Thursday, August 15, 2013

Lessons Learned in Six Months of Motherhood

I have only been a mother to little babies for six months now (how did that go so fast?!?!?), so I am by no means an expert. In fact, I am pretty sure I know less about parenthood today than I did the moment the boys were born. Motherhood has humbled me, big time. And (on most days), I'm so thankful for that. Before I had the boys I thought pretty highly of myself. I had watched my friends have kids and thought I had a pretty good handle on this whole parenting thing. I was going to be that "laid back mom" who made everyone marvel at my mad mothering skills. First, I don't know where I ever got the idea that I had a shred of an easy going personality. And second, I was way wrong. Like I said, motherhood has humbled me. So this post is mostly a confession about all I've learned these last crazy six months. It's not a parenting manual. It's just reality. And I'm sure in the next six months my eyes will be opened to the many more things I have yet to learn.

So consider this a letter to my first time mom self. It's what I only wish I knew six months ago.

Hold the baby. Seriously, Courtney. Pick up that sweet baby you helped create and snuggle until both your hearts are content. I was like a "holding Nazi." The boys could only be held at certain times of the day and for only a prescribed period of time. My poor dad came to visit right after they came home from the hospital and I was so stressed about them getting used to being held and never sleeping at night that I took no pictures of him holding the twins because he hardly even got to hold them. I'm sure he held them some, but not as much as he should have. Courtney, hold the baby.

Self-soothe will come later. Again, I was obsessed with this whole self-soothe idea. I read all these things about the importance of learning how to self-soothe. I didn't want them to be poorly adjusted and have issues until they were adults because they never learned this vital skill, so I stressed about it. And stressed about it and stressed about it. They will learn it, Courtney. If they don't, I'm pretty sure they won't be relying on you for comfort when they are eighteen.

Relax. Just relax. Sleep patterns will emerge. You will survive the sleepless nights with most of your sanity in place. They will eventually stop crying, and life will settle into a good routine. Relaxing will help you enjoy the moment, which is the most important thing in these early days. The precious, baby moments won't last forever and you will want to remember yourself relaxed and happy, not frazzled and crazy.

Put down the books and get to know your baby. Having twins has really made me see that no two babies are alike, even if their DNA is exactly the same. If I believed everything a book told me I would be trying to fit one or both of my children into a mold that he simply wasn't made for.

Let go of your need for control, because it's just an illusion anyway. This is a lesson that God obviously wants me to learn because he keeps bringing it up in my life. I want to learn it well.

And most importantly, Courtney, be thankful to God for these precious gifts. You aren't guaranteed more sleep. You aren't guaranteed days of ease. You aren't guaranteed obedient children. But you are guaranteed a heart full of love. And that's what I want to remember from this first year of life. I want to remember that my heart swells with love for these precious boys every time they look me in the eye and smile bigger than I knew possible. I want to remember that I'm daily brought to tears over God's provision for these boys. These are the things that will stay with me even when the most well intentioned day doesn't even come close to going as planned.

It's been a good six months as their momma. And I can't wait for every month after.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Faithfulness and Legalism

People often use Galatians in the fight against legalism, and rightfully so. In the letter, Paul is combating legalism in the lives of the Galatian Christians. Many of them are abandoning the true gospel of Jesus Christ for Judaism. They would rather work to earn their salvation than trust in the grace of Christ’s atoning work. But these days it seems the legalism label gets slapped on anything that smells of telling someone else what God requires of them. As one who tends towards legalism, I understand the dangers of believing your good works can save you. I know what it’s like to prefer a list over faith in the work of Another. I know what it’s like to turn down my nose at someone who does things differently than me, or worse does things that I have deemed unacceptable in God’s eyes (but really isn’t as bad as I think). And to turn the finger even more towards me, I know what it’s like to swell with sinful pride over my own perceived good Christian behavior, if that’s even possible.

But what concerns me about the quickness to call many things legalism is that I think it’s missing a larger point, and one that Paul makes repeatedly in Galatians. Legalism is the belief that your good works save you. Legalism is the belief that obedience to the law, whether it’s God’s law or another law, is what secures your salvation. The Jewish people believed their faith rested on this obedience. They were wrong all along.

Paul is not writing to the Galatians encouraging them to abandon obedience to God or even good works. In fact, he spends a good part of Galatians 5 talking about obedience. He even goes so far as to distinguish between walking by the Spirit and walking by the flesh. In Paul’s (and God’s) eyes those are two very different things. Galatians 5:16-24 says:
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Essentially Paul is saying that if we are saved by Christ, and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, there will be a distinctiveness to our life—i.e. good works. This doesn’t mean those works save us, make us better than others, or even give us grounds for boasting. Rather those good works prove that we were even saved to begin with. Those who “inherit the kingdom of God” are those who are redeemed by Christ. Our obedience is not our ticket to heaven bought by us. It’s our proof of purchase, and Christ is the one who purchased us.
My concern with the quickness to define any call to obedience or faithfulness as legalism is that it misses the reason for which we were called—to give God glory. God gets all the glory when we walk humbly with him. Our meager lives of faithfulness tell a wonderful story of what God has done in our lives through Christ. When we diminish faithfulness to the Savior we diminish that testimony.

Paul knew better than anybody what it was like to be tempted to boast in his own righteousness. He was a former Jewish leader who rarely did anything wrong in the world’s eyes. But instead of telling Christians to let grace be grace, namely abandon the law, he tells them to do something even greater. He tells them to walk by the Spirit. He tells them to put on love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These things defy the law because they are impossible to do on our own, which is why he tells us again in Galatians 6:9 to “not grow weary in doing good.” Christians are called to good works. Christians should expect faithfulness of one another. Christians should want to live according to the fruit of the Spirit. But Christians also know that apart from Christ all our faithfulness is in vain.
Legalism is a serious sin with serious consequences. But so is lack of faithfulness. Both acts lead to disastrous conclusions. As Christians, we should fight them both with the very weapons Paul uses, namely the Holy Spirit. It is only through his abundant work that we will be able to stand against legalism and licentiousness in our own hearts.