I recently did a sermon on being “Sent”. I thought I would post it here if anyone wants to take a listen. I used the story of Peter to talk about being qualified or disqualified from God using us. I enjoy preaching and thought it might be a good addition to my blog, you be the judge.
I went riding with my third child again yesterday and I am starting to realize that he enjoys biking, but he also enjoys the one on one time that comes with it. We were on a run called “Bobsled” which is not difficult but has quite a bit of curves, bumps, jumps, and other fun elements. As we are navigating this adventure my sons asks me “Dad, what are your three favorite things about all of your children?”
Now I love to bike, and I love time with my son, and I love to talk about the great things about my children. However, attempting to do all three at the same time is not a simple task. I had to think about twelve different attributes while trying to ride and keep an eye on my son. So here it goes:
“Well there each of you have so many amazing qualities it hard to narrow it down to three.”
“So you mean that you don’t want to think about three things, or you can’t think about three things”
“I could come up with at least three for all of you.”
“Then go ahead”
So I did. Now mind you we are going along a trail that normally I would goof around on because of the amount of fun elements and the relative ease of it. But since I was stuck riding behind my son who was a little nervous about the trail and in no hurry, I decided that I could do the task that he allotted to me.
I told him that his oldest brother was a hard worker, an encourager, and loved baseball (which I love as well). His second oldest brother was a people person, loved playing with his sister, and loved to cook. I told him that he had a very observant and inquisitive mind, that I loved that he loved to bike, and he was the best hugger that God ever created. I told him that I loved that his sister loved to wrestle, that she said silly things, and she loved to hang out with me in the shop. And I was done, only to add to the list that my three sons are really good big brothers to their younger sister.
Now we are going to focus on the ride right? Wrong, did I mention that my son has a very observant, inquisitive mind. He asked why I tend to go down hill faster than he does, and I told him that it was because I was heavier. He said “wait a minute, I thought everything fell at the same rate”. Now I am having a physics discussion with my son while we are trying to not get slapped in the face by blackberry, salmonberry, salal, NETTLES! My nine year old is telling me about his theories of acceleration and deceleration while we are climbing a hill in which I am starting to suck wind (and decelerate). He actually got off his bike in order to carry on the conversation! Wait a minute, I was cool with slowing down a little to talk. Now you want to walk the bike to talk, not okay.
Okay, that is not true. I was okay with it. When I go biking with my son I usually accept that I am not going to be going as fast as I want, or getting the work out I want. Now I am starting to understand more and more just how serious he was when he said that he wanted to spend time with me, and it doesn’t seem like he is so concerned about what we are doing.
I am actually happy that my son forced me to think about what I loved about my kids, that is not a list I normally put to words, but it almost felt like a blessing that I was imparting as soon as I spoke it. It is amazing how much a child likes to hear what their parents like about them.
Two days ago my son asked if he could go mountain biking with me. I have gone mountain biking before with my two sons, but this time it was obvious that he wanted to go without his brother. I asked him if he wanted to take his brother and he hesitated. When my wife and I told him that it was okay to ask to go without his brother he said that is exactly what he wanted. Yesterday I felt like junk. My leg hurt, I was fighting off a cold (in June, come on!), and I was tired because of that. However, one of my children asked for time alone with me and they were going to get it. Mostly because it doesn’t happen that often.
So yesterday I went riding with my son, and it was great. We got lost, we got muddy, we got tired (well I got tired). During the ride I asked him if he wanted to go uphill or downhill and he said “well if I go up hill it will make my legs stronger, so let’s go uphill”. When I asked him if he wanted to go on a more difficult trail or just head back, he said he wanted to go on the more difficult trail. Lately he has been big on manhood tests, I think that this had something to do with it.
At the end of the day we came back and I asked him if he had fun and he said:
“What I would give to have time alone with you.”
He was actually thinking about what he would sacrifice to get time alone with his dad. This caught me off guard. As I am writing this I am actually trying to figure out if there is a more that I could do to make that phrase jump out of the computer to show just how powerful that query was to me. My son has an amazing way with words. He says things that are so funny that every time I think about it I laugh anew. Interestingly he never seems to understand how potent his words are. He is always surprised at the fact that we find his comments to be so funny; he doesn’t try to be funny.
After I choked back a tear or two I said “we just had time alone together.” Then he did it again! He said:
“No, I mean everyday.”
How can a father live up to that expectation, or that longing in a child’s heart to be with his father? As I write this I am choking up.
I can’t remember the last time that I felt such a longing for time alone with God. I get so wrapped up in myself, my wants, my perceived needs, my life that I sometimes view my relationship with God as a obligation or a contractual arrangement. I know that I have great times with God, but I also know that they don’t normally started off with that longing that my son expressed yesterday morning. Honestly, those times are usually precipitated by something that is bothering me, or something that I want.
However, God longs for time with me. The interesting thing is that he doesn’t need it, but he longs for it anyway.
Did you know that there is a field of thought out there that says that reality is defined by our language and relationships? I am not saying that I agree with that sentiment, but I like to ponder the idea. In a sense we don’t truly live without a method of articulating what our senses gather. In another sense we don’t truly live if we do it in isolation from other people.
I think about this idea frequently when I think about my son Nathan. For four years he did not have a language, he spoke less than four words in his native language. How does a child develop when he is left for hours in a crib during the day in order to be able to keep track of him, not being touched? How does a child retain memories without having a language in which to define those memories.
This post is not about Nathan necessarily, its about what defines us as human. Can we say that we are living the human experience without communicating with other people, without articulating who we are and allow others to articulate who they are? Can we say that we are living the human experience if we don’t reach out and interact with others on a normal basis? Can we say that we are living the human experience if we don’t actually make physical contact with someone on a normal basis?
What is the human experience if it is not shared? Humans were created to be relational beings, there is no doubt about it. To believe that rationale or emotion supersedes our need for relationship would be an insult to the one that created us. What that means is that there is no way we can use our rationale or our emotions to justify escaping from relationship. If we do, we are trying to escape what makes us human in the first place. What makes us human? A God that doesn’t just believe in relationship but exists in relationship.
I frequently ask Nathan about what he remembers about the orphanage that he lived in for half of his life. He can articulate a very small amount of what happened before the day we received him. If you asked him, he was a baby when we received him because there is so little that he could put words to before that. His memories are vivid after that day however; he speaks about the hotel room that we stayed in like it was his delivery room. He learned words, was well fed, and had two people that were not going anywhere no matter how hard he screamed (and boy can he scream).
I would like to believe that I am a gate person rather than a fence person, but I can see all the fences that I have created and it makes me sad. I love my fences, but I hate them as well. On one hand I like to think that I am accessible, and that there are no barriers that must be crossed in order to get to my heart. On the other hand, I want people to know that there are certain things that I like to identify myself by.
I would like to think that I am an accepting person, and then I experience someone that has a different interest, a different perspective, or a different personality and I don’t seem to be able to appreciate it as much as judge it. Why do I do this? Is appreciation a harder task than judgment?
Judgment comes easier to me because it requires no interaction. Judgment comes easier because it allows me to think myself superior to the other. I tend to construct a world in which I am king because of the separation between me and my subjects. I find that when I step into the kingdom of acceptance I am okay until I get hurt, and then I retreat to the other kingdom again.
If there is one characteristic of human nature that I have found to be almost universally consistent it is the fact that everyone has a front yard, a back yard, and a basement. The front yard is what everyone is allowed to see, the person that we want to convey to the world. Some people spend a good deal of time maintaining their front yard, because they want people to think that the rest of the property is good, or they just have a great deal of respect for the property that they have been given to steward.
The backyard is where the barbecues happen, this is the place for the people that we let into our lives. People that maintain their backyard are the people that care a good deal about the people that they let in, or they care about impressing the people they let in, or they simply want to be good stewards like those that take care of their front yard.
Then there is the basement the place that we don’t let people into unless we have to. This is the part of our lives that we don’t want people to see, the part of our lives that we don’t want strangers or friends to see. We might let the people we really care about into the house, and make them an integral part of our lives, but the basements remains ours.
But remember when I said that people that realize the property they have are good stewards. This means that no matter what part of the property we are talking about, none of it is ours. The basement only looks like a hiding place because we believe that in some way we can hide our pains and secrets. But the basement is not ours, none of it is, all of it is meant to something greater.
I have been faced with many idiosyncrasy’s about myself over the years, and as someone that has a job that involves meeting and working with many people I feel as though there is one in particular that I need to reign in. I am really good at making the awkward comment, not the obscene, just the awkward.
I love the being able to type out commentaries, blogs, texts, and emails because I have the information right in front of. I can backspace anytime I want, and frequently do. If you think my blog is awkward, spend an evening at my house and see how long you can make it without finding a reason to excuse yourself so that you can process the possible meaning of what I just said.
I am not naturally extroverted but I love people, and I think that is the problem. I made a comment the other day to a friend that I am pretty sure made her unborn child say “you said what?”
No matter how awkward I get I still would rather spend an evening with friends and strangers than by myself. I know that God intended us to be together in all of our awkwardness, stupidity, and vulgarity. It is in these moments that we are called upon to remember that we are not all the same, and that none of us (except my wife) are perfect.