It's kind of funny. And when I say, "funny" I don't mean, "Ha, ha."
We just came off the thankful-high of November. Everyone on Facebook was posting status updates on how grateful they were for this, that and the other and then, bam! Hello, December. Know what happens in December?
People get MEAN.
Suddenly it’s too much to return a smile in the checkout line. It’s common and somehow justified to pull out in someone vs. waiting your turn. Everyone is in a hurry, impatient, too busy to notice the humanity they are trampling over, ramming carts into and generally, ignoring. I stopped by our local Walmart this past week just as two bus loads of children were being accompanied by local church members to meet their needs. Wanna know how many of those people were impatient, pushy and rude to me and my son, even as they were surely trying to set an example of God's love to these community children they had taken shopping?
It’s just plain shameful. And we joke, “Tis the season!” as an excuse for the attitude.
What’s even more embarrassing is the fact that the majority of those living in the United States claim to be a Christian. Which means, they claim to be following Christ. Which means they should be emulating Him in their homes and in their interactions with strangers and even, *gasp* allowing Him to influence their driving habits and curb their rushed road rage. And the majority claim a local church as their home congregation. Which means, it’s not the unchurched saying they’re Christians being obnoxious and rude. It’s the Sunday Christians. The Bible-study attending Christians. The volunteers in the youth group Christians.
A few weeks ago Aaron and I watched a very emotional (when is it not?) Extreme Makeover: Home Edition where a young boy (I believe he was only ten or eleven years old) committed suicide as a result of bullying at school. The majority of the episode was on getting the word out that kids shouldn’t stay silent if they are bullied and that kids in general need to, “Be a buddy not a bully!”
Aaron and I kept pausing it (thank goodness for our modern days of technology and DVR) and discussing. What is the root of bullying? Where does change need to occur? How do we protect our own children? That night after we finished and I had cried myself into a serious headache, I stood over Joel’s crib, rubbing his back as he slept and just cried and prayed and hoped that he would know - that we would show him - that he could always, always come to us. No matter what.
As with most situations, it's not just black and white and clear cut and do x and get y every time. But one of the things we concluded is that kindness is certainly lacking. And where do children learn to be kind in the first place? At home. And whom do they learn those charitable, unselfish, thankful-in-all-things traits from? Ideally, Mommy and Daddy. And what happens when they hear Mommy cutting down Daddy to her friends? What happens when they see Daddy being unkind to Mommy? What chain reaction occurs when parents fight and bicker for control? Or when Mommy is too over-scheduled and everything is rush-rush and she's gripping the steering wheel and sighing in exasperation at the elderly gentleman in his Ford F-150 moseying down the road to Burger King?
Recently the Duggar family (most notable for their Christian convictions and their growing family, now up to twenty children) has been a topic I've seen circulating just about everywhere. I may not feel the same conviction to have twenty or more babies (I also started about a decade later than Mrs. Duggar in the child bearing department, so that's my out!) but what is most admirable is their dedication to the Lord and growing their kids up on the Bible. Sadly, that is not what is talked about most among Christians. Instead of commending their convictions and the deep respect, love and giving-nature of their family, we sit around and determine whether it's wise for them to have babies and when are they going to call it quits.
Who's the bully, now? Are we really all that shocked about the behavior of school-aged children and teens?
We are an ungracious, blame-placing, grudge-keeping, impatient, negative and unthankful teaming mass of humanity. I am not saying things are all bad. I am not saying that God is not present. I am not saying that many churches aren't doing all they know to do to challenge their congregations and impact their communities. But I think we need to step back and take a long, hard look at our attitudes and our words and our habitual gossip and our tearing down of others. Especially as parents. As mothers. (Proverbs 31:26 ESV)
Here we sit and pass judgement on a Christian husband and wife who are raising their children Biblically and holding fast to truth despite what is "cool" or "relevant" in the world. Maybe they make us uncomfortable because as God's people we see them doing things we know we should do, too and we'd rather find a comfortable excuse to avoid being quite that dedicated.
Anyway, this isn't about Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, but about us as Christians. Not as humans, not as Americans, but as Christ-followers. The Bible commands us as God's chosen people to clothe ourselves with a list of attributes, namely: compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forgiving each other of complaints and above everything, loving each other (Colossians 3:12-14 ESV)
And there's nothing in there about only dressing up that way on Sunday mornings. It's Monday mornings when the coffee hasn't kicked in. It's the middle of the night when the baby refuses to stay asleep. It's the weekly grocery trip. It's when you're late and in a hurry and you slow down because it's not anyone else's fault that you poorly planned your day. It's when you're folding the fiftieth load of laundry and when you're sitting at a desk for ten hours, when you're standing in line, sitting at the License Branch and when your head is bowed when communion is served.
November doesn't make us sincerely grateful any more than December makes us raging to-do list obsessors. We do it to ourselves. We need to admit to ourselves that we are grown-ups, willing and able to exercise God-given self-control and behave in a manner that is in accordance with our faith claim (Philippians 1:27 ESV). If we don't want our kids to be rude, then we had better not be rude. If we want them to be kind, then we better be fair and charitable. If we want our children to learn about giving to others less fortunate, then they need to see us doing it. If we want them to value growing up in a family devoted to God then we can't sit back and tear down families who are doing just that.
Our kids need to see us grow up so they can.
"He has told you,
O man, what is good;
and what does the LORD require
of you but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God."
~ M i c a h 6 : 8