March 11, 2013

Be A Grace-filled Communication Pioneer


I’ve found that often in Christian sub-cultures we equate suffering with being holy when in fact we should realize that suffering is a method God uses to grow us in holiness.  Although everyone has a different opinion of what it means to suffer, what is disheartening is the number of believers who use periods of difficulty as a reason to complain or have a negative attitude.  Many of us even use accountability or small group time to vent or grumble.  Despite what the world tells us, when we are having problems with our spouse, job, kids, finances, or even our health, we still do not have a reason to complain. Our circumstances or even the people around us should not be our ultimate concern; instead, we need to recognize that the problem lies with our own perspective.  When we fail to have an eternal perspective, we are much more likely to find things to complain about.  When we realize what Christ has done for us and what we have been saved from, we are much more likely to be content and rejoice in what God is doing in our life and in the lives of others.

Any of you who are mothers of young children (or have ever been in that season of life) understand how sanctifying motherhood can be.  Dealing with picky eaters, skipped naps, tantrums in the grocery store, explosive dirty diapers, and a messy house that was clean five minutes ago can all drive us absolutely bonkers.  These situations and more reveal so much sin hiding in our hearts.   According to scripture the mouth speaks from the overflow of our heart (Luke 6:46).  If we are complaining about something, it reveals discontentment and failure on our part to remember the gospel in that moment.

This brings me to my main point.  Over the past few months or so I’ve been trying to grow in thankfulness and rejoice over how I see God at work, specifically in my children.  After spending a lot of time in prayer and in God’s word, I realized that much of my negativity came from comparing my kids to other children their age.  When talking to other moms it is easy to begin complaining about how our kids are not living up to our expectations.  We forget that they are not perfect.  We forget that many of them don’t have a personal relationship with Christ.  We forget that they may not be led by the Holy Spirit.  We forget they are young and do not have the life experiences or wisdom we have obtained.  We forget that they are just children.  Sadly, in some mommy groups, we even try to “one up” one another with stories of how hard our day has been because of some trial regarding our children.   Often, we may look at our friends’ children and assume they sleep better, eat better, and obey better than our own kids.  This comparison only adds to our disappointment in our own children, discontentment with where God has us, and eventually results in a negative and grumbly attitude.

Whether it comes from our desire to gain sympathy, a desire to simply “fit in” or relate with others, or even to avoid looking prideful because we don’t want to boast in our child’s accomplishments, we can easily find ourselves speaking negatively about our children.  When I realized this, I was convicted about changing my perspective and even some of my habits. 

First, I needed to remember that my children have not yet professed faith in Christ and I should not hold them to the standard of someone whose heart has been transformed.  In addition, I needed to recall a lesson that Ginger Plowman taught me in her book Don’t Make Me Count to Three.  She said that we have to use wisdom and patience to discern if our children are acting in childishness or foolishness.  Our children are going to act like children and we need to demonstrate grace to them even when those moments inconvenience us.

Practically, I knew I needed to start with speaking positively of my children to others.  Now, you would be a fool to believe that I have perfected this.  In fact, I have a LONG way to go.  However, it has been so freeing to rejoice in the ways God is developing my little ones instead of complaining about how imperfect they are.

Unfortunately, because of the Christian sub-culture I had referred to earlier, this may not be received well by those around you (at least for a little while).  When I point out evidences of grace in the lives of my children, I’m almost certain that some women feel I am just being prideful.  I can tell by their response and sometimes even the comments they make that they are judging me and assuming that I am boasting in what I have accomplished with my children.  In these moments I must remember James 1:16-17 which says  “Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”  I must remember my goal is to honor God and praise him for his mighty works.  We are called to boast in Christ and I should not feel guilt over this, no matter how it is perceived by others.

This is where I have to check my own heart.  My fear of man tempts me to jump right back into my habit of pointing out my kids’ failures for the sake of being perceived as humble.   I have to realize that this is false humility.  In these moments I must cling to truth.  Pointing out evidences of grace and giving God credit for the things He is doing or has blessed us with is much more honoring to God than the pursuit of false humility.  In these moments I must only concern myself with what Christ thinks of me, not what others think of me and not  what I think of myself!  In Timothy Keller’s book The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness he says,
“Wouldn’t you like to be the skater who wins the silver, and yet is thrilled about those three triple jumps that the gold medal winner did?  To love it the way you love a sunrise?  Just to love the fact that it was done?  For it not to matter whether it was their success or your success.  Not to care if they did it or you did it.  You are as happy that they did it as if you had done it yourself- because you are just so happy to see it.”
When we recognize this we can stop comparing ourselves (or our children) to others and we are freed up to truly enjoy how God is working in the lives around us!

In conclusion, I want to challenge you to think about what comes most naturally to you.  Do you complain frequently about your circumstances or your children?  If so, do you need to change your perspective?  Do you rejoice over your children’s successes?  If so, is the motivation to highlight them, yourself, or God?  Do you assuming the best about others or are you adding to the judgmental and critical sub-culture I have referred to?  Finally, what practical steps can you take to honor the Lord with your lips and be a grace-filled communication pioneer?

Make sure to check out the follow up post here.

3 comments:

Katie said...

I hear your point and yet have a few concerns. It is ok to suffer and to groan about it, but to whom and why is the question. See Romans 8:18-24 for perspective.
I lost a dear friend to not being able to talk openly about my struggles. I was having trouble with a relationship and basically she said, do not complain. Though you cannot fully analyze if or how I was complaining, I just want to warn of this in mommy groups and accountability situations.
Do not be quick to judge, consider the log in your eye.
I appreciate your questions at the end of the article. I just wanted to add my thoughts.

Amanda Kelly said...

Katie,

First of all, thank you SO much for offering your thoughts. I absolutely love hearing what others opinions are and I really appreciate you taking the time to share with us. Secondly, I am so sorry that your friend was unsympathetic to your situation and was not able to comfort you or offer you biblical wisdom in whatever situation you were going through. I am glad you wrote a response because it has allowed me the opportunity to clarify a few things.

Specifically, I never meant that we should not be honest or open with others. In fact, I am a huge proponent of being 100% real and vulnerable with others. You mentioned that the important thing was to recognize to who and why we are groaning (which I think is spot on, my friend). Even still, I don’t think we should complain but my reasons are far too difficult to explain here so I wrote another post (http://teachingtrainingandtantrums.blogspot.com/2013/03/grace-filled-communicator-part-2_13.html) I would love for you to read and respond to. ;)

You also mentioned Romans 8 and it seems to me that groaning in this passage is referring to the spiritual groaning (or longing) for eternity and the completion of His saving work. In Romans 7 Paul is speaking of the difference between his flesh and his inner self and this theme continues into Romans 8 as he discusses the difference of the life of a believer. The passage is suggesting that the future promise of eternal life with Christ is so significantly amazing that problems of this world should seem insignificant in comparison (not that they ARE insignificant, just that they are much LESS important than eternal things). This is why I stated that the ultimate issue in any problem we face is our own perspective. If we look at things though a lens that tells us the world revolves around us, that we deserve good things, or that we should get what we want and be in control then we are destined to be disappointed and will choose to complain about our life. If we look through a lens that God has us in certain circumstances for our sanctification and for his ultimate glory then we will be humbled to rejoice despite the most difficult circumstance we can imagine.

Also, Paul wrote Romans after he wrote his second letter to the Corinthians. In Romans 8 he is, in essence, elaborating upon his statements in 2 Corinthians where he contrasts outward afflictions and the inner transformation of a believer who puts their hope in eternal things (4: 16-18). My study bible explains this really well by saying, “Affliction itself does not by itself bring the benefit of a great eternal reward, however, only as it is seen in light of God’s perspective, as we look at to the things hat are not seen (i.e. Paul’s suffering and the shortcomings of this present age) but to the things that are unseen.” This is what I meant in my first line when I said, “We equate suffering with being holy when in fact we should realize that suffering is a method God uses to grow us in holiness.”

Again, thank you for your comment. More than anything, I love spiritual conversations. It encouraged me to get in the Word and I thank you for pushing me to do that. You are a blessing to me!

Katie said...

Thank you for your second post. I could have assumed I knew what you meant, but I'm so glad I didn' t. Thank you for taking time to respond and clarify. I love the scriptures you've chosen and an blessed to read your words. Please continue with this series. It is an encouragement.

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