Last weekend I found myself sitting at a table with a bunch of old friends. We ate good food. We danced a little. We drank sparkling cider. We passed around a baby and watched a whole lot of toddlers play with cars on the floor. We watched a slide show of a guy who has had 4 different versions of a mullet and a girl who has always had a beautiful smile! We were there to celebrate a new phase of life for one of our friends and her new husband! (Kristen – love you!) It was an awesome celebration and a great excuse for a reunion.
The baby at the table belonged to Chad and Emily. I’ve known them both since our freshman year of college. A long time. They are an awesome couple. Seriously… and they make some pretty beautiful children that keep their hands beautifully full!
It was fun to watch them be parents. It’s so clear they love their kids a whole lot!! And as we discussed the topic of them being parents Chad made a comment that I’ve thought about many times since:
They are so great. But they really change your life. No more sleeping in. No more doing what you want to do. Your life isn’t yours anymore. It’s not easy. They are worth it. But it’s not easy.
Last night I was reminded (via a voicemail from Jenny) that this seems to be a theme lately… My time in CA (and her’s too, thus the voicemail) has included a lot of catching up with folks, lots of whom have children. And everytime, I find myself thinking… “Wow! That looks so hard!”
It looks hard… Because it IS! And there’s a reason for that: God seems to naturally work into all of our lives paths that will teach us what it means to deny ourselves and follow Him… to lose our life, to save it.
“If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will save it.” (Luke 9:23-24).
It reminds me of a conversation I had with a girl I met last time I was in Asia. I shared my story about how the gospel changed my life and she said, “It sounds like, if you follow Jesus, your life is not your own anymore. Is that true?” I told her, “Yes! Yes it is true!!! When you follow Jesus, your life is not your own anymore. But the wonderful thing about that is that when you give your life to Him, He gives you a life that is SOOOOO much better than any life you ever would have made for yourself. It won’t be easy. But it will be worth it.”
Just like being a parent. (From what I observe.)
Today I shared a little bit at my “home church” in CA. Afterwards, lots of people came and encouraged me. I always feel strange when people tell me how great I am for doing what I’m doing. I’m not great. I promise. I’m just a little girl who met Jesus and saw His loveliness and couldn’t help but lose her life so that He would save it… and for me, picking up my cross daily and following Him means moving my life. It’s simple. It’s beautiful. It’s beautiful because of Jesus, not because I’m anything great.
And that reminds me of Chad again. When I was a kid, watching parents – mine or others – they seemed so big and old and wise and mature. But Chad is just Chad. I remember when he, like most 18/19 year old guys in college, was kind of an idiot (said in love!). And now, he’s a great dad, growing in wisdom… because one step at a time he’s learning what it means to take up his cross daily and follow Jesus.
The way I used to think about parents, is also the way I used to think about people who moved overseas to share truth/love/hope… they seemed so big and old and wise and mature. But I am just Shanda. I remember when I was kind of an idiot (like 5 minutes ago). And now, I’m “one of them,”… going… and growing in wisdom… because one step at a time I am learning what it means to take up my cross daily and follow Jesus.
My journey looks a little different at the moment than Chad and Emily’s does… but… it also looks very similar. We all love Jesus and we’re all struggling to live a life that looks more like him and less like an idiot. :)
To all of you who are parents I must say… Your job is not an easy one. It exhausts me just to watch. Keep up the good work… and thanks for letting me watch you become more like Jesus. Your journey encourages and challenges me.
So… Whoever you are… wherever you are… What is God calling you into today to teach you to live a life that is not your own? Whatever it is… Do it. It will not be easy. But it will be worth it.