“Still Good” Saturday: Guidance Through Incarnation

This blog was originally posted at http://www.Renovare.org

Our child friendly definition of guidance is this: listening to the counsel of God and others who love us.

Each night before I go to bed, I go outside and make a last check of all the animals. Here in the country there are no outside lights. Robert Frost is right, “the woods are lovely dark and deep,” but I would like to add that without a light, they are dangerous. Sometimes my fears are real, like that coyote that I hear howl as I make my rounds, and sometimes they are imagined—the branches that look like monsters ready to pounce. However if I grab a flashlight as I head out the door all things change. I know where I am at all times, wild animals generally run from light, and those imaginary monsters simply don’t exist. Guidance is a light. Often through the scrip­tures God lights our paths, through the advice of others he keeps us safe. This is the receiving end of guidance.

The “dishing it out” side is another story. As a parent and a teacher let me just lay all my cards on the table and say guidance is tough stuff. It requires so much energy! It is messy. And sometimes it’s heartbreaking.

As a teacher I can bark orders and give guidance from a distance. I can keep myself separate by only caring about what goes on at school, issuing assignments and grades like a well oiled machine. But no one actually learns anything of value and the distance is unmistakable.

As a parent I can also bark orders and give guidance from a distance. I can be unmovable, issuing the wages of good and bad behavior, all the while muttering under my breath, “Do as I say, not as I do.” But children won’t “Do as I say, not as I do”; they will do as I do. Children will try an array of creative techniques to fill in the relational space they feel.

Guidance through incarnation looks completely different. Jesus gives us the perfect picture.  Jesus says, “Do as I do,” and then he takes it even further, “Do as I do… and here, let me help you.” And with that he stepped forever into humanity with hands on guidance. He gave us proximity.

Incarnation is God stepping into humanity, and a result is presence—proximity. “The Kingdom of God is here,” is a declaration of proximity.  Jesus declares proximity without pretension. We are still free to shun his guidance, but he won’t leave, he won’t abandon. Our sensibilities may be dulled to this gift of proximity, but he is always there.

As parents we can participate in incarnation through our presence. Like Jesus we offer our presence, even when our guidance is rejected. We cannot do it without the strength of the Spirit. We need this incarnation as well as offer it.

Today, how is God calling you to guide your children through incarnation?

A Ramble of Motherings

While Mother’s Day is this Sunday, we celebrated several weeks ago when we were in the UK and I learned that they call it Mothering Sunday.

Mothering Sunday is a similar holiday celebrated on the fourth Sunday of Lent. This year my thoughts are leaning toward, “Mothering Sunday.”

When I take stock of all the mothering it took raise me and all the mothering I still need, one person is a great start, but not nearly enough. My cast of mothers crosses all boundary lines, including gender.

One of my first memories of being mothered is of my PaPete. The memory consists of me standing on the deep freezer in his deli quoting Bill Cosby and being constantly harassed about food. “Are you hungry?” “You can’t eat a pimento cheese sandwich without chips.” “You want hash browns with your eggs.”  If you met him, he’d try to feed you.

My fourth grade teacher, Miss. Walker, did more than teach. She mothered. She said wild and crazy things to me like, “You are smart,” and “One loyal friend is worth more than a thousand popular ones.”

My Aunt Nita mothered less with what she said and more with what she did. Over a Dr. Pepper she’d listen to my hare brained ideas, and give me opportunities. She believed the very best about me.

Jimmy Daniel, my BSU director, mothered me through college. Feeding and challenging me to live into who God created me to be.

The woman who actually claims to be my mother has a lion’s share of courage and a fierce protection of her cubs. I remember a day in middle school when a boy I liked, (who didn’t know I was alive), accidently slammed my hand in a door. My mother, “accidently” let the same door fall on his head. She locked eyes with him and said, “Oops, these doors are tricky, aren’t they.” Incidentally this is also the day I most wished for an invisibility cloak.

Today those who mother me take the shape of friendships; male or female, we mother each other, we nurture, love, and protect.

I burst with gratitude when I see the mothers in my daughters’ lives.

My father mothers like no other. He is a professional enabler, enabling these quirky little girls to follow wherever their hearts lead.

Our neighbor, Peggy, mothers with her stealthy intellect and wise presence.

Jim, mothers by laughing at the jokes of budding joke tellers that fall way short of funny.

Russ, our former worship leader, mothered them into the throne room of God and taught them to dance with their soul.

I suspect they also will require a small army of mothers. There is one Mother though, one whose presence is constant.

God frequently plays the mothering role. God taught me to walk into the dark spaces and then reached in and healed my wounds. (Hosea 11:3-4)  God fed me with words like “You are made in my image.” (Genesis 1:27), and gave me the courage to fly. (Deuteronomy 32:11-12) God has never forgotten me, (Isaiah 49:15) in fact God has tirelessly looked for me when I have gone and gotten myself lost. (Luke 15:8-10) After four decades Mother God still invites me to crawl up on her lap, she rocks gently, whispering that I am safe and her love is the deepest, most pure love that I will ever know. (Psalm 131)

* The image used is from Rector Jonathan’s blog.   http://rectorjonathan.wordpress.com/2010/03/13/a-mothering-sunday-reflection/