“In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.” Isaiah 30:15
How many of you enjoy filling out those “evaluation forms” that are given at the end of retreats and conferences? I know . . . they aren’t one of my favorite things to do either. Even so, most of the time I do fill them out because I know how much I appreciate such feed-back after completing some of my projects. Honest evaluations help us see ourselves and the things we have been involved in from a more objective view. They help us to make adjustments (where needed) or to affirm what was done before entering into a another such project. Evaluations also can provide insight that can be passed on to others. As a counselor I do quite a bit in the “passing on” category, which is probably why I ask questions that most people would avoid or never think to ask.
Such a question occurred to me after our three children had grown and left the Siler nest. I tried to evaluate my efforts in mothering my children. Although I am generally optimistic, I found that I seemed to focus mainly on my failures. As I faced that “half empty” glass of regret and doubt, I began to wonder, “Did I do anything right?” Finally, I became desperate enough to ask my kids the question that had been filling me with so much personal conflict. Their answer stunned me initially, but when I took time to think about it I realized that it spoke to the core of what I believe good parenting should be about. Their answer to my question, “Did I do anything right as your mother?” was: “Yes Mom, you did something right. You called sin, sin.” I am sure I looked a bit puzzled so they explained further, “You didn’t make excuses or gloss things over. Instead, you helped us to take what we did seriously, as sin before God.”
Sin, sometimes referred to in our family as the “S-word”, is an important word/concept that, these days, rarely seems to come up in conversation. I wonder if we avoid talking about the “S-word” because it makes us uncomfortable? Might it be that so much cultural concern about individual “self-esteem” has gotten in the way of our Christian call to esteem God? The irony is that by avoiding becoming “uncomfortable” in our “S-word,” we unwittingly (and I would add unwisely) choose to be left comfortable in it!
As our children grew up, there were certain words (let’s call them “royal words”) that were given special respect to protect their use value. LOVE, HATE and SIN were such “royal words.” For example, our children were not allowed to “hate” their food; instead, they “disliked” it. As a family, we tried to preserve the power of such words to be applied toward things that the Bible tells us God loves and hates. We used the Scriptures as our guideline for how these words were used:
- “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us.” I John 4:12
- “Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” Romans 12:9 (Bottom line: We cling to GOD [another “royal word”] because He is good!)
- “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” (As a frame of reference, this is part of the counsel God gave to Cain in Genesis 4. Cain knew he had a choice and made it to his brothers peril. God’s warning has stood through the ages to this very day.)
In our family we talked often about how God cares about the choices we make; how our choices reflect who or what rules our hearts. We talked about how God hates sin; but because He loved all that He had created, He allowed His only Son to take our punishment to save those who trusted in Him. Underlining the grossness of sin before God, we sometimes referred to sin as “Puke on God’s Throne.” (See the last bit in II Peter 2.) We also talked about how God doesn’t have grandchildren; God only has children who come to Him one by one through His Son, Jesus Christ. (God’s grace actively offering LIFE . . . yet another “royal word”!) This meant they each had choices they would have to make in how they lived their lives. Would they live for themselves? Or would they chose to love and serve God? Finally, there was one word that was banned from our vocabulary: the “L-Word.” Instead of using the word “luck” we replaced it with the word that applies to all who love and serve God: BLESSING! (Yes, another “royal . . . .”) We talked about how in good times as well as in bad, God’s people are a blessed people because He is always with us. Because of His faithfulness in all things we owe Him our thanks. “Give thanks, give thanks, give thanks no matter what!” became our family motto.
During the time I was struggling with “How I did as a mom” God blessed and challenged me with a passage from Isaiah 30:15-22. It was like a rare gift to me in settling my struggles and was the perfect gift to offer our fledglings as their spiritual wings were tested. It begins with God’s prescription for finding peace as we face our common ailment (you guessed it, the “S-word!)
- “This is what the Sovereign LORD says, ‘In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength . . ‘” Such simple clarity given in going to God when we find ourselves in trouble! “Repentance and rest . . . quietness and trust” in God’s divine Provision . . .
- Isaiah continues: ” . . . but you would have none of it. You said, ‘No, we will flee . . . till you are left like a flagstaff on a mountaintop, like a banner on a hill.” It is sad but true, we run from God when wisdom says we need to run to Him. What a perfect depiction of depression.
- But the flag of hope and all that is good is suddenly raised as we are gifted with a peek at God’s heart: ” Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; therefore He will rise up to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for Him!”
- The last bit speaks to us in the midst of trial, encouraging us to listen for His Voice to lead us on the right path and to reject all others: “‘Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Then you will defile your idols overlaid with silver and your images covered with gold; you will throw them away like a menstrual cloth and say to them, “Away with you!”‘ (I urge you to look at the entire passage for yourselves, it is far better than what I am piecing together here!)
Did you catch that last reference to the “S-word” as a yucky menstrual cloth? Yep, sin is gross and should be taken seriously to avoid being caught up in it. Talk to God about it as Isaiah urges; then talk to your kids as God leads you both!