The Real Legacy Work

The Real Legacy Work

Posted by jimgrier on January 23, 2015

Last month I had the chance to see my son graduate high school. Well technically he’s my stepson but I consider him my son. It was quite the moment, you see, we are a blended family and like many blended families the issues that confronted us at sometimes seemed overwhelming. Just like the saying that goes “nothing can prepare you for marriage,” nothing can prepare anyone for a blended family. In fact, there were times when I didn’t know if my son would make it to high school. But to put this in perspective, my son grew up in the family environment that collectively involved 6 dysfunctional adults all of us dealing with the ramifications of divorce and the legacy it left behind.  So, my son and myself were thrown together per se, like ships in the storm trying exchange passengers. We didn’t have a lot of reference points of commonality. When my son arrived in 2009 from China, he spoke about 10 words in English. Complicating the situation, was a 45-year-old male trying to relate to a 9-year-old from a different culture.

For my part I brought a ton of baggage, and my son was trying to deal with a world turned upside down originally intended to be an intact family involving his biological parents. I’m afraid he got the short end of the stick on that deal as any child of divorce knows. But this reflection is about legacies… And while there is a host of short stories I could tell that could make a good read, that would really be a sideshow to the main event.

The real legacy was, what was transpiring in me for the 9 years until my son’s graduation. You see there were many times I considered my parenting “technique” to be the primary tool of raising a child, replete with impeccable, irreproachable information and years of experience and adolescent social work.  I was sorely mistaken! The real work of wisdom, was God, who little by little, was transforming me during this period one painful, reluctantly unconscious, self-reflecting moment at a time. In blended families, it’s easy to fall into a power struggle between stepparents and stepchildren. This is, by the way, remarkably similar to the power struggle that takes place personally between us and God. I don’t know how many times instead of leading like Jesus, I defaulted to an authoritarian mindset that “I’m the parent, you’re the child, therefore you do as I think” as opposed to acknowledging the basic principle people follow real leadership, and absent that, they might be pressed into reluctant service. By the way, if you expect your child to read your mind, get used to disappointment. They need, just like us to hear the same directives over and over.

I’m thankful God, our Father is a lot more gracious than I was.

One of the painful turning points that changed my perspective was when I realized that having lost my kids in my own divorce probably contributed to a dose of ill applied resentment at having to raise my wife’s son while losing my own kids in a custody battle. We never really get far from our wounds and those intrusions into our spiritual and emotional spaces are like the rock thrown into the pond. The ripple effect expands far from the center. One of the most difficult things we do in the ministry of Sentinel for Christ is to help each other discern the entry points of wounding, and subsequently, the ripple effects on those we love. There’s a lot of confusion particularly in the church about whether it’s healthy or not to look back and reevaluate. We hear a lot about being in Christ and becoming a new creature, (2nd Corinthians 5:15) which of course is true but the new creature spoken of is the combined aspect of God’s justification of us who believe in Jesus atoning work on the cross, which is immediate in reference to the payment for our sin nature but longitudinal when it comes to the process of transformation.

Now that was quite a sentence but probably better coalesced as “God takes us in unconditionally as his children… through Jesus.... and begins the work of transforming us to become more like Jesus.”

It took time for me to understand how the entry wounds of my divorce, as well as my childhood, were directly related to my perception and assumptions. Think about it, how in the world does one accurately separate perception and assumption from healthy reality based perspective in the chaos of a human mind! In fact, it was ridiculously hard work. It still is, don’t for a moment conclude there is some final arrival when it comes to discipleship or parenting for that matter. God had to teach me how my past legacy had formed a very specific lens and how I viewed my stepson, his intentions, and the difference between what I thought was important, what was real, versus what God’s Intent for his life may be. I wasted far too much time focusing on winning the power struggle between the two of us as opposed to asking for God’s help in being the man my stepson needed me to be to support God’s intent for his life. I didn’t because I resented raising someone else’s child when I had lost my own. In fact, I’m chagrined to admit most of my prayers were more akin to “God please change this or that in my son’s behavior.” Isn’t it amazing how wonderfully eloquent our prayers can be sometimes, and their intent so lofty seemingly in the best interest of someone else. In reality, even after 40 years as a disciple of Christ most of my prayers arise out of my own convenience. When we understand the ripple effect of wounding, we begin to understand the issues of loss of personal power.

So, if anything good has manifested in my son’s life, it must be attributed to God. You see it was God’s supernatural Spirit living in my heart which repeatedly confronted the genuineness of my intentions. Realizing how completely inept I was to step into my son’s life and fill the void left from his own parent’s divorce, somewhere this realization became a mantra. It became a regular spiritual consciousness that surrounded our relationship reminding me it was God who was ultimately my son’s perfect father, certainly not me, or his own father, who like me did the best or worst in the context of the circumstance.

God’s best work with us is in revealing how desperately much we need him in everything.

This is really what the Bible is referring to it uses the word faith. Faith, is not a measure of what we invest in God. On the contrary, faith is what God produces in us. Faith by the way, is inseparable from the process of believing. We simply believe, which means “to think to be true, to be persuaded of, to credit, or to place confidence in” is the spiritual phenomena of Jesus supernaturally unveiling within our heart the missing link in life is God’s restoration of our being with His magnificent self through the payment for our rebellion, and refusal to admit what we are as human beings… broken, without meaning, and profoundly self-seeking. When we come to a knowledge about Jesus and his death and resurrection as a substitute for this terminal condition, and embrace its truth, we believe. We don’t believe because we academically studied the issue in depth. We believe because God’s Spirit opens up this truth in intimate fellowship with us which is as unforgettable as the sun cresting the horizon in an early morning sunrise. Contrary to human deliberation… it is a supernatural unveiling of the heart. This is what the Bible refers to when it uses the word “believe.” As much as intellectual Christians would like to emphasize intellectual deliberation,spiritual birth is orchestrated by God, not human savviness.

Our belief, or revealing of our desperate circumstance, and how it is remedied graciously in Jesus Christ results in God’s Spirit residing within us. And if we allow God to have his way, he will illuminate the areas of our wounds and deficiencies to conform us into something greater then ourselves that resembles his Son. This process of God revealing… and our, responding is spiritually managed and accomplished through God’s power, not ours in the process is what is understood as “faith.” The good news is for those in Christ God’s faithfulness in the effort is 100%, “For I am convinced that he who began a good work in you will see it through until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

I didn’t become something God could use for my family’s well-being because of personal wisdom or higher education. Honestly, human knowledge for the most part was a significant barrier to the issue of belief and faith. What did work was when God revealed the entry points of wounding, my human limitations, and supernaturally compelled me to grasp for his Son Jesus. This is a spiritual phenomenon no man or woman can orchestrate on their own. On the contrary, it is a work of God working with our free will to induce relationship with him as our Father. We, as an expression of our thankfulness choose to work with God’s Spirit in the process of regeneration or fight against it. 

However, and it’s is important to remember, whether we choose to work in cooperation with God or not, the process of becoming like Christ is difficult work as God divinely works to unwrap the tangled wounds of our lives so are point of reference is life… not wounding. Either way the ripple effects penetrate every human being around us in proportion to the depth, quality, and demands of our relationships.  Wanna be a good parent, spouse etc.?  Learn to be a good disciple first.

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