Whenever I hear a song with a cello, the world stops. My mind wanders to a place that I can’t describe as anything but a “beautiful heartache.” There is something soul-stirring about the deep, resonating sound of the strings that, in the hands of the right musician, can take you through the depths of sadness and despair as well as the heights of hope and inspiration! Pretty amazing for a single stringed instrument.
It hit me recently, that the process of “sanctification” or being “set apart by God” somehow “sounds” like a cello. I know–“Say what?” Let me explain. Actually, listen to this so you can understand the sound I’m talking about, then read on! I am raising four daughters and one little Prince Charming. I know that might conjur up images of tambourines and kazoos more than cellos, but humor me. Two of my oldest daughters are teenagers. Yes, I accept your sympathy. My third daughter is standing at the rickety doorstep of teen years as well. Yup! Scary.
Within my hormone-drenched house is something even larger. We are Christians. That puts a completely different spin on the whole experience of raising teens in a world that is so painfully opposite of Christian values. If you are not a believer, you might wonder what I mean. Here are some examples. We drive past a giant billboard ad from Pepsi which shows a bunch of young people partying with the slogan, “Live for today!” Although the bible does say, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own,” in Matthew 6:34, it clearly is not a recommendation to live today by throwing your hands up in the air and waving them like you just don’t care. Of course the ad prompts some questioning and discussion which may or may not lead to some pretty cool “Aha Moments” when my kids realize that the ad is meant to sell soda, not to be a reliable guide for their lives. Such moments might also be met with brick walls. The kind that say, “Seriously Mom! It’s just an ad.” Sanctification–it’s about having a godly perspective of the world even when it’s not easy.
Another example would be music. Music is so widespread and such an ingrained part of culture that it is difficult for young people (and many adults) to discern what is good to listen to or not good. I, like many believers, often lean on Phillipians 4:8, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” So that is the yardstick by which we can judge what music we should listen to. It is definitely work bringing up children in an environment that has kind of given up on what is righteous and good. One of my kids asked me why President Obama and his wife like Beyonce so much and hold her up as a roll model for American children when she sings about really inappropriate things. The answer: Because even the President and the first lady are humans. They make mistakes. Sanctification–it’s about growing in the knowledge that only our Heavenly Father is infallible.
How are these experiences like the sound of a cello? As Christians, we are called to be “Christ-like.” This means that we should, even if it is a slow process, turn away from sin and grow in our faith. Sometimes we have to make choices that seem painful at the moment. Sometimes we have arguments over what is right and wrong. Sometimes we cry over relationships that must be ended because they are not bringing us closer to God. There is a depth of sorrow that accompanies sanctification, and if you are just looking at that single moment when hard choices have to be made, it might look like sadness or loss. Then, with God’s infinite grace, there will be shining moments, when one daughter encourages the other with Scripture that helped her get through a tough situation. Or when your little boy insists that he wants to pray and ask Jesus to forgive him of his sins and come into his heart and he wants to do it “right now.” There is the sweet, smiling melody of a child visibly battling her own will to say “No!” and choosing to obey because God would want her to do that.
Paul Washer said, “Because sanctification is progressive, you will spend the greater part of your life chasing other things. And those other things will leave you empty and that is why ‘the why’ of trials.” I know that the song doesn’t end as long as we are here on earth. But that’s okay, because as long as this song, that resonates with deep, sorrowful lows, offers hope of beautiful and glorious things to come, I will continue to be grateful for all of it.
What challenges do you have as a parent, to raise your kids according to Scripture, in a world that throws some ugly curveballs?