My brother Joe and his family leave today to drive back to Pennsylvania. We had such a good time together, especially on Saturday night when we had them over for homemade calzones, chili, homemade bread, and Greek Salad with grilled chicken. The calzones were a hit. We didn't know they would be- because we were attempting to make them, for the first time, based on a mouth watering cooking demonstration we saw earlier on TV. My husband fell in love. He had to try his hand at making one of these.
So we made two stuffed Pizzas (or calzones, or call them whatever you want). One had sauce, sweet sausage, green peppers, sweet onion, and lots of different cheeses in it. The other had buffalo chicken bits and sauce and cheese. The kids (the cousins) ate the buffalo chicken one. The sausage calzone delighted the adults. And then we all played this game called "The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Game". See what an optimist I am?!
We broke into two teams- the kids against the old fogeys. You take turns reading the questions to each other and you see how many questions your team can answer correctly. The questions range from the bizarre to the mundane emergencies to the drastic survival situations one would find themself in if stuck on a deserted island. Questions like"How to sense you are about to be struck by lightning" to "How to stop a runaway horse" to "How to prepare for a plane crash over water". We still couldn't figure out, for that last question, why you had to loosen your shirt in preparation for the crash.
We all laughed so hard at the silly questions, such as "How to moisten lips without lip balm"- you don't want to know, trust me. And then the adults got talking together, while the teens all chatted about their interests.
When my brother brought up a couple stories about our childhood, I stared at him, puzzled, because I didn't really remember some of the events he talked about. He, as the oldest, remembers things differently than my youngest sister does. Each of us five kids see our childhood through a lens colored by where we were in the lineup, the place we held as either child # 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5. I'm the fourth, second to the youngest, middle daughter. But I don't see it all accurately, any more than my oldest brother does.
What we know for sure is that we were children, together, in a family of seven with two parents and five children (and the beloved dog, Ginger we had for years, and the numerous cats we had but I can't name them all). What we know for sure is that we have happy memories and sad memories. But now, what I want to know for sure is that I am no longer a child. What I resolve to experience, even more, is that I don't have to suffer any of the negative consequences that unfortunately go with being a child.
Children don't have autonomy. Children get carried around, often, to places where they do not want to go. I saw some of these unhappy children at the mall the other day. One, in particular, was loudly protesting this particular negative experience of childhood- that of being carried about by the decision of parents intent on a day spent at the mall. I was glad I was not that screaming toddler stuck in the stroller. After my daughter Abby made her purchase, I told her, "Let's get out of here!". She was in agreement.
I saw another resolution in Scripture, this morning, that I know I should adopt. Paul writes in Ephesians 4 about maturity and knowledge and unity of the faith, and then he says "that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine...".
He depicted one of the negative consequences of being a child- that of being easily exploited by deceitful people, getting carried about by teachings that are not founded on truth, teachings that will enslave you rather than liberate you. It's hard enough to be a child, dependent on adults to care for you- but its worse when you're a child and you're carried about, whirled around and around in confusion, and then you still don't know where you are, what you're doing. All you know is that you are tossed about, and not on solid ground.
As adults, the good news is that we are not, ever, in Scripture, told to be children. We are told to have child-like faith, yes. We are told that we can cry out to God as children cry out to their daddy, and call Him Abba. But we are not told to abdicate jurisdiction over our mind and will and actions. We must decide what to believe. We must discern when we listen to teachings and philosophies of men. We get to plant our feet in the ground and say "I'm not budging" when we stake our position of faith.
Nobody gets to carry me off to a place where I do not want to go. Nobody gets to lead my thinking into dangerous territory. God doesn't want me to be tossed about. He doesn't want my understanding "darkened" or my heart blind to His redeeming love.
Now, I don't know a lot of the answers to these survival questions I talked about. Thank God it's just a game. But my life isn't a game. It's a real adventure, and I am authorized by God to walk in the autonomy of an adult, the submission of a follower, the wisdom of a serpent, and the gentleness of a dove. That's the challenge and the beauty and the mystery of it all. I don't know how to do it other than to ask daily for His help.
Solomon said, "I am a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in" when the Lord appeared to him in a dream. Solomon wasn't saying that he was carried about and out of control and manipulated by others and without a will of his own. What he was saying was that he didn't know anything- compared to what God knows. What he confessed was his need for God's wisdom and help, that he might "discern between good and evil" (1 Kings 3).
So that's what I'm going to do. This year I will ask even more boldly for God's help. This year I'll make it my aim to not stay as a child in any area of my life where I have authority to act- and yet have not done so. I don't want to be carried about by anything. I don't want to miss out on the blessings of being an adult. There's plenty of responsibilities that go with being an adult, and lately that's all everyone seems to talk about: salaries, employment, crises, decision making. Adults have to deal with these things.
But as an adult, I get to also choose where I'll go and how I'll get there. And one thing I'm resolved about, is that I'm not going to be carried about. I'll place my own foot in front of the other and I'll walk purposefully in the direction I want to go. It's called Upward. It's called Onward. Scripture also calls it "a spacious place" (Psalm 66:12). God wants to lead me there. And that's where I want to go.