Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.
I never know what I will see on my morning walks in Fairhope! One day this week I encountered a mom and toddler out for a walk and what I saw made me smile! It was a beautiful, sunny day in our little town, but this little guy, probably around two-years old, was clad in his best yellow rain boots and super-hero pajamas. After all, you never know when a cloud might roll through or you may need to fight an evil villain! It is always good to be prepared!
The sweet mom looked completely at ease with the choices her young son had made. I couldn’t help but muse about the different kinds of parents there are—those who would engage in an all-out battle to get the toddler to put on something more suitable for a walk down by the bay. And then there are those parents who just enjoy watching to see who their child is becoming and will indulge their desire to be rain-ready. I must admit I probably spent a little too much time making sure our kids were “suitable” in all sorts of ways. After all, I was a pastor in our community—what would people think of me if our kids were not…suitable?
I overheard our youngest telling a friend once that he made up his bed every morning but he could tell when he got home that I had re-made it. I had tried so hard to teach the fine art of bed-making, how to smooth one layer at a time so there were no bumps and ridges underneath the comforter. It made me so happy to come home to a neatly made bed. Why wouldn’t these boys feel the same way? Wasn’t it up to me to teach them how to achieve that sense of accomplishment, to revel in one minor task each day done well? And wouldn’t such discipline lead to discipline in other areas of their lives?
When I overheard Andrew talking to his friend, I knew I was treading into the arena of soul-crushing micromanagement of the two young men entrusted to my care. And as a stepparent, there were added pitfalls to that kind of insistence on perfection and attention to how things look to others. So, I took a big step backward and gave our boys a lot more room to be themselves. I doubt either of them make their beds as adults, but they are good people. I truly enjoy spending time with each of them. I imagine the characteristics I most cherish in each one of them have been developed quite apart from my efforts to make them fit my mold or behave suitably.
What kind of parent is God? Somehow, I think God doesn’t mind super-hero pajamas in the park and rain boots when the sun is shining. I believe no matter how many years young or old we are, God delights in us when we color outside the lines and risk not meeting the expectations other people place upon us. What mold do you feel you are called to fit? What kind of expectations do you seek to meet in your daily life? Are they yours? Are they a product of voices from your childhood? Are they placed there by a friend or loved one?
Can you listen deeply to see if they are in harmony with God’s very best desires for you? They may not be. Rest assured, these words today are not permission or encouragement to indulge ourselves in a mentality of “if it feels good, do it.” Rather, there is a beautiful butterfly God has intended you to become. If you are shrouded in a cocoon of others’ expectations, you can never emerge as the person God has created you to be!
God wants you to be you—and you are unique! You can’t fit into any mold because there is only one you. God truly broke the mold when he made you. I believe this! So, what does it mean when we spend so much of our time and energy trying to become who the world tells us we should be? Is there some yearning in your heart to do something that might raise eyebrows or surprise someone with your impulsiveness? Are you afraid you might shock your children if you…fill in the blank?
I somehow imagine God’s best work is done in each of us when we sing a little too loudly or dance with abandon like no one is watching—when we stop biting our tongue and say what we really think or feel, with great love, of course. I encourage all of us to raise an eyebrow today! What fun is it being predictable? I’d be willing to bet that if you listen closely to your heart and do something totally unexpected today, it may well be the exact thing God needs you to do—at the right time and right place. Trust your instincts! I’d love to hear your stories. And maybe I’ll tell you mine.
Oh, loving God, perfect parent of us all, do you watch with love and smile with pleasure when we do something that surprises you? Is there a better way we can use our time than constantly trying to meet the expectations of others? Let us feel a sense of permission to stretch our wings and fly! And use us to delight others in your kingdom as we do so. In Christ, we pray. Amen.
Grace to you,