Going the Other Way

In my opinion, Christians have ruined the word repent. The word has been yelled from street corner to street corner in condemning tones by well intentioned sweaty evangelists hoping to turn the heart of just one soul.  It has been waived in the streets on signs in crowds shouting in protest. Coming from the mouth of some the word repent can be a turn off or a source of fear. The truth is, repentance is a good thing. When we have an encounter with the saving grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, he asks us to go and sin no more (John 8:11). Repentance brings about transformation and freedom for the human soul.

The simplest definition of repentance that I have heard is to go the other way. Unfortunately, I can’t find proof of that. Websters Dictionary says it is “to turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one’s life.” The Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains, says repent means “to change one’s way of life as the result of a complete change of thought and attitude with regard to sin and righteousness.” Can we stick with going the other way? I think that is easiest. When I first heard the voice of God speak to my heart, it was a revelation of my sin. In order to see a new way to live, we have to see that the old way wasn’t good for us. Most of us walk around thinking that our sin is our very existence because we curse or lie or desire things that aren’t healthy for us. For me, my sin was insecurity. Who thought insecurity was a sin? A better definition of insecurity is fear of man. Drill it down further, people pleasing in order to be liked, needing approval to feel good about myself, dropping my God given identity in order to make a new person constructed to fit in with the world around me. Why is this a sin? It puts me on a thrown as the creator of myself and trashes God’s creation who is me in exchange for an idol who is me. Yikes. It is fear laden and fear does not come from God. Anything that is substituted for God as an idol is sinful. Sorry, it is true.

The thing about that voice speaking to my heart is that it wasn’t pointing it’s finger at me and yelling. It was soft and gentle. There was nothing in me that felt anything but love and affection. (James 3:17) It was so simple, like a duh moment. Not aha! It was oh…wow…The revelation of my sin came with a rhema word (A bible verse that stuck in my heart, even to this day) to direct me in a new direction. “You are clothed with strength and dignity and no one can take that away from you.” (Beth Moore, So Long Insecurity and Proverbs 31:25) Can you see what I am saying? Repentance reveals sin and replaces it with truth (2 Timothy 2:24-26). You cannot repent if your sin has not been revealed and you cannot change the way you are going until you understand the truth to replace the sin. That is why we need the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is with us to comfort us and to tell us which way to go. He loves you, He doesn’t condemn you. He is showing you that you are on the wrong path and there new direction he wants you to take.

Changing your direction is a lifetime process. Confess, repent, and receive is the life you will live until you go to heaven and meet Jesus. While God knows everything about us past, present, and future, acknowledgement of our sin is important to the process of repentance. You can live in sin and believe you are doing good. I know that sounds weird but if insecurity is a sin then I bet a lot of things we don’t consider to be sinful is sinful to God. He is faithful to bring us into all knowledge, we have to be tuned in to the Holy Spirit, teachable and humble. After we confess and repent, we get to receive God’s forgiveness and love. We step out of the darkness and into the light where we can be seen and have renewed relationship and freedom (1 Corinthians 4:5).

One of the hardest things about being a Christian is taking up our cross, daily. Yes, we carry a cross. Sometimes our cross is our repentance. My first real conviction to change something I do regularly was drinking alcohol. Again, it was the Holy Spirit speaking to my heart that the reasons I chose to drink were not healthy for me. It was true. I used alcohol as a coping mechanism. One reason was to deal with my social anxiety. Alcohol released my inhibitions to be more outgoing and “fun” (does that sound like insecurity?). The other reason I used alcohol was to manage stress. Because I didn’t know how to calm my emotions, I used alcohol to subdue myself into handling stressful situations. Now, that sometimes worked and sometimes didn’t. It could produce an angry person or a happy person, I never really knew who would come out when I drank. Sometimes when you get a conviction and start changing the direction you are headed, people started noticing. All of the sudden, I was no fun. The old me would have taken a drink against my will and gotten drunk to be more fun. The new me had the strength to carry that cross and say no. I can’t say I did it with joy. I just left the situation or didn’t accept invitations to socialize with alcohol. Over time, though, I was able to accept invitations and enjoy myself without drinking. Then, one day, I asked the Holy Spirit if I could drink with my husband and got a yes. Yes, I can have alcohol with my husband. That has evolved into a yes I can have alcohol. I rarely want to drink. So, really it isn’t even an issue anymore. I have a new cross to carry. We can talk about that one later.

Repentance is something we are going to have to do over our lifetime. It isn’t a bad thing, God is just asking you to go another way, to choose His way. Sometimes God is asking us to give up something we love because we love it more than we love Him. Those are the times where we come head to head with Jesus, we might be angry but Jesus just looks us in the eyes with love and compassion and helps us see there is a new way to live. We can live without that thing that we thought we needed and loved more than Him, as long as our eyes are fixed on Jesus. Over time, living without that sin becomes easy and we can return to something that we like without it over powering us. So, friends, repent! Rejoice that you hear the conviction of the Holy Spirit, that you can fix your eyes on Jesus, and that the love of Father God is an all consuming, refining fire that strengthens you to live this life called Christianity. (See Hebrews 12:25-29)

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Parenting Baby Christians

My kids were 7 and 5 when my journey started. We had just moved to a new town, my son was in second grade and my daughter in kindergarten. We had been in a new community for 6 months or so. They were both missing their old house, familiar surroundings, and questioning why we had moved. I can’t claim that we were the picture of a happy family, it was the opposite. I was on the path to recreate the life that I had as a kid and I can truly say that meeting Jesus was the best thing that could have happened. Because I committed my life to Christ, I learned that I could stop recreating the past. I could change the way I parented my kids.

I think that the most pertinent thing for me to share is that because I lacked peace and any understanding of my own value, parenting in a way that would encourage my kids to be confident in themselves was impossible. My relationship with my kids was similar to a Sargent and Private in the army. Yikes! Gosh, even thinking about it makes me cringe, the good thing is that it is all forgiven and writing this just makes me so thankful for that. Anyway…because I parented out of my experiences and out of my pain, both of my children experienced and acted out with insecurity and fear. Because I was very isolated, we didn’t have moms groups and play dates. I didn’t teach my kids how to relate to other children or how to be confident in who they are at a young age. Without anything to guide me in another direction, we were headed toward heartache.

The beautiful thing about committing your life to Christ in the middle of your parenting journey is that you get a do over. In that first year of Christianity, I came face to face with my biggest fear. My son was being verbally and eventually physically bullied by boys in his class. My flesh reaction was to pull him out of school immediately. Run from the problem and hope that it wouldn’t happen again. The cool thing is that something rose up inside of me that wasn’t me. It was the urge to face the issue. We did move him to a different classroom. We prayed, I cried with my son. But I am really glad that we stayed at that school. The next year, all but one of those boys left to attend another school. The one who stayed became a good friend to my son, they would laugh and joke together. It was an amazing transformation. A true victory over fear.

The goal of my parenting journey has changed since I came to know Jesus. Instead of trying to control my kids and prevent bad things from happening, I have let go. My children are not reincarnates of me and they are not destined to recreate my story. They are individuals entrusted to me by a loving God that have their own purpose and destiny. I have the honor to cultivate the fulfillment of that destiny. I have learned that my kids have value to God, that they are a gift to me (Psalm 127:3). It is my charge from God that I teach my children in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6). I allow my kids to make mistakes and learn from them. Both of my children now come to me for counsel when things are difficult and they need help. Parenting has turned from duty to joy.

I have learned that my children are not the center of my world. My children are a part of my destiny and definitely a part of my legacy. However, they are along for the ride God is taking me on and they participate in my destiny just as much as I am supposed to cultivate theirs. Motherhood does not define me nor does it control me. It is a part of me but only a part. While there is no scripture to support this, I would say that the results of making my children the center of my world created certain death of anything that had been laid out before me as my destiny apart from parenting. I have given up the guilt and shame that comes with what the world tells me I should do to give my children a fairy tale childhood. I am grounded in this: that teaching my children in the way they should go means that I am preparing them to one day live life apart from me. The more they depend on me to solve their problems, to entertain them, or to be their maid servant the less likely they will be prepared to care of themselves or function responsibly as adults. Being a Godly parent means that I am their example of a God fearing individual. I pour into them love, grace, and mercy, which is so much fun! I show them by example the heart of God that is for them.  When they leave they will spread their wings and fly. This does not mean that I don’t enjoy camping or throwing the ball or painting my daughters nails. The small things are what bring us joy! But the desire of my heart and the desire God has is that both of my kids know Him and have a relationship with Him. And if they depart from a relationship with God, I trust that Jesus will chase them down, tackle them and kiss them all over (Luke 15:11-32). They turn red when I say this but they know that Jesus has an unrelenting love for them and if they stray, they will be found (Luke 15:4-6)! Thank you Jesus that parenting has become a true joy and that I can trust in you to teach me the way I should go so that I can teach my kids they way they should go!