Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Gifts that Last Forever

Little man reaches his hands up to his dad. "Daddy, hold me, please?" Daddy, adjusting his backpack and wiping sweat off his brow, grunts as he picks up the tall, almost-too-heavy-to-be-held blue-eyed boy. We are standing in a slow-moving line on a narrow sidewalk sandwiched between a busy Bolivian thoroughfare and the cold, hard, paint-chipped walls of the city's only immigration office, waiting to conference with an immigration officer.  Earlier in the day, our little four year old tearfully told us he was "really scared" of the police officers who check our paperwork before admitting us to the immigration building. Balancing baby girl on my hip as I shuffle along behind my husband and son, I gaze into that little man's eyes. "Aydon," I begin, getting his attention, "you know how Daddy is always willing to hold you when you are scared, and how safe you feel in his arms? THAT is exactly what God wants to do for you, always. You know, when I feel scared, I tell God how I feel and ask Him to take care of me. And you know what? He always takes care of me! He makes me feel safe. And He is always there for me." It is my deepest desire that when the little man grows too tall for his dad and I to hold him, as he becomes more and more independent of us, that He will find himself clinging to the Most High, the I AM, the Faithful, Merciful, Loving, Omniscient God who made him. 

This Christmas season has been a unique one for our family, missionaries in Bolivia this year, low on money. Having little has forced me to take a long hard look at gift-giving and receiving. There really are so many good things we can give our children: so many fun toys; educational books and games; memberships to clubs or myriads of special classes. But these gifts are so temporal. The provide pleasure for a few days or weeks, and soon loose their novelty. Don't get me wrong: I LOVE giving gifts, big or small, to my children. I have nothing against Christmas traditions. Yet, there are gifts we can give to our children that money cannot buy, gifts that they can carry around with them their entire lives.


Our babes are our DISCIPLES. Are we giving them the GIFT of faith-words and actions? Do we let them in on the ups and downs of our personal walk with God, so they can see God's always-faithfulness in our not-faithfulness? When a "thank-you-God" jumps to mind, are we speaking it aloud for our children to hear? When a burden is heavy for a friend, family member, stranger, do we take a moment to STOP in the midst of the steadily streaming to-do's, and invite our children to intercede with us? Are we willing to humble ourselves and confess our sins, our weaknesses, our wrongdoings and failures, ALOUD to our Father in Heaven, allowing our precious children to see us weak, yet unafraid, before a Holy God? Moms and dads, live your faith-walk unveiled. Your children will IMITATE you.

Our children need our empathy. Next time a difficult attitude or action manifests, give your children the GIFT of a walk in their shoes. Before the words of disapproval, of lecture, pour from your mouth, close it. Before taking a harsh, retaliatory, seemingly-justifiable sequence of actions and consequences out on your child, sit down. Take a deep breath. Ask God to give you eyes of understanding, to give you listening ears. Treat your child the way you would want to be treated. "A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger." Incline your ear towards wisdom. If you were your child, would you want to be yelled at, demeaned, spoken down to, even if you were in the wrong? Would you want to be punished? Would you respond well to being manhandled, shoved around, pinched, or slapped? What would lead you to repentance? Would it perhaps be kindness? WHO knows your child better than you? Go to Him. Pray aloud for your child. Ask God to make your child's heart soft, vulnerable enough to confess a wrong and be forgiven by her Creator because He took all the punishment; he yearns to redeem that which has been lost and broken. In the calm that proverbially follows in the wake of the storm, speak words of truth. Offer help and a listening ear. Be your child's advocate, his forgiving there-for-him in the ugliness, her one-who-is-willing to descend into the muck of consequences WITH her, not standing above her, quipping "Deal with it! You shouldn't have done what you did. It is your own fault you have to face these consequences." Isn't that how God treats YOU? You have been forgiven everything, FORGIVE the littlest in return.

Photo Credit: http://seekthingsabove.wordpress.com/2012/03/17/hows-your-prayer-life/
Prayer is a fragrant incense to God. He delights to listen to us, and to answer us. When we ask for wisdom, He is faithful to grant it to us. He has DESIRES for each of us He longs to reveal, if we will ask. PRAY for your children. Do not give up in despair. Fall on your knees when troubling behaviors manifest. Seek the wisdom from above. Walk into your children's room after they fall asleep. Gaze at them in the stillness. Pray. The words, dreams and desires, hopes and fears for your little ones, they will flow. Release them before the throne of the Almighty God. Give your children the GIFT of ceaseless prayers on their behalf. Our living God hears.

And when those sleeping babes wake in the night, summoning you to their side, for water, for comfort, for a listening ear, give the GIFT of being-there-when-they-need-you. Be a forward-thinking parent; realize they won't be little forever. The seeds of trust you sow will grow. Your child will grow. If your child were taken from you tomorrow, ask yourself what you would regret the most? Would you regret the sitting-by-the-bed listening, the drowsy snuggles, the running-to-the-kitchen for a cup of water drunk down thirstily by the mussy-haired toddler? Grump if you must, but do so silently to the Lord, who is always there for you. He will give you the strength, energy, the patience you need when your TV show, your paper-writing, your "date" with your honey, is messed up. You won't regret BEING there, in the darkest, scariest time of the daily 24-hour period, for your kiddo. 

Most importantly, our babes need to be led to God's GIFT, the Word (Christ) who, "became flesh (human, incarnate) and tabernacled (fixed His tent of flesh, lived awhile) among us; and we [actually] saw His glory (His honor, His majesty), such glory as an only begotten son receives from his father, full of grace (favor, loving-kindness) and truth." (John 1:14) 

                                                            Photo Credit: http://blogs.christianpost.com/better-bible-study/

They need our daily reminders that only in Jesus is LIFE. Daily rejoice before your children in the good news given first to the shepherds: "For to you[us] is born this day in the town of David a Savior, Who is Christ (the Messiah) the Lord!" Remind your children about what really matters, what really brings meaning and purpose to life. Jesus says, "But whoever takes a drink of the water that I will give him shall never, no never, be thirsty any more. But the water that I will give him shall become a spring of water welling up (flowing, bubbling) [continually] within him unto (into, for) eternal life." (John 4:14) Give your children the GIFT of an understanding of the forever-satisfaction found only in Christ.

Grace is unmerited favor. The GIFTS that will last are unmerited favor, favors that your children will carry with them FOREVER, favors that will outlast your presence in your children's lives. The Bible instructs us to WALK BY THE SPIRIT. Lasting gifts are given by God through parents. Let's make this swiftly-approaching new year one of being God's instruments of grace-giving to our children.