Everyone knows that holidays are a great time for stories and remembering childhoods. Growing up with eight kids in my family, we are never short on stories and the tales get taller as the years march on. During one of these conversations, I was reminded of when I was young and we had great neighbors. They were actually so amazing that our parents talked about fencing in our four yards together so that kids could roam free between the yards, but not go into the front. One of the neighbor ladies in this little group of four houses must have been an oldest growing up because she tended to extend her authority into other people’s yards and tell kids what they could and could not do even when her children were not out. I can say this because I’m the oldest and I know the responsibilities that we have to keep everyone in our world in line. It’s a very important job and the world really appreciates it when we do this job with excellence.
Anyway, my brothers used to spend a lot of time catching and releasing ground squirrels. They would chase them into the gutters of our house, take the gutters off and dump them into a waiting cage. After inspecting them for a bit, they would let them go and then the squirrels would run straight for the gutters again to get away. This is every mother’s dream – a circular, entertaining, never ending game that is outside. Simply amazing. My mom had called Fontenelle Forest to make sure no harm would come to my brothers and when they said that the boys would be fine, she did a little happy dance, promptly hung up the phone amd told my brothers to keep playing that game every single day rain or shine for the rest of their life. I can almost smell the bon bons and coffee. Not really, but she did give them the go ahead and I’m sure there was a happy dance that no one saw. There would be at my house. The truly concerned neighbor lady decided that this game was a great danger to my brothers and demanded they stop. They came in and my mom said they could, they went out and the neighbor said they couldn’t. They came back in and my mom said they could. They went back out and the lady said to stop. Having been taught to do what adults say, they were a little confused about what to do. My mom then told them that since it was in our yard and they were playing in our yard, she was the final authority. If someone was saying something different, her word had higher authority. If they were in the neighbor’s yard, it was a whole different story and they had to go by her rules, but OUR yard meant mom’s rules reigned. My mom also talked with the concerned neighbor and explained that she had made calls, so everything all worked out and my brothers happily spent their summer catching the ground squirrels.
Anyway, the other day I was thinking about how fear of man is such a trap for us and it’s kind of like listening to the demands from the neighboring yards. When we live under it, we don’t know what end is up because we’re always trying to play by other’s rules and everyone’s rules are changing, moving and always different. If you’ve ever noticed, what can draw accolades in one yard will bring scorn in another. We walk around confused and easily swayed. If we have given our lives to God and live in His yard or Kingdom, we play by HIS rules now. What He says is true is true. What HE says matters, matters. What HE says is important is important. What HE is telling us to do is what we are to be doing and sometimes that is different for different people. This is not a ‘what’s true for you is different than what’s true for me’ idea. There are some things that are universally true for all of us. If my neighbor had seen one of my brothers beating up another brother (that would have never happened by the way) I am sure that my mom would have welcomed her input. It is universally understood that beating someone up is not okay.
We don’t have to be confused by some things. It is not okay to commit adultery or to sleep around before you’re married – or after -there are many things like that that are pretty clear. God’s Kingdom has laws or rules that are FOR us. John Ortberg says that when we are breaking God’s laws, we we are breaking ourselves. He gave us laws because He wants us whole. Broken laws equal broken lives. We are free to break the commands, but we are not free when we do. He knows that He created us to live holy and wholly. The two go hand in hand. God gave us laws and then sent Jesus so that we could actually walk that way – Holy and free. Choosing to break His written word is always choosing brokenness. Our choices sometimes fall into those categories. He has told us what to think about (Philippians 4:8), how to treat others (I Peter 4:8) and many other things. A lot of our choices don’t line up with those and we wonder why we lose intimacy with the One who brings freedom. I’m not talking about those kinds of things, I’m talking about the more gray areas that can get us all wound up tight and judge and feel judged. Some of those areas really are different for different people.
I didn’t want to homeschool at first, but God made it clear that that is what we’re to be doing. That was ten years ago and we’re still doing it. I would have fainted at the thought, but now I love it and God knew what was best for us. I have a friend who wanted to homeschool and God had them put their kids in public school. Their family is thriving and their kids are strong and are influencers. God tells different people to do different things. It’s kind of uncomfortable to think that way because we like to think that our way is the only way or God’s way. There is even a book with a similar title, but can I say that sometimes God doesn’t have only one way? Well, a lot of times He doesn’t. There are different roads within the confines of HIS road. So sometimes what He’s saying to one person will be different than what He is saying to another. Okay, a lot of times it is different for different people. Just because He told me to do something or has me doing or not doing something in this season, doesn’t mean that He’s saying the same thing to you. He’s pretty creative and created each person uniquely with a unique plan. We are all in different stages of growth and life. Of course, it will always fall within His ultimate design of holiness, knowing Him and living according to His purposes. The problem is that our tendency is to try to live according to His purposes without taking the time to know Him. Intimacy is required to know what He’s saying to us, and when we know, we can walk free even in the midst of the shouting from surrounding yards.
We get so confused because we are listening to the shouts from the surrounding yards. “You have to be more!” “You have to do more!” “You must do less.” “You have to homschool!” “Your kids need to be in school!” “Your kids need to be in youth group.” “Your kids should not step into a youth group.” “You need to apply this parenting method!” “You need to find a career and teach your kids what a woman can be!” “You can’t watch that movie!” “You MUST watch that movie!” “You should not EVER watch a movie!” “You can’t drink wine.” “Come to my get together – there will be wine!” “You need to cloth diaper, cook every meal homemade, and can all your vegetables!” There are hundreds of these. The shouts I hear may possibly be different than yours, but we all hear them. I just have to say, I saw a bumper sticker that said, “Jesus wore cloth diapers and was breastfed.” Um…Yes, yes He did and was – unless He wasn’t. Anyway, I thought that bumper sticker would work better on the back of a donkey since that’s what He rode.
I’m not going to lie, I feel a shout deep inside from time to time because I am passionate about certain things, but God is teaching me to stop shouting. I’m not an external shouter, I’m more of an internal one. It’s called judgment. The passion is good. If we’re heading a direction with our life, we need passion. Don’t get me wrong – some shouts need to be heard. God is not behind the ‘every man for himself, I can do what seems right to me’ mantra, BUT there are a lot of different choices that fit within the framework of walking with Him and those are the shouts I need to keep to myself or better yet, quit internally shouting because quite frankly, I don’t have a clue a lot of the time what God is saying to another. Sometimes, it seems pretty clear from the fruit, but I need to be good and certain that I am the one to say something and that should only come after prayer. When I think I am seeing something, my job is to pray His Kingdom come, His will be done in that person’s life from a heart of love. The emphasis is on HIS will be done. So that’s what I’m praying for and maybe the heart that will be changed is mine. Maybe MY eyes will be opened to His bigger picture. Remember? God is fighting FOR us and FOR our freedom, so there is no greater privilege than fighting alongside Him for someone else and sometimes WE are the one that needs the fighting for because our eyes need to be opened. Maybe He WILL have me say something, but after prayer, I will have His heart and maybe that will be the person’s door to walking more freely. Maybe the bondage they’re experiencing is because of the many shouts and pressures they’re listening to that aren’t really God. I know I need people around me to silence the shouts in my life sometimes. There are so many shouts in whatever world we live in. They look different in different spheres but we all know them and we all have them.
People are not the only ones who do the shouting. We also have an enemy who shouts loud and clear. He is called the ‘accuser of the brethren’ in Reveleation 12:10. He will never pass up an opportunity to spew accusations, fear, condemnation both towards ourselves and others. That’s why when we open our mouths to shout or sometimes just our hearts, we can become ugly. When we shout internally or externally without God’s heart, we are judging. We don’t want to take part in being accusers, but part of God’s healing in people’s lives. The same thing can be said from a heart of judgment as can be said from a heart of love, but will have very different results. Let’s take time to see what GOD is saying for us to do. Let’s stop listening to the shouts around us and listen to Him. Let’s take the time to be intimate with Him so that we know both His heart for us and have His heart for others. When we know what He’s asking, let’s do what He says. Let’s listen to Him above all else.
Lord, Please help me to discern YOUR voice above the shouts of other voices. Help me to be sensitive to You and what You are saying. Thank you that You have the ability to speak louder than all the other voices. I need to hear what You are saying. Help me to discern Your voice. Quiet the inner voice that is condemnation and the outer voices that are not you that I am tempted to listen to. When You speak, help me to do what You are saying and not hold ideas or things tightly in my hands that You are asking me to give to You. Broaden my perspective so that I can see the bigger picture and also narrow my focus so that what I see is You. I give you the things and ideas that I hold tightly so that I can become more like You. Give me Your heart for people and Your eyes to see things more like you do. Thank You that You are always moving and working in my life and in the lives around me. Help my thoughts and words to line up with what You are saying. Thank You that You hold my life in Your hand and that You are patient towards me. Help me to walk with You, day by day and moment by moment.