Tailored love & life without cruise control

by Kristin on April 17, 2012

in Belief, doubt & hope

Photo by Joelk75

When I became a parent, I imagined it would go down something like this: I would read some books and experiment with some parenting styles until I found one that was “mine,” then I’d get into my parenting groove and be set for life!

That plan was actually going fairly well, but then I had my second baby, who was completely different from my first. And then those babies got older, and needed different things at different times in their development. Then we moved to a new state, then I became a single parent…you get the picture. There wasn’t a groove. There wasn’t going to be a groove.

Instead, I was recalibrating daily, tweaking how I parented depending on WHO I was parenting, in what context. The big picture goals were consistent—making sure my children were safe, felt loved, and were learning and growing in positive directions—but our paths were anything but straight, paved highways leading to our destination.

Where’s God’s superhighway to my destiny?

The older I get, the more I think that’s how God parents us. I used to think there was that one Superhighway leading to his kingdom, and our goal was to just find it and stay the course. You know—that straight and narrow path. We just had to avoid detours, wrong turns and exits, which at various points in my life proved easier said than done. Maybe we’d start off slow and steady, but eventually we’d get good at handling our “vehicles.” We’d be able to move into the faster lanes, speeding our way to God’s great destiny, wise and skilled at avoiding horrendous crashes along the way.

But yeah, I’m pretty sure it isn’t that straightforward. And I’m simultaneously sad and relieved to come to that conclusion. The sad feeling stems from accepting that cruise control and auto pilot won’t ever be options. I’m not going to wake up one day and realize I’ve arrived, and that things will be simpler from here on out. Instead, just like with my own parenting challenges, each day presents new challenges—reasons to recalibrate, opportunities to hear something new and apply it in new ways.

And that’s where the relief comes in, too. Each day is new. Each of us—God’s children—is different. Of course he gets that, because that’s how he designed it. And of course, if he gets how different we each are and designed us that way, he also tailors his love and guidance.

God’s tailored ways of loving and teaching his unique children

That’s why I’ve been reading the Bible in a new way, too. Yes, there are consistent big picture goals—loving God and loving each other—but many different ways to get there. Now, if someone asks “What does God say about money, or knowledge?” I say “That depends…” rather than finding a few verses to rattle off in response. (And it doesn’t feel like inconsistency, it feels like wise flexibility.)

I also used to think “If Jesus said it—if it’s in the Bible—he was saying it to everyone,” but now I know it isn’t that simple. Now I see how Jesus was constantly tailoring his words to his audience, because he knew them (and knows each of us) so well. The people who interacted with Jesus were specific people, with specific histories and weaknesses, specific ways they needed to be challenged and pushed to grow. Yes, Jesus’ words still speak to us, but I believe they speak to each of us in very tailored, unique ways.

If my take on this is right, it’s both a gift and a challenge. The gift, of course, is that of a very personalized, perfect love—a love that’s tough and gentle, merciful and challenging in exactly the ways we need. The challenge is for us to disengage the cruise control and the GPS on our lives, accepting that we’ll never have an opportunity to use them. Instead, we have to do the harder work of watching and listening, looking for signs and being open to changes in our course. Ultimately, I’m thinking that might be the only way to get where we need to go.

Have you seen evidence of God speaking to you and parenting you in very tailored ways?

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  • http://discipulus.us Moe

    Very good post Kristin. I do believe the Bible is the greatest treasure we hold today, but even that has allowed people to take ill advice when taken out of context. There were things that Jesus said to specific people that have no application to us today. One of the greatest leaders I’ve had said to me, “always read the bible as is” then ask if there is an application and what the application is. Sometimes, there is no application, just a flat out truth from person A to person B.

  • http://messymiddle.com Amy @ themessymiddle

    Even looking at people like Joseph and David, we see ways in which God interacted with them differently based on their stage of life, need, or circumstance (i.e. had they sinned)? Like this idea! Thanks! (this relates to a recent post on “Submitting to the process is hard” — simply because there isn’t one cut-and-dired way God deals with us)

  • http://lisadelay.com/blog Lisa Colón DeLay

    I’ve thought about this too.
    It’s like you say.

    Like every relationship, our one with God is complicated, unique, and nuanced. Like other relationships, we never understand the other person fully. If God were just a Force, things would be a snap…except for all the loneliness and despair.

    Enjoyable. thank you, Kristin

  • Joi

    When Jesus spoke to crowds he gave sermons and told parables about the kingdom of God — general messages for everyone who was interested. When he spoke to individuals he spoke directly to that person’s particular need or situation. I think it is significant that we do not find in Jesus’ comments certain “formulaic” advice or pat phrases repeated over and over in the Gospels to a wide variety of individuals in different settings. Yes, Kristin, I positively agree it is very important to our understanding of scripture to always consider how Jesus’ response esp. applies to each particular encounter, and then consider how do we now translate that message for ourselves personally. When we lift those phrases and use them generically I think we sometimes end up distorting Jesus’ truest message and forming our own kind of creed. We have to be careful not to just give answers or solutions that start with the words, “Jesus said…”, without first examining closely the setting in which he said what he did.

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  • http://www.halfwaytonormal.com Kristin T.

    Moe, exactly! I think the ways Jesus tailored his words to specific people is most evident in terms of how he speaks into each person’s weakness. He always seems to get right to the heart of the one thing an individual struggles with most—the very thing we have such a hard time surrendering, even though it separates us from God.

    Amy, thanks for your comment! Your post on submitting to the process sounds really interesting—I will definitely pop over to your blog to check it out. (Last week was a bit crazy with travel and the writing conference, and now I’m scrambling to catch up!)

    Lisa, yes, you put it well! The nuanced nature of relationships allows us to discover the other in small doses, from different angles. When it comes to God, that’s the only way we could handle coming to know him!

    Joi, that’s true, Jesus’ words to crowds are universal. When I think about the Sermon on the Mount, for instance, it seems clear to me that those words are for everyone. In fact, we have to all get on the same page about such radical ideas, if they are even to begin to take root. I think what you wrote is absolutely true: “When we lift those phrases and use them generically I think we sometimes end up distorting Jesus’ truest message and forming our own kind of creed.”