Proverbs 22:24-25 (the message)
Don’t hang out with angry people;
don’t keep company with hotheads.
Bad temper is contagious —
don’t get infected.
Ephesians 5:1 (the message)
Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents.
Honestly, my first reaction when I read verses like the one in the Proverb above is to consider the people I “keep company” with and how I am impacted by them. And I should. So should you. I mean, that is what the verse is saying, right? Attitudes are contagious. Good or bad, they are catching.
It’s always fine and well to consider the impact of someone else on my life, but how about my impact? How about my attitudes? Is time in my presence a good thing? Is what I have worth “catching?”
This idea of becoming “infected” by the people around me sets me to thinking this morning. And like He so often does, God leads my heart to consider how I infect, or impact, others. Especially my children. See, over time I have become thoroughly convinced it is who I am, not who I hope to be or who I profess to be, that infects my children. And as I came across the Ephesians verse above I was reminded of how I learn about God from watching Him. This is how they learn. Watching. Witnessing my life.
Paul is telling us to watch what God does and then do it. He compares this to how children learn proper behavior from their parents. In my mind I see it like this: I can tell my children to show kindness to others but they so often can’t hear what I’m saying over the loudness of my impatience. I can tell them God wants us to give and bless others but they can’t hear me over the blaring sounds of my own selfishness and “me first” mentality. Thank God, I mean thank God!, for His grace. For the trillions of opportunities I can show my children humility and what it looks like to ask forgiveness and trust God to help me, no matter my imperfections. We learn who God is by seeing Him, watching Him, knowing Him, experiencing who He is. We become like Him in the midst of witnessing Him.
Now, for me this morning, in a very real and practical sense, I so want to infect my children with more of who God is and less of who I am. That sounds great and all, but the lines run deep for me today. Again, I fully believe they are absorbing who I am and I really, really want them to soak up something different. I have zero doubts about who the difference has to be.
In my mind’s eye, when I picture them as teenagers or young adults, I see strong and God-confident young women. Passionately kind and generous, grounded and secure in who God made them to be. So sure of the love and presence of Jesus in their own lives that they live unafraid to be different. But a kind of different that draws, not repels, others. Oh yes. People were drawn to Jesus. All kinds of people. And they were so often infected with something quite contagious. Joy, freedom, forgiveness and grace. Love that didn’t make sense, was outrageously counter-culture and yet truthful. I might have this sweet picture in my mind about the fruit I hope to see grow in their lives, but as a parent I must see the part I play. And that is really the point. I can’t “play” a part. I have to be the part.
One specific thought on my mind and heart this morning is the contagion of discontent. Sitting here at my kitchen table, I tell God I want more. Different. More of Him. Different than what it’s been. I almost hate the subtle spirit of discontent that infects our lives sometimes. And so often we don’t even realize it’s there because we keep feeding it in order to keep the restlessness at bay. Like an addiction is our need to find contentment in material things, approval, or achievement. The most raging infection…this soul-sickness of discontent. And there is no cure outside of Jesus. We nod and agree mentally, yet we excuse ourselves from His presence in order to apply the salve of striving, comparing, out doing, posturing, preening and pretending. The worst thing imaginable, even more so in church world!, is to admit our failure and defeat at finding deep and lasting contentment. We think this relates to and reflects on God. We don’t want Him to look bad, after all. I mean we keep promising unbelievers there is joy unspeakable and all!
But what if the truth is that in the midst of our hymn singing and hand clapping, our Wednesday night suppers and Easter plays, our event planning and volunteering, we have become less concerned with watching Him, absorbing Him and “catching” Him? Our deep discontent, for those of us willing to own it, is in fact no reflection of our God at all! It is merely a reflection of our very human condition. Wanting more of something besides Him. Believing we need more of something or someone besides Him. Our discontent is a matter of misunderstanding on our part.
I don’t have it all figured out, I know that for certain. Honestly, I don’t care if I have it all figured out anymore. I just want to live my life with a soul-wholeness that infects my children. A contentment independent of stuff, square footage, accolades or “callings.” A joy that spills out of carpool lane, not just a seventh-row seat once a week. A peace and stability, a quiet strength, that infuses itself into who they are as they watch me watching Him.
I could spend my life wishing and wanting and regretting. Pining and waiting and “looking forward to when.” When I have more square footage. When I have a cute VW Jetta. When I lose the last 15. When that person says they are sorry they hurt me. When school lets out. When school starts back up. When the economy turns around. When more people volunteer. When more people sign up for my blog. When I get some “me time.” When my spouse changes. When I feel better. When I finish my degree. When I get a promotion. When I get a new kitchen floor. When I can forget the past. When my debt is paid off. When I get married. When I have a baby. When we move into a neighborhood. When we move out of a neighborhood. When I feel appreciated. When I feel respected. When I get my act together. When I conquer my demons. When I overcome my addiction. When the test results are negative. When I can finally sleep at night. I don’t want to be content when. I want to live in this others-drawing, deep soul contentment now. “When” I come to grips that Jesus, alone, is the answer to my restless heart dilemma. “When” I stop adding and subtracting to the He and I equation.
It’s hard to see the balance of it all sometimes, I freely admit. I just believe, really believe, we can have what the apostle Paul had. Contentment and joy in any circumstance. Deep contentment is only found as we are willing to let go and hold on as He asks and leads. Only then do we discover Jesus has been more than enough all this time. Right now. Already. But that’s tough because we don’t want to let go of life as we know it.
How a battle rages within my sometimes restless heart! I long to infect my children with joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control. Let them absorb Jesus in me. Observe and witness real contentment, a soul-steady satisfaction, as I grow into what I teach. Let them hear the sweet harmonies in a life of becoming.
Like it or not, I’m a contagious mother.
Jesus, help it be You they are catching.