As part of our twelve days celebration last month Rob gave me a pair of slippers. More as a joke than anything, they were leopard print and fuzzy. And, as it turns out, warm and comfy so I wore them all the time. I also washed them frequently and needless to say they didn’t hold up well so I had to get a new pair. Sadly the feisty print was unavailable and I ended up with somewhat the same style only in pink and not fuzzy. They’ll do I suppose but I liked the fuzzy warmth of the other pair and truthfully the sassy print was fun to wear.
When my second daughter was about a year old she picked up a dirty little rock and gave it to her grandmother. Now my sweet mother-in-law is crafty and quite sentimental about her grandchildren so she bought a little frame, cut a piece of pretty paper for a background, added a bow and glued the rock in place and as far as I know she still has that little memento on a shelf or end table somewhere.
Our youngest daughter has also had a fascination with rocks for as long as I can remember. Big ones, small ones, clean ones, dirty ones…she completely lacks discrimination as to which ones are pretty or ugly. She used to bring these little treasures to me until I had a box full and over flowing. She’d find them in the yard, the neighbors yard, sidewalks and parking lots. If there was the tiniest of stones loose and able to be picked up she was going to be reaching for it.
I came across that box of rocks recently and it got me to thinking. Life is full of rocks. The Dragon lobbed a hefty stone at Eve and she promptly tossed it to Adam who tried to return the volley when confronted by God for walking around with it. Not long after that Adam’s son picked up a rock and used it to smash in his brother’s head and then dropped the blood covered stone aside with a nonchalant, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
And you and I? We stumble over rocks with words like fear, unforgiveness, selfishness, and bitterness carved into them. Sometimes we pick them up and carry them around, their weight a strange security that we take solace in because it’s a familiar anchor that requires little from us. We use them to build walls to hide behind that allow us to stay in our mediocre comfort zone. It becomes our burdensome excuse that gives us a free pass to not move from the shadows into light that is a little too bright sometimes.
Because if we set those rocks down and move into the Light then the Light is going to show the other rocks in our lives.
You know the ones I’m talking about. It’s the boulders fired off at us by a deliberately hurtful husband or thrown with unerring accuracy by a bitter angry wife. The smaller rocks that come from a thoughtless friend or coworker and the pebbles from complete strangers that cut us off in traffic or clearly have way more than 20 items in the speedy checkout line. These are the ones that we swiftly pick up and use as our own weapons. Their smooth bulk a justification for the war we’re fighting, for the temper tantrum we’re having.
Life is full of rocks and whether or not we pick them up or have them thrown at us there is something we’re supposed to do with them. We stack them. We take the missile fired off by the husband or wife and we put it on the pile. And we resist the urge to toss the ones back that came from the friend or neighbor and we add it to the pile. We empty the load of rocks we’ve been carrying around for years covered in the buzzwords that we’re told should be important to us like low self esteem, me time, fulfillment, and learn to love yourself and we dump them on the pile.
And then we climb on top of the pile. And we die there because underneath all our petty stones is the stone that was rejected, that became our Cornerstone. That pile is where death can lead to life and bondage falls away.
That pile of stones becomes the alter where we boldly proclaim that the hand of the Lord is mighty.
That He can overcome anything and everything. It’s where marriages are healed and relationships are restored. There, on that alter, we learn that we need to love our self less and Christ more. It’s where God triumphs over our past foolishness and dark hurts.
It’s where we learn that we ~ us, me and you ~ are the true stones; the living stones being formed and fashioned into a spiritual house for His name.
Sometimes a burden is both heavy and good. I forget this sometimes.
I forget sometimes that weighty can also be the same as substantial, important.
And something serious can also be joyful, satisfying.
Hard does not always have to mean bad.
Sometimes hard things in life are like the heavy winter quilt that settles around you, weighted in it’s warmth and comfort.
Sometimes hard is the fierce and loyal hug of a friend.
Or the smooshed up kissy face of a two year old pressing in to give mamma some love.
Parenting is a burden that is heavy and so.darn.hard. some days.
Being a wife is hard. Being a friend and neighbor is hard.
Sometimes heavy and hard is the satisfying labor of moving things around and putting stuff in it’s proper place. And that hard work can happen inside our minds and hearts just as easily as working in the garage or a closet.
I want to welcome the burdens in my life…the ones that ground me in His love…to accept their weight of
grace just like the worn quilt that brings comfort.
Burdens mean that He is working His good and perfect will in us…sometimes through burdens that He places on us that are good and right; sometimes through the ones that we pick up and tote along until He tells us to set them down…that we don’t need them.
But they all come from the hand of the Father whose Son calls us to find our rest in Him; the One who says His burden is easy.
Life isn’t easy nor should it be. But the hard will often times yield precious heavy joy~the kind that will last past this earth and into eternity.
I think as we continue our conversation on courtship it would be helpful if we remembered to view courtship as part of a whole. Our position on courtship and dating are part of the bigger overall picture of our family way. It’s not a subject that exists in a separate compartment that comes up only when our children reach a certain age. It is fertilized and finds it’s roots in our family’s theology of life.
Because each family has it’s own distinct culture courtship, stories will be varied, illustrated by the personalities of the individuals involved. While I expect a certain amount of similarities among the tales of love and romance for my five children, I also expect that no two stories will be written in just the same way.
However, there are certain non-negotiables that we’ll work from that will be the same for all of them. Our children, being raised in covenant households as believers, will not be allowed to court or marry unbelievers. A teenager’s social life, especially in the heart department, is not a mission field. We do not seek to win the lost by allowing our children to have romantic relationships with them in the hopes that they will turn to Christ. It is far more likely that our own children’s heart would be led astray. And since I know that many of you are already gearing up with the “But I know a couple” stories where one or the other was not a believer that came to know God through that relationship, I ask that you remember what I said last week. The exception does not become our rule. Just because we know someone that has survived swimming with the sharks doesn’t mean that we should throw our children into those waters.
This will also be a no contact sport. Until a ring is on a finger, there will be no hand holding, no kissing, no nothing. (Total sidebar: do any of you remember that 80’s song by the Georgia Satellites, Keep Your Hands to Yourself? I always liked that song.) It seems inconceivable that we would expect this from our children in this day and age. This is shocking and radical behavior even among the most devout evangelicals. But it really isn’t. It’s smart and safe. There are two phases to this and they both have the same starting place. Physical attraction is designed by God and is quite powerful. It is beyond foolish to think that somehow because our children know better and are Christians that they aren’t tempted.
Courtship is not the same as engagement and it is a time when clear thinking is sorely needed. Physical activity can blur the thinking and cloud judgement during a time when a couple is searching out whether they are suitable for each other. I know the question begs to be asked, how will they know if they’re physically compatible if they never touch, if they never kiss? I have a better question. Why wouldn’t they be physically compatible? Physical attraction is already a given because one really doesn’t enter into any stage of courtship if one finds the other physically repulsive. So why wouldn’t a young lady thrill to the young man’s touch if she has already found him to be attractive, trustworthy and honorable enough to consider marrying? Why would he not want and enjoy kissing her if he has already determined that her worth is far above rubies?
Sex is a part of any romantic relationship…couples will have sex – the question is whether it will be honorably or dishonorably. We can do a lot to help make sure that it is experienced without regret and shame and with honor. Even after a ring has been given and accepted strong and sturdy boundaries should be in place for the protection of the couple. Wisdom tells us that alone time should be limited and handled with great care.
So, with our chief end being to glorify God, as we walk the road of courtship with our children and those two load bearing walls in place let’s talk a little about what we’d like to have happen next. My husband will have essentially vetted the young man and given him permission to press his suit with our daughter. If she has no interest, Rob will let the young man know and she is spared any awkwardness. If, however, she does have an interest then we will all sit down together and lay out what expectations are. By “we” I mean everyone including his parents, so that we’re all on the same page. We hope for both families to spend as much time together as we can. Everyone is better able to give counsel to their respective offspring by watching how each family interacts and is governed. There is wisdom in a multitude of counselors and insight is gained by getting to know how each family functions.
Time apart from everyone will be done according to the discretion of my husband. Whether they are allowed to be alone from the rest of the family on the front porch, going on walks or the young man picking up and driving our daughter somewhere will be established by her father. This may seem like overkill and ridiculous to some but my husband’s job is to protect our daughter. I wonder how many christian fathers look at the messes their daughters have ended up in and wished they had done a better job protecting her?
This is a heavy responsibility on the father and a lot of trust is required from the daughter to rest easy in his decisions. A godly father will have shown himself to be seeking only her good all of her life. She will trust that he will withhold no good thing from her, so while it may not be easy to go at his pace she will yield to him in good faith.
Rather a fitting way to enter a marriage, don’t you think?
Like I said, I think about this a lot so I have plenty of thoughts on the matter. More than can be shared in a blog post…or two or three. But I can sum part of it up rather easily.
We, the church, need to stop dressing like the other team. Our clothes shouldn’t look ready to move from the Communion Table to the nightclub. I’m not saying that skirts and dresses should come down to your ankles, but if the length and style of your skirt would fit right in with what the party girls are wearing on a date Friday night then there is a problem.
A woman without discretion is like that.