Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Miraculous Mundane

There's something in my personality that seeks the rollercoasters of life.  I love extremes, and my emotions follow suit.  I can be perfectly content sobbing with a dramatic movie and  feeeeeeling with all of my being.  My highs are very high, almost manic (which makes me an awesome, fun mom), and my lows are so very low, melodramatic, depressive even.

I admire my even-keeled husband, but I have no desire to be him.  I enjoy my ups and down, feeling every note played on my heartstrings vibrating across my entire being.

The downside to this, however, is that I want my spiritual life to be just as dramatic as my emotional life.  Maybe God works that way with some people, but I think He knows I could simply write my relationship with Him off as just another experience that my emotion-junkie self can pick up and put down at will.

So I look for miracles in the mundane.  I listen for God's voice in my routine.

How is God manifested in boredom?  God is the Creator of the universe, the Everlasting One!  Surely He has better things to do than show up in the daily interactions of my children, my spouse.  He won't be found in mountains of laundry, piles of dishes, or grimy windows.  He's, better than that!

But no.  I am coming to believe that the mundane is where God is the most active.  Yes, there are giant, miraculous events, like a loved one being brought back from death's door, or a person discovering a stranger has paid their mortgage.  It's easy to see God in the big events.

Spying God in the little things, the mundane, the every day is hard for me.  But I'm learning.  Listening.

Seeing His love and care when my four-year-old soothes her ten-month-old sister after a tumble.

Feeling His grace and forgiveness when I completely lose the plot in regards to parenting, and all five of my children surround me with platitudes, hugs, kisses, assurances of love, and promises that tomorrow is a new day, and I'll do better then.

Experiencing His providence through my sweet, over-worked husband, who day in and day out sacrifices his time at his job so that we don't have to give a second thought to our needs.  Everything is taken care of, from the home and vehicle maintenance to grocery shopping.

Watching my children deal with the messiness of life's emotions and relationships, often giving others the benefit of the doubt if feelings are bruised.

Having my heart both broken and swelling with pride when my eight-year-old son skips meals so he can take the time to pray for other children who do not have the luxury of food.

Overhearing my nine-year-old daughter read stories to her younger siblings and watching them all puppy-piled onto a bed or couch as they listen to the cadence of her grown-up girl voice, secure in the love of family.

Feeling the desire my children have for a relationship with us as parents, sensing the bifurcation of their desire to please us but also be true to their God-given personalities.

Being a vessel of service.  I have the privilege of lavishing love on the people in my life through my words and actions.   Like Christ washing the disciples' feet, I wash hands and faces (and clothes and dishes!), but mostly I see Christ's selflessness in my husband.  Together, we represent God's love and care to our children in our messy, mundane, miraculous existence.

 And isn't that where God lives?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The fallacy of original sin

The concept of original sin is not found in Judaism!  Instead, God says “the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” Youth, here, is derived from the word na’ar, referring to a male old enough to be a warrior or get married.  Judaism does not ascribe to the belief that infants and young children are capable of sin.  The Proverb so frequently quoted:
Foolishness (folly, impiety) [is] bound in the heart of a child (na’ar); [but] the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.
is actually referring to teens, at minimum.  Na'ar is a masculine Hebrew word that conveys the idea of being shaken off.  It is used twice to refer to younger boys (Moses and Samuel, respectively) because the term applied in their situations, but at the time was generally understood to refer to what we would call a young man.

The Hebrew word for sin is khata, meaning going astray.  It is also used as an archery term, missing the mark.  
Sin is a act, not a state of being.  It is a conscious choice to commit an act contrary to God or God's divine instruction, a deliberate choosing to disobey.  But God is gracious in His expectations of obedience.  Shema is the Hebrew word for obey, but it doesn't mean compliance as we so often use the word obey.  Instead, shema has the concept of hear, understand, obey.  It stands to reason that if I do not hear God's instruction, I cannot obey.  Also, if I hear, but do not understand and therefore do not comply or comply imperfectly, God doesn't consider my actions to be sin.  I can't go astray or miss the mark if I do not comprehend the path or have a mark at which to aim.

Judaism holds that atonement for sin is done through the right action. 
One time, when Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai was walking in Jerusalem with Rabbi Yehosua, they arrived at where the Temple now stood in ruins. "Woe to us" cried Rabbi Yehosua, "for this house where atonement was made for Israel's sins now lies in ruins!" Answered Rabban Yochanan, "We have another, equally important source of atonement, the practice of gemilut hasadim ("loving kindness"), as it is stated "I desire loving kindness and not sacrifice" (Hosea 6:6).”

Jesus fulfilled Judaic law and tradition when He atoned for all sin through His sacrifice.
So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.  And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. (Rom. 8:1-2)

Why, then, do we assume the worst in our children, then force them to atone for their sins through punishments of physical pain or deprivation?  All actions have consequences, yes, but going beyond those consequences into the realm of punishment makes a mockery of Christ's sacrifice wherein He took all the punishment for all sin, for all time.