When I find myself closing our curtains and demanding, in a yelling whisper, that my children stay in the back of the house where nobody will hear us because I am hiding from knocks at the door, it is a sure indication that there is a problem and it isn’t with my sweet neighbors who I love. My lack of love, or more specifically, my sudden commitment to self-preservation, reveals yet a new place where the person and work of Jesus has life to offer me that I am not yet grabbing hold of or even believing exists.
As a parent, my days are remarkably full of negotiations between children, debates over eating food or not being given more sugar, battling the intense pull to be entertained all the time and desiring to work never, being needed just enough throughout the day that I feel the need to hide away for a moment off or else feel intensely guilty for neglecting duties when I do steal away, and so on. I do not yet know rest in this role.
As a neighbor, I really want to have genuine relationships with those who physically live within a stone’s throw of my front door. I want to experience on earth as it is in heaven deep affections for those who otherwise I may never know or be aware of commonalities. It turns out, though, that people really are people, and there is often more in common than not. Even so, because of my own selfishness, opening the door has begun to feel draining. I do not yet know rest in these relationships.
My friendships are crucial to me and I need them. Unfortunately, they are not able to offer the parenting of my soul that I have found myself increasingly needing lately. Instead of deep connectedness, I feel the sting of disconnect and the chasm of distance. And this is where I begin to see what it is that my faith is lacking…
The Lord your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, and in the wilderness. There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.” In spite of this, you did not trust in the Lord your God…Deut. 1:30-32
The Lord carries as a father carries his son…I am drained because I have somehow made myself the ultimate parent not only of my children, but of my neighbors, family, friends and even myself. I have taken on a responsibility to shape and meet needs and love and serve and instruct that was never mine to begin with…and never within my ability or gift set to begin with. I also have presumed on others to meet my deepest need for belonging, nourishment and rest that only the role of a parent ever provides. That is the thing about presumption…it makes an ass of me even more than the word “assume” does. After all, it is not like I have actually effected the kind of change or deep loving service that I fancy. But thinking that the future well being of the world (and even more so, my soul) is resting upon my perfections should exhaust anyone.
for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky…Phil. 2:13-15
Because it is God doing the work, I have less reason to grumble and complain. He has taken the laboriousness on His own shoulders as well as the weight of responsibility for the outcome. This should start to give my soul rest. This reality is also deeply connected to His Fathering of me and my status as a child. I can stomp my feet, complain about the food I don’t want to eat, be angry that I didn’t get my way, be greedy for more stuff even as I am opening the very present I have been begging to get for months and other things that I as a parent have no compassion for in my own children. He has compassion, patience, understanding and confidence that I will not always be sinfully childish, but ultimately a blameless and pure child because of the cloak of the person and work of Jesus which consumes me.
I will never shine like a bright star in a dark sky with a white knuckled smile and obligatory “love” for those around me. And as long as I fail to run to my Father with my truest longings, most honest hurt feelings, most genuine disappointments, and acknowledgment of loneliness and weariness, I am going to try to fill that role myself, failing to be see myself as the child in need of affectionate parenting and therefore treating others as inferior children rather than brothers and sisters.
But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. Matt. 6:20
Adam and Eve forfeited the rest promised at the end of the days of labor because they chose to be their own gods, trying to do what was never possible for them. I forfeit my rest just the same way. My children, neighbors, friends and family are not stealing my rest, I have only come to view people that way in my assumption that rest comes in either their filling God’s role for me or in their absence rather than in the presence of my loving Father. He is my rest and will rest my soul. As I have the faith to be parented by Him, I will better love my children with whom I share all the same the heart demands and needs, and with whom I share a Redeemer who meets, smothers and covers those needs and demands. What is impossible with man is possible with God.