Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Out of the Spin Cycle

Interview with Jen Hatmaker
Author of Out of the Spin Cycle
Check back later this week for a review/giveaway of the book...

Out of the Spin Cycle: Devotions to Lighten Your Mother LoadHow can mothers raise their children to reach the unsaved world?

Can I just say this right up front? Mamas, if we want to raise kids who want to reach the unsaved world, then we better raise them to love those people, not judge and fear them. With the best of intentions, we often raise our little ones in isolation and seclusion then expect them to know how to engage the broken world they’ve been kept from their whole lives. We end up launching out shocked little weirdos who don’t know how to connect with real people. This is a lesson I shared in Spin Cycle:

Brandon and I started a church called Austin New Church whose mantra is “Love your neighbor. Serve your city.” One branch of the church is on the east side of Austin, a low-income, mostly Latino section of town. Together, we offered Vacation Bible School for their community.
Perhaps no living being is less into children’s ministry than me, but drop it on the east side with a bunch of shirtless, adorable, mocha-skinned kids, and I’ll invent some reason to be there.
Terrible at this sort of thing, I was loosely assigned “craft helper”, with no discernable responsibilities and thus less risk to tank a rotation.
As I admired the kids’ art, I noticed Carlos – about seven – drawing an impressive bunny. (The bunny had nothing to do with Jesus walking on water, but art is subjective, no?) I leaned in closer and, prodding for clarity, said:
“Great work, Carlos! Hey, what’s in the bunny’s hand?”
And without looking up, with no emotion or further explanation, Carlos replied:
“A knife.”
Alrighty then. And why wouldn’t the innocent bunny be wielding a knife? Shouldn’t they all?
You gotta stay sharp when you’re all cute and fluffy, since you’re basically inviting an attack.  You might think that bunny was a soft target, an easy hit, but you’d be wrong; Carlos’ bunny will cut you.
Carlos’ knife-wielding baby rabbit comes to mind when I read about Jesus commissioning His disciples out into the world:
“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10: 16)

“Shrewd” in the original Greek means, “wise, prudent.” It includes keenness, constant awareness, discernment, the ability to say the right thing at the right time, to consider context and use sharp common sense. It’s the opposite of “clueless.” It’s the mother who sizes up a situation, watching for social cues and red flags. It is the mom who follows her instincts and refuses to ignore a gut check. It is the mom who realizes she is parenting in a changed world full of landmines and trapdoors. Shrewd parenting is ever diligent, never allowing apathy or naivety to blind us while the enemy claims our children.
But many moms take the second half of this complicated statement – “be innocent as doves” – and decide to avoid the landmines, raise our children in innocence, and to ‘be shrewd’ by simply sequestering from the world. If we create a utopian environment, bubble wrapped in Christian subculture, then perhaps our kids will emerge as Jesus Juniors.
This position gets wrecked when we look at the context of Jesus’ statement: “I am sending you out….” This is not a gray area. This isn’t complicated. He was simply advising us on how to conduct ourselves as we obey the GIVEN that we are a sent people, not hived off with other Christians, avoiding culture as much as possible.
Jesus knows that Christians will exist in an impure environment. He would never favor moral purity that avoids contact with the impurities of the world. Jesus lived in the marketplace of his day. He partied with known sinners. He went to their houses and had meals with them. His reputation among the moral purists of his day was a "glutton, drunkard and a friend of sinners" (Matthew 11:16).
He sends us out shrewdly innocent. But innocent here doesn’t mean what you might think. It is not an umbrella term encompassing all our “do nots” – as in Christians do not __________ (have any fun). Innocent literally means “inoffensive.” See, Jesus sent us into this broken world not to defend Him, but to represent Him. We are to talk to those He talked to, say the kinds of things He said, love those He loved without polluting our message with judgment and offensiveness. We have missed the point if our worldview involves fighting against culture as our enemy; we imitate our Savior when we fight for culture as loved people yet to know their Creator.
Otherwise, why would Jesus tell us to be shrewd? If navigating this life involved Christian detachment from the rest of the world, we’d never need that skill. We’d be “safe”, helpfully disengaged from the scary, bad, evil people of the world. Except Jesus sees them as broken, lonely, desperate, and hungry for a Savior.
We do our children a tragic disservice to raise them in seclusion, falsely detached from the world they’ve been sent to help redeem. What kind of disciples are we making when our children enter the real world as shocked, clueless young adults, ill-equipped to connect with the spiritually disoriented and unable to make sense of their environment? In an effort to protect their innocence, we send them out na├»ve and unprepared…bunnies without knives; vulnerable and defenseless.
Your kids should be praying regularly for the kids in their school and neighborhood.
They should learn to befriend the loner, the loser, the lost.
They need to hear from you: “We don’t judge. We love.”
Be the happy home where people apart from God feel welcomed.
They will learn innocent shrewdness – or not – from you. It is not your responsibility to raise perfect prototypes of holiness, fit to set on a pedestal and admire. Your job is to send your children into this world as disciples who understand their mission and contend for God’s glory.
And hey, listen, if your kids ever need a street education, send them to me and I’ll hook them up with Carlos. That’ll up their street cred.

What impact does a strong marriage have on your children?

Oh, not much. It’s only the biggest possible factor in raising healthy kids, that’s all. (I love hyperbole. Thank you for allowing me my melodrama.) It’s pretty simple: A healthy marriage creates a home where kids feel safe and stable; safe and stable kids turn into healthy adults. There is much mumbo jumbo that surrounds this truth, but the basic takeaway is this: If your children get your best efforts while you let your marriage suffer and die, you’ve sabotaged the whole mechanism.

On the up side, you can jack up 60-85% of everything the parenting books say you must do or you’ll regret it the rest of your life, but if your kids grow up in a happy home with parents who love each other, you still won’t ruin them. (Yay! No therapy!) I grew up in a middle to lower-middle class family who didn’t have cable or fancy vacations, we went to a Title I public school, and we ate a steady diet of processed food…but my parents were wild about each other and we laughed all the time and our house was happy. So guess what? We were launched into this world as healthy adults who believed in the power of family and had a solid grasp of what a good one looked like.

From Out of the Spin Cycle:

The amount of grace marriage requires is unfathomable.
The other day, Brandon and I were discussing the speed dial feature on our cell phones. I remarked that due to the Irrefutable and Universal Law of Speed Dial, voicemail was number one, but naturally, he was number two followed by a long list of girlfriends. Obviously, the descending order mirrored my relational priorities, he occupying top billing in my heart.
That’s when I noticed a cagey look on his face.
“What’s your speed dial lineup?” I asked like the innocent dove I am, naively assuming that I, too, was way up in his ranking system, having birthed his children and been an absolute pleasure to live with these fifteen years.
That’s when the bull began. “Oh yes, well, see, I was thinking I’d put you first, so I went ahead and put Tray second,” (his number one boyfriend), “then I put in a couple of the fellas. About then I realized I couldn’t put you first due to the Irrefutable and Universal Law of Speed Dial, but I was only at number five, and that didn’t seem like a worthy number for my beautiful bride. So I put in one more and chose number seven for you. God’s number. I’m honoring you.”
I stared blankly, trying to channel my inner saint, but she’d gone missing, as she tends to do. “Are you saying I am number seven in your speed dial? And your five boyfriends took precedence over the woman who has sex with you? Do you think for one second I’m buying what you just fed me about putting me first? Do I look like some kind of halfwit? Hey, guess what, kids? Daddy is number one in my heart, and good news! Mommy slid in at number seven on Daddy’s roster, just a hair ahead of his insurance agent! Maybe if I birth another namesake I can move up to number six!”
I’m still working on that grace thingy.

Ah, marriage. The kind of union we have affects our children infinitely more than the schools we put them in, the activities we sign them up for, or the church we take them to. Our kids are learning relational habits by osmosis, and statistics say they’ll likely imitate what they witnessed at home.
Grant was a high school student in our youth ministry, and he was the All-American, utterly privileged kid. Talented, smart, athletic, funny; he literally had it all. His parents were Super Star volunteers, and the family was central to the life of the church.
When we heard he totally derailed in college and walked away from Christ, we were stunned. Brandon reached out to him:
“Dude, what happened?”
“None of that &!*# is real. My perfect parents? The awesome volunteers who were at church four days a week? Yeah, they were the ones who cussed each other out everyday and screamed so horribly we had to leave the house. At church, they said, “Bless you,” but at home they said, “I hate you.” I’ll pass on that fake religion.”
When accused of being on the wrong side of good versus evil, Jesus declared:
“Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand” (Matthew 12:25.)
Outside forces are less of a threat for most families; they readily crumble from the inside out. A civil war leaves more casualties than an outside attack. When God said two become one in marriage, we literally injure our own flesh when we tear down our partner. When I stab at my husband’s dignity, I might as well sever one of my own limbs. This is why fighting hurts so badly – when I injure my husband, I do it at the peril of my own soul.
And let’s not forget the children; we become so blinded by our own selfishness that we fail to see how a contentious marriage affects them. It’s easier to write it off:
“They don’t know what’s going on.”
“They’re too little.”
“They’re not listening.”
A house divided against itself will fall, crushing everyone taking refuge under its shelter.
You want to be the mom of your kids’ dreams? Want to give them security, health, stability, and happiness? Love your husband. Love him so much it’s almost embarrassing. Kiss him, hug him, talk about him to your kids like your heart would expire without him. Refuse to let issues fester until you blow like Mount Vesuvius, charring everyone. Have sex with him (this alone would solve most of his problems). Tell your children their daddy is a hero and they’re the luckiest kids to belong to him. Be his fan. The best gift for your kids is parents who are crazy for each other. (Did I mention have sex with him?)
Love each other well, and your house will stand, sweet friend.
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