It’s been a few years since we’ve hung out so we had a lot to catch up on. As we sat on the back patio Jenny shared how she’d been teaching her daughter, Annie (age 5), about the fruit of the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22-23)
Jenny taught Annie a song to help her remember. (Not surprising since Jenny is a musician). “The fruit of the Spirit is not a coconut, the fruit of the Spirit is not a coconut, cause the fruit of the spirit is Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self – control.” (Repeat)
Although I can’t carry a tune, I too used to teach my kids songs about Jesus. Songs like “The B- I –B-L-E that’s the book for me, I stand alone on the Word of God, the B. I. B. L. E. “ Or “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine, let it shine. Hide it under a bushel basket? NO! I’m going to let it shine. Let it shine, let it shine all the time.”
We parents sing these little tunes in hopes that they will help our children grow in their knowledge and faith.
But have you ever noticed how selective we are?
It’s kind of like what we do on Facebook. We only share part of the story, selective parts, “the fun, victorious, hey look at my amazing life parts.” We all know that what we see on Facebook isn’t the “whole” story and yet we compare. We are left with a sense that somehow our life is less.
The other day Annie came home from kindergarten upset. It seems another child told her the story in Exodus 12. You know the story – the one where an animal is killed and its blood is put over the doorposts so when death passes over it will only kill the Egyptian firstborn sons. Annie wanted to know why God would do this?
Jenny said, “I didn’t want to tell her that story. In fact I didn’t know what to tell her. I just wanted her to learn about the fruit of the Spirit.”
Ever been there?
Have you ever wondered what happens to our faith when we learn only part of the story? How does what we’ve learned about Jesus in the Bible set us up for dealing with real life? Particularly the hard stuff. Unwanted and unanswered stuff? Perhaps it leaves us like Facebook does, disappointed and disillusioned with our real life.
When my son Hunter was 15 he sat in a truck with a dead baby between him and his friend Bill. He was in South Sudan and the mother of the baby died in childbirth. The baby died days later. The dead baby laid in a box beside Hunter as they drove to the burial site. Hard. Unwanted. Unanswered. Life hands us this stuff. In these times the tune to fruit of the Spirit isn’t enough. Quoting Scripture or trying to explain the “why” wasn’t sufficient enough. Sometimes life is wilder than we can understand. All I can say, is He’s there in it with us. These kinds of times requires real presence. A presence big enough to comfort and hold in the hard, unwanted stuff. And regardless of all I don’t know and understand – I do know he’s with us.
This past month Steve and I spent two weeks visiting our daughter in Chile. The first week my older brother, Rod and my mom accompanied us. The second week Hampton and his girlfriend, Taylor joined us. We had some really good times traveling. We laughed, ate and experienced the Chilean culture. My favorite part of the trip was seeing Madison maneuver around her city, Valaparaiso. She knew all the places of interest, the history of the country, she knew all the names of the street dogs and where to get the best latte, wine and dessert. She got us around the city using the local bus (no easy feat might I add) and she filled in the language gap for those of us who didn’t know any Spanish. Watching her filled my heart.
But when I returned home and was asked about the trip I knew I was suppose to say, “It was great.” But that wasn’t completely true. There were some hard times too. We posted pictures but not the hard moment ones. I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer but isn’t it important we present the real life picture? What happens when we don’t? Does it set ourselves and others up to think their life isn’t as wonderful? How does it dehumanize us? How does it eclipse the Gospel’s story? So for full disclosure sake and so others don’t have to think their life is less, let me share “the other side of our story.”
There was a time I was so irritated with my husband that I wanted to punch him in the nose. We didn’t post that picture. Nor the one where my mom was sick night and day throwing up because she ate a bad meal. Nor did we post a picture of when our backpacks were stolen.(Along with my backpack went my hormone meds which may have contributed to my desire to punch Steve in the nose!) We did post a picture of our hike but it wasn’t fully truthful either. If it were, you would have seen Hampton throwing berries in my hair, his trying to trip me while I walked, his jumping on his dad’s back and his wrestling him to the ground. That’s a fuller picture of what it was like to hike with Hampton.
We need the real story of life and faith, don’t we? Because if all I sing is “the fruit of the Spirit” or all I see is a happy family hiking the Andes, I might think this is what real life looks like and I’ll be left ill equipped if not disillusioned when hard shows up. Don’t get me wrong, life is wonderful, precious, glorious, beautiful but it is also hard, dark and painful – all at the same time. Truth is my inner life can be dark. My body can hurt if I sit too long. At times my mind feels like a crazy woman. My familial relationships are good but at times NOT. And yes, it was amazing standing at the base of a volcano and hike the Andes. All at the same time.
I need a God that can meet me in my real life. I guess that’s why I’m okay with stories like Exodus 12. I don’t like them and I certainly don’t understand them but I do appreciate that my God is bigger than my pat answers. That sometimes he’s wilder than I think. That I can’t control, contain or minimize him to my comfort. I don’t know much, age makes you less sure of what you were always sure of, but I do know in the unwanted, unanswered and un-liked of life – he’s still present. His presence is real. And it’s enough for me to keep living faithfully in the beauty, wonder and unwanted parts of life.