Friday, December 24, 2010

To Live is Christ — slowly learning

My dad died eleven years ago today. I’ve not marked this day as a sad anniversary, mostly because I’ve always allowed grief whenever it came calling, no matter what day it was. However, my dad and my mother came to mind today. As I thought of them, I also thought how children are like their parents. In some cases, the good comes out but far too often the not-so-good is multiplied in the next generation.

The Old Testament talks about the sins of the fathers being visited on the children. This idea of “generational sin” has intrigued me. I’ve concluded the main reason a child becomes a “chip of the old block” or worse, is that a parent cannot teach their child how to conquer a sin tendency that they have not conquered themselves.

I’ve seen this in several situations. A foul-mouthed parent will have children who do the same, or worse. A parent who lies should never be surprised that his child lies. A stubborn mom will fight stubbornness in her child.

On the other hand, my theory could be wrong. My mother’s mother never said a bad word about anyone. My mother was like that too. If she had bad feelings, she kept them to herself. Her and dad never fought, at least that I witnessed.

My father’s father was a quiet man too, but feisty and not easy to know. He had a rough childhood, but seldom talked about it. My father was not like that. He talked. He loved people. He didn’t like laziness or dishonesty. We always knew where dad stood on an issue or a circumstance.

What got handed down to me? I’ve also been outspoken. Everyone knows how I feel about situations and people. I can be a fighter and hold a grudge for a long time with or without words. When I became a Christian as an adult, my attitudes began to change. Yet God is still changing them, going deeper.

The process reminds me of a dog we used to have. He often came home full of quills after a run-in with a porcupine. I feel like that dog must have felt when we had to tie him down to remove the offending barbs. He never barked or whined because he knew this pain was for his good, but he didn’t like it very much.

Such is the effect of the Word of God. It hurts, but at the same time, I know it is good for me. There is healing — if I stop resisting and let the Holy Spirit change my life.

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. (1 Peter 3:8–9)
God gave me lots to wince over with these verses. As I read them, all I can remember are the times I had a contrary mind, was without sympathy or love, had a hard heart and was filled with pride. It seems that I picked up the negative side of the positives in my parents. I remember my mother surprising me with a rebuke when I complained about something she did, as if I knew how to do it better. Pride.

I think also about my dad’s example of “love thy neighbor” which made him so beloved in his community but didn’t wash off on me. Hard-hearted.

These memories sting, but God’s barbs are even more pointed. After almost forty years of Christ living in me, I still block Him with the sins of my childhood, the pride and lack of caring for others. I didn’t “learn” this from my parents. They tried. These verses speak even louder, and I am so slow to listen.

I’m not sure if folks in heaven can see us on earth. Likely not. When I get to heaven I want to hear “well-done” from Jesus. However, after I see Him face to face, I’d love to hear something similar from my dear mom and dad.

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