No Longer Orphans

“There were still some good things in the land of Judah…” 2 Chronicles 12:12 NLT

With clients, with kids, with myself and in my small world, I am trying to remember this verse…there are still some good things in the land. In times of uncertainty, especially as we hold these fragile days lightly, it can be hard for some of us to have eyes to see the good in the land. 2 Chronicles tells stories of broken kings, leading their people further and further away from the truth and commands of God. Leaders, that the people asked for, continued to protect themselves and their reputation instead of trusting God. Sound familiar? But there were a few good souls God had the eyes to see…some good things in the land of Judah. I am praying for these God-like eyes to see…to see the beauty, to stay present, to remember that His faithfulness in the past means He is still faithful today. 

I sat with a young client recently, who was struggling with anxiety from family crisis. His breathing was shallow. With tears filling his eyes, and his neck growing red, he began to tell the story. In the midst of his fear, all his body felt was uncertainty. He was worried, he was scared. He couldn’t find the good in the land.

Anxiety reminds us of what we don’t have, what we can’t do, and what we don’t know. Anxiety makes it very hard to see any good things in the land. As he shared, I reflected on my own anxious week, how I was living in the what ifs, the worst case scenarios, and my countless mistakes. It had been a tough few days and I felt a little beat up, just like the young man on my couch. He and I decided to make a shift and begin to spend some time focusing on what he did have, what he could do and what he did know. He could still watch his favorite movies and share with a friend. He could still sing songs loudly and laugh really hard. He still had his favorite sweat shirt and routines. He did still know that God was in control and that his mom was close by. As he realized all he had, and could do, and all the things he still knew, his breath deepened, his smile peered again and he sank a little into the couch. Some of the panic was gone. I felt calmer too. 

We then talked a bit about anxiety and how it keeps us feeling without..and that really doesn’t feel good. In my mind, anxiety seems to keep us in a very poor state, kind of like an orphan. Do you see it? Orphans live this life of poverty, not having, not doing and not knowing. They live in survival mode, never knowing what is next, who will care for them and if they will make it. Anxiety keeps us living like orphans, in mental and spiritual poverty. It keeps us feeling threatened, on guard, and hungry. Anxiety is the terror of not having enough, not doing it right and not knowing whose in charge. Anxiety makes us forget.

Oh, but wait, as Christ followers, we don’t have to live like orphans any more! We are called to live like princes and princesses, children of the King….with heads held high because we have so much, His glorious riches. We can do so much because He has good plans already written for us, and we know deep down that He is there and He is safe and He holds everything together. 

But sometimes, it seems, this is so hard for me to know, to remember…

That orphan screams loudly, throwing a temper tantrum even. There is an orphan inside me that has forgotten all I have and can do and know…the orphan forgets it’s been adopted by the King…and so the anxious thoughts keep my stomach upset and my heart racing… The worried mind lives in the regret or shame of the past or the fear of the future…not grounded in what’s true right now. 

We aren’t meant to stay this way though, thank goodness. He has rescued us from our orphan state and called us His own. He has called us out of poverty into blessing. He can calm our anxious thoughts with the deep knowledge of who He is and what all that means. He wastes nothing and uses our poverty hearts to draw us to Him. You see, it’s actually because of our poverty, that our eyes look upward. That’s why we can trust scripture when it says to have joy in our suffering. The suffering, the poverty, leads us to Him!

In our efforts to survive, avoid danger and feed our starving hearts, at the end of us, when we are still hungry, still afraid and unable to care for ourselves, when all our efforts fail, that is what brings us to Him…that is when we can answer the call to become our richest selves. He uses the broken, poor orphan places to bring us into sonship with himself, the most perfect Father, Abba. 

But knowing and remembering…that can feel hard. The forgetting brings the anxiety, but remembering sets our hearts at rest…remembering who we belong to, what we have, what we can do and what we know is true about Him.

Solomon, the wisest king, had some ideas right. For a time, he could see some good things in the land. With his wealth, he really saw most everything and this is what he decided was good….

“Remember Him before the light of the sun, moon and stars is dim to your old eyes.

Remember Him before your legs start to tremble and your shoulders stoop.

Remember Him before your eyes see dimly.

Remember Him before the sound of work fades.

Remember Him before you near the grave.

Yes, remember your Creator now, while you are young…” (Ecc. 12:1-6)

So when, the orphan screams and anxiety creeps….remember who you belong to, remember there are still some good things in the land….

The Power of No

We just wrapped up Spring baseball. Concession stands and bleachers. Baseball bats and dirty pants. We had a lot of fun, but we also saw some disappointment. We made it to the county tournament but then lost the first tournament game. As the coach gathered the team together,  I watched and listened. I saw the boy’s long faces, heard the parent’s angst, and then the coach began to speak. He said great things: “Yes, they worked hard; Yes, they improved”, but what I remember most are the No’s: “No, we did not win, No, I do not have trophies for you.”

He said No a lot this season. “No, you can no longer play third base because you weren’t focused. No, you cannot goof off when I am speaking because I have important things to say. No I am not your friend, I am your coach.” He seemed a little harsh at first, but then I grew to respect his method.

Through Spring ball, I realized, my boy needs a little more No in his life. Maybe I do too…

I am also watching and listening to the adolescents in my counseling practice. They  are struggling with their No’s. Many of these kids have mostly been told Yes all their life. Now that No has shown up, they are in my office and they cannot cope. They do not know how to struggle well, how to even handle a No.

They are hearing: “No, I will not be your friend, No, I will no longer date you, No, you did not pass the test, No you did not make the team. No, you did not get the job, No, we are not staying married”…and they are lost.

They are overwhelmed, overindulged and underprepared… No and struggle scare them to death, literally. Suicide and self harm have become coping skills for these kids.  

I am watching and listening…and I am wondering…what can I offer my kids and my clients? I am watching and listening and I am trying to learn. Why don’t these kids know how to struggle, to handle the No? How well do I handle No?

No has purpose.

Struggle is a part of life, scripture promises its arrival. So why do we avoid it like the plague and keep our kids from experiencing it? Why is the No so hard? Even the seasons have a winter and it comes every year. The day leaves us for night, darkness is around the corner consistently.

What if we grew through the struggle? Spring growth comes after winter, and morning is always there after the dark hours. What if the No, the struggle, the dark, the winter,  served a great purpose for us, for our kids? What if we stopped trying so hard to keep them from the struggle, and let it serve it’s lesson?

No prepares us.

I think this starts with me. I cannot take them further than I’ve gone myself. It can start with letting my kids see me struggle and honor God in the midst of it, letting them see me handle a No well, letting them see No draw me closer to Jesus.

After all, I am raising them up to send them out.

The older they get the more No will hit them, the more struggle sneaks in. And I want them strong enough to handle it, to grow from it, to be prepared for what’s ahead.

No protects us.

As a mom, what does this No look like? Am I honoring God with my schedule, my finances, my relationships? Are there enough Nos in these areas? Have I said Yes to too much? Have I set good boundaries with others, with my kids? Am I allowing No to protect my family? Do they know when or how to say No?

No has power.

I don’t always like it. I wish it was endless summer, I wish it was always Yes, but that isn’t how the world works and that isn’t how God works. So why would I make my kids think that is so?

They are also watching and listening…and learning. They learn about struggle from us. They learn how to walk the tough road by watching us limp and bleed and then hold their hand when they are limping and bleeding. Good and hard can go together.

No can teach us things and struggle leads to surrender and surrender leads to life, which is what Christ modeled for us. He said No to his kingdom, No to his wealth, No to temptation and Yes to death.  He limped and He bled, and the world was watching and listening. His No led to the power that raised Him from the dead, the same power that we have access to. He embraced No so that he could say Yes to us.

2  Cor. 4:17 “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”

Psalm 119:71 “It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.”

Romans 5:3 “We glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance.”