Yesterday the kids and I took our weekly poetry tea time on the road. It produced a few pretty pictures, almost tears, some hard to hear reading of Valentine books and poems, a couple near mishaps, and, in the end, revealed the tension in the everyday potential responses of life.
What’s filtered out in a pretty picture (and out of frame):
- the kid who complained about the pastry they picked
- the hot cocoa that spilled three times
- the kid who took off socks and shoes then walked around barefoot
- the amount of napkins used
- the parents with one kid who looked perplexed & amazed at us (and then recommended a movie about a homeschool family–Captain Fantastic)
- the kids who begged to finish someone else’s food
- the mom who considered packing it all up and threatening to go home (many times over)
All that is true, but you can’t see it.
It’s true for all of our daily lives. The moments we live aren’t just the ones we capture in pixels (remember when it was film?), the ones that we want to remember. It’s every moment in between. We know that, but I think in our visual culture we’ve conditioned ourselves to think that what we see presented by others and ourselves is the most important, valuable, or the evidence of a beautiful, good, and worthy life.
What is true is that we can have mishaps, frustrations, and imperfections to our days without letting those steal the good that is also equally true and present in our days. This is more than just looking for the silver lining or only focusing on the bright spots of our days to the neglect of (or even hiding or not dealing with) what’s harder and more difficult.
We shouldn’t pretend things are sunshine and roses when they are dark and wilting. We can, and should, be honest with ourselves and others. Pretenses do little for our mental, spiritual, or emotional health and well-being, as well as hinder and limit our communication with others. Pretenses are screens to hide behind. They can feel safe and comfortable, but they are always limiting and often harmful.
When we recognize the tension between the good and the hard, we can hold them in both hands saying, “Yes, this day/situation/conversation/circumstance is hard, disappointing, frustrating, revealing my own sin, but there is also has a truth, beauty, or goodness that is also true here.”
It’s helpful to ask: What is true in this moment? What is true of God right now? What is true of me, as His child? What is true of these people, as ones made in His image? Knowing what is true, how should I respond?
What’s my next step in walking out my obedience as a child of God, knowing I am to bear the family resemblance in all I do?
It’s there in those small moments and decisions that we can experience and walk in the freedom Christ brings us. We don’t have to be controlled by sin–ours and others. We are specifically told in Scripture to not be controlled by sin or our flesh! We don’t have to be tossed around by the ever-changing circumstances of our lives and world around us. We can be steadfast amid the unknown, calm in the middle of the storm, and at peace in the flooding chaos. This is the gift of Christ in God. As believers, we have been freed from the power of sin and it is our master no more!
We can experience the moments of our daily lives without letting the small things become the things we major on, giving them permission to steal our joy and peace. The permission I’m speaking of is not controlling the actions of others. We can’t control what someone else does to us or how they respond, but we can control our own responses. When we give the devil a foothold, or as some put it relinquish the territory of our lives inviting sin to take the reins–that is giving permission. Our responses are not passive, even if we think they are. So when we do side step, allowing the sin to entangle us (which we all do, right?), we have grace and comfort knowing Christ is our great and righteous Advocate, we can confess, repent, and ask forgiveness without fear.
It’s those moments where we feel the tension. We recognize we could respond in one of two ways:
We could respond to our frustrations and disappointments by letting our flesh take the lead.
We could relinquish our false sense of control and submit to the Spirit’s molding work in our lives.
We stand there, amid the moments of life, recognizing the appearance of an infinitesimal shift in the path we could take. We know it’s there. It rests on us, ever so softly, in the moments before we act. Like a shift in the wind, barely detectable. And it’s the tiny shift that has the power to change the course of our day (week, month, life even) affecting our emotions, actions, and reactions for good or ill.
But the choice is ours in how we respond. Our response is not forced by how our kids are acting, how our spouse responds, what our friends or co-workers say or think–we are in charge of our emotions and responses. Even when we respond in a way we hate, one we recognize as sinful and harmful, we were not forced to make that choice. Every response we make is a choice.
Sin is always a choice. How we respond to the tensions of life is always a choice.
If the power of life and death is in the tongue (Prov. 18:21), then the words we say, the ways we respond to others affect not just us, but all those in our circles of influence. If our mouth is a rudder, whether in our internal or outer dialogue, we are navigating the ship of our lives, and leading others with us, toward the safety of shore or straight into a storm (James 3:2-9).
Take a deep breath and listen to the still, small voice of the Spirit say, “This is the way, walk in it.”