Wednesday, May 8, 2013

An endless series of fine lines

Psalm 9:7-10 (NIV)

The Lord reigns forever;
   he has established his throne for judgment.
He rules the world in righteousness
   and judges the peoples with equity.
The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed,
   a stronghold in times of trouble.
Those who know your name trust in you,
   for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.
I realize it’s a gross oversimplification, but my encounters with the Psalms over the past year lead me to classify them in two categories: One: Complete and total adoration for a loving, compassionate creator and redeemer; and two: Begging God for protection from the enemies who lurk around every corner. A subset of the second category is openly asking the Lord to smite said enemies.

It is easy to identify with the former — I find lots of reasons to be happy with my lot in life and try to always remember God as the giver of all good things. It is much more difficult to connect with the latter — I don’t ever recall feeling legitimately oppressed, and while I’m sure there are people who don’t like me very much, I don’t identify such folks as “enemies” in the same vein as the way the Israelites perceived all the other nations in that part of the world. If I have ever wished for a person to be smote, I sincerely apologize.

The simple fact is life is pretty good. I have steady employment, my wife stays home with the kids. We are paying on a mortgage and a car loan and own our minivan outright. Everyone is healthy, we never wonder if we can afford our next meal. (We may rarely have an idea what we’ll actually eat, but that’s for reasons other than our ability to afford groceries.) There are things I wish we could improve, and I don’t feel bad about discussing those challenges even in light of my big-picture perspective.

I wouldn’t have to drive two miles to find a family in worse shape, let alone start to think about problems facing families who live in poorer communities or lesser developed countries. I’m sure I take plenty of things for granted, and one of them most definitely is my ability to freely and openly discuss my religious beliefs, to bring my children to church each week and to never fear for my life based on to whom I direct my prayers.

All of which brings me to the challenge, if that is the right word, of teaching my children what I consider to be proper perspective. I want them to appreciate their many advantages without feeling entitled. I want them to embrace faith on their own but not live in unwarranted worry of persecution. I want them to have respect for the light of others without feeling their own difficulties are insignificant. I want them to take ownership of their own shortcomings without standing in fear of God’s ultimate judgment.

Life, especially a faith-driven life, seems to be consumed with the challenge of walking an endless series of fine lines. I have to figure out if I’m living my own life in the manner I intend to pass on to my kids. Is it even possible? Do I actually want for myself what I want for them? Do I put far more thought into the kids I want to raise than the man I want to be? Am I comfortable enough with my own interpretation of sensitive matters, such as “for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you,” to share with my children?

Trains of though such as this always lead to the station of “More Questions than Answers.” I’ve made my peace with that destination because I accept the limitations of the human mind. I will always consider God “a stronghold in times of trouble” and continue to apply my own definition of trouble. And I will try my best to teach my children what I think is right, all the while hoping and praying I’m making something of a positive difference in their lives.

If I can’t trust God to guide me, I don’t think I can trust anything. So I’m starting with that foundation and we’ll see where the building takes us from there.

A prayer for May 8:

Lord, I need you, every day, to help me be a good dad. I need help when I’m trying to teach something, and then I need help to remember I’m always teaching them because they see and hear everything I do and say. And I need help to figure things out for myself, because I know I’ll never be the father my kids deserve if I don’t understand my own life. Thank you for my many blessings and for the perspective to appreciate them. Show me ways to make a difference for those less fortunate and to be a light for your love in the world. Amen.

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