Christian family life, homeschooling, humor, and articles for your encouragement and edification

Christian family life, homeschooling, humor, and articles for your encouragement and edification

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Living the Parable of the Wedding Feast

About the year 2000
Aren't they cute?
My princesses and brides to be.........

     See the little one on the left?  That is my Emily.  She is about two or three in this picture. I want to take you back to a significant day for both of us when she was about that age.  She has graciously allowed me to share the following circumstances in hopes that it will somehow edify you, as well, Dear Reader........
     My husband and I were leaving the neighborhood with these two little cherubs in the back seat when we heard a blood curdling howl.  It was Hayden, the one on the right side in our picture from the past.  I quickly turned around to find my oldest holding her nose and crying, while the little stinker in the carseat stared unremorsefully ahead.  "She bit my nose!"  Yes, Emily had bitten her. Hard.
    Biting.  This was a new, lovely, little habit she had learned from a buddy in the church nursery.  We had been trying for several weeks to rid Emily of this habit, but she had been finding it extremely effective in managing her sister and the temptation was apparently too great to resist.  I'll save my opinions about church nurseries for another time.......
    Scott and I looked at each other.  We had had enough.  He turned the car around and pulled back into the driveway.  "Come on, Emily."  He gently removed her from her carseat.  He walked her to the front porch and told her to wave good-bye as I took my place in the driver's seat and left with Hayden to the birthday party.  I'll never forget the look on Emily's face as we pulled out of the driveway.  She was stunned (so was Hayden for that matter).  Tears ran down her face as she expressed her first symptom of remorse - but it was too late.
   I felt sick as I drove down Dorchester Road.  I fought tears of my own.  It was then I heard the Still, Small Voice.
"How do you feel, Jennifer Wand?"
"I feel sick, Lord!"
"Remember this feeling."
".......The great sadness you feel when you must leave someone behind.  I have no desire to feel it either."
I suddenly thought of the parable of the ten virgins from Matthew 25:1-13:

                       Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.  Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish.  Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.  But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept.  And at midnight a cry was heard:  "Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!"  Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps.  And the foolish said to the wise, "Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out."  But the wise  answered, saying, "No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves."  And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut.  Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, "Lord, Lord, open to us!"  But He answered and said, "Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you."  Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.

 Emily never bit anyone again.

     I realized that there was a far more important "party" ahead in our future and that some would, like Emily in this case, be left behind.  Those left behind would suffer far more despair than waving good-bye on a porch and feeling regret for a few hours.  No, their grief would be on a far grander scale and last an eternity - in great contrast to the eternal rejoicing of the faithful saints.  The Lord continued,
"I have called you to move the lukewarm to greater heat." 
    I never forgot those words.  The Lord allowed me to feel a mere taste of the great sadness He feels when it is simply too late.  Since that time, in addition to serving Him as a mother, I am prodded by a burden to maintain my passion and to fan that of others.  When I lose that focus, He reminds me........
     What does it mean to keep your lamp trimmed with oil?  You can find Scripture after Scripture in the New Testament where the Lord Jesus warns His people to "abide in Me," to "build on the rock" and not "on the sand" by obeying Him and not just hearing Him.  He teaches of a wedding feast where those who were invited make excuses not to attend and the Host invites those society most despises - for they are willing to come and so are "found worthy" by their determined Host.  Jesus warns the Church of Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22) that if they remain lukewarm, He will literally, "vomit them out My mouth".   A lack of passion makes Him feel sick.  You must maintain your first love of Him and stoke the fire of the faith you have been granted, lest you find you never belonged to Him in the first place.  Many believe that "the Coming of the Bridegroom" only refers to His Second Coming.  Dear Friend, your life is but a vapor.  He could "come for you" at any time through death and not find you ready.  Stop sinning, abide, and obey.

Several years later
Aren't they beautiful?
This time Emily is the one on the right.  Hayden's nose has recovered nicely.

  There was a little girl, who had a little curl
Right in the middle of her forehead,
And when she was good, she was very very good,
But when she was bad she was horrid.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow     

     Emily, Emily, Emily.  Fast forward to December 2011.  I think it was about laundry.  The last thing I had heard was a "Yes, Ma'am" that sounded about as sincere as spitting and hit me like machine gun fire.  Cinderella was about to stay home from the ball.  She was warned.  But, alas, the tongue was on a roller coaster it could not get off.  When the smoke cleared, Emily was told she would not be attending the drama club party.  Drama Club.  Her first year.  She had received the role she had desired.  Ironically, it was as the sweet and submissive Jane from Pride and Prejudice. And now they were getting together for a Christmas shindig.  On the beach.  The entire family was attending.  Except, now, for Emily.  Within thirty minutes, she was in my arms, apologizing.  I forgave her, but I didn't want it to happen again.  The restriction would stand.
     We were an hour away from leaving for the party and I was driving alone to run a quick errand with tears streaming down my face.  I was taken back eleven years when my little girl was left on a front porch sobbing and holding her daddy's hand.  This time it would be different.  She would be alone.  We would be gone seven hours including the drive.  I had counted.  She had been amazing that morning.  The house was immaculate.  She had been as kind as Snow White to every last sibling and had graciously answered me consistently with a devoted and sincere "Yes, Ma'am".
      I thought of King Saul and Samuel (1 Samuel 15:22-23).

Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As in obeying the voice of the Lord?  Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams.  For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.  Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He also has rejected you from being king.

     Emily had been making "offerings" all morning in hopes I would let her go.  She had not asked me to change my mind.  But I was definitely conflicted.  I wanted this rebellious behavior to change.  This child had a stubborn streak that served her as a great strength as well as a great weakness.  It was, I humbly noted, like looking into a mirror.  Had I been too rash?  Was she being punished because she had offended me - or - because she had sinned against God?  Where was my heart in this matter?  Was I like Haman - infuriated because Mordecai would not bow to me?  A little, perhaps.  But, my anger toward Emily had passed as quickly as it had flared.  Yes, I was offended by her disrespect and lack of submission - but now it was replaced by fear for her soul.  Twice she had now been used as an example of one being left behind.  Would her stubbornness be her undoing?  Sure, she was as sweet as honey now, but would it survive future testing?
"Please, Dear Lord, I want her to go to the party!  Please make a loophole!"
"Have mercy on her, Jennifer", came the reply.
I breathed a deep sigh of relief.
     I returned home from my errand and everyone was getting ready to climb into the van.  Emily sat meekly in the family room and still had not asked me to change my mind.  Was she trying desperately to trust the Lord and remain silent or was she still being stubborn?  No, her behavior that morning had demonstrated to me that she was desperately trying to be good.  "Please ask me!" I thought to myself.  Somehow, I knew that that would be my signal.  I was standing in the kitchen when she finally confronted me with tears in her eyes.  "Please let me go, Mama."
    I burst into tears and told her everything I have told you.  I shared my fear for her and that if she could not learn to submit even when things seemed unfair, that she would not only be unfit for an earthly husband - but a Heavenly One as well.  I told her that though I knew we were all struggling sinners, she must at least try to walk as much like Christ as she possibly could.  I reminded her that one day it would be too late and that even Mama would not be able to open the door for her once it was shut.  I also reminded her that there would be other parties and that if mercy didn't work this time, there would not be any next time.
     Emily went to the party.  She has not "bitten me" since that day and I pray she will continue to walk in the great sweetness of which she is so capable.  The change I have seen in her is also evident to me through her humble willingness to share our story in hopes that it will help others.  Though punishment of our children is Scriptural and effective - and even merciful, I have also learned there are times when forebearance is even more powerful: 

"Therefore, I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much.  But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little."  Luke 7:47

    Hopefully, Emily will be grateful toward the Lord for His forgiveness and for allowing me to let her go to the party.  I pray she will continue to grow in her love for Him; and in so doing, strive harder to walk in obedience to his Word.  As for me?  I was disciplined that day.  I had grown sloppy in my call to stimulate more passion in those in danger of growing lukewarm.  The Lord allowed me to experience the pain of leaving someone behind again to remind me of His feelings toward his distracted children who are in danger of missing the greatest celebration of all.  As for parenting, I have learned that I must seek the Lord's will constantly to lead my children through each new circumstance because I simply cannot navigate wisely without Him. 
    I am reminded of something my pastor said once that really made an impression on me.  He referred to Matthew 16:24 where Christ tells His disciples to "Take up his cross and follow Him."  Our pastor said it would be akin today as saying, "Pick up your electric chair and follow Me."  As I meditated on this, I was suddenly reminded that the cross was a form of execution for criminals.  I am commanded to discipline myself as a criminal.  I cannot trust myself.  I must remember that I am not a pure innocent nobly picking up an undeserving burden like Jesus.  I must recognize that my heart can be desperately wicked and selfish and that I truly do not deserve to go to an eternal celestial party as a child of The Great King.  From a Holy God's perspective, I really do deserve the electric chair.  Instead of exalting myself by thinking I'm not as bad as so and so, I am told to be like the tax collector and beat my breast and exclaim, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!" (Luke18:13)
    This recognition could make me despair or even abuse myself in self-hatred.  But God calls me to peace and only requires that I worship Him with deep gratitude.  I am so blessed to have been granted the great "loophole" to allow me to go to The Party:  His Mercy.  This mercy led to a sacrifice beyond my comprehension.  The least I can do is try harder.  One's failure to love Christ much through obedience means he simply does not know Christ at all.  May my daughter and I never forget that.  And thank you, Darling Emily, for letting me share our story.  May God be glorified through our stumblings as well as our glories.

My seventeen year old, Hayden, at the drama party
(She will portray the hilarious Mrs. Bennet)

 My almost fifteen year old overcomer, Emily was there too!
(She will portray the sweet and lovely Jane)