Saturday, September 13, 2014

Dolls, or Friends?

When I was a little girl, I spent hours playing with dolls. For me, it wasn’t so much about dressing them up in pretty clothes or taking care of a baby doll – it was about creating drama. I loved making up intricate plots of adventures, mysteries, relationships and intrigue in different historical periods or even in the future, and in exotic locales. When I ran out of three-dimensional dolls to play the many characters in these ongoing narratives, I switched to paper dolls, often using figures from four or five paper doll books to take part in the same story.

The beauty of this type of play was that the dolls were willing subjects in whatever fantasy world I envisioned. I was the master of their universe. They wore the clothes and assumed the identity of the characters I created for them; they spoke the dialogue I wrote; and they had the feelings and reactions I thought appropriate for the relationships and situations in which I placed them.

But the downside of playing with dolls is that they have no life of their own. They could never surprise me, and I had no real affection, or indeed any feelings, for them, because they were under my complete control and incapable of doing anything other than what I made them do.

“Chatty Cathy” was a popular doll during my childhood, as you could pull a string on her neck and she would randomly say one of several prerecorded phrases. I never wanted one of these dolls, as her inane comments paled in comparison to the sophisticated conversations I preferred for my dolls. Yet despite the cleverness of the repartee I invented for these characters, it never enlightened, informed or touched me, as it came solely from my own mind.

In works of fiction we sometimes see dolls or toys coming to life, as in the Nutcracker Ballet. More often, these are horror stories, like Bride of Chucky, as we would perceive any independence coming from a doll as originating from a demonic spirit.

Then I grew older and realized it was time to put aside childish things (1 Corinthians 13:11). (I admit to still having a doll collection, but not to playing with it!). Instead of dolls, I had friends – long before the days of Facebook, texting, or BFFs. In this brave new world, I was often surprised, amused, or puzzled by how my friends reacted to what I said or did. Sometimes I was hurt by their indifference, rejection, or betrayal, yet often I was touched by their loyalty, kindness, and generosity.

What an amazing feeling when a classmate you admire says she would like to be your friend! The spontaneity and freedom classmates had in choosing to spend time with me and to be called my friend brought me incredible joy, as I knew they could have chosen otherwise. Those friendships are a source of strength to this very day, and I am thankful for wisdom gained from lessons learned with those friends and from their positive influences on my life.

Unlike dolls, friends cannot be controlled. We can influence one another for good (Proverbs 27:17), as Jonathan did to David (1 Samuel 18:1-4; 19:2-6), or for evil, as Jonadab did to Amnon (2 Samuel 13:1-22). But “friends” can and do ultimately choose to love (Proverbs 17:17), ignore or hate us (Job 16:20; 19:19; Psalm 41:9). Despite all our best advice and love for them (Proverbs 27:9-10), they can choose to do what we think is best for them, to disregard the benefit of our wisdom, or to openly defy us (Deuteronomy 13:6; Job 6:27; 32:3; Jeremiah 19:9).

Reminiscing about dolls and friends made me think about how God regards us. He created us for His good pleasure (Ephesians 1:5,9; Philippians 2:13; 2 Thessalonians 1:11), in a way like a toymaker designs dolls to delight little girls. And yet, we are so blessed that He created us not to be like dolls, but rather to be His friends! (Exodus 33:11; 2 Chronicles 20:7; Song of Solomon 5:16; Matthew 11:19; Luke 12:4; James 2:23).

He not only desires fellowship with us (1 Corinthians 1:9; Philippians 2:1; 3:10; 1 John 1:3,6-7), but He loved us first (1 John 4:19), while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8), enemies (Romans 5:10; James 4:4), and children of the devil (1 John 3:10). He is the Friend Who sticks closer to us than even a brother (Proverbs 18:24),

Even when we ignore, disobey, or defy Him, He is loyal, faithful and true (Deuteronomy 7:9; Psalm 89:8; Isaiah 25:1; etc.). He created us not to be His servants, but His friends, entrusted with the wisdom the Father gave to His Son. There is no greater love than His for His friends, because He died to save us (John 15:13-15).

God created mankind in His own image (Genesis 1:27). Just as He has a Triune nature, we therefore do too. We have not only a physical body, like the one Jesus had when He came to earth in human flesh (John 1:14) as Emmanuel, meaning God with us (Matthew 1:23), but a soul and spirit, giving us our unique personality, desires and talents.

Because God created us with the potential to be His friends, He gave us free will to make choices, whether for good or for bad. No matter how realistic in appearance, or how many phrases a doll can recite if you push a button, or how many preprogrammed actions a robot can carry out, they lack the ability to make decisions.

God, Who is all-powerful and infinitely wise (Psalm 139), could have guaranteed that we would always serve Him, pray to Him, witness for Him, and never sin. Had He done that, though, we could not be His friends, but only His playthings.

Instead He created mankind with free will and with the capacity for choice and creative thought, which is why He could assign to Adam the challenge of naming all the animals (Genesis 2:19-20). With free will, however, comes the capacity for sin. Despite the wonderful fellowship Adam and Eve enjoyed with their Creator in the Paradise of Eden, they chose to disobey His commandment and to eat the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 3:6).

When Adam and Eve sinned, they had to face the personal consequences of that choice, namely loss of innocence and expulsion from the Garden of Eden. But even worse, their sin brought the curse of sin and death on all mankind (Genesis 3:7-24).

How amazing that the Creator of all designed us to seek Him, so that we could be blessed by fellowship with Him as His friends, created for His good pleasure! May we wisely exercise our free will with every choice we make, yielding to the Holy Spirit within, and not to our old sin nature! 

© 2014 Laurie Collett
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Saturday, September 6, 2014

Joys of Parenting: Triplets of Blessing

As we have seen in earlier posts, God’s Word offers parenting advice and prayers for our children in patterns of three. Not surprisingly, God’s promises to parents who follow His instructions and raise their children according to His Word follow this same pattern, reflecting His Triune nature.

God gives us children as an inheritance, a reward, and a source of joy, as described in Psalm 127, which contains advice from David to his son Solomon regarding three important goals for his life: building the Lord’s house, ruling over His city Jerusalem, and raising children to continue in the royal blood line ultimately culminating in Jesus Himself (v. 1).  Although parenthood is not usually associated with sound sleep, at least not in our children’s early years, the psalmist notes God’s promise to give His beloved sleep, so that he does not need to awaken early, to stay up late, or to be sorrowful (v. 2).

This Psalm compares children to arrows – a symbol of a man’s power, happiness, and good reputation (v. 4,5). In Bible times, arrows had to be reused, so to have many arrows in the quiver were a sign of status; of protection, as the bow and arrow were a weapon against enemies; and of provision, as the bow and arrow were a way to hunt for food. If we take care of our children when they are young, according to Biblical principles, they will take care of us when we are old, offering the prestige, security, and sustenance we may no longer have on our own.

If parents train their children in God’s Word and to follow His general and specific will, the Bible promises that they will return to God’s path, even if they rebel for a time (Proverbs 22:6).This chapter of Proverbs describes three virtues we should instill in our children, all of which are worth more than material wealth: a good reputation, treating others with love, and being prudent to avoid evil (v. 1-3). If we raise our children to be humble, fear and respect the Lord, using discipline when necessary (v. 15), He will give them riches, honor, and life (v. 4).

The Bible extols the Proverbs 31 woman as the ideal woman, wife, and parent who is wise, kind, and industrious in caring for her household (v. 26, 27). As her children grow up, they will realize, appreciate and return their mother’s love, which will bless not only the mother, but also her husband and children (Proverbs 31:28-29).

Just as children are blessed by learning from Godly parents, these parents can be blessed by following their children’s example of wonder, faith and trust. Even the most worldly and jaded adult may see the world anew through the eyes of their children, as they discover the beauty in God’s creation (Psalm 19:1) pointing so clearly to the Creator. The creation reveals to us the invisible things of God, His eternal power and Godhead, or the Trinity reflected in the Triune nature of all that God designed (Romans 1:19-20).

Jesus Himself said that we need to receive His kingdom as a child would. Children do not rely on their own strength, wisdom and pride as much as adults do, so it is easier in some ways for them to be saved. Adults have much to learn from having childlike faith, trusting Him completely and honoring Him as Our Father (Luke 18:15-17; Matthew 18:2-6). In contrast, adults tend to question God, to think their own wisdom is greater than Bible truth (Proverbs 3:5-6), and to rely on their own flesh instead of His power (2 Corinthians 12:9).

In our church, and I’m sure in others also, unsaved parents may bring children to Vacation Bible School or other church activities as an inexpensive outing for the children that frees up the parents’ time. The children may be saved by hearing the Gospel, by realizing they are sinners and trusting in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ as the only Way to Heaven (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; John 14:1-6). Unsaved relatives who come to see them baptized may also hear the Gospel and trust in Christ!

A Biblical example of childlike faith resulting in salvation for the parents is found in Rahab (Hebrews 11:31), a pagan prostitute who believed in Joshua’s God and hid him and his men from their enemies. As a result, Joshua saved not only Rahab, but her father's household, and all that she had. Among those saved were her father, her mother, and her brethren (Joshua 6:23-25),

All of us should follow Jesus’ example of loving, blessing and honoring children with the gift of our time, presence, and treasure, and He will reward us as if we bestowed this kindness on Him personally. On the other hand, God’s wrath, anger and judgment will pour out on those who deceive, abandon or abuse children (Matthew 18:5-6).

If we raise our children according to God’s plan, they are more likely to follow His commandments for how they treat us, how they relate to God, and how they live (Proverbs 13:1; 3:1-4; Deuteronomy 5:16; Ephesians 6:2).

Being a parent is one of God’s greatest blessings, yet one of the most awesome responsibilities He entrusts to us. There is no more important, rewarding and fruitful ministry than to raise a child according to God’s plan, rejoice as they are saved, and be blessed as they return our loving care in our later years.

May God bless all parents with His wisdom, love, and grace!

3 John 1:4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.

© 2014 Laurie Collett
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