Monday, August 15, 2011

Life without Warning: Monet vs. Courbet

Today, as I drove home from a crazy IKEA visit with all 3 kids in the sub ... I looked ahead on Hwy. 50 and could see nothing but grey just before we drove through one of the worst rain storms in my life ... little visibility, cars pulling over and slowing down everywhere, water covering the road & my windshield, not to mention the music we had playing in the car along with the 3 additional voices of commentary in accompaniment ... sensory overload to say the least. But soon, as would happen in most cases, the CD was turned off, the kids were told to be quiet and tunnel vision was acquired in order to navigate.

After about a good 5 or so minutes of pummeling rain, we came through it onto drier road, little rain and brighter skies. The CD was turned back on and my mono-focus subsided into multi-task mode once again. (At this point I'm thinking there are probably many lessons that could be gleaned from this & I'm wondering where you all would go with it; however, ...)

... as we rounded a large turn, as some of you know how the Maryland landscape leads 'round large hills, I briefly faced the line of cars in the opposite lane ... for a moment I thought about where they were going ... towards the grey wall, towards sheets of thick rain ... I thought about whether I might tell them to stop or pull over (if I had that ability), or warn them, at the very least, about what was ahead. Then, the life analogy that materialized for me regarded ... my kids.

What would I tell them about life? I could warn them about all it's woes and dangers, or I could simply try to give them the tools to deal with whatever it is they will encounter. I know most parents try to include a good blend of both and I'm sure I will too. However, I found myself recalculating that even though the other cars were indubitably headed for that storm, it may have quite a different form by the time they get to it. For one, it may have subsided a great deal, or on the other hand, it could be worse, maybe with hail. The fact is that there is nothing I could say that would fully prepare them for what was ahead, because frankly, I couldn't know for sure, as weather is always changing. (wow, 4 absolutes in one sentence is thick, oh well). If I could give them ANY advice, would it be in the shape of a warning about something I couldn't completely describe, even though I had JUST driven through it, or would it possess a more encouraging, inspiring tone? I believe I would have to say something quick & simple like, "Just pay attention, rely on your training, do the best you can and you'll do great."

... which brings me back to my kids ... do I spend more time warning and judiciously guarding them, or training them and then sending them out with an encouraging word? There, of course, isn't a right answer and again, a little of both is appropriate at times, but I have real concerns for children (including my own), who grow up hearing more stories about all the terrible things that can happen to them and not allowed to go out and experience life at an early enough age to discover that no one is a stereotype and life is mostly what you make it. Please don't read any particular group into this, because I have none in mind ... I, for one, have had to be the parent basically putting the fear of reality into my now 7 year old back when he was 3, who apparently has none, just to keep him from running too far away from me. However, as he's grown, I've tried to taper off in my warnings and recommendations of life to him.

I prefer to cultivate in him the kind of heart and mind I believe he should have ... and let him take it from there. Throughout his growth, I'm sure he'll come to me with questions and guidance, but I hope that the picture I paint is more of an impressionist work like a Monet or even a Klimt, than a realist like Courbet (nothing against Courbet). If my description is too exact or precise, I wonder if he'll have the freedom to do his best at life in his own rite, rather than living through mine. Granted, every artist's product is only their version, but I hope my version is porous without being vague; an idea instead of a direction lest I give every detail and stamp out a version that wouldn't even have a hope of being true to whatever he'll experience once he gets there himself.

And now for the religious implications: as Christ taught us while He was with us on Earth, even He used warnings and direction to guide and grow us, but for the most part, His wisdom was aimed at our hearts and He even left us with encouragement as He said at the end of Matt. 28, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Now, I cannot tell my children that I am in total control since I have ALL authority in heaven and earth, BUT, I can tell them that Christ does, and if they trust Him, instead of Mommy or even themselves, He WILL help them (sometimes even in spite of them or me ... ahhh grace). :) I also cannot tell my children that I will always be with them, but ... (you see where I'm going). YES, there are plenty of warnings throughout scripture, but in the end, He sends His children OUT, just as I must do. He tells them they WILL have trouble, but that they can overcome since HE has already overcome the world. Never did He sit down and give them a play by play about how to handle each situation they would face or how to look at a certain group of people, or how to approach every angle of life ... He told us to love, to forgive, to discern & be vigilant and wise yes, but to trust.

I am often guilty of wanting to give my kids too much advice in the form of handing them a map and an exactly replica of what life will look like. What I WANT to do is teach them through MY own actions and not my words, about how to love people and leave the rest up to God.