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The Great Exchange, Daily

Guilt is so heavy, controlling and at the same time paralyzing.  Guilt is full of condemnation and permanence.  Guilt is void of hope other than its bullying power to sometimes provoke a fight.  Guilt is very much like the marine like high school coach, determined either to break you or make you prove your worth.  And that is what is at the heart of guilt, or what guilt exposes in my heart:  that my worth or value or favor or satisfaction is at the other end of my performance or actions or choices or efforts.

You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.  I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard?  Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?  Gal. 3:1-3

The temptation to earn approval, to be the one responsible for my own destiny/fate/consequences, is bewitching.  I so want to read the Law in Scripture with the same arrogance of Adam and Eve, a reading that assumes I can be the one to sow the perfect righteousness that I reap, that I can be the one to be perfectly holy as He is holy, that I can be the one who has no other gods before God, and that I am the one who does much with little so that I can be given more.  I continue to think that I have the ability to meet the demands of the Law and therefore can earn their blessings by my discipline, insight, cleverness and general corner on the market in being God’s most faithful child.  I forget that there is only One who merits that title.

Specifically, my issue is in parenting.  I have this sense that I can lose my children if I don’t communicate in just the most effective ways for their personalities and to their hearts.  I have this incredible fear of future loss when they are grown and out of the house and my opportunity to be the perfect mom is over.  I have such guilt on the days I ignore them for more of the day than sit with them, play with them, listen to them and take visible interest in the things that interest them.  And those days are more the norm than the ones where I feel good about my attentiveness.  And I feel so good about myself on the very few days I meet my standards for awesome mother of the year.  My righteousness and well being is not in Christ alone, it is more in my “good mothering” alone.  I have created a standard which is actually more arbitrary and less perfect than God’s Law, in some ways easier to meet, and I have also put myself in the judge’s seat to determine for myself what is good and what is evil.  That old temptation that we want to make irrelevant and only about a piece of fruit is so much more insidious than that, isn’t it?

Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?  Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?  “Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith!  Luke 12:24-28

These words offer so much more life than just a physical meal plan!  God is not feeding the ravens because they were good seed managers, following perfectly Crown Ministries’ or Dave Ramsey’s guidelines for certain retirement abundance.  The wild flowers are clothed in splendor yet do absolutely nothing to earn their coats of many colors – their favor is bestowed upon them by the Father for the Father’s glory…how much more will He clothe me!?

Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.  So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.  Gal. 3:23-29

I am an heir of His blessings, His favor, His provision, His clothing according the promise not according to my merit or earnings.  I don’t clothe Martha Jane or Ellie or Chad because they have been exceptionally around the house or pleasant to be with because they aren’t delightful all of the time. I don’t make them earn their meals.  I don’t withhold Christmas or birthday gifts until they have shown me they deserve them.  If I am who am still wrestling with sin and wickedness know how to good gifts to my children, will not my heavenly Father do so much more?  Does my blessing of them through provision and generous love imply I don’t call their misbehavior sin?  Does it mean I wink, chuckle, and say, “Well, you know, kids will be kids?”  No, it makes me more furious at times than is reasonable when they are nasty or destructive or simply whining.  But the object of that wrath for my heavenly Father is once and for all Jesus.  That great exchange was not fair or “even” because I got the “perfect obedience award” out of it while He got my beating.

I will ignore my children, miss their hearts in my human responses, injure their hearts in my sinful reactions and miss opportunities that I will wish I had not.  My faith is and will continue to be challenged in those moments to see what I really believe, both about my own position and their future well being.  I will answer the question, each time, “In whom do you trust?”   What justly condemns me, condemned Him.  Therefore, there is now no condemnation.  The only One who is just, has justified me. My heart’s grip will be invited, each time, to let go of its hold on my own merit and cling tightly, by faith, to His.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.  Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.  Hebrews 4:14-16

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