It is 8:14 a.m. Texas time and Annie is still asleep. I assume she is still sleeping because she has a sixth sense that tells her... mom needs a break from me this morning.
With all the defiance and will power she could muster, she refused to pick up her toys yesterday afternoon. She looked me in the eyes and said, "I'm not going to pick up my toys." So we did a time out. She screamed as though I were ripping her toenails off. When I asked her if she was ready to get out and go pick up her toys, she screamed again, "I AM NOT GOING TO PICK UP MY TOYS MOMMY."
She continued to sit in time out (which is in her highchair because she will not sit down for a time out- thus, she has to be restrained) and she kicked her feet and knees so hard that they started turning red.
"I hurt myself. I HURT MYSELF MOMMY," she screamed with a quite hateful, pitchy voice.
Well of course you did, idiot! You are beating yourself up.
I took her out of the chair because she was so worked up- and I knew, at this point, nothing would be accomplished. Three time outs in a row and no progress usually means it's time to give her a "do-over" and allow her to calm down.
I held her in the living room and whispered to her that she needed to calm down. Take some deep breaths. Relax. I tickled her back and played with her hair. She collapsed in my arms.
So much crying. So much screaming. She needed to be held and loved.
"Ok baby. I love you so much. And I hate it when you choose to not obey the rules and you have to have consequences. I really do. So I hope you are ready to make some better choices. It's time to go pick up your toys now. And I will sit in the room and help you. Ok? Let's have a do-over."
She pulled away from my chest and looked up at me. I smiled a smile of empathy for her- it's hard business trying to learn how to be a little human. I kissed her on the forehead.
"Let's go baby. I'll help you."
*** You know how tornadoes suck up into the sky and disappear? You think they are gone and the danger is gone and that the storm has finally passed? But really, the tornado has only disappeared for the moment? Really, it's up in the sky somewhere talking itself into being a bigger monster than it was in the first place? Really, it's coming back for more? Really, it's just going to come back and gobble you up?***
"I AM NOT PICKING UP MY TOYS!!!!!!" she screamed and roared with a vengeance. And the kicking and flailing started again.
Ultimately, the worst punishment for Annie is to be in the same place as me, but not get to be with me. After she stopped kicking and flailing about on the living room floor, I picked her up, put her in her bedroom and told her she would not be coming out until the toys were put up. I shut the door- and because they are french doors that can be easily opened- I sat with my back against the doors and used my arms and legs to keep them closed as she tried to push her way out.
She knocked. Hit. Banged. And told me she hurt herself.
Of course you did, idiot!
I stayed strong. Not angry. Not bitter. Not hostile. Just strong. Eventually- I heard her quietly sobbing and putting her toys away.
That is what we are called to, isn't it?
As a parent of a very strong, independent two-year-old, I am finding out more and more what it looks like to be long suffering with someone. To bear up under their rants, screams, rages, bad decisions, and just plain ole' bad days and to love them anyways. This is not to suggest that you ought to be physically, verbally, sexually, or emotionally/spiritually abused by someone or that you ought to endure such a thing. You shouldn't and I don't believe there is one single iota in scripture that justifies staying in a relationship where you are being abused. This is also not to say we enable those around us by disregarding their behavior. I don't think of these situations as long suffering; rather, they are immensely harmful.
When I say long suffering, I think of it as loving someone well- on their best of days and on their worst of days. I think of long suffering as being willing to let someone grow, think, and mature without tearing them down or offering your constant judgement or opinion in the process. I think of Jesus. Who loved his disciples even when they asked dumb, selfish questions. I think of Jesus when he encountered women like Mary, who did something highly inappropriate, controversial, and uncomfortable for those in the same room as her... she washed Jesus' feet with her hair and a bottle of perfume that must have overwhelmed the room with its powerful smell. When I think of long suffering, I think of the story of the prodigal son. And I think of the father who waits on the road and does not say, "What you just said or did was not wise- or- I disown you- or- you are dead to me" he simply said "My son who was lost has come home again."
And then he gives him a hug.
When I think of long suffering, I think of what my pastor said on Sunday, "Sometimes there are more important things in life than being right."
In all of the examples mentioned above, never do you see Jesus in the New Testament "calling someone out." Well- minus a few very pompous religious figures in the synagogue. Instead, when Jesus encountered a situation when he could have very well said, "That was unwise" or "You IDIOT! Of course it hurts when you do that!" or the worst, "I'm disappointed with you" he refrained from "being right" and using that as a moment to "call someone out" and instead, he used those moments to teach, to re-direct, to offer grace that was not necessary, and to set an example of how to love.
So to Desiree. Thank you for having the humility to apologize for leaving a spiteful, anonymous comment on my blog. That takes guts and courage. The Holy Spirit is so demanding sometimes! Can't we just say sorry in our hearts and move on already?!? Well maybe, but then there wouldn't be beautiful examples of grace and forgiveness like you have offered up here. Examples of the way Christ has called us to be peacemakers- not enemies who draw battle lines. Thank you for the apology- I accept :) And I think it was a beautiful thing to do- I'm proud of you. I've had to make apologies like that in the past too, and they suck.
And to those of you who have found my blogs uncomfortable in the past and decided to correct me here in this public format with a chastising comment- I hope you will understand when I say- please keep your negative opinions to yourself.
Because public bullying or as we like to nicely veil it in Christian terms, "calling one another out," "keeping each other accountable" or "defending what is right," is actually not the example that Jesus set for us to follow.
I sometimes wonder if we were in a large group, say 10,000 people or so, if you'd be willing to look me in the eyes and say these comments out loud? To someone you don't know? Is that loving or simply trying to prove a point and be right? By writing on my blog- any blog- any public format- and correcting, admonishing, calling out, or chastising someone you do not have a personal, loving relationship with, you are, in my opinion, choosing to spew your rightness instead of acting out of love.
I wonder if, at the Sermon on the mount, Jesus would have heard a story that made him cringe and instead of going to the person privately, he would have said in front of the thousands gathered, "You crossed the line. That story was unwise. Why would you do that???" I doubt very seriously he would have singled someone out like that. If what the person said was terribly misguiding and threatened his message of truth, perhaps he might have found a way to correct the teaching, while protecting- even loving- the person. If anything, I have this idea- this vision- that Jesus would have gone to that person who said the unwise or misleading thing, looked them in the eyes, and said, "What's your name? How's your day been? Want to go catch some fish and eat olives and dates with me?"
He cuts to the heart... he looks at the person... he sets aside their unwise behavior- their sin- and instead of judgement he proffers grace. He worries less about the sin- the being right- and he shows us over and over again in the New Testament that his eyes are focused on the person.
So if you love me, if you know me, talk to me. Tell me when you are concerned I've fallen short. Not on a public format where over 10,000 people are reading. Not in front of a large group. Send me an email if you are one of my far away friends like Merita, or Jessie, or Katie, or Mike. Ask me to coffee if you do every day life with me. Or as a tour manager once said to a lady who was accusing me at the merchandise table- in front of 100 people- of wearing an outfit that wasn't Godly, "You know what ma'am- I love Jenny. Mark Matlock loves Jenny. The skit guys love Jenny. Jenny's band mates love Jenny. Her husband loves Jenny. If she is dressed inappropriately, those of us who love her and who serve in ministry alongside her will come to her in grace and express our concern. But that is for someone who knows and loves her. And you are not that person."
There needs to be a litmus test among Christians before we go about writing our comments, carrying our picketing signs, and having these deeply personal conversations about other people's "sins"
Do I even know this person? Am I angry right now? Am I the right person to say this? Is the Holy Spirit overwhelming me to speak these words to this person? Is it a respectful setting? Have I taken time to think about this? Am I doing this because I am fighting for a cause or fighting for this person's heart... their well being? Is it my place to speak into this person's life- into their choices- do I know them, love them, have some sort of relationship with them?
If you can't answer these questions with absolute clarity- perhaps you'd be better taking the person who has offended you to coffee and becoming someone who loves them and roots for them. Or perhaps, it would be better to practice James 1:19, being quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.
I'll end with this. One of my childhood friends became sexually active in the ninth grade. Being the well-meaning, concerned, slightly arrogant Christian teen I was, I prayed for her and told my youth pastor and asked a few girls what they thought we should do. The thing is, she and I had been growing a part since we started junior high and by the ninth grade we weren't all that close and she had a whole new circle of friends. I will never forget her pulling me aside after church one Sunday- and on the back pew- saying that her life was none of my business. That I should have never told anyone else and should have never told my youth pastor. That we were not friends because friends don't do that. That I don't have any part in her life, so why did I think I could step in on this one issue and tell her I was "worried" about her.
And I know- those of you who have been ingrained to "set people right" on some sort of holy crusade are saying in your minds...
but, but, but
wanting so badly for me to say that it IS our place to correct and admonish...
But, she was right.
Our relationship was ruined for years, and we are actually just now beginning to talk once again.
She needed me to be a part of her life. To be her friend. But with the very best of intentions, I drove her away, because ultimately it was not my role- as a distant, arrogant friend- to come in and tell her that what she was doing was "wrong" and that she needed to obey the Bible and turn back to Jesus.
For the most part- we humans know when we are wrong. Boy do we know.
The older I get, the more I realize, the world doesn't need another girl who speaks flippant moral judgements out on people... the world needs people like Jesus himself- who will befriend someone, proffer grace, and then watch as that person changes as a result of love, not condemnation.
This is not about being watered down or fearful or trying to make the Bible and the Church more culturally relevant and easy to swallow. I take scripture seriously, I believe many of us do. This is not about limiting people's free speech on the world wide Internet or about how it hurts to be criticized- this is not about me- a blog to make you feel sorry for me or to come to my defense.
This is a call to Christians- a wake up call- a reminder that we have reversed and perversed the process. We must realize that there is a time and place, that is directed by God's spirit (and 99 out of 100 times this happens within community and loving relationships) when we are prompted to "call one another out." This is about redeeming the venom that some Christians have grown so accustomed to casually throwing out on anyone who falls short of their version of Holiness or their version of Theology- and replacing it with a biblical model of entering into meaningful, spirit-led, grace driven relationships.
We have to redeem our identity as lovers- not as people with agendas on crusades who have taken it upon ourselves to tell others what is right and what is wrong.
This is about being long suffering. Even if the other person is "wrong."
Dr. Barry Jones said it best on Sunday, "Sometimes I know I am right. I am. They are wrong. I am right. And everything in the world proves that I am right. Still... sometimes there are more important things than just being right."
Those "more important things"?
The actual person.
Sometimes it's more important to be long suffering than it is to be right.
So may we be people who grow up with one another
sorry this is so long
Annie didn't wake up until 8:40 a.m.- and she has been an angel today
To those of you who have been long suffering with me- in spite of disgusting confessions, topics you may not agree with, or seasons where I have simply annoyed you- thank you. Growing in community and grace with you daily shows me the beauty of humanity and somehow- in the process- draws me closer my savior, Jesus Christ.