Updated: Jan 11, 2021
Learning to Let Go
If you're related to one - a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, brother, sister, cousin...
If you're responsible for one - a teacher, coach, doctor, dentist, babysitter...
If you know someone with one - a friend, colleague, neighbor...
If you have ever pushed a shopping cart behind another family in the grocery store or sat next to a family while waiting on a flight, or, or, or...
...you get the idea. You know this well.
You just can never predict what might come out of their mouths. And because of this, you can never predict what might come out of your mouth either! Truly, I never dreamed I'd say things like...
"Since your Bullwinkle impression was important enough to do in the classroom while everyone else was working, it must also be important enough to do now at recess while everyone else is playing. Bummer."
Or, "Save your kisses for your momma and daddy."
Or, "Your tongue does not belong on your shoe."
Or, "By choosing to spend your class time playing and making noises with your armpit, you also chose to use your recess time for this as well. You can walk laps around the playground while you get it all out of your system."
The last one turned out pretty funny. He couldn't help himself. He laughed (well, cracked up is more accurate) with every "blurrp" from his armpit while I bit my lips so I could keep my "I mean business! No more making fart noises in my classroom!" face.
The sweet boy was walking laps around the small playground hunched over in laughter with every squeeze of his arm.
But I also think, every once in a while, if we look beneath the surface of the words kids say, we can see how sometimes they also say the most profound things.
My first year teaching - just a couple weeks in and truly overwhelmed, not quite sure how to do this teaching thing well - I gathered my third graders around to discuss the events of September 11th.
One of the lesson's learning objectives was to identify the purpose and understand the importance of first responders, so I asked, "Who do you think the first responders were in New York City on September 11th?"
Without a moment's hesitation, they answered, "God."
And they are right. Profoundly so.
Before the brave men and women in uniform and those not in uniform came to the needs of those involved in the tragedy at Ground Zero, God was there.
He was, is, and forever will be our ultimate, first responder.
A Pretty Bad Life
Although my days are no longer spent in a classroom, I get to meet with a few kiddos each week. We practice strengthening reading, writing, and math skills. Even though our time together is brief and the type-A in me is focused on teaching them, they always end up teaching me something, too.
One of my boys (we'll call him Henry), is a lot of fun. He's seven years old and super talkative. He'll be reading a book to me and before we're even able to turn the page, he's made a connection with one of the characters and he's telling me a new story.
Given that we only have a few minutes together, I usually smile and gently redirect him to keep reading and let him know I'd love to hear his story about his new sunglasses or his new toy - after we read.
But this time was different. His interruption caught me off guard.
Henry looked up from the book and said, "Ya know, I have a pretty bad life."
I'm immediately thinking (as are you most likely), "Wait, what? Did I hear that correctly?"
My face confused and my eyebrows hunched, he looked back at me confident but not unhappy, nodding his head like, "Yep, you heard me."
Before I could even ask for clarification, he continued. "I get scratched everyday. A paper cut ... I fall on the road ... I'm not kidding! I have a pretty bad life!"
One moment we're reading a lovable children's book about a mouse and the next he's sharing this?!
As I think about this a bit more, I realize Henry's thoughts aren't too unfamiliar to us either. Sure, I think his is more wrapped up in being a somewhat impulsive and clumsy seven-year-old boy, but the spiritual application is clear.
In this broken and fallen world, we get scratched. The choices someone else makes hurts us. Or, we do the hurting. We mess up. We say something we shouldn't. We do something we shouldn't. We fall. Time and time again.
And the enemy wants us to dwell there, to focus on all of our mistakes and shortcomings. He constantly reminds us of our shame. It's behind every thought and action.
Brené Brown has studied shame and shares insights on how to overcome in her book, Daring Greatly. She writes,
Shame derives its power from being unspeakable... If we cultivate enough awareness about shame, to name it and speak to it, we've basically cut it off at the knees. - Brené Brown, Daring Greatly
One, two, or two million mess ups doesn't define us. We don't have to stay trapped there, believing it's a bad life because of a wrong choice. No, we can acknowledge it, confess it to our heavenly Father, and walk in forgiveness.
A Bad Day Fishin' that Turned Into the Best Day Fishin'
True story - there once was a man named Peter who felt like this. He didn't use Henry's exact words, instead he saw his brokenness and
...he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord." - Luke 5:8
Moments before, Jesus had come to a lake where He saw two fishing boats. But the problem was the fishermen were not in the boats. They had given up and were cleaning their nets. I think it's safe to say, they were not in a good mood.
Jesus, the most perfect Teacher, gets in the boat and uses this as a teaching opportunity. After speaking, He tells Peter to put out his net.
Now, I'm sure Peter is thinking, "Uhh, what? Don't you see we fished all night and came up empty-handed? I really don't think this is a good idea. I mean I've tried already. I gave it my all. There are no fish. Zilch. Zero." He says,
"Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets." - Luke 5:5
Like, "Okayyyy. If you insist..." I imagine Peter reluctantly walking up to his crew, probably rubbing the side of his nose as he delivers the unpopular and laughable news that they are going back out.
He didn't understand - and he was probably reluctant to do it - but he obeyed.
And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. - Luke 5:6
They caught so many fish that day, they filled not one but two boats! They had to get other fishermen to help!
And then it comes... Peter's shame. He feels the weight of his doubt and unbelief, saying,
"Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord." - Luke 5:8
He doesn't feel worthy to even be in Jesus' presence.
But Peter does something right here. He's quick to acknowledge and confess his sin to Jesus. And you know what Jesus did?
He forgave him and gave him a new identity, a new purpose, a new calling on his life!
And Jesus said to Peter, "Do not be afraid, from now on you will be catching men." And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him. - Luke 5:10-11
Left everything?! They just had the best day of fishing in their careers and they left it? Didn't even go sell it?!
Yep. They found something better. Far better.
The Best Part
Jesus extends the same grace to us, too. We don't have to be perfect and have it all together or even understand everything to follow Christ.
Whew! Deep sigh of relief.
We just need a surrendered and humbled heart.
Our scratches and falls don't define us. They prepare us.
...in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. - Romans 8:28
Yes, in ALL things. That means the great things, the good things, the alright things, the not-so-good things. Yes, even the really terrible, wish-that-never-happened things.
God is above all of these.
He doesn't just cram them together like we do on "Must-Go" leftover days and put all the things that really don't go together on the same plate for dinner.
Like "Yum, this is what I wanted, hunny. Leftover wilted salad and 3-day old casserole with a bite of warmed-up lasagna." (...It's a real shame rolls never make it to Must-Go day.)
Nah, He doesn't say, "Okay, here you go. This is your life now. Warm it up and deal with it."
No, no. He is an artist.
He takes the drippy paint blob and the thing we intended to be a landscape (but looks more like abstract art) and the accidental coffee stain on the corner of the paper and the green that has dried with a deeper shade of blue than yellow...
...and He creates a masterpiece.
Well, we have to give it to Him. He's patiently waiting for us to say, "I need You. I've messed up. Please forgive me. Take over. Be the Lord of my life. I give You the brush. Do what only You can do through me."
Indeed, our scratches and falls don't define us. They don't define our lives.
They prepare us. They prepare us for what God is going to do through us. He can use all these things for our good and His glory.
Will we let Him?
What do you need to acknowledge and confess to the Lord? What shame are you carrying?
Find strength in scripture to lay these at the foot of the cross and you'll be met with renewed joy as you begin to see the Artist at work in your life. His peace overwhelms our hearts as we let go and choose to trust and rest in His mercy and grace.
Unimaginable peace. It's waiting for you. He's waiting for you.
The good life, well it starts with a good day. Then another. Then another. Let's choose to live #TheGoodDay one day at a time.
I love hearing from you, so go ahead. Leave a comment. Be brave. Maybe your comment will speak life into someone else!