The New Frontier

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“Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.”
― Anne Frank ―


This is my first time being an adult, and I’m afraid I’m not very good at it.

No trial runs were offered me, though, so I guess I’ll just have to do my best and see what happens. Responsibilities to juggle, decisions to make, futures to determine…it is all very sobering.

One of the strangest things about growing up is how that impacts the family dynamic. We’re in an odd place as a family. Two adult children, 19 and (almost) 23, with both parents working at home. My brother is in college online. I work long-distance, also online. Mom keeps the farm running like the proverbial “well-oiled machine.” Dad works on the farm and does consulting work for a Gulf Coast pipeline company.

Four adults, bound up in one house, who must all work together somehow as a team. I won’t lie…it can be a challenge.

Plus, two of these four adults–namely, my brother and I–have spent the last 20 years or so learning to be obedient children.

Now, suddenly, we have been thrust into the world of adulthood, and I’m not quite sure how to act.

“This is your decision,” my parents tell me, and I know it is true…but what am I to do with this new thing called adulthood?

Honestly, the hardest thing about being grown up is not the responsibilities or the decisions. There is a certain…depth to the new situations I face and the deeper kind of hurts that I receive now that they are not being filtered through my parents all the time. I appreciate how God is using the sometimes-difficult realities of adulthood to grow me spiritually.

However, the hardest thing is knowing how to be a grown-up daughter who lives at home.

And, if you were hoping for a list of answers…I’m afraid I can’t help. I am feeling my way through this too. As an adult-child, it is hard to tell where house rules end and personal choices begin. I want so desperately to please my parents, yet I want to cultivate my own convictions and approaches as well.

Sometimes, it gets messy.

My parents–especially my mom–have been superbly involved in my life ever since childhood. I cannot even count the ways that they have taught me, given me opportunities, encouraged me, toned me down…they have truly been absolutely amazing, godly parents. There are probably a hundred day-by-day things in this family that I take for granted, but know I want to implement someday in a home of my own.

So, for 20 plus years, my parents have been instilling great truths in me. Over two decades, involved parenting becomes a habit. It has been a beautiful, necessary part of my growing up.

Now, I can only imagine how hard it must be for Mom and Dad to re-route these parenting habits into adult-to-adult interactions (especially when I still behave like a child sometimes!)

Meanwhile, from my perspective, I am trying to figure this whole grown-up thing out…and certainly not always succeeding. I’ll be honest–I skipped out on the teen rebellion, but my hardest battles with honoring authority set in after I became an adult.

These are uncharted waters. Old ways are familiar, yet they are like too-tight shoes long grown out of. New ways…how do I begin to lay a foundation for interacting with my parents as an adult?

There are many perspectives on the proper relation of a single, adult daughter to her parents. My views might seem too loose for some of you, and far too conservative to others.

Bottom line: I am an adult, responsible before God for my decisions. God has told me in His Word that I am to honor my parents–not any longer as a child obeys, but as a mature adult, who seeks to respect and bring praise to the many years of self-sacrificing parenthood that both my mom and my dad have given to me.

This is complicated by the fact that I live under their roof. I want to be useful at home–not a drain on the family finances. I want to honor the “house rules,” while somehow deciphering which parts are “house rules,” and which are optional approaches that I must decide for myself.

I will be utterly honest here: I tend to have an independent spirit. 

This can be both good and bad.

Good, because I don’t want to shirk responsibility. Good, because I know that God has created me for good works He has laid out for me individually to accomplish. Good, because I can approach certain new situations with confidence.

Bad, because God sets His people in the context of community. Bad, because the healthy desire to be grown-up can grow into a resentment of any constraints. Bad, because I often expect the right to rule myself without any advice or interference.

There is a certain measure of initiative, confidence, and self-possession that is healthy for a child of God–but it can be overrun by pride.

Mine rears its ugly head, typically in a scenario like this:

Mom: “How is work going today? Are you getting all your hours in?”

Me: (thinking): She is checking up on me. She doesn’t think I’m responsible enough to get my work done without being reminded. (I start to get irritated.) “It’s fine.”

Mom: “Do you think you’ll finish it in time?”

Me: (now biting my lip tightly to keep the frustration from spilling over) “Yes, I think so. I can take care of it.” (Not a raised voice…but a tight one. Definitely not the joyful, communicative soul I aspire to be…)

What just happened?

Well, Mom wants to be involved in my life and wants to help me succeed. I remind my family members of things all the time. So why is it that I start to get hot under the collar when someone else  reminds me of something I should do?

Pride. 

I want to chart my own course. I want to control my own way. I want to be my own boss–so much so that I cannot even listen to advice without quietly arguing my own opinion. I’ve never ranted or railed or outright rebelled–but I’ve done plenty of pouting and quiet resisting of godly advice.

So what if I don’t need a reminder or I have a different opinion than my parents? They are still the parents God gave me to honor. My pride can take a hike and I can humbly listen to wisdom.

The balancing act of relationships transitioning is marked by uncertainty. Keep the communication open and your ego squashed.

I am learning as I go. I’ve never done this before…and neither have my parents. They are doing a fantastic job, steadily giving over more responsibility and freedom as I mature.

We are charting a new frontier together.

If you are passing through this same journey into adulthood, be patient with your parents. They aren’t going to get it right, and neither will you. Ask God for grace to squash down your pride and just listen. As an adult, you are not bound to obey, but you must whole-heartedly honor them. Honestly, they’ve seen a bit more of life than you. Being an adult is no piece of cake, and they have invaluable experience at this whole grown-up thing. Make use of that…it is God’s gift to you.

Beating your chest and yelling about your rights Tarzan-style is never a good choice. Just because you can make certain decisions as an adult, doesn’t mean you should. There is a lure to the unknown, the unexperienced, the new, all things “out there” away from accountability.  Whether you are away at college, or working, with an apartment of your own, or living with your parents, remember: They love you. Don’t take it personally. Advice doesn’t mean they think you’re a failure without them. It means they care. Receive the advice with grace. Learn from them as much as you can soak up. Appreciate their involvement–lots of people don’t have that. And if you come to a decision where you and they just don’t see eye to eye…douse it with prayer. I can’t tell you what to decide, but whatever you do, do it with honor and the knowledge that they can often see a lot better than you can. Just because we’re “legal” doesn’t mean we get an automatic infusion of wisdom. That’s what parents are for.

“The way of fools seems right to them,
    but the wise listen to advice.” – Proverbs 12:15, NIV

So, maybe I haven’t cleared up much for you. I sure don’t have this figured out. Tomorrow, I’ll probably be speaking this truth to my heart again, doing some more pride-squashing.

Jesus never promised uncomplicated answers. But God does promise wisdom to the true seeker (James 1:5-6). I can pretty much guarantee this: If I consistently put the priorities of Jesus ahead of the priorities of Shelbie, much of my adulthood-angst would vanish. It’s when Shelbie gets in the way that things get muddy.

Adulthood is a wild, uncharted frontier, but we do not walk it alone. God has built special people into our lives to cheer us on and share their experience.

That’s not a reason to groan. It is something to make you deeply, overwhelmingly thankful.


“Blessed be the Lord,
Who daily loads us with benefits,
The God of our salvation!”

– Psalm 68:19, NKJV –

 

 

 

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What You Don’t See

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“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”

– C.S. Lewis –


A friend and I were talking this week, pondering about how we view others. We decided that, much of the time, we don’t really see them.

Not the biggest piece of them, anyway.

I see only what I want to see, I suppose. The outside words and actions. Motions and syllables. Annoying things. Pleasing things.

Over and over, I condemn someone in my heart. Sometimes I assign a motivation to their bad behaviors. Other times, I keep my distance, because I just don’t want to get involved in their baggage. Judging, I judge myself.

Because, often, I do the exact same things I condemn others for doing.

A while back, I got irritated at someone for trying to tell me how to do something. I can do it myself, I inwardly argued. Don’t you think I’m smart enough to figure this out?

Of course, not long later, I was on the other side of the picture, making sure someone in my family knew exactly the right way to accomplish a task. Because obviously I am the sole Guardian of the Right Way to Do Everything.

What I condemned, I did myself.

“Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?”

– Romans 2:1-4 –

For some reason, I am so much easier on myself when it comes to sin — or even preferences — than I am on others. If I want to be bossy, fine. But far be it from you to try to be bossy. You shall rue the day.

But one day, a person you silently judged will open up to you in spite of your internal condemnation, and they will tell you a bigger story.

Oh, their sin won’t suddenly be okay, but you will see a much larger story than you imagined.

One day you will wake up and see that you didn’t see them before, not at all. You shouldn’t excuse sin, but your heart will be humbled by the knowledge that you probably wouldn’t do any better if you were in their shoes.

Instead of the cardboard cutout you thought they were, your eyes will open to a real, blood-pumping, soul-scarred human being, with all of the dozens of motivations, complexities, moods, circumstances and problems that you face in your own life.

“We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison

So, next time you get angry, next time you are wronged for the hundredth time, next time the flaws of another person shine through in all their terrible blatancy, remember.

You were an enemy. Yet still Jesus, very God of very God, died for you.

You were not lovely. But He took you anyway, to make you lovely.

You were not worthy. But He has made you an heir with Him.

The well-known literary classic To Kill a Mockingbird has this to say about our predisposition to judge:

“Are you proud of yourself tonight that you have insulted a total stranger whose circumstances you know nothing about?”
― Harper Lee

Proverbs 8:13 pronounces it shameful to give an answer before the question has even been spoken. How much more foolish is it to pass sentence on the “wrongness” of those around us before we have even understood them?

Sin is not excusable. It never is.

But if God can step out of paradise to touch feeble dust-creatures with His glory, how much more can we extend His love to those around us.

Their worthiness is not the issue.

In truth, we can see ourselves in them, as if we were looking in a mirror. It is not that they are less bad. It is that we, when we truly see them, also see that we’re not as good as we’d like to think.

But our Savior is good.

So today, pray for grace to really see. When people inevitably rub you the wrong way, stop and look beyond your nearsighted perspective. What you find out may surprise you. It will most certainly bring you to your knees in humility and thankfulness for the mercy of our great God.

Oh Father, give us eyes to see those we meet. Our families — those most familiar to us, but so often still unseen. Our neighbors — those whom God has planted us beside. Our fellow church members — co-heirs of the grace in which we live abundantly. The great, unmet horde of unseen — those we never stop to see or hear or know.

Help me see those I meet as you see them. Needy. Flawed. And just as much a candidate for Your unearned love as I am.


“If we are to love our neighbors, before doing anything else we must see our neighbors. With our imagination as well as our eyes, that is to say like artists, we must see not just their faces but the life behind and within their faces. Here it is love that is the frame we see them in.”
― Frederick Buechner, Whistling in the Dark