Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Not like the Tax Collector

There's sweetness in preschool drop off.  
Little people, little hands holding tightly to mom or dad's hand, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Lunchboxes, sparkling eyes, chubby cheeks, short legs doing their best to keep up with the adult dragging them into the room, joyful teachers, ahhhhh, such tenderness. 
My little preschooler knows one of my most favorite things in the whole world right now is holding his mushy little hand in mine.  His oversized backpack keeps him from racing too far ahead of me into the building and my joy of him keeps me from pulling him along faster than his legs can go.

As August brought the first day of preschool, I found myself deeply thankful that I wasn't a first time preschool mom.  Don't get me wrong, I'd like to look like some of those young sassafras first time preschool mamas in matching workout gear and nicely ponytailed hair, however, if it would mean going back to all that stuff I worried about the first time thanks.   I'll take the mismatched sweats and the unintentional messy bun any day.    This is my fifth preschool rodeo and I'm totally digging being an older mama.    So freeing.   All those crazy things you worry about when you are young and discovering motherhood have absolutely no hold on you when you are older and have teenagers.  Preschool issues are just that...preschool issues. Bring them on. 

The freedom turned to pride about two preschool mornings into the school year.   I found myself secretly daring a mom to talk to me about the importance of packing a nutritious snack (Go ahead, judge my son's Lunchable plus extra bag of chips and fruit snacks.)  I hoped to overhear a conversation about the latest parenting book fad so I could regurgitate the titles of the numerous parenting books that have reached idol status just since I've been a parent.   I took great joy in my preschooler telling stories that would have once required major damage control from my people-pleasing personality.   The preschooler shared that his older brother's girlfriend is called the "Chunky Muffin Girlfriend," and the younger me instantly would have wanted to explain that there was no "chunky muffin girlfriend," but that the baby sister, scrumptiously pudgy and roly poly, is referred to as "the girlfriend," more specifically the "Chunky Muffin Girlfriend," by the two oldest brothers.   An older mama enjoys letting the comment go.   Loooves this moment of uncomfortable wondering.   Because it's HILARIOUS to watch people's faces!   Chunky Muffin Girlfriend? Do they let their son call his girlfriend Chunky Muffin?   No.  No.  No.  Yes, we know it's not appropriate talk, yes, we recognize that their future girlfriends might not appreciate all of the affectionate albeit sketchy names they come up with for their sisters, BUT any home with teenagers lives in the reality that sometimes/lots of times you just have to let things go.  The baby sister adores her brothers and we're convinced all she hears when they tenderly coo, "You precious Chunky Muffin Girlfriend," is "You are the greatest person ever created and we love you to the moon and back."  We have bigger battles in this home than our baby being called "Chunky Muffin Girlfriend." This old mama just relishes the fact that the brothers call the baby any name that suggests fondness.

Pride overflowed fiercely in preschool drop off.   You know you are seriously insecure in other areas if you are abundantly gloating at preschool.  "At least I'm not like those other preschool moms.  Worrying about snacks, schedules, playdates.   I'm free of all that nonsense.    So, incredibly free.   Free. Free. Free."
Sounds a bit like the Pharisee in Luke, "God, I thank you that I'm not other men---robbers, evil doers, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.   I fast and give a tenth of all I get."   

Standing in the rain last week, crying hot tears of anger at myself over great impatience, the realization hit me...I'm not living free at all.  Sure, I'm free of all those preschool burdens, but I exchanged them for a new set of chains that still leaves me doubting, insecure, and oh so afraid.

A slave is still a slave regardless of the name of the master.   Perhaps the most dangerous form of bondage comes with pride that blinds us to what/who is holding our chains.   Preschool no longer jerks my chains. However, my ideal standard of homeschooling frustrates, my time management strangles, my margin-less life steals.  I'm no longer bound by feeding ideals, nap times, and my son playing with pink legos, but now I'm tethered to multi-layered sports schedules, fear of teenager freedom, and anger at my inconsistency in living joyfully. "At least I'm not like those preschool moms enslaved by those silly things."   True.  But, pride kept me from seeing that I'd just been sold to a different master.   

I'm sure moms further along than me are thinking, "Girlfriend, this is easy.   Wait till you have adult children completely out from under your control.   Now, that's hard."   I can't imagine.   But, I pray we never look at another's bondage in pride and miss the ties that hold us firmly.  Chains are chains.   It doesn't matter if they are preschool problems, homeschooling struggles, perfection issues, work idols, or family tension, slavery to anything other than obedience to Christ keeps us from the freedom our souls long for.

I pray we are always mindful, always uncovering, the secret chains that bind us.  Just because we might be free from that which enslaves a friend, a family member, or our child, this should never be a source of pride for us, but should encourage us to humbly ask our Heavenly Father what it is that keeps our soul from resting securely on Him.  2 Peter 2:19 "...a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him."  Who is the loudest voice in my life?  That might be a good indicator of who is my master.  Failure...constantly feeling like I'm failing speaks to me often.   The chains grip tight.  

God's word gives freedom.   Freedom because it's perfection is only found in Jesus.   James 2:25 "The man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it, he will be blessed in what he does."   How can a perfect law give freedom?   How can a people incapable of keeping a perfect law find freedom in looking intently on that law?  Seems to me that would bring nothing but look at a law impossible to keep.  It's not keeping the law that brings freedom.   It's clinging to Jesus, who kept the perfect law for us, knowing we couldn't, knowing we wouldn't, so freedom in Christ could be ours for the taking.  

Romans 8:1 "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death."   

If I feel a big's because I'm struggling to truly believe the promise God has already set before me in His Word.    Truthfully, I actually can't believe it in my own power because I know too intimately the depth of my sins, so I have to cry out for help believing that I don't have to be a slave to anything this world has to offer.

When I fail to be patient...there's no condemnation.
When I spend my time unwisely...there's no condemnation.
When I haven't introduced myself to new neighbors...there's no condemnation.
When my teenage sons call their baby sister "Chunky Muffin Girlfriend"...well, that condemnation is theirs to work through.   Let them wrestle with that...I've got other issues.

"At least I'm not like those other preschool moms.  Worrying about snacks, schedules, playdates."

Luke 18:11-13, "God, I thank you that I'm not other men---robbers, evil doers, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.   I fast and give a tenth of all I get.  
But the tax collector stood at a distance.  He would not even look up to heaven but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner." 

Have mercy on us, Lord.  
We are such sinners.
Yet, somehow, there is no condemnation.  
Help us to believe that.