Good Sunday evening.
It has been a few sleeps since last I blogged. I shared a brief note on my birthday back in October, and you can read that here if you're so inclined.
Life has been busy but good. We are on the precipice of Christmas Break, which officially begins around noon this Thursday for me and the children. I have now officially completed Advanced Multicultural Literature; I earned an A in that course and now have twelve of the needed eighteen hours of graduate-level English to teach Dual Enrollment English on a permanent basis. <insert praise hands here> My graduate course behind me, I was able to attend November's book club meeting Friday before last; admittedly I am still working on finishing that book, but that should happen later this week.
My life is very much consumed by my own little family and a gang of wily teenagers I love a lot. In fact, my parents and the kids and I made a whirlwind trip down south to New Orleans to watch some of them play for a football state title this past weekend. That game did not go as I had hoped, but I watched a group of young men leave it all on the field and behave like the gentlemen I know them to be.
Below you can see a few of them plus my hair that I have quit attempting to keep short and cute:
In January, I am going to read through C.S. Lewis's The Screwtape Letters with students, and I am thinking a lot about that now. I think it's one of the most important things we'll read, and I don't want to squander this opportunity. This leads me to the reason I sat down to type this afternoon.
Ken Stegall is the minister at Jackson Street Church of Christ where I attend church, and he is an excellent speaker, writer, and thinker. He gave me words today I have needed and failed to find on more than one occasion in the past, words I will need and use in the future as a teacher and as a parent.
I have had discussions with young people about the importance of their body, of protecting it, because they only get one; this is the most obvious reason to be smart about your body, the place I begin, but the issue is much deeper than this. Protecting and taking care of your body is something I think about and speak aloud about at times with regard to Reagan who has to learn to be ever-cognizant of her body, but this also applies to a myriad of temptations. I almost typed, "temptations . . . that young people face," but that's not accurate, as I tell them, because once Satan knows where you are weak he doesn't back off because you turn twenty-one or move out of your parents' house or get married.
I admit here and have admitted to teens that I was often motivated primarily by fear when I was young. I feared my parents a great deal. I feared getting in trouble at school, yes, and I didn't want to be kicked out of my private school, but boy I feared my parents a lot. I used to look at this as a bad thing, but it was not, I now realize.
Fear as a motivator to make smart decisions is appropriate in young people who cannot yet appreciate the totality of the consequences of certain actions. Time eventually eliminates fear as a motivator though, and it is in this sense that parenting is very much a race against time. As Mr. Stegall stated this morning in his Romans class, people can learn to live with fear, or they grow up, move out, and the fear of punishment from mom and dad or teachers or other authority figures is removed. What then?
I have given young people advice they have ignored. This will no doubt happen again in the future. This is always frustrating, but I realize now what I should say and what I should do.
I am paraphrasing Mr. Stegall: The day of dead sacrifices is over. We crawl up on the altar; we are the offering. We present ourselves, our bodies, as holy, living sacrifices. We are perfect because He cleanses us daily; we are perfect, living sacrifices. Daily we war with ourselves, our mind battling our flesh. We want to crawl off the altar. We want to satisfy the flesh.
When someone is past the point of fear as a motivator and has their pinky toe on the altar but the rest of their body mired in sin, the thing to do is pray for them and love them and show them with your body, your sacrifice, what it looks like to crawl back to the altar day after day, even and especially on the days when you want to hurl yourself off of it.
Many young people, even and perhaps especially young people who've spent their lives in church services, are in a terribly dangerous place between fear of consequences and a full knowledge of and appreciation of the concept of their very body being a sacrifice to God. When you lack fear and you lack an understanding of what it means to offer your body to God, the God who gave you your body and the very breath in your lungs, you are going to do what you want to do with your body, and there is not a lot adults can say to dissuade you.
There are often immediate, obvious consequences of sin. Some of these manifest themselves bodily. I want so much to spare people I love from these consequences, but warning about them is usually not enough. They are past the point of fear and are willing to roll the dice. Ultimately I want them to crawl on the altar with me, but until they come willingly, my prayers and my example are probably better than the same warnings they hear repeatedly.
It's a lot to think about. As of tomorrow I will have an eleven-year-old daughter, so she, along with the teenagers who fill my life, is a constant reminder of the eyes on me who pay attention to how tightly I tie myself to the altar.
This morning as I was trying to write down Mr. Stegall's excellent thoughts my mind went to the quote above from Lewis's The Screwtape Letters:
The safest road to hell is the gradual one - the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.
I titled this The Daily Sacrifice; the spoiler is: It is you (it is me). God wants all of you on the altar. You can't offer a finger or a toe. You can't keep your right hand up there and think He won't know what your left hand is doing. You can't let a foot slide and think the rest of your body won't eventually follow; it will. The decision is daily; it is constant. Satan is waiting for your foot to slide off. He wants desperately for you to believe the lie that your body is your own.
If a fear of your parents keeps you from getting pregnant or drinking yourself senseless when you are young, great. It is a good thing to protect your body and your future, but eventually you will reach a crossroads where you must decide if your body is yours or the Lord's. You can abstain from sex or alcohol or both your entire life, but if you do not give yourself entirely to Him, you will still spend eternity separated forever from your Creator, which for me is the very definition of Hell.
I guess I am preaching a little bit now, so that means it is time for me to sign off. It is late in the year. I can't promise an update on the blog before year's end, but it's possible. At a minimum I will no doubt have a little more time on my hands and a lot of photos from our upcoming trip to Dallas to celebrate the birthday girl as well as photos from the upcoming holidays. Perhaps I will treat you to a photo dump and a short coordinating Haiku poem.
As always, thank you for reading.
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