Graduation Thoughts

I recently went to my niece’s graduation party.  She is a precious, beautiful, smart, and talented young woman and it was a joy to celebrate her.  She is my sister-in-law’s firstborn, the oldest grandchild on my husband’s side, and the pioneer woman for all the cousins.  I started babysitting her when she was 2 years old, even though she didn’t even need me – she could have run the household then.  A photograph of her as a 3 or 4-year-old stayed on my bulletin board through high school and college.  And now she’s in between those 2 worlds – high school and college.  I felt so many emotions as I watched her.  She celebrated with her cute group of friends, seemingly unaware of how these events can affect family members.  When I was the  graduate, I was the same way.  I enjoyed celebrating graduation with my family and friends.  I loved having my car painted with “Senior” slogans.  The whole thing was just fun.  I thought about my mom and how the separation would be hard for both of us but I absolutely didn’t get it.  Now that I am a mom, I almost tear up every time I see one of those painted cars.  I think of that Senior’s mama and family members and there I am in traffic all weepy.

When we came home from the party, I was holding our daughter, EK, close.  She fell asleep all snuggled into me and I studied her.  I love the way her little lips smoosh up against me when she’s sleeping. I love how her tiny hands are already marked with lines and wrinkles completely original to her.  I love the gentle song of her breathing.  I kissed her palm over and over as I drank her in.  I cannot imagine giving her a graduation party.  The gap between babe in arms and woman in college is just too giant for my mind.  In a way, my sister-in-law is closing a chapter on her child-raising days.  That is an enormous change, a giant difference in everyday life (and one that she will handle beautifully). I’m not so sure about myself.

The whole thing got me thinking – what do I want to make sure EK knows before we reach that graduation day? I mean, there are really hundreds of things – how to behave like a lady, how to be resourceful, how to bargain hunt, how to be both tough and gentle, how to include people from all walks of life…the list goes on and on.  But what are the things that I would fight for, that I would stop everything for just to make sure she knows?  Here are my top 3… (and these go for my precious little men too, I’m just particularly sentimental about girls right now)

1. I want her to know who God is – that He is faithful, fierce, conservative, liberal, just, true, jealous in a good way, creative, funny, protective, intimate, and grand.  I pray that He is her first love.  I pray that she stands secure because she stands on Christ the Solid Rock.  Our God truly known is truly irresistible.

2. I want her to know that God always protects her soul.  There are countless ways in which God protects us daily.  I believe that each moment is packed with mercy.  If God removed His merciful hand from me, I would immediately crumble into an abyss of self-destruction. His protection is truly immeasurable.  That is a worship-provoking thought.  Here’s another – His protection is not always, possibly not often, found in the absence of hard or hurtful circumstances.  In fact, there is a precious and unique soul protection that only pain can provide.  (I’ve previously written about this here.)

3.  I want her to know that after her relationship with God, people are the next priority.  The value of people cannot be overstated.  It’s in these relationships that our Christianity plays itself out.  I pray that she’ll learn from the greatest lover of people, Jesus Christ.  His life on earth was marked by consistently setting aside his own schedule for the soul in need, no matter what the outward appearance.

I guess an easy summary of my “top 3” is  Matthew 22:35-38.   I’ve prayed these verses for each of our kids from the moment I found out about them.  It’s Jesus’s response to the question, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”  “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.'”

Lord, thank you for my niece and the beautiful woman You’ve made her.  Thank you for using one of her chapter endings to make me purposeful about our chapter beginnings. Thank you for being faithful throughout all generations. Teach me to love you with all my heart, soul, and strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. Thank you Father.  Amen

A New Way of Seeing

It’s funny how blinding vision can be.  I sometimes think that our ability to see with our eyes can inhibit our ability to see with our souls.  I have really poor eyesight.  Without the help of my contacts, I have no more than 6 inches of vision (and that may be pushing it).   Bad eyesight makes you appreciate good eyesight so much.  My husband can wake up at any time of the night and read the clock. It’s something he never thought of as a privilege until our marriage.  I find it absolutely amazing.  I recently took a shower while wearing my contacts (it’s my normal routine not to wear them).  In my many months of showering before this day, I enjoyed the bliss of a very clean shower.  In fact, I never once gave its cleanliness a thought.  So for whatever reason my routine was broken and I wore my “eyes” that day…and I was horrified. Our shower was far from clean.  There was all sorts of mold growing in there.   The difference between what I thought my shower was like and what it was really like was vast.

My first thought, after the initial disgust, was… am I like this with sin in my life?  Do I think I’m all sparkly clean when really I’m overtaken with slimy, spreading nastiness?  The answer is yes.  The only thing that is sparkly clean about me is Christ’s righteousness given to me by a merciful God.  I am far nastier than I can comprehend and God is far cleaner than I can even imagine.  My next thought was, things can be so different than they seem.  I started looking at all of life as if I had just put in “spiritual contacts”.  I began looking at people and asking, Who is the soul inside the person?  There are many things that can prevent me from seeing past an outward impression .  Maybe it’s that the person offends me, or they look entirely different, or they subscribe to political views that oppose mine. The list could go on and on (…perhaps each of us should evaluate the things that are on our “list”). At the end of the day, everything on my list is really just an excuse, justifying the invisible wall I’ve built between me and them.   The more I learn about God, the more I realize that He consistently deals with all of us on a soul level. As a masterful Potter, He shapes our experiences for our souls, not our behaviors.  Eventually, Christ -shaped souls will yield Christ-like behaviors.

“For the love of Christ controls us; because we have concluded this: that One has died for all…From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh.” (2 Corinthians 5:14a, 16)  Regard no one according to the flesh.  My, how that changes things. Each interaction with a person is a possible influence on a soul.  The stranger who I pass in the grocery store is a soul.  The physically sick and dying man is a soul closer to life than ever before.  The children borne to us are spongy souls, soaking in their entire environment.  It’s a new way of seeing.  It’s a new way of loving and investing.  It’s a new way of relating, and thinking of every interaction as something that urges a soul toward God or away from Him.  It’s a new appreciation of grace.  God does not regard His people according to our sin-soaked flesh.  He regards us as souls, hidden away in Christ, and destined for eternal fellowship with him.

Lord, give me your grace as I interact with the souls you place in my path.  Thank you for cleansing me, teaching me, and mercifully moving my soul closer to You.  Amen