Parenting Prophetically

I wasn’t always the best student in college. I probably would have benefitted from taking a few years off after high school because I didn’t really understand the whole concept. Like, hey 18-year-old Jordan, this is training for the REST OF YOUR LIFE so please pay attention and put in some effort. I was admittedly more interested in writing ridiculous (though well-illustrated) poems about inappropriate things than taking notes, never mind the thousands of dollars my parents were shelling out.

You are judging me so hard right now. And I also feel like I need to ask for your forgiveness.

Anyway, I somehow remember one term from my Sociology class freshman year: self-fulfilling prophecy. This is the only thing I remember from that class; for some reason it stuck with me. The whole idea is that the things you believe about yourself, even if those things are initially untrue, become true, because there is such a strong connection between belief and behavior.

Let’s say I believe I’m an idiot. I have no proof of this, and am in fact very smart, but was once told by a sibling or parent, “You are so stupid,” and that statement became glued to the front of my brain. Now I don’t like school because I’m afraid the “truth” will come out — I’m an idiot. Learning becomes impossible because it’s linked to overwhelming stress, and I consequently begin falling behind academically. What was once a false statement, is now prophetic.

Our minds are insane. Words are so powerful. They form beliefs. And beliefs form behaviors.

 

My oldest child feels things with a far greater depth than I understand. The best word to describe her is sensitive. She experiences the world differently than me because she experiences it emotionally, rather than pragmatically. It’s both beautiful and terrifying, her greatest asset and her greatest struggle.

For me, on the other hand, sensitivity has been learned and developed over time. It doesn’t come naturally to me. So in the past, when something upset her deeply, I just. didn’t. get it. I would get frustrated and annoyed. All I could think was, THIS IS NOT A BIG DEAL. Why are you acting like this? And that attitude showed. She is able to read people incredibly well, so through my reactions to her, I was subtly, and consistently, sending her this message: You are TOO MUCH. Stop being SO dramatic. Be different!

And if we were in public? I would lose my patience so fast because STOP EMBARRASSING ME… which is a whole lot less about her and her issues and a whole lot more about me and my issues.

Then, my husband would get home, and I’d tell him the drawn-out story in great detail (not in front of her) and would throw in words like “crazy” and “out of control” for emphasis.

It didn’t take long (or actually wayyy too long) for me to realize this dangerous dynamic. I was speaking about her and to her in ways that were shaping her, that would surely negatively influence her self-image, and thus her future self.

Oh my goodness, y’all. WORDS. REACTIONS. TONES. The words we speak over our children are prophetic, for they will determine who they become.

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I am a prophet. We, we parents who dismissively mumble words out of weariness and exhaustion, we are prophets. We are piecing our children’s souls together, one irritated word at a time, creating a mosaic of phrases, remarks, and feelings. What do we want them to act like? Who do we want them to be?

In one of my education classes in college, (because I was always paying attention) my professor told us to “stay out of the Teachers’ Lounge.” The Teachers’ Lounge, she explained, was where teachers went to complain about their students. “The more you complain about your students, the less you are going to enjoy them. The more you tell stories about how awful they are, the more awful they will be because you are expecting them to be awful.”

In regards to raising children, we have to stay out of the metaphorical Teachers’ Lounge: our spouses, our families, our friends, and dare I say social media. Are we constantly complaining about our kids? Are we constantly ranting about how terrible they were today? In the name of “authenticity” and “being real”, are we sacrificing the dignity of our little ones on social media? Are we expecting them to be terrible? The way we speak about our children, even to our spouses, influences our behavior towards them, which in turn influences their behavior toward us. Seeking wise counsel is one thing but complaining and ranting is another. I cannot speak negatively about my children and NOT expect that to affect the way I treat them. The things we say mold the way we feel and act.

 

So the question is, how do we use the concept of self-fulfilling prophecies to our advantage? What behaviors can we cultivate in our children via diligent lip-service?

 

I want my children to believe they can do hard things…

so I will speak words of perseverance into them.

I want them to believe they are strong…

so I will speak words of strength into them.

I want them to believe they are adored…

so I will speak words of love into them.

I want them to believe they are wanted…

so I will speak words of gratefulness into them.

I want them to believe they (and their eccentricities) were created purposefully…

so I will speak God’s words of truth into them.

 

I never want my daughter to think she’s too much or that her sensitivity is somehow a shortcoming. She is not perfect. But I will spend this next year, this last year I have her at home with me all the live long day, making damn sure she knows she was created exactly as God intended her to be.

 

When We Say “I’m Not Called to That”

You know when you think you’ve got it all figured out? Like I have this exact idea of how I should live and should treat people and what I should do with my dang life. And I feel very confident in it. Even though I know some people are just very extreme, a little radical, which is so awesome and I LOVE that for them… that’s not really MY thing. I don’t need to live like that because I wasn’t CALLED to that. Living like that, like how they are a little bit crazy and a lot intense and TOTALLY different than “normal” people, THAT is a specific, individual calling. I was not called to that. I was “called” to live exactly as I am …. just normally. Like normal people do.

I like to do normal things. I am very comfortable with my family of 5, being a normal mom, going to the park and to church, living simply, smiling at people and stuff. I like the normalcy of our routine, with our bible studies and our playdates. I love that I’m a lot like most people I meet — it helps us “connect.” We have so many things to discuss, because we are SO SIMILAR in our normalness. Normal is predictable. I like that.

So I was having a discussion with someone the other day. I was wondering aloud, “Now, I know you don’t have to put your family in unsafe territories to tell people about Jesus. But what if the opportunity presented itself? Do I choose to trust that God will protect us? Would I move my family into an unsafe place if I was asked to? Is that choosing faith over fear? Or is that just being irresponsible?” This brought up the whole idea of “callings” and how some people are “called” to that and some people are not.

Called. That’s a very tricky word right there. Here’s what I think about that word. Sometimes, I think we use that word as an excuse to not do scary things.

First off, let’s get this out of the way. God gave each of us different gifts. That is not only biblical but visibly clear just by walking into a school building — each child is different, each requires different things, each is talented in his or her own way. We are to use these gifts to bring people to Jesus. Some people are gifted speakers, others (oh hey, me) say really weird things when they pick up a microphone. Some people are gifted teachers of young children (Hi, mom!), others would rather swim in a pool of sour milk with their eyes open than go inside a room full of 5-year-olds.

We are like a puzzle, each our own intricate piece, each essential, each unique. If we use our gifts wisely, if we work together in our individuality, we can create something breathtaking, show God to the whole world. But God does not expect a corner piece to jam itself into the middle of the puzzle. That corner piece belongs in the corner. It does GREAT THINGS in the corner. We could not complete the puzzle without it, we don’t expect it to change its shape so that it will fit there.

But, just because we are all unique, that doesn’t mean we don’t all have one common goal: complete the puzzle. Reveal the image of God. Show the world His Face.

We all have gifts that are completely individual to us and we can turn those into callings that are completely individual to us. But we also have callings that are not specific to our talents. These callings were placed upon all of us, EVERY SINGLE ONE, whether or not we asked for them or felt confident in them, the exact moment we chose to follow Christ.

Like feeding the hungry.

Like taking in orphans.

Like watching after widows.

Like loving the unloveable.

Like giving money and time and FACE to the destitute.

Like telling people about Jesus and helping them see how life is better with him in it.

 

Most of these things feel weird when you are living normally, because they are probably not part of your regular routine. Like, I totally take care of hungry people when there is an event for hungry people. I would totally sign up for that. And old people are the sweetest. If my church is going to the nursing home, count me in!

But what if our calling isn’t to do add that into our normal lives. Like on the side. I’ll have a serving of normal with a little dash of extraordinary on the side. What if our “calling” was for THAT to be our MAIN DISH? What if our everyday consisted of these things? What if it wasn’t out of the ordinary? Wouldn’t that create the most beautiful picture?

 

Normal is exactly where Satan would have me be. There is nothing threatening about normal. Normal is VERY SAFE. Normal is so comfortable. I can tie normal up with a nice, tidy bow and kiss it on the forehead because it’s JUST. SO. SWEET.

But miraculous things just don’t happen if I surround myself with normal, comfortable, safe things. Miraculous things do not happen unless I am willing to RISK. Unless I’m willing to sacrifice my comfort. My normal.

I don’t know what my specific calling is. I do know this though: we are all called to be RADICAL, extreme, CRAZY. We are NOT “called” to be normal.

When Your Family is Your Idol

Are we giving our kids any opportunity to actually SEE GOD WORK? In all of our protecting and in all of our keeping them separate what if we are not only protecting them from all the bad but we are preventing them from ever seeing God DO ANYTHING GOOD. They never experience any moments that make them say, “HOLY CRAP. Did you just see that? This God is AMAZING. Heck yes I believe!”

A couple of years ago, I was driving to my parents’ house down a neighborhood street. Charlee and Hattie were in the backseat, whining I’m sure. As we approached my parents’ street, I noticed a dark-skinned elderly woman, probably in her 80’s, walking down the street the same direction as us. In each arm, she toted a grocery bag, presumably from the convenient store a couple of blocks back. She was noticeably exhausted, walking with a limp, pausing ever few feet to catch her breath.

Since we were going pretty slow, I had a good 30 seconds to make a decision. She clearly needed a ride. Buuut I had my 3-year-old and 1-year-old in the car with me. What if she’s dangerous? What if that’s not really milk in her bag but a bomb? What if she’s pretending to walk with a limp but she’s actually a 25-year-old man in disguise? I have kids in the car. My kids’ safety always come first.

And I passed her. You guys. I passed an 80-year-old woman with a limp carrying two bags of groceries. Because of my kids.

Thankfully, God grabbed me by the neck and screamed, “ARE YOU SERIOUS??? Turn around, woman. She is 80 years old. Turn. This. Car. A. Round.”

I ashamedly swung a U and invited her into the passenger seat. She was so grateful and so precious. I took her about a half-mile down the road to a little shack, couldn’t have been much bigger than my living room, the grass taller than my kids. She gushed her thank-yous and crept to the door.

That was the first time I realized I loved my kids more than I loved Jesus. More than I loved bringing his Kingdom down to this Earth.

That was the first (but not last) time I realized my family was my idol.

 

 

Isn’t the gospel the story of a man who lived in the middle of an affluent neighborhood and hung out with mostly Jews? I mean, he was still pretty nice to the Gentiles, but wouldn’t have pursued a deep relationship with them. Isn’t it about how he REALLY loved all the religious people who went to church all the time? They were his faves. And I’m pretty sure he tried not to associate with too many people who would “ruin his witness”?

Or is it about a man who that calls for us to SELL OUT. Sell everything. Leave our family. To LOVE HIM MORE than our mother, father, sister, brother. More than our FAMILIES. To not let anything get in the way of spreading this incredibly GOOD news. To make fishers of all men, not just our own men.

What does it mean to raise children, to grow a family, in light of THAT kind of gospel?  When my instincts scream, “COME HERE LITTLE FAMILY! EVERYONE JUST HUDDLE TOGETHER SO THAT WE CAN BE SAFE FROM ALL THE BAD, SCARY THINGS!!” and I just want to tuck them under my wing and protect them from the whole world.

 

Should I protect them from all the outsiders, the no-gooders, the “least of these”? Should I shield them from the destitute, the addicted, the desperate? Should I just surround them with “Christian” people who listen to “Christian” music and send them to “Christian” camps?

Raising children can be terrifying, not only because this world is scary and the responsibility is HUGE but because at some point in the last couple of decades, Christian parents got the formula wrong. Kids aren’t buying it anymore. Why are young adults leaving the church in droves? What did we miss?

Maybe, they realized they couldn’t believe in something they’ve never seen. And maybe, just maybe, they’ve never seen God. Sure, they’ve seen church. They’ve seen praise bands. They’ve seen Bible Bowls. They’ve seen preachers. But they’ve never actually seen God. How could they? They’ve been tucked under our wing the whole time.

Are we giving our kids any opportunity to actually SEE GOD WORK? In all of our protecting and in all of our keeping them separate what if we are not only protecting them from all the bad but we are preventing them from ever seeing God DO ANYTHING GOOD. They never experience any moments that make them say, “HOLY CRAP. Did you just see that? This God is AMAZING. Heck yes I believe in Him!”

 

On our way to my parents’ house that day, Charlee rattled off question after question about that sweet old woman. Who was she? Why did we pick her up? What was wrong with her? Why didn’t she have a car?

I got to explain to her that this is what people do when they follow Jesus. Sure, we’d read bible stories about it. We had talked about taking care of people who needed help. But that was the first time she got it. That was the first time it meant something to her.

And I’d almost let it pass me by. For her. Because I’d rather her be safe than saved.

And I’m Back in the Game…

I turned 30 a few weeks ago. This doesn’t seem possible as I WAS JUST IN HIGH SCHOOL. After reading a few books as a thirty year old, and thus now much wiser than I was a few weeks ago, I have decided that my first twenty-nine years were crap basically a warm-up for the rest of my life.

Sometime between birth and 30, I learned about this thing called “a personal relationship with God” that I was supposed to have. It seemed to be pretty important and I invested a lot of time nurturing it and caring for it. Not as much as I should have, but enough to feel pretty good about myself. Church unintentionally reinforced my idea that this whole Christian thing was primarily about this personal relationship and experiencing the goodness God offers me so that a) I can have eternal life in heaven and b) I will be spared the earthly consequences of sin.

The end.

While that is all good stuff, there is one problem: that is completely, wholly, entirely all about me. I have been following Jesus solely so that I can reap the benefits.

When did I decide that my spiritual life was only about me? I went to youth events and bible studies and camps and classes and retreats and gradually those morphed into life groups and podcasts and conferences and more bible studies and I got really good at being good. Each event got me all fired up to live a life of kindness and sobriety and chastity and modesty and all those Christian descriptors in which I prided myself. Gosh. I was really nailing this whole Christian thing.

But is my purpose to be kind and sober and chaste and modest? Is that really what Jesus put me on this earth to be? Sweet and precious and abstaining from “all those bad things” that separate me from “all those bad people”?

How did I so glaringly miss the point? When did it become an us and them? When Jesus made it SO clear that his gift is for ALL?

Bible studies, conferences, life groups, sermons. These are all REALLY GOOD THINGS. They are really good things that God uses not to transform us into good people, anyone can be good, but to transform us into SENT people.

If we really listen, really believe that this is GOOD freaking news, if we really absorb what the bible keeps saying over and over, why are we not tackling people in the streets, bursting at the seams to share this opportunity for peace and comfort, grace, FREEDOM, eternal life, and total acceptance under the cross. Do we not really believe it? 

Jesus gave us two directives: Love God (check). Love people. BUT I DO! I do love people! I love all people. But do I really?

Love is not offering to pray for them. Love is praying over them and with them and caring enough to come back.

Love is not giving up when their load is too heavy for you. Love is sticking by their side because nobody else has ever NOT QUIT on them.

Love is not giving them a $20 bill. Love is looking them in the eye and having a conversation with them, touching them, letting them feel dignity.

Love is not using scripture to defend God (as if he needed our defense). Love is grappling with those hard questions together in humility and mutual respect.

Love is not standing on a holy pedestal declaring all of our RIGHTNESS. Love is loving them through their mistakes and letting them feel the weightlessness of grace.

If we are going to attempt to be like Jesus, then yes, we need healing and teaching. We need discipleship and guidance. We need to hang out at the temple just as he did. But he didn’t stay there. Why are we still in the temple? My faith has been crippled because I refuse to leave the safety and comfort of the temple. 

In Interrupted: When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity, Jen Hatmaker talks about how God finally revealed to her that she was “serving saved people and blessing the blessed.” Well, crap, Jen. Why ya gotta call me out like that, friend?

So it’s time for a little perspective shift. Since I am thirty and all.

In my teens my question was, “How can my church serve me?”

In my twenties it became a more sacrificial, “How can I serve my church?”

But maybe a mature thirty-year-old question would be, “How can I partner with my church to better serve those that actually need serving. That actually need Jesus?”

Don’t ask me practical examples of how I’m going to make changes in my life. My husband already did that and I stuttered, “I mean, like, have people over for dinner and stuff.” Clearly, I need to talk to Jesus a little bit more about the logistics.

But the point is, it’s time to get out of the temple. Or for a more comfortable analogy, it’s time to leave the locker room. I’ve been getting pumped up and stretching and warming up for twenty-nine years. I’ve listened to an entire playlist of “Eye of the Tiger” and “Dance with Somebody” (best pump-up song ever). I’ve heard enough pre-game speeches. Surely, SURELY, I am ready to get in the game.

Dun. Dun dun dun. Dun dun dun. Dun dun duuuuuuuuuunnnnnn.