A Generous Grace

ideas on practical spirituality and loving each other

Tag: Timothy Keller (page 1 of 2)

The Three Words Our Kids Critically Need to Hear

It was a low moment in my parenting—so I’m still a little flabbergasted for the high point my then-four-year old made it.
I’d made a phone call to him as he stayed at his grandma’s for the day. I hated I even needed to make it. After shouting at him that morning, I’d done a fairly false, overall lame job of apologizing. I’d still been so stinkin’ angry—and my mind’s eye zoomed in on his own error. (That’s him at four years or so, on the right.) So I picked up my cell and attempted something more like Jesus.

What I will always remember was what he said in return.

“Mommy, I forgive you. And I want to let you know that even when you do bad things, I still love you. And I want you to know that even when you do bad things, God still loves you.”

Now I felt really bad for blowing my top.

After we’d repeated this to him over and over–I think the power of this moment was in my 4-year-old repeating the Gospel back to me. And really, him reiterating God’s acceptance of me.

In this post on Shame-parenting vs. guilt exposure, I wrote about one of the key underlying messages of shame. That has exponentially surpassed in traffic every other post on this site: I think this topic resonates strongly in so many of us. In a word, Dr. Brené Brown writes, shame is all about disconnection. Because of what we’ve done—which shame welds on to who we are—we’re rendered unworthy of being accepted; of connecting.

Last night, as I lay in bed during a voluminous thunderstorm, my thoughts blew back to another central relationship where our sense of connection had taken a turn for the worse. Here I am, 36 years old, and I realized that in a period of relational stress, I’d longed for a single vibe from this relationship: I accept you. Even if you don’t meet my standards of performance, even if your kids don’t meet my standards, even if I’m stressed—you are embraced. You don’t have to meet my standards to connect with me; to feel worthy in our house. (I still think the hard part is actually identifying the fact that we parent toxically. It’s a lot easier to identify who makes us feel that way, right?!)

There’s a critical message every child—and adult—longs to hear echoed throughout life, at every age: I accept you. As pastor Tim Keller relates in this podcast, every person’s greatest fear is to be fully known, but not fully loved. And our greatest desire? To be fully known, and fully loved.

Accepting our kids doesn’t mean we’re giving the green light their sin or weakness. Acceptance doesn’t mean “I condone your behavior.” On the contrary, like my little boy did, it reiterates the Gospel to them repeatedly: That while we were still sinners, God loved us. Romans 15 reminds us, Accept one another just as Christ accepted you. That level of acceptance is a pretty tall order for any parent. It’s also a vital truth constantly embedded—or not—in each of our kids. (I appreciated this communication in this recent post for missionary parents of LGBTQ kids.)

It makes me wonder:

  • Which of my kids is most likely to feel rejected in our family? Maybe they’re the target of most of the jokes. Maybe they’re into totally different stuff, or have a completely different personality.
  • In what mélange of circumstances am I most likely to let loose with the shame talk (a.k.a. toxic parenting) on an offending child?
  • What phrases do I use that communicate to my kids they’re beyond the range of acceptance? Not their behavior, mind you—but them, in light of how I’m treating them in their weaknesses? (Check out the chart here if you’re interested more in how this might play out.)
  • Which of my kids is most likely to feel rejected by me–whether because of stuff in our past, his or her own failures, a personality clash, my embarrassment, or something else?
  • Other than words, what are ways I can convey acceptance to my child? What habits of mine (like a relentlessly critical eye, my own perfectionism, or my own anger problem!) create static that interferes with that message?

Here’s to our kids getting the acceptance memo this week.

 

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For the Day When You Feel Powerless, Part II

Missed the first post? Grab it here.

Last Thursday was one of those days that encapsulated so much of what I love and what drives me bananas about living in Uganda. I veered through jaw-clenching traffic on the 45-minute drive home, assembling all the clutter of my day into the appropriate mental file folders. This is quite a task to begin with–considering both a) my mind and b) at least four sudden oncoming governmental convoys. (Let’s just say mental “papers” kept being upended from their file folders by real life.)

As I do every week, I’d taught Bible at the refugee center. Even after three years, it’s a bit of a rabbit hole for me. There are so many cross-cultural experiences to make sense of at once that I’m flying by the seat of my skirt.

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Doubting the Dream Weaver

Ever buried a dream?

I suppose this precious concept of dreams is inlaid in most of us as Americans. We’re corn-fed on them from the time we can walk, or at least munch popcorn, mesmerized by the Blue Fairy in Pinocchio: The dream that you wish will come true!

From posters scotch-taped to the walls of the library, to credit card commercials, to career week in sixth grade―we’re in a love affair with doing what you’re made to do.

And why not? From the perspective of my work in Uganda—this level of self-actualization is a privilege; an unspeakable gift. What percentage of the world is physically able to not only seek out and understand how they’re made—and like they say, do what you love so you never work a day in your life?

But honestly? Lately—all these references to dreams make me viscerally cringe. Right now I kind of hate dreams. Or at least talking about them. Yours are fine; I’d love to talk about yours! Just not mine. Continue reading

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Questions to Know Thy [Stressed] Self

Remember that moment when Bruce Banner suddenly morphs into the Incredible Hulk? His pupils start glowing; pretty soon his shoes are splitting off his expanding green feet.

Perhaps if my favorite blouse was ripping at the shoulder seams, my own stress identification would be a bit more astute. As it is, sometimes my husband sees my inner Hulk-ette beefing up a lot sooner than I do. (Irritating.) Can you hear me growl, “I’M…..NOT…..STRESSED!”

When I’m under stress, as much as I hate to admit it—people get a completely different me.

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Secular to Sacred: Truth from Surprising Sources

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Have you ever been in a disagreement with someone who was kind enough to hear the real questions you were asking, rather than just the (irritated, misspoken, inflamed) way you actually said it?

Everything changes.

A college relationship professor once taught me the 1% theory, and it’s changed the way I look at life. The gist: In whatever negative way someone’s berating you, find the percentage—however small—that’s true. Then choose to be 100% responsible for your percent, even if it’s just 1% of what they say that’s true.

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Cry: The Hidden Art of Christian Grieving, Part II

 

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Missed Part I? Grab it here.

I’ve been grieving some losses lately. The other day on my jog, they seemed to bottleneck inside, trickling out my eyes as my feet kept pounding, step after step. I’m not sure what God’s doing, but as I described in the last post, grief seemed… appropriate.

Though God’s given me glimpses of hope I can’t ignore–it also seems to deny Him access to all of me when I’m ignoring I feel anything, and jumping right to “It’ll be okay.”

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Cry: The Hidden Art of Christian Grieving, Part I

It was one night several years ago when a couple of good friends were helping me sort action figures, Legos, and other kid-detritus into bins in my boys’ room following dinner together while our husbands were out of town. During the meal, they had asked candidly about how I was doing with our adoption—which is to say, the adoption we painfully decided not to complete.

Truthfully, my heart felt raw, as if it were beating outside of my body. My grief felt so vulnerable, so scraped and skinned and gaping, that privacy was all I could fathom to deal with it. I felt oddly embarrassed that we’d taken steps out of obedience to pursue this, and told people about it–and then, also out of obedience, backed out.

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When God answers prayer* (*…then you regret asking)

Has God ever given you what you asked for—and then you wonder if you asked for the right thing in the first place? Have you ever felt punished…by prayer?

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Satisfaction, and the filling of soul holes

I could sense it in a conversation the other day, creeping over me like a bony hand on my shoulder. Later, I guessed it was similar to what some women feel when a confident, charming vixen sweeps into the room, swiveling all the male heads, and you’re in your sweatpants and greasy ponytail: immediate intimidation. And was that…jealousy? Ick.

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The Thing between Us

What if some good friend asked you, What’s that thing that most comes often between you guys in your marriage? You know, from your side of things.

What would it be?

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Every relationship, I think, has one: that Thing that occasionally threatens to overcome what you were sure was stronger than death. Sometimes I think it’s like hugging someone with an arm stuck between, the elbow digging into both of your ribs; awkwardly, painfully.

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