We Can’t Manage People

It is interesting to note that the 20th century governments that have attempted to force society into an utopia have created the most evil regimes in history.

Writer Matt Evans offers some interesting application to this:

“…you can’t force a utopia through government, you can only preserve individual freedom to pursue personal development and contribution…

[Similarly,] So often, in Christian groups, out of fear and over-responsibility, we try to create utopias through ideals of vision, safety, morality, etc., and we try to manage people to fit those ideals with excessive rigidity and helicopter parenting. I’ve seen that “accomplish” personal devastation for many, unhealthy and hypocritical cultures, breakdowns in relationships, the opposite of what was intended.

We can’t manage people or cultures into the Kingdom. All we can do is liberate people, encourage, equip, and preserve personal freedom and growth in an environment of freedom.”

So much religious expression is dense with coercion, manipulation, rigidity, pressure and force. None of these descriptors come close to expressing God’s own way of operating.

As 2 Corinthians 3:17 reminds us “…wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

Nowhere can the cost of coercion be greater than in our families. When we consistently apply pressure on our children to behave, perform, or conform in certain ‘approved’ ways, we risk seeding the very darkness we wish to avoid in the long term.

Children are responsive to the atmosphere of grace that we establish in our homes, but it is a long haul commitment that doesn’t always breed “instant obedience”.  Even frequent well-intentioned preaching and teaching eventually lose their impact, if we are not allowing our children to experience a consistent environment of freedom and grace.  Instead, as we focus on liberating our children from lies, encourage them in their godly identities, and give them increasing freedom, over time they begin to respond with the Fruit of the Spirit in a remarkably natural, supernatural way!

{Please note, I am not suggesting that parents be doormats, or avoid modelling standards, or don’t help make course corrections, but I am suggesting that the religious behaviourism that runs rampant in our Christian culture needs some serious amending.}

Parenting is not a management position; we are discipling royalty to reign on the earth.  We cannot micro-manage our children into the Kingdom; this is leading them to live under the law.

The Kingdom is already inside of them, and we affirm it into greater expression as we model freedom, grace, and love relentlessly and passionately, day in and day out.  This is a mighty work of faith that leaves behind the behaviourism, helicopter parenting, and coercive strategies of this world.

This is the parenting frontier that is opening before us; let us choose life and freedom and joy!

Tuesday Morning

Today, the sun is shining through the finger-print-smudged window.  The smokey breeze from the bonfire in the backyard whispers it’s last farewell to autumn, while Sunny cooks up a lasagna in the kitchen, as seasonal worship music plays.

“Oh, Come Let Us Adore Him,” the voices and orchestra swell, as my heart sings along, and tears pucker just below the surface.

Who is this King of Glory?  And how is it that we carry the DNA of His Spirit on the inside of us?

As I look around at our home bursting with movement, delight, noise, and mess, it is clear: this is all the work of the Divine.  This King of Glory abides in our midst, O, come let us adore Him!

The younger children are planning a ‘play’ and working out extravagant costumes, while a couple of older brothers conspire strategies to facilitate their latest go-pro video idea; obviously, this involves climbing on the roof.  Someone folds laundry, a couple of others are playing tag underfoot, while Nova patrols it all from her seat at the kitchen island, sampling the various cheeses that came in the door from our latest grocery haul.

The scene around me moves with a vibrant, pulsating, dream-like rhythm.  We putter, we live, we play together.  There is a type of magic in this that is irreconcilable with the maddening pace of future-driven distractions that no longer know how to linger, how to behold, how to rest in the moment.

This is motherhood at it’s grandest: being here, now.

I look into the laughing eyes of my children, stroke tangled hair, nurse little hurts, joke around with my teenagers, make food, clean, laugh… all this on repeat… yet the scene changes, almost imperceptibly, each day, because they grow.

Truly, I already feel the tug of a new season invading this moment, which is why I am all the more committed to being present here, being joyful here, being free here.  Because, here is the only place that matters today. 

When You Stop Following Advice

The process of moving into one’s own adult life can be blundering.

Just as a little baby learns to walk, the procedure of shedding one’s youthful perspectives can also be painful: step, fall, up again, step, fall, up… There’s an awkward beauty to the process, as something new is emerging that never was before, but there are still bruises.

Growing into who God made you to be outside of the lines, limitations and vision of the ‘bubble’ you grew up in is an exercise in humility, grief and joy. Stepping into who you really are can be difficult for one’s inner-circle-people (who tended to like you “just fine” as you were, thank you very much: reliable, steady, ‘normal’, the same as us).

But, somewhere on the path, you asked a question that your family of origin or your group of friends, or your community wasn’t asking, and you decided to follow that trail to it’s conclusion. You unveiled a new potential, a new thought, a new approach… and it shifted your heart.

Perhaps this happened over and over again, big questions and little questions alike, steering you into uncharted waters, taking you places you never imagined you’d go in all your days, and all of a sudden, you are building your life in exotic paradigms that don’t resonate so well with the home team.

More than likely, you did not receive the support for your quest that your heart desired. A little at a time, your inner circle began to fracture, as you chose differently, as you stepped into weirdness, as you shed the uniform and stopped marching to the group’s drum.

It’s possible that you became very lonely.

It’s also possible that you became the recipient of much advice, feedback, and un-requested guidance from those closest to you whose path you were no longer choosing.

There were tears, there was tension, there was breaking, but you knew that you could not go back to the old wine skins; God was leading you into something new, and you could not reject it simply to pacify well-meaning, but not-for-you-words.

You tried to listen, you tried to explain, you poorly executed your words and responses and they stumbled over theirs, and the whole mess became thorns in a crown that would pierce you both again and again.

Yet, after the words had been launched and the tears had been cast, you began to muster more of your strength and you began to walk out – timidly at first, then boldly – the new map that you found imprinted on your heart.

You lay down that crown, and just put one foot in front of the other.

It was then that you started becoming you.

On a lark, I recently calculated the very lovingly-given, yet pointed and contrary opinions that had been delivered to me over the last formational 20 years of my young adult life. As I went through the list of advice, a new thought dawned on me that I had never considered before: if I had swayed to each piece of advice given to me instead of following where the Spirit was breathing into me, I would be leading a completely different life than I live now.

I took stock, and was literally overwhelmed at the thought of how my life would look if I had consciously denied my own questions and journey in order to keep peace, maintain the appearance of unity, and continue to go with the flow.

That ‘other’ life would look nothing like the life I live now!

Yet, it is in this present reality where I am knowing freedom, and joy, and hope, and delight from radical new dimensions, only because of the very fact that I chose differentlyOh, I am so thankful for the questions, for the choosing, for the path that meanders past the best intentions of those who will never live my life, into places of great beauty and possibility right now, today, in my own breath-in-breath-out experience.

I am thankful for these armloads of children, who don’t make sense to the world, but who animate my eternal moment.  I am thankful for stepping beyond systems and institutions that can so easily strip the wildness and fervour from our experience; instead discovering uncharted waters of freedom, the riches to be found in insecurity, and a rock-solid passion beyond what I imagined possible. I am thankful for the warmth and the light that grow in the stillness apart from the pressures of a world system that only seeks to strip away identity and meaning and connection.  I am thankful for a space where we are free to love without coercion, pressure or punishment lingering in the shadows.   I am thankful that I am becoming unwise to the world’s strategies in all things (success included!), in order to have become ridiculously dependant on a God who is only and ever will be LOVE.  

Come friends, let’s find each other out in the untamed dimensions of new possibility!  It is time to gently lay down the advice, and the words, and the corrective pressure that aims to restrain your heart, your true nature.  You are a magnificent child of the unbound King of the Universe, you were made to live for so much more!

Little Spider Wisdom

Last night, some of the children were watching the movie Charlotte’s Web in the family room, while I prepared dinner in the kitchen nearby.

I was fairly tuned out to the action of the movie though I knew it was nearing the end, when all of a sudden, I heard Wilbur the pig ask the dying spider Charlotte about the large white sack by her web.

She paused, and said, “It’s my Magnum Opus.”

Wilbur did not comprehend either her dying or her words.

“It’s my Great Work, Wilbur”, she explained.

In spite of all the ‘miracles’ she had woven into her web over the course of the story, her greatest work was to be that little bundle of offspring she would leave behind.

All of a sudden, I found myself in a puddle of tears. {It might have been the swelling orchestral enhancement that sparked my emotion, but I suspect it was more.}

Of all the things we do, even the very mighty things in this life, our children are our Magnum Opus.  This motherhood commission is the ultimate art where life spills out in abundance and changes the course of history.

Engage, be brave – this is the work you were created for!  

Endure and do not give up… the beauty that is rising in your children is beyond your comprehension at this moment... the earth is waiting for the sons and daughters of God to arise!  You were made to participate in this awakening, now open your eyes and live in the expectation that your dreams for your children have been too small in the light of Heaven.

Lift your eyes from the mess, the weariness, the isolation, the questions, and know… you are creating a masterpiece, a work born in the heart of God.  

Bananas and Babies

I was buying groceries yesterday, when the young cashier inquired as to the number of bananas we were purchasing.

I told her we had ten kids and we go through bananas pretty quickly. To which she did a double-take and practically glared at me, “What did you just say?”

Yep, ten kids (I didn’t even bother pointing out my huge belly buried under my winter coat). After confirming that they were all ours, she continued her inquisition, “No offence, but why would you want ten kids?” Her tone made her position on the matter clear.

“We just love them; each one is so unique and interesting… we grow so much by knowing them and learning from them. They really make life so fun,” I explained as I proceeded to pack my groceries.

As the people around us started to listen in, my natural self was feeling ready to shrink under an invisible shell, but for some reason, I continued, “We sometimes joke that we’re basically a party on wheels, wherever we are, we’re having fun together… Life stays really exciting when you’ve got a team of people who love each other and are committed to living life joyfully together!”

The cadence of our conversation began to shift as we cheerfully bantered back and forth.

She was taking in my words, very genuinely, and finally reflected back, “Wow, I never considered that having kids could be fun like that. It’s sounds like such an exciting adventure…  I’d like to have a family like that.”

Regardless of the number, the little ones that comprise our family are an opportunity we “get to” experience; they are a gift. Yet, many are hard-pressed to believe that children are a reward and a very good thing, though they will give lip service to the idea.  Many view children as a sort-of mixed bag: there’s some good things about having kids, of course, but don’t overdo it.  Quite frankly, this is what I too believed for much of my life!

As a mother whose heart slowly grew open to more children, I used to feel somewhat wounded when some stranger in public would judgementally look at me like a total moron for having an armload of them. I used to want to zing back at them with some clever, shut-you-up-and-shame-you-too comment (which I never actually did, though I’d ruminate about it for ages – very productive).

However, I am increasingly seeing the lack of vision for children that many folk have comes from a place of genuine not-knowing – propped up by a culture (and even at times a church) that is so very often verbally and practically unsupportive of family and home life. I believe that many genuinely do not know the treasure that is available to them through the magnificent gift of children.

So, why do we have so many?

Well, it’s not a race to some magic number so that we can win the large family olympics; there’s nothing prescriptive in God’s Kingdom about family size!

We have so many children because God gives them.

That is all.

And because His gifts are good and perfect, we have opened our arms in expectation: Life is a gift!

Who might He give us next? What experience of Himself will He invite us into with this new life? How will this child change me?  How will this new life change the world? How will I get to be a part of that?  Who could possibly come next in this tapestry of love that God is knitting through our passion?

How will this life change EVERYTHING?  This is the mystery we, as mothers, are invited into. 

The Seeing Glass

A cord of three strands,
You, me, the Word.
A gilded braid of furrowed infinity
Knit in Love,
Bound by Spirit and Light.

A weaving of silken roads,
You, me, the Word.
On journeys with stones and crosses,
Broken on myths
And inventions of pious hearts.

Our mortal feet stumble
To find the immutable way,
Always there,
Yet concealed by generations
Of odium and dread.

In lieu of a map
We find instead, a mirror
On the inside of you and me: the Word.
Then, like earthshine
We begin to see.