Holy Spirit

"Still Good" Saturday: Study and Its Faithful Companion--Submission

Still good saturday image

This blog was originally posted at www.Renovare.org. I knew it was coming and frankly, I couldn’t wait. My children can argue the hind leg off a dog and I was really looking forward to our Ignatian Meditation time with John 2:1-12, the Wedding at Cana. The point of this story is so obvious. I mean it’s so clear, to a mother who after a summer of bickering children hides in the pantry.

When Mary called Jesus’ attention to a chore that needed to be done, he obeyed her. Yes, some might say he gave her a little lip, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” But in the end, he obeyed his mother.

(As as I side note, when I was fantasizing about my children obeying their mother, my fantasy did get away from me and I heard my daughter respond after asking her to clean her room, “Woman, what concern is that to you and me. My hour has not yet come.” I was struck instantly with a migraine and had to lie down.)

I digress. The morning came and we began our usually ritual of reading the scriptures with our senses. And then we asked the Holy Spirit to speak to us. And I told the Spirit, “Here’s your chance to really push that ‘obey your mother’ message.” (Um… yeah, pray for me.) We ended our time together by sharing a word, or a phrase, or an image the Holy Spirit had given us.

Tween daughter, “I love that only the servants and I guess his disciples, and his mom knew.[That he changed water to wine.] He didn’t brag or charge money or tell anyone.”

Newly Nine year old daughter, “I think someone who likes to laugh turns water into wine, not into grape juice.” (Maybe too much TV for this kid.)

Nothing. No one got my message. Instead they got God’s.

A parent must respect the spiritual person of his child, and approach it with reverence, for that too looks the Father in the face and has an audience with Him into which no earthy parent can enter even he dared to desire it.  

-George MacDonald

You see the Tween, she’s been serving at a soup kitchen. And the Newly Nine shares a ritual with her Dad of smelling the corks from wine bottles. They rate them and discuss funny things like, this smells similar to paint thinner, or old socks. These messages from the Holy Spirit are just for them, because he knows their hearts so well.

When we engage in the discipline of study with our children, or even within ourselves, submission must be our ever present companion. It seems so much easier to submit myself to the teaching of the Holy Spirit than it is to submit my children.

In my greatest moments I want them to learn directly from God; I want to be looked through— a transparent parent, pointing the way, not becoming it.

Do As You Can…Not as You Can’t*

Sitting at dinner one night, my family was unusually quiet and no one would make eye contact with me.  They don’t call me 007 for nothing so I picked up on this right away.“Ok, what’s going on?” I demanded.  A barrage of “You tell her,”  “No, you tell her,” and “I’m not telling her,” filled the room. Finally a confession was made. “I said we’d make cookies for the orchestra concert.”And a second confession, “We’re in charge of the department Christmas party this year.”  I don’t do well when I’m over-scheduled and everyone at the table knew it.  My mostly sane mother persona takes the last train to Clarksville. My family was afraid the train whistle was coming.

There is a danger in busyness and especially busyness in “spiritual activities.” There is a danger in Good Dirt.  In Good Dirt there are lots of activities that we, list makers will want to check off in order to feel good about ourselves. That is a serious danger. Checking things off in Good Dirt will not make you holy. God will not love you or your children more. (As if he could love you more than he already does…seriously.) Turning Good Dirt into a legalistic checklist of behaviors and activities to manipulate your family or God will make you crazy… or your family crazy and then you will start looking like Chevy Chase in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation with eleven thousand twinkly lights, cutting off the newel post, and burning down your Christmas tree. (OK. Maybe not all that.)

Actually it’s more serious than that. Making a “to do” list out of a spiritual tools can lead two ways.

  1. Failure, we don’t measure up and then we think God doesn't approve of us. His love or approval doesn't hinge on what you’re doing.
  2. Success, you get all the things on the “to do” list checked off. Now, you are really hard to live with. Pride. You and yours are so holy because you have done x,y, and z. God is interested in who you are becoming, not how many religious practices you accomplish.

Ben and I have this really wonderful friend named Jan Johnson*. She has been telling us the same thing for years now,

“Do as you can, not as you can’t.”  

When you take a look at Good Dirt and you see a list of things to do, do them if you can. Do them if you think they will draw you and your people closer to Jesus. Choose a few, (few as in one or two) do those… linger over them, spend time talking to one another, open up the space for God to move.

The point is not a holy list of “have-tos.”

The point is to become more fully the person God has created us to be and that happens when we have the open space to really connect with the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit and our family.