out Christianity for the first time because of this spirit of cooperation and understanding. God will take anything and turn it into a vehicle for salvation. I just hope the Christianity people experience here is an authentic one, a challenging one, one that points people to Christ first and actions later, one that stays true to the message of Christ being the only way to heaven. I hope, but my gut tells me it probably isn’t so – by reading the descriptions of the involved church, I think it also participates in the watered-down, slightly distorted version of modern Christianity. This version being one that proclaims being a good person is enough and that it’s about us and God only wants what is best for us, that we don’t have to suffer or give anything up for it.

The truth is that to be a follower of Christ is to be hated by the world, not accepted. A servant is not greater than his Master, and what the Master suffers the servant will as well. We are not of this world, and if we were, the world would love us as their own. That is really what Christians have to look forward to on this Earth, in this live – to be persecuted, hated, struck down, destroyed, mocked – anything that happened to Jesus can and will happen to some of us. We have to be willing to shoulder that, to accept it, embrace it, and submit our lives to the one who gives us life. We have to be willing to take about the life raft we found in the shipwreck of our lives, to help others find the life raft. Jesus never said our life on Earth would be easy, in fact he promised it wouldn’t be, but when we truly know him, we truly understand how fleeting and temporary our pain is. We are but a vapor or a mist, which is here for a little while and then vanishes. We can’t afford to take our focus off Christ because before we know it, our life will be over and what are we going to find when we walk through death’s door and emerge on the other side? Will we be welcomed into eternity with Christ or will he say “I never knew you”?

Decide this day, friends, whom you will serve. You may not have tomorrow.

Reflection: Matthew 4:8-10

I’ve been trying to be better about getting into my Bible and reading every day. Of course, with two little kids and a million things to do every day, it’s easier said than done. Even when I’m tied up nursing, I forget to read. Sometimes I peruse facebook instead or just spend time connecting with Patrick. Sometimes, though, I manage to remember to pop open my Bible app and start reading.

I’ve been reading Matthew recently and this verse really popped out to me for the first time in a long time. I remember reflecting on it years ago, too, but I’ve been reminded of it.

Again, the devil took him [Jesus] to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

Jesus said to him, “Away from me, satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.”

The context is the devil is taking Jesus around and tempting him. The first temptation is turning stones into bread after not eating for over a month. If I didn’t eat for a day, I’d be tempted to eat absolutely everything in sight! And yet Jesus finds Scripture to help him through.

The second temptation is the devil taking Jesus up to the highest point of the temple and telling him to jump because the angels will catch him. Again, Jesus turns to Scripture to rebuke the devil.

Then we come to this last temptation – the one referenced above. It particularly strikes me as lately I’ve been reflecting on the reason Jesus came at all. Jesus came to provide a way for humanity to be in direct relationship with God. Before then, the relationship was dictated through rabbis and sacrifices – it was a mediated relationship. Jesus provides a way for HIM to be the mediator, to eliminate sacrifices by being the last sacrifice, so that we can commune directly with God.

It’s also interesting because satan offers to GIVE Jesus all the kingdoms of the world in all their splendor. For a long time, I breezed over this thinking, “He was God, no big deal.” I needed to really stop, though, and think this through. How could the devil offer to give the world to Jesus? You can only give what you possess, right?

This took me to other passages in John (12:31, 14:30) and 2 Corinthians (4:4) which all proclaim satan to be in power on Earth through various titles. God has given satan power over the Earth for a short time, and therefore, over the people of the Earth. It’s why we don’t need to proclaim belief in satan to be separated from God – it is our natural state. If we are not living with the power of God, we are living under the yoke of satan.

Let’s go back to Matthew. “All this I will give you if you bow down and worship me.” Can you even begin to imagine the temptation? To have what you traveled, endured, suffered for given to you without the need to die in a horrific way? ‘All these people will love you’ satan whispers to Jesus. ‘You will not be hated by the world.’ Jesus knows full well that when he enters his ministry, he will be hated because the world loves its own and he is not of this world. He does not belong, Christians do not belong, but this is his chance to have every person proclaim him.

However, Jesus also knows that should he bow his knee, he condemns the entire world to eternal separation from God, including himself. The ultimate logic vs. emotion struggle. I can just picture Jesus standing there, looking at all the faces of the people he loves, the people he came for as satan presents them, his heart longing for all of them to know him, to love him, to want to be in communion with him, to know that without him they are condemned to hell. His heart yearns for all of them and then logic steps in and rules the day. Jesus is angry. He is irritated at satan and snaps “Away from me!” The vision of the people of the world vanish. “It is written: Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.” Jesus is hungry, he is being mocked by the devil, and then has what his heart longs for dangled in front of him with an impossible catch. Yet, he always responds with Scripture.

How about us? Are we so equipped that we can repel temptation with Scripture? Do we as Christians know the Bible enough to do that? Are we convicted enough of our sins and convinced enough of our desperate need for a Savior to spend the time learning the heart of God?

I am struck anew by this passage, by the magnitude of the temptations, by really feeling the heart of Jesus as he contemplates the devil’s offers. By his anguish after.

Then, in verse 11, “Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.” He was not left alone after his temptations. He was attended to by angels, by the very ones who would catch him off the highest point of the temple, who know who he is. I imagine they brought him the most delicious food, cold, wet water and sat with him in silence as he processed his ordeal. I imagine they had a conversation after about how he did the right thing, that Jesus talked about how his heart ached for the peoples of the world. I imagine they talked about his upcoming ministry and helped him to gather emotional strength for what would be a very difficult road.

Too often, I’m too busy to really process and reflect and think through what the Bible is saying. Too often, I can dismiss what Jesus experienced as “Well, he was God too,” and move on. It’s important to slow down, to imagine the experiences he had, to imagine emotions he may have felt, to accept his heart for people and his longing for us to know him, to be in relationship with him, to enjoy all he has to offer in eternity. It’s too easy to make Christianity about us when, really, it’s about God. It’s about what he did, and not about the fact that he did it for us. We are to accept what he did and live in light of that awesome sacrifice. To honor him, to live according to his words, to encourage others along the same path, to share by living our lives and using our words only when completely necessary.

As you reflect on these verses, on Jesus’ temptations, what stands out to you?