Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Past Does Not Define Me

This is a hand-written essay and illustration by my son, Anders when he was six-years-old. 

How Giraffes Got their Long Necks.
Once upon a time, long long ago, giraffes did not have long necks. They could not eat leaves from trees. They were starving. When it was fall, they could not reach down to get them. They could not drink water from the lakes. There was a ditch nearby and one giraffe wanted to know what was in it. She went to find out. She asked an earthworm this question, but he didn't answer. So she went to the ditch and climbed in. When she got in, her neck stretched. It never grew back. That is how giraffes got their long necks.

I spent much of yesterday again pouring through old cartons of school work and memorabilia from my children's childhood. Anders was very precocious and most of his work at that age involved designing intricate road systems for the city. It was an intellectual departure for him to contemplate how nature was designed the way it was designed.

He is now a PhD student at MIT. His inquisitive mind never stopped pursuing knowledge.

Meanwhile, as I was going through old files in working towards the ultimate goal of downsizing to a condo, I found some old diaries of mine. This photo is of one of the illustrations I'd tucked in my diary, in between pages giving a detailed exegesis of the Batman and Robin TV shows.

In case the picture isn't clear, I have drawn a carefully exact picture of Batman and Robin, and labeled the color scheme of every part of their costume. It is clear where my son got his brilliant, inquisitive mind...right...?

And here is a poem I wrote in middle school:

The Child
At birth the child is a joy to behold,
A rocking cradle of shining gold. 
At one the child is brother's joy,
A sparkling wonder of baby boy.
At two the child, so cute to walk,
A rarely felt honor to hear him talk.
At three the child has learned to say "no".
A discouraging language destined to grow.
At four the child screams all day.
Take the child and throw him away.

I guess I had not quite yet developed a sense of the sanctity of life...

In my defense, I didn't know Jesus back then. I didn't come to know the Lord till I was 29 years old, and frankly...the difference was obvious. I cringe when I think of who I was before I gave my life to Christ. Fortunately, we are not defined by our past.

Philippians 3:13 says: Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 

Fortunately, that is what happened to me. Once I knew Christ, my life changed. In fact,  that dichotomy was evident when I completed a psychological inventory required when my husband was applying for a job in ministry some years ago. The results flummoxed the test interpreters.

"It is as though you are two people," they said.

"I am," I told them, "I am an entirely new creation in Christ. The old me was completely alien to what I have become in Jesus." The questions about my past reflected my years separated from God. The questions about my present reflected my new life in Christ.

Sometimes, the old me still rears its ugly head. I try to squash it back down. That battle will rage until the day I die and gratefully land at the feet of my Lord. It is a wearying, continual battle, but one we must fight as Christians. I have to keep remembering to forget the past, and press forward to the upward call of Christ. That upward call is what defines me now, despite the many stumbles along the way. The Bible tells me once I am in Christ, I am a new creation. THANK GOD for that!

This is a picture I sketched of Anders when he was reading a book and contemplating what he had learned. I love this sketch. He was 9-years-old in this picture. That means he was studying calculus. I am not kidding either. What I love about it is that he has been so caught up in his reading that his shoes are untied, and clearly nothing matters but his deep thoughts about what he has just learned. The external world means nothing compared to the thoughts in his impressive mind.

That's how I felt when I first fell in love with Jesus. I could not get enough of the Bible. I read it cover to cover, over and over.  Nothing mattered but my deep thoughts about what I had just learned.

Not even Batman and Robin....

2 Corinthians 5:17

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.