Tuesday, April 28, 2009

"Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda" - Part Two

Last week I wrote about how we as dads can often fall into feelings of regret as we look back on missed opportunities of when our children were in the home. I know that I am increasingly aware of how we are quickly running out of time with our youngest two about to fly the nest.

I have wanted to be a good dad to my kids during the 18 plus years each were in our home and for the most part, I think I have been. But I am often pestered thinking about the time lost, the opportunities never to return, things left undone or unsaid. Granted, I am a little more introspective and “rearview looking” than most guys (I grieved on my 6th birthday because “the best years of my life” were already behind me!), but I don’t think I am totally alone in this “woulda, coulda, shoulda” struggle. So stay with me here.

At the end of “Eight Seconds,” a film about bull rider Lane Frost and his tragic death, Lane’s father grieves over never having told his late son that he loved him. As a dad I can relate to that scene. Though I consistently told my children that I loved them, I have other regrets over “sins of neglect.” As Harriet Beecher Stowe said, “the bitterest tears over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone.”

So as we glance in that “rearview mirror,” here’s another lie that old devil will try to harass us with:

Lie # 2 - The grace and mercy of God is NOT able to transcend our wrong/sinful/foolish choices to produce His glory and our good.

Now if this is a lie that we tend to fall for, what is the attraction, the “bait” for us to bite down and take that deadly hook? What is the appeal of the lie to our sinful selves? For us to believe that God IS able to override and transcend our wrong choices or our children’s wrong choices takes FAITH. The bait is that it is easier to believe the lie based upon what I can see than it is to trust God whom I cannot see. It is easier to trust in the idea that life is the sum of our choices rather than to entrust ourselves into the hands of a transcendent and sovereign Father God. This God tells us that He is always at work on his sons and daughters’ behalf for His Son’s glory and our good. (John 5:17, Romans 8:28-29) To not trust Him allows us to keep a sense of “control,” and we like that.

To combat this lie God has given us the Apostle Paul to be His “Poster Boy.” Nobody better counteracts the lie in both his life story and his teaching. He was a murderer of Christians before Christ confronted him on the road to Damascus. Though he was forgiven for his past sins this was a shame that he chose to remember. It was a pain that fueled him with a passionate love for the God of mercy who would save and use such a man with his sordid past. (See I Corinthians 15:8-10, I Timothy 1:12-16)

It is clear from those passages that Paul had an elevated concept of God. He saw a God who was far greater, far wiser than the sum of his own wrong, sinful or foolish choices. He saw how God was even using his past to display the character of His mercy to those he was called to reach. He did not see himself as the “star” of his story but simply as a grateful actor in Jesus’ story of saving broken and wayward people - such as himself.

So what is that lie again? The grace and mercy of God is NOT able to transcend our wrong/sinful/foolish choices to produce His glory and our good. Brought into the light of God’s truth it doesn’t have quite the same “pull” does it?

I choose to believe that God truly does work all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28) I choose, like Paul, to become more passionate in my present through being in touch with the pain of my past. I choose, when reminded of my past by thoughts planted by the enemy, to remind him of his FUTURE - not so bright!

And I choose, when telling my story and the story of my children to others, to lift up God’s loving wisdom through His Son, Jesus, not my own feeble defense of me having “done things right.”

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