When my son was nine years old, needing me less, I starting missing the days when he was a toddler — our stroller rides to the park, building with blocks, singing Raffi songs, cuddling on the couch, reading books, baking, doing art projects, giggling, and writing stories together. Craving those early years, I took a part time job at a small Montessori preschool a few mornings a week just to be with little children again.
I formed a bond with Ivan, a 4-year old at the pre-school who dressed like a little man. Hair trimmed short and combed back with gel, wearing a freshly starched shirt, clean ironed shorts, and bright white socks with clean sneakers, he was the one with ants in his pants during phonetic lessons. The teacher always instructed, Ivan, you know the rules, “criss cross apple sauce.”
He’d scream back, “I know, I know, I KNOW!”
During story time, he’d jump up again, telling his version of the daily story. He had elaborate stories. With gentle instruction the teacher would say, “Ivan, maybe tomorrow you can tell your story, but for now, we need to sit quietly, shhhh, and listen.” He’d sit down saying, “Oh no, oh boy, oh boy”.
One day as I supervised the children on the playground, he ran over to me complaining about a little boy who took his soccer ball. As he looked up at me terrified, he screamed out, ‘ahhhh, your teeth are falling out!‘
From his perspective, my jumbled teeth looked like sharp rocks falling from cliffs.
After my son got braces, he said, “mom, now it’s your turn”. I found a dentist who specialized in six month braces for adults, and at 56-years old, I started the grueling process of getting braces for my crooked teeth. (Since they were so crooked they took 9 months to straighten).
As I brushed my straight teeth the other night, amazed by perfectly lined up front teeth, I tried to recall my once crooked teeth that slowly shifted for over a half a century so one front tooth, slightly bucked, twisted sideways so it pushed the other backward. I also thought about how living a holy life with God straightens lives.
There’s sure a lot of people in the world in need of being straightened out – the amount of lying, stealing, lust, drugs, teen pregnancy, promiscuity, gambling, selfishness, adultery, domestic violence, pornography, rage, cheating, slander, anger and unforgiveness that plague our world is astonishing.
Some of us who think we’re holier than thou, forget we’re in a daily battle with more subtle, troubling issues such as jealousy, pride, coveting, worry, anxiety and ungratefulness that burden our relationships, leaving us depressed and yearning.
The fact is all problematic issues, although varying in degrees, separate us from the love and peace of God.
In Greek, the meaning of ‘sin’, ‘hamartía’ is missing the mark. In terms of our spiritual lives, one way of looking at sin is considering sinfulness as aiming our lives in directions off the mark from the love and peace we find in God.
The fact is most of us needs braces for our lives. I think this is one reason Jesus tells us not to judge others because we all need saving ( salvo – healing), we all have planks in our own eyes.
Don’t you love how Jesus tells it like it is:
How can you think of saying, ‘Friend, let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.” – Matthew 7:3
In one of the gospels we learn about a woman caught in the act of adultery. In trying to trap Jesus, the religious leaders ask, “The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?” As they keep demanding an answer, Jesus responds, “Let those who have never sinned throw the first stones!” Jesus challenges these prideful leaders to expose their own sinfulness behind religious facades.
He then tells the prostitute, “go and sin no more”. In other words, “go, and don’t keep doing things that will separate you from God – return to who you really are, a child of God, you don’t need to give your body away.”
In his early ministry Jesus cried out, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” “Repent” in Greek, metanoe, means to change one’s mind. In part, Jesus came to help people to change their minds and hearts from waywardness, leading them to saving grace of God’s love.
I spoke with a woman the other night who dreams of living in Marin County just over the Golden Gate Bridge. Years back, we lived in Mill Valley, a quaint, suburb of San Francisco, in Marin County that’s tucked away at the base of beautiful Mt. Tamalpais.
We had lived in Mill Valley until new money from the high tech boom brought with it a disturbing amount of greed, rising prices of real estate, and upwardly mobile young people striving to keep up with the Jones’. The consequences of this boom hit home for me one day when a friend invited me to lunch with her neighbor, a young, attractive soon-to-be-psychologist who lived across the street in a large tutor style home surrounded by a beautiful stone wall, encompassing a flourishing English garden. She had two little boys under the age of two, and a successful, kind husband.
As the conversation turned to an affair she was having with her psychology professor, I felt my heart falling to my toes. The ugly greed I sensed creeping in to our lovely town had taken root in my sphere. I later learned my best friend’s husband was having an affair.
Surely, I thought these young mothers had everything anyone could ever imagine. Although I didn’t have God in my life back then, I knew the affairs would surely have a troubling, hurtful impact on their families and on their own lives.
I think of my own iniquities before God arrived in my life – seeking love in all the wrong places, dark, lonely, reckless adolescent years running from a troubled home, from my family, once a praying family, of an endless string of bad choices year after year. For a long time I walked a crooked, lonely path leading into dense dark forest with no light.
If not for the hound of heaven following on my heals, plucking me by my shirt collar, turning me back to God’s promises, I’d be in a land of misery, a sort of hell.
But rather, being given the gift of a new life, God makes my paths straight, leading me besides stiller waters. My journey with God is one of constant returning, of pruning godless habits, and that’s everyday. It’s a journey into everyday holiness.
“For you have delivered my soul from death, Indeed my feet from stumbling, so that I may walk before God In the light of the living”. Psalm 56:13
“For with you is the fountain of life; In your light we see light.” Psalm 36:9
“Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10 )
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P.S. A special thanks to little Ivan. I’m enjoying the wonder of my straight teeth.
PSS: Thank you dear Tanya at Williamstand blog for nominating me for the Liebester awards today! Liebster is a German word meaning “sweetest, nicest, kindest, dearest, beloved, etc.” The Liebster Award is given to promote love, encouragement, and recognition for new blogs.
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