I have a tiny vendetta against pressure/stress/circumstance-laden Overwhelmed. I’m tired of things stealing from me, from us – the kids and my friends and people in general.
There are so many examples.
- Huge things like the legitimate uproar over kids and smart phones. Jean Twenge recently authored a study/book on the dangers of smart-phone use, specifically to the point of destroying a generation of kids who are “on the brink of a mental health crisis.” I see the articles. And my heart aches at all the repercussions and the enormity of the situation.
- Medium things that look huge since we live in the days of instant (instant gratification, instant results, instant judgement,… ) like grades. It’s the end of the semester – a few low numbers threaten to make that fragile, yet powerful GPA an indictment rather than a golden path to the Land of I’m Okay.
- Smaller things like the flu – that school-nurse phone call we all dread: you need to come get your child! At least it’s not lice. But the announcement brings with it change of plans and some legitimate fear into the house. I don’t want it.
And don’t get any of us started on all things newsy, politics or international relations. My word, just mentioning it could make the heartiest soul curl up into a fetal position ready to quit.
But we can say No. Seriously – NO. These overwhelming things don’t get to win or steal moments. Sure, the warrant attention and some schooling, but they don’t wave a victory flag. And, from a faith-perspective, not only do they not get to win, they’ve been defeated. Finished. The whole reason of Christmas.
So why not be overwhelmed by that – Truth – rather than give any ground to overwhelming stress or pressures or circumstances. Why not be overwhelmed by Love, the kind of love that defines our identity, the kind of love gave its all so we could have it all.
One of my kids this morning asked about forgiveness – the gift that Love gave. A song on the radio comparing forgiveness to drops of water in the ocean prompted wonder. “You’d have to know how many drops are in the ocean,” he said “to be able to know how many times you can be forgiven.”
That’s pretty heavy – to have to somehow know the amount of times and to actually ask.
“Sweetheart,” I looked over at home. “Forgiveness is immeasurable. You’ll never know how many times to ask forgiveness. Sometimes we know we’ve done wrong, sometimes we don’t. That’s the whole point. You’re forgiven. All of it. That’s actually the reason for this season – celebrating what God did through Jesus, the enormous offering of forgiveness.”
“Okay …” he contemplated. “So, why ask for it, then.”
This kid. I’m telling you. His deep spiritual contemplation, even in the morning on the way to school, makes me wonder why he got me for a mother. He could use a Theologian who has studied and knows.
But I’m what he’s got, so I answer. And, honestly, I love Scripture, asking & contemplating – it’s actually fun thinking aloud together.
“From what I gather, the asking for forgiveness is for us. Asking, saying out loud, or even silently, where I’m off helps me. It helps me realize I’m off. I admit I’m wrong. And I’m now aware. And, awareness is one of the paths to change. Which leads to freedom – freedom from justifying my wrong-actions that can sometimes be justified; freedom from blame – which usually keeps my eyes anchored on me; freedom from judgment – usually of others. Asking for forgiveness seems contradictory, since I’ve admitted being wrong, but it’s actually a gift. The freedom thing is huge, and so is compassion and empathy that comes in the package. When someone else hits me with wrong – I’m a lot quicker to get it since I do the same thing.”
“Like yesterday?” He asks.
“What do you mean?” I say.
“When y’all told me to stop playing on the iPad and I didn’t.”
“Oh, that.” He’s so cute. I love how he runs toward honest discourse. “It took you a while to admit that one.”
He sheepishly grinned.
“Why didn’t you want to let go of it?”
“I didn’t think it was fair that you and Dad asked me to stop. I could do what I was supposed to do and play at the same time.”
“Okay. But how did you feel while you were doing it.”
“Yes, I didn’t think about the disobeying part.” Then he looked straight at me. “Until you asked,” he tease-grimaced. “And totally spelled it out.”
“So – how did you feel when you came clean?”
“Better. But not at first.” I could see his thoughts running through the entire scenario – even the subsequent consequence: sweeping, raking and picking up some of the gazillion acorns that can’t take a break from dropping. His Tim Conway, old-man, slow-motion sweeping & bagging effort was on display for all of us to see. But so was his dad who quietly went outside to join the sweeping without so much as a word. Because he loves him. Because any boundaries or discipline aren’t to show who’s boss or to be mean, it really is out of love since no one is genuinely happy or at peace when left to our willfull-selves. Even if its something as mundane as playing an iPad when your parents have said not to.
“I think that’s how forgiveness from God must be,” he added.
We’re pulling into the school, so this one has to end.
“What do you mean?”
“So much good. Too much to imagine.”
“Yeah,” I add. “Forgiveness so vast, it’s immeasurable – like drops in the ocean.”
The carpool monitor waves us into our lane. We both chew on our conversation. I for one am overwhelmed. Not with all I need to get done. Not by the doomsday environment. Not with the tests that are on the other side of the door that will absolutely beg to define the self-worth of the kid about to take them. Not with my throat that is starting to hurt and dread of possibly getting the flu that has been running through our house. Not at the news I listened to this morning that seems filled with discord, bombings, sadness.
No – I think we were both overwhelmed by love. Love in the form of forgiveness. Overwhelmed by the gifty-ness of confession that looks like indictment on the outside, but is so filled with freedom on the inside. Victorious love. The patience and enormity and endlessness of it all. Why would God do it? And in such a humbling manner – a baby, God living a human life, sinless taking on all of our sin.
Our little chat certainly frames the day differently. With thoughts of love-induced immeasurable forgiveness filling our minds, freedom takes Center Stage – basically freedom from ourselves and all the efforts (whether in the form of Instagram pics, Christmas cards, grades, and so many things) to prove-worth. With our eyes freed from ourselves, we can sure see better the folks walking alongside who could use some love and encouragement about now.
Thanks for walking it alongside me.