What I learned from my 4 yr old: My Messy Beautiful
When I was a little girl, my dad would affectionately holler back in the narrow depths of our suburban, “Are we being Christian?” My girlfriends and I would be gossiping away in the backseat, undoubtedly needing occasional reminders to be brave and kind. His way was to parent with humor and intellect. Those same characteristics today enable him to disagree with you and smile at the same time.
I’m so grateful for the careful guidance and safeguarding my parents provided throughout my childhood. The only yin to the yang of a secure, small town upbringing is the sheltering inherent to it. This point of origin still throws me off-kilter a bit in a time period skeptical and sometimes even hostile to Christianity. My skin is thin and my ears are sensitive to words shared without mutual respect for each other’s beliefs.
Even though I’m a long way from that little girl in the backseat, the question is still valid. “Am I being Christian?” I’m confident my adolescent response was to roll my eyes and smile, point taken, but how far have I really come to answering this question with a resolute yes, on a regular basis? Especially when the right thing is the hard thing. And isn’t it always the hard thing?
Maya Angelou has this beautiful phraseology about her faith she recites often:
I’m grateful to be a practicing Christian. I’m always amazed when people say, “I’m a Christian.” I think, “Already?” It’s an ongoing process. You know, you keep trying. And blowing it and trying and blowing it…
Every morning I wake up and ask God for guidance in my words and actions. And, every evening I go to bed and ask forgiveness for the things I messed up.
Of all the blessings my children deliver daily, the most significant blessing they confer is an altering of my focus. They turn my inward focus out. They amplify my strengths and my weaknesses. They mirror all I have to offer and not offer. Unbeknownst to them, they clear the field of all the things crowding God out of my life. They lay out an entire field of voices competing for my time, my attention, my resources and my heart. Their reflections showed me this. I could no longer lethargically go through the motions of being Christian. The boy who made me a mama cured my previous lack of spiritual depth and demanded more width, too.
“Who is God?” he asks. Let me tell you, I answer.
“Why do we pray?” he says. Let me tell you, I answer.
“Does God live in church?” he wonders. Let me tell you, I answer.
“Do bananas come from monkeys?” he smiles. Go ask your dad, I say.
His “why’s?” pressed on my heart. It wasn’t that I didn’t know the answers. It was that I wasn’t regularly engaging with and living them. Suddenly, I needed to be present, articulate and diligent about our faith and why we practice it. No matter how oblivious and ruinous we can be to our own minds and bodies, when there is dependency of life on us, that dependency demands our accountability. My service to my boys and myself – is good answers. Not perfect answers, because I don’t have them, but good ones. Answers that teach and inspire them about the God we serve and why we serve him.
We all read, hear and interpret words differently. Timing and circumstance have everything to do with discerning which words you let in and which words you shuffle along into the shallow recesses of your short-term memory. Words are poised to fall off quickly when no real connection tethers them in. A beautiful world is opened up when I anchor the beneficial ones to my heart and my everyday. I know we all read and interpret love differently, but when I read Glennon at Momastery this is what I hear. This is what I tether.
Be Brave & Kind
Love your neighbor as yourself. ~ Mark 12:31
We belong to each other
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace. ~ 1 Peter 4:10
Carry On, Warrior
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. ~ Romans 12:12
Keep Showing Up
I can do all things through him who strengthens me. ~ Philippians 4:13
Just do the next right thing
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. ~ Galatians 6:9
We can do hard things
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go. ~ Joshua 1:9
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ~ Lamentations 3:22-23
Three things will last forever–faith, hope, and love–and the greatest of these is love. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:13
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:7
Trying to model what I understand to be the way is a road of constant mess-ups. But when I do it right, I model love. When I get it right, I give my boys an example of a messy, beautiful, fallible, faithful follower of Christ. Love is the critical nourishment for the soul. My messy beautiful asks me every morning to stop flirting with Christianity and start committing to it.
This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!
I’m giving away a copy of Glennon Doyle Melton’s book Carry On, Warrior. Please comment below or like us on Facebook if you haven’t already, to be entered to win. I’ve read the book, it’s funny and brave and will bust your heart wide open. The winner will be posted May 1st.
****UPDATE – Alisa from 51 Capitals in 51 Days is the winner of Glennon’s book****
If you’re a monkee and you’re visiting from Momastery, thank you so much for visiting. It’s good to be part of a group where as Glennon says, Everybody’s in Baby!