I’ve felt very loose-endish lately. Waiting on a baby, especially when your last baby was early and you’re already in that territory, can do that to a body. Anyway. I insomniacally picked up a book from a pile that had recently arrived at our address (you all know about AbeBooks, right?), muttering to my longsuffering husband about the appropriateness of its subtitle: “Weary? Can’t get it right? Struggling to make life work?” Now that I’m all of 30some pages into Larry Crabb’s The Pressure’s Off, I’m not exactly positioned to write a review or a recommendation, but those introductory pages did help with the muttering a bit ;O.
(Aside: Crabb has a penchant for Capitalized Phrases, but I find myself mostly willing to construe it as idiosyncratic rather than annoying.)
Here’s how Crabb defines the main problem he’s addressing in this book:
Most evangelicals properly reject the teachings commonly known as the prosperity gospel or the health-and-wealth gospel….But sometimes we smuggle our own version of that idea into our understanding of the Christian life. Though we deplore the idea that health and wealth are available on demand, we like the idea that legitimate blessings are given to those who meet the requirements. The Bible says so….(Deut. 29:9)…We want the good life. We may define it more spiritually…..But we still maintain that the good life of legitimate blessings is a worthy goal and one that may be reached by living a faithful life of obedience to biblical principles.
Crabb refers to this more subtle sinkhole as the Law of Linearity (if I do A, then B will follow). We find ourselves trying to follow Biblical principles in order to obtain the Better Life of Blessings, when what we really should be pursuing is the New and Living Way, the Better Hope (Hebrews 7:18-19) of intimacy with God no matter our life’s circumstances. (You see what I mean about the Capitalized Phrases.)
This Law of Linearity thing is a potentially ruinous guilt trap for Christian parents, who are well drilled in the Biblical proverbials of parenting (train up a child in the way he should go, and all that). One of the most simultaneously frustrating and freeing realizations about parenting is that beyond a certain point (which varies with each child’s personality and age), we have little to no control over our children’s actions, particularly in public. This becomes exponentially more true with each additional child, and with, shall we say, certain children.
Because you can only get so far with a whistle.
How quickly I fall into the despairing cycle: It’s not working. Why can’t I get everything, or even anything, going in the right direction? What am I doing wrong? It’s! Not! Working! I have wasted too many moments second-guessing. But…after all, if I’m doing A like the Christian parenting books say, then shouldn’t B be happening, at least some of the time?
No. B does not necessarily follow even the most diligent A-ing. There is some value in (some) parenting books. Appropriate A-ing should be pursued. But! When B does not follow, the cry of a mother’s heart should not be (or should not primarily be) for the Better Life: “Why, Lord? What am I doing wrong? Show me how to make it work!” Plead rather for the Better Hope: “Please, Lord. With this gift of your very life’s blood, pour into me the strength to continue pouring myself out. Enlarge my heart, that the life-giving transfusion may not be wasted through selfishly narrowed arteries. Teach me to live daily the difference of that cleansing flood, the difference between hard and hopeless, invisible to all but the eyes of faith. God grant me eyes of faith!”
Things might not seem to be working right now. Truly, why would we expect them to? And where better to learn to desire the Giver above the gifts, than in the place where the gifts are stripped away? And in the time when crutches are knocked out, replaced with cross?
Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.
Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.