“All this pain. I wonder if I’ll ever find my way. I wonder if my life could really change at all. All this earth. Could all that is lost ever be found? Could a garden come up from this ground at all?

You make beautiful things. You make beautiful things out of the dust. You make beautiful things. You make beautiful things out of us.

All around, hope is springing up from this old ground. Out of chaos life is being found in You. You make me new. You are making me new.”    {GUNGOR}

 

Yesterday, on a playground with a group of one, two and three year old children, a bright red cardinal landed on a tree branch nearby and proceeded to happily chirp. I pointed the bird out to two of the little girls and told them the birdie was singing a song to them. “What song do you think she’s singing to you?” I asked. Abby, a three year old, announced in a matter of fact sort of way, “Jesus love me!” I don’t know how many songs can shuffle through a three year olds repertoire, but of all the ones to suddenly hit play through a little red bird on a wind danced branch yesterday afternoon, that was a beautiful choice. She then proceeded to tell me about an elephant that touched her foot while she was swinging.

Nowadays, three out of five of my weekdays are spent with children having ridiculous and profound little conversations. Outbursts of emotions that would classify any adult as severely bipolar, are an  everyday occurrence of their current state of being. Some days it’s exhausting. Some days it’s laughable. Not that long ago, a little boy in our classroom would not stop crying. After a half hour to forty-five minutes of trying to console him and ask him “what’s wrong???” and making guesses at what it could be, on a whim he was asked, “Do you just want attention?” He stopped crying and with water soaked cheeks and eyes threatening to overflow all over again, he nodded his head, yes. Frustrating, but strangely enough funny. I couldn’t help but laugh a little. It’s left me wondering, how the heck do we grow out of this behavior as adults? Do we ever completely shake ourselves free of it? Are remnants of it still lying beneath sneaky covers of what’s deemed as socially acceptable? 

Children are fascinating. They will call each other friends but if one of their friends has something that they want, they’ll literally just walk up and take or try to take that thing through force out of the others hands. And then there’s the retaliation to try to get that thing back. If we (the adults in the room) weren’t there, there would be all out war… against friends. So much of our day is spent raising up white flags and drafting peace treaties. Reminders are spoken ten, fifteen, twenty plus times a day to help them understand what is and isn’t okay; what is and isn’t the end of the world as friends playing and existing in the same space together. For the record, it’s never really been the end of the world yet. 

Y’know how some people say, that adults over a certain age should really have to take the DMV test all over again for the sake of safety? Maybe it would profit us all to have to go through a daycare refresher course. Who would be the “adult” in the room to oversee the wars? Who would shape us? Who would take us out of the chaotic perspective we’re in to bring us into what is new? How would they do it?

I’ve been desiring it lately. It being God, really. I would like to sign myself up for this daycare, fully believing that God is the only one who could possibly reshape whatever wars reside in me. I can’t even see them fully. I’ve just felt them in the periphery. 

Chris and I had a conversation recently about how to encourage one another towards good things without being judgmental. Likewise, how to take well meaning criticism as encouragement towards that good. Neither one of us had the solvent to make the other less judgmental or more well receiving. The most we had was to remember to love one another and enter into each conversation under the assumption {truth, really} that we are loved. This is not easy. Assuming the worst may be one of my periphery wars in desperate need of reshaping.

How can it be done?

While I believe that God is everywhere, I still can’t see Him physically present standing in front me with His overarching perspective filling the room. I can’t feel His grasp picking me up and sitting me down when I need a time out. I certainly have imagination and creativity to “see” and “feel” Him but it’s not the exact same as God physically kneeling before me when I’m upset to repeatedly ask me “What’s wrong???”

Over the last few weeks, I’ve kept returning to the same question. How can we do this for one another? How do we encourage and admonish one another? Maybe we don’t.

Last night a group of us met together to talk about what’s going on in our own lives and to talk about a book we have been reading: “Life Together” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. In a book about community and living with one another, Dietrich writes in the second chapter about the importance of reading and praying the scriptures. Relying on God’s word, not our own. So far, he’s not writing about techniques of how to have the best conversations with each other or how to best call one another out on bad behavior. He’s writing about techniques of remembering who God is. I’m reading another book called “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality” by Peter Scazzero. So much of what he writes echoes Bonhoeffer. Take time to pause and reflect and acknowledge who God is. And not just once but multiple times in a day.

Maybe what we need the most are reminders spoken to us ten, fifteen, twenty plus times a day to help us understand what is and isn’t okay; what is and isn’t the end of the world. And those words are the ones that shape us. And those words are the ones sinking in, taking root from the beginning that end up refining our interactions with others, the things we think about and the things we say.

A question was asked last night. What sort of things did our parents do that we felt was encouraging or good to carry forward in our current or would be maybe someday families? A few of things mentioned had nothing to do with actual instruction given but more so it was witnessing patterns of behavior, ways of living that we found to be noteworthy. It made me think of the people in general who have inspired, encouraged, admonished me the most. With only a few exceptions, because someone calling you out on your crap from time to time really can be necessary and beneficial, the most influential people have inspired me by how they lived and not necessarily by what they said to me. Those radical lives have had a common denominator of time spent with God. I like to read books about how they live and feel inspired. The words that are spoken or written by their hands wreak of something bigger, something greater and it started by them investing in God’s word. 

Now this is challenging.

Given a day off, I don’t wake up humming, “the B I B L E, yes that’s the book for me!” It’s not a natural inclination for me to set aside time to pause and pray or read or meditate on God, even though something inside of me cries out in desperate need for it. Some days are better than others, but more often than not, I fail. But I want to be one of those people I look up to. I want to be encouraging and admonishing. It’s evident I first need to be encouraged and admonished myself and remember it’s not me that can be that for someone else. Likewise, while it may come through others periodically, I should not be waiting and hoping for that from another human being always. Some of this is a discipline of remembering who I am, a child and who God is, the only adult in the room.

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