Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Blessed Be the Tie That Binds

I haven't heard the hymn Blest Be the Tie That Binds since I was a teenager. The church my family was a part of used to sing it at the conclusion of our Thanksgiving services and I always loved it because it spoke of the unity in the Body of Christ like no other hymn I had ever heard. I think I like it because the lyrics are emotional. The song doesn't just argue a theological point but it expresses truth in a manner that helps us to feel it as well as to know it.  Please do not misread me and assume I think it's unimportant that songs and hymns communicate an accurate theological point. I very much think that is important!)

Being connected to a group of people is an amazing thing. This past weekend we had a bunch of family in town and had a really wonderful, meaningful, celebratory time with them. It was a beautiful visit that was very much enjoyed. The next morning I woke up to an empty house and this song popped into my head. Again, I hadn't heard it in years. I haven't thought about it in quite some time but it perfectly suits the way I'm thinking and feeling at the moment.

The first verse expressing happiness:

Blest be the tie that binds
our hearts in Christian love;
the fellowship of kindred minds
is like to that above.

The second and third verse expressing the reality which is life in the Body of Christ (or, as the case may be, in individual families):

Before our Father's throne
we pour our ardent prayers;
our fears, our hopes, our aims are one,
our comforts and our cares.

We share each other's woes,
our mutual burdens bear;
and often for each other flows
the sympathizing tear.

And the third verse expressing what we will, at present, refer to as "empty house syndrome":

When we asunder part,
it gives us inward pain;
but we shall still be joined in heart,
and hope to meet again.

The Bible is very clear about how the Body of Christ is supposed to look: it is comprised of many members who feel and express themselves differently. Each member is unique with different gifts and talents to bring to the table in order to serve the others for the glory of God. Each member, no matter the age or station in life uniquely designed to be an asset to the whole. God designed this grouping in a tremendous fashion!

Hebrews 12:4-27

4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

God wills and designs that we be not one member all on our own, but one of many. He wills and designs that we say we need each other to function properly. He wills and designs that we not be divided in purpose or spirit but be united for His glory. To be a part of such a Body either in the church or a family unit (who is also uniquely designed to be a part of the Body of Christ in their own right) is a tremendous thing full of heartache sometimes, yes, but also great blessing. If one of us then comes to suffer, we can take comfort knowing that we will all suffer with one another. If one of us is honored, then we all rejoice together. A powerful thing, that.

This being the design, it follows that when we have a chance to be with one another it is an exciting and joyful time. And when we have to say goodbye again, there is a bit of healthy sadness.


We shall still be joined in heart and hope to meet again.

What more joyful words than those after saying goodbye to our family yet again? What more hope for an anticipated reunion?

I was browsing Youtube trying to find a good rendition of this hymn, in case any of you had not yet heard it. Trying to find a decent version to listen to these days could be likened to trying to find a needle in a haystack. Hymns typically are not performed remarkably well, but I did like this musician's piano performance and thought I would link it:

Here is a brief explanation of how this particular hymn came to be written.

And so we are, it seems, the Body of Christ.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

I learn myself through her.

Two years ago I stared into the eyes of my daughter for the first time. I didn't know then that my world was altered in that moment. I only knew that sweet relief that no-longer-pregnant women feel after giving birth - when they are able to breathe again. (I mean that literally.)

When she first arrived she was quiet and demure. She slept for 18 hours a day. (You can be jealous over that fact after you are assured that we asked our physician if this was normal and he said all babies are different and she was perfectly fine.) She was storing up energy. And as she approaches the ripe old age of two she is releasing all of that stored up energy for all she's worth.

Does it sound weird to say that I never know what to expect with her at the same time as I say I always know what to expect? When I hear her responses, when I see enthusiasm and determination flash in her eyes, I see myself. She always knows exactly what she wants and when she wants it. She is very insistent and pointed when she has made up her mind in any particular direction, and there is no distracting her from her intended purposes. She is who she is and she dares you to change her. Yet I can tell for all that that there is no anger in her. She is not defiant in a manner that suggests she despises you. She just needs to persuade you and hasn't learned how to do so just yet. But wait for it. I know all of this about her because it's exactly me. Passion-filled. Excited. Driven. And this excites me.

It's fascinating parenting her because I'm forced to think through the way that I have learned to express my own emotions - sometimes appropriately, sometimes less so. Sometimes I simply fail to share them at the right time, sharing too early or too late. Her zeal for living is like my own zeal, but we both need to direct it appropriately. This fire in the eyes needs proper oversight and guidance. It needs truth early and often. What it most needs is wisdom.

What we teach her about how to express herself will matter a great deal both for her own sake and for the sake of the relationships she will develop with others all throughout her life. But you can't teach what you don't always know and I've been rethinking everything I thought I knew about myself in this process of mothering her.

I don't want to squelch her passion or enthusiasm for life. When she believes she has made the best decision for herself, I want her to keep that sense of confidence. Confidence laced with wisdom. And before I can instruct her in it, I want it for myself. How do I talk to others? How do I process information? When do I compromise? When do I speak? When do I refrain from speaking? When are tears a necessity and when do I need to brace myself and work through any given situation? All questions I have been asking myself these days.

She knows she is loved, which is so very important for her personality. She has a small circle of trusted individuals with whom she shares everything, and everyone else is kept at arm's length. (She's learning to be friendly but still maintaining her distance!) She knows she is safe in our family, which is why we get to see who she really is. If she did not feel safe, this would not be so. I know this also. I know that, just as I know that there will be times when she will think she is not safe because her opinion will differ from my own. And I know that I have to be ready for her opinion to be different from mine and to stand at the ready to love her, regardless.

If I want her trust me, then there must always be love expressed.

This child of mine has made this fact abundantly clear to me. At which point I would point out that love expressed is a hard one for me. I'm not very expressive of what I'm feeling on the inside. (At least, not so much in words.) Simply put, there will be no way for her to know that I love her unless it always remains obvious - in thought, word and deed. And so I learn (to start to think about!) how to verbally and actively express it to each one of my family members in new and different ways. I am learning to match their levels of enthusiasm for Legos, trains and Angry Birds. When they are describing details of their lives, I am learning that I have to listen to everyone equally in a way I never have before. And I have to learn to care about the things they care about and feel with them. Even if it means sympathizing with them that the 45,652,341st tower of Angry Birds that they so carefully built fell down before they were ready for it to.

If I do not express love to all of them in ways that they can understand then she will never learn how to love properly. None of them will.

They have to see this in me first. And she has taught me so in a flash of pink sparkles.

And I am humbled all over again. And so grateful that God saw fit to put her in our world.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. James 1:5

Monday, April 15, 2013

My Hiding Place

When I'm scared, He is my hiding place. 

 When I'm frustrated, He is my hiding place. 

 When I'm stressed, He is my hiding place. 

 When I am overwhelmed, He is my hiding place. 

 When I am worried, He is my hiding place.

Having a hiding place doesn't mean I'm running away from life and the problems contained therein. It just means that when I have such problems, I can also rest assured that I have a safe place to go to, to share my honest thoughts and emotions and submit them to His counsel and teaching. I have a safe place to be grow up and be changed. I have a place where I will be not just listened to, but heard. And I have a place where I will be given courage and strength to keep walking in faith when I would otherwise be tempted to give up. 

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16