Monday, June 2, 2014

Peace with God

Growing up, my mental picture of God was that of an angry old man holding a clipboard with a list of sins.  He angrily checked them off as I committed them.  By the age of 13 I thought being baptized would wipe the slate clean and I could start over.

By 17, I had given up.  I lived like the world all week, then put on my good girl clothes on Sunday morning in hopes of appeasing the "old man" upstairs in case I died in a car accident or something.  I was miserable.

At age 21 I met the man who would become my husband.  Funny, because neither of us were exactly following Jesus, but somehow through the chaos of dating and navigating our feelings he led me to Jesus.

Sept. 23, 1993.  It was 2:00 in the morning.  I was in the midst of another cry session over I-don't-know-what.  But I remember him saying, "don't you know you will go to Heaven?"

Incredulously I responded, "How can you know?"

Because I had been taught that every sin sent you straight back to Hell.  God was keeping count and he had zero tolerance for my mistakes.  I was walking a thin line and falling on the wrong side more often than not.  I was constantly teetering on the brink of eternal damnation despite my desire to feel safe.

That night, I prayed to God, asking Jesus, to be my Savior.

That night everything changed.

I have never been the same.  The struggles I had then are not there now.  I have different struggles, but the trajectory has (thankfully) been upward by the grace of God.  But still, in the deepest part of my heart, has been a niggling fear.  A knowledge of how often I fail Him and that one day I will see Him face to face and everything I have done or left undone will be laid bare.  I know I will go to Heaven, but to live with the knowledge of how many times I threw away a blessing, of what could have been if only I had been obedient made my heart ache.

Last Sunday morning I sat in church between my husband and Miss S, our precious friend who rides with us each week.  Pastor Barry began his summer series and I settled in, looking forward to reinforcing the important basics of my faith.  He was speaking from Romans 5, which I have read many times.

I should know better than to feel too familiar with a Scripture.  The Word of God is, after all, living and active, isn't it?

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, 
we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  
(Romans 5:1)

I have peace.  Present tense.  I have peace with God, no matter how I feel in the moment.  When God looks at me, he doesn't just push aside the sin and choose to ignore it.  No, (OH what GLORIOUS TRUTH!) my Father in Heaven looks upon me, seeing NO SIN.  He sees me as I am...spotless, free, loved, His own. How?  Because JESUS PAID IT ALL.

This.  This rocked me to the core, more deeply than it ever has in 21 years of knowing Him.  I am at peace with God.  My peace is through Jesus, not through anything I have done!  And this truth?  It trickles down.
For you see, the inability to trust His acceptance of me has affected my ability to trust His acceptance of my children.  Oh, how easily legalism creeps into my parenting.  In the effort to prevent my kids from making the same mistakes I made as a teen I find myself micromanaging them, trying to parent them into holiness.

I have been foolish.  This failure of trust on my part most likely results in my children seeing God just like I an angry old man with a clipboard just waiting for them to screw up.  (Which they will.)

But now, there is this calm in my spirit that has made me able to trust Him with my kids on a whole new level.  All of my kids have accepted Jesus.  All of my kids, no matter what phase they are going through or how many doubts cloud their thinking or how many times they use "that tone", are at peace with God.
(Now, they may not be at peace with me, but that is another story!)  
He is pleased with them.  He looks upon them through the filter of His precious Son and I can trust Him with every aspect of their lives.

I can trust Him to turn around a sour attitude.
I can trust Him to peel the scales from angry eyes
I can trust Him to give them the gift of faith and the desire to follow Him out of love and not because I convinced them that it is what they should do.

I can trust Him to do with my kids exactly what He did with me.

Which also means...I can rest.  I can love them and pick better battles.  I can train them up and trust that resistance and even anger are part of the process of maturing and that God will use even my failures to refine them and make them like Jesus.

Oh mamas, if only we could all grasp the freedom that awaits.  Even though this is a truth I have "known" and even attempted to teach my kids, it has hit me on a whole new level this week.  I feel like I am just beginning to digest this.

We are at peace with God.
We, who have shaken our fists and rebelled...
who have taken for granted the little hearts in our care...
who have snapped in anger...
who have neglected the best for the not-so-good...
who have mismanaged hours that we can never reclaim...
who have doubted God's ability to fix what is broken...
we can rest.

I want to shout from the rooftops!  I want to shatter the chains of legalism that bind so many of us and scream in the face of the tyrant who tries to shackle us with man-made rules that our God is a god of GRACE and MERCY!  He loves us with an everlasting love...not dependent on our performance...and underneath us (oh, sisters, just envision this will you?) are His everlasting arms.

He holds us and He cherishes us and we are His beloved.  He is pleased with us because He is our Father and we never, ever have to doubt that...even on our worst days!

So now I challenge you, with this in mind, to read the rest of Romans 5.  Let me know what you think.  This may be nothing new to you, but if it is, I'd love for us to encourage one another in parenting with God's grace at the forefront of our minds.  After all, old habits are hard to break!  It's always easier when a gentle reminder floats your way.  :)

Have a wonderful, peaceful week my friends!

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