Monthly Archives: August 2012

What Happened to Our Empty Nest?

Joe the Adaptable

Our family dog, Joe, is smarter than me in some ways, which only makes him of average intelligence in the dog world. Still, he adapts well. He had to because my daughter and son-in-law moved in with us and brought their two dogs and one plump cat. The kids and critters have been with us since last fall.

Our situation is not unique. The multi-year bad economy and poor employment prospects have forced many young people to retreat to the sanctuary of mom and dad’s abode. This brings new meaning to the word “coexist.”

In our situation, my daughter went away to college and earned her Master’s degree only to graduate in the middle of a stagnant economy. She got married while in college. Her husband completed his undergrad degree around the same time. They both worked while going to school. Our daughter and son-in-law are responsible young adults. After college, and for all practical purposes, there simply were no good jobs in their chosen fields and on which a person could earn a living. Hence, we encouraged them to move in with us on a temporary basis. They put some of their belongings in storage and the rest came to our house. It’s been a good experience, though our living arrangements present some challenges.

Cindy and I had grown accustomed to the empty nest. (Well, I had.) Fortunately, our adult kids (an oxymoron) are intelligent, ambitious, and articulate, which makes it easier to treat them like adults. That said, living in close quarters means making adjustments. We have a typical three-bedroom two-bath house in the burbs. It doesn’t have a lot of room. I can no longer lounge bare-chested in front of the computer or television while sporting the latest style in Fruit of the Loom boxers. (Well, I could but I can’t afford to pay for the counseling the kids would require.)

There is one television in the house so we have to compromise on the programming we watch. The volume of food in our refrigerator has increased. Between us, there is tremendous variety in our favorite types of cuisine, dietary restrictions, and preferred beverages. We now have four cars parked in front of our house instead of two. With so many critters living under the same roof, there is a bit of a problem with hair on the furniture. The kids recently landed jobs where they often work afternoons and evenings. Cindy and I go to bed early. We have to be quiet when we get up in the morning while the kids sleep. The kids have to be quiet when they come home from work at night while we sleep.

Each family’s situation is different, but here are a couple of ideas that might help others seeking harmony when married adult children move in with mom and dad: It helps us coexist by resisting the urge to insert our parental opinion into the disagreements between our kids. We let them work it out. At times, this can be hard for some parents to do, especially when we observe our kids trying to navigate turbulent relational waters that we sailed long ago. Of course this non-interference rule does not apply if one of the kids is being violent or abusive.

Additionally, we older folk can feel like we need to set an example by pretending to have all the kinks worked out of our marriages. This is not likely to fool young adults. It’s more important to be real, demonstrate commitment, and have a heart that always desires reconciliation. No grudges allowed.

On a practical day to day basis, it helps to maintain harmony in the house when each person takes ownership of chores that they like to do, or detest the least. For instance, my daughter loves to cook and so she blesses us with her delicious cuisine. I prefer to unload the dishwasher and Cindy loads the dishwasher.

This season of coexistence with our kids has been good for me. As an introvert, I tend to be too reclusive. Living with my adult children draws me out of my introversion. I still get to withdraw into the den to recharge my mental batteries, but not at the expense of maintaining a healthy relationship with our kids.

Fortunately, we each share a belief in Christ, not that belief by itself is a guarantee of harmony. But having a baseline of shared values and a desire to learn to live well with each other goes a long way towards achieving harmony between adults who are at different stages of life yet living under the same roof. If you spend much time in the Scriptures, it becomes clear that Christ enjoyed living with his people. He brought people of tremendous differences together into a deep relationship with him and each other. He still does.

Some day in the near future the kids will move out. Joe hasn’t said anything, but I get the feeling he’ll be sad when they go, even though he knows it is in their best interest to be independent.

Abandoned

Does God ever abandon people? If necessary, yes. Now before you demand that I turn in my saint light card, let’s take a look at the Apostle Paul’s teaching about God’s response to people who don’t worship him as he is or, at the very least, thank him. It is found in Romans 1:21 and 24: “Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like . . . So God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired . . .”

For some people that’s an open invitation to party time. But if that verse doesn’t strike you as a harsh response, think about the implications. It means indulging debase passions to the point of enslavement to those passions. Who, in their right mind, would want to give more control to their sex addiction, or their eating disorder, or their insobriety, or their cat-hoarding? (My personal demon.)

What’s the solution? Worship God for who he is, not what we want him to be. Also, be thankful to God for all he has done. A grateful heart can stimulate the grace of God to action. And it is God’s grace that protects us from ourselves and holds our demons at bay.

Some in our culture reject God and religion in the name of personal freedom. They are like hedonists and bohemians. It’s ironic, in a tragic way, that ultimately they will not get the freedom they desire. Here is what Romans 1:29-31 says are the outcomes when God abandons people to their debase desires:

“Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip. They are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They invent new ways of sinning, and they disobey their parents. They refuse to understand, break their promises, are heartless, and have no mercy.”

Well, that’s definitely not the high-society bunch . . . or maybe it is. It sounds like something out of the Lord of the Flies. Here’s my point: We can’t take God’s grace for granted and it is his grace that not only forgives but also assists us in defeating chronic sins in our lives. To that end, it is very important to reject the temptation to reinvent God.

Tempted

In Matthew 26:41 Jesus tells his disciples: “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

In this verse the word “Watch” means to give strict attention, to be cautious. It almost sounds like temptation is a place we can stumble into by accident, if accident you call it. It’s not necessarily a physical place, but a place just before an action.

I was at the California State Fair a few days ago with my family. After a couple hours of seeing the sights, I headed for the rest room. Ahead of me were two young ladies who were staggering (not in a flattering way) because they were drunk. As they approached the rest room, one turned left towards the women’s side while the other approached the men’s side. She was almost all the way in before the warning bells went off in her pickled brain. Looking about she suddenly realized she was in a crowd of the opposite gender. She did an abrupt about-face and headed straight out to find the women’s side. The State Fair never disappoints with endless opportunities for entertainment.

Still, who among us hasn’t, through inattention, nearly walked into the wrong rest room? Temptation and sin are like that. If we are not constantly on guard we will end up in the wrong place. It’s often a place where we, strangely enough, already know temptation has a strong influence over us. That’s why Jesus instructs us to also pray. When we pray, God gives us knowledge and wisdom to identify and avoid the steps that lead to temptation. Sometimes he even intervenes by giving us the sudden strength to reject temptation and walk away from a sin. With God’s help we can chisel away at the power of sin in our lives. This is what the theologians call the process of sanctification.

Why fight temptation and sin? To be free!

Guns or the Jesus Way

There was a predictable spike in gun sales after the Aurora Colorado shootings. While perusing the news, I stumbled upon an interesting article on this subject in a Christian publication. The writer of the article favored gun ownership as the last line of self-defense when other options have been unsuccessful. The comments about the article generally fell into two camps: (1) Those who believe it is acceptable for Christians to own a gun for self-defense and to protect the weak. (2) Those who detest guns, or fear guns, and see no place for the them in the life of any Christian who follows the instructions of Christ that we are not to resist evil people (the turn-the-other-cheek doctrine). This debate has been going on for a long time.

In Matthew 26:51-52 Jesus is being arrested in the garden when one of his followers pulls a sword and hacks off the ear of a servant of the high priest. (That had to hurt.) Anyhow, Jesus immediately tells his followers to stand down. This is where Jesus utters those famous words that whoever lives by the sword will die by the sword.

But hop over to the same story in Luke 22 and check out something that can be easily overlooked in this scene. In Luke 22:36, a short time before Jesus was arrested, he was talking to his disciples about the travel supplies they would need on their journeys to spread the gospel. He told them to pack a sword.

A team of theologians could write an exhaustive commentary on the apparent conflict between Jesus advising his disciples to take a sword on their journeys and, almost in the same breath, telling them that those who live by the sword will perish by the sword. Permit me to throw in my two cents worth. I notice in Luke 22 that Jesus is trying to tell his disciples deep truths about himself and the fulfillment of Scriptures. His ministry is almost over and his disciples, after years of instruction, do not fully comprehend all that Jesus has taught them. When he tells them to take a sword as part of their travel supplies, they quickly and enthusiastically respond that they already have two swords. Jesus tells them that’s enough swords. I can almost hear Jesus’ sigh of exasperation. His disciples understand the purpose of taking swords on their journey but they don’t seem to understand what Jesus is about to do on the cross for humanity.

Christ knows that his followers live in a dangerous, often lethal, and irrational world. Self-defense against criminals and defending the weak are not the same as enduring persecution for following Christ. However, relying too much on the sword (i.e. the gun) for protection in this life puts us in even greater danger because the gun can lure us into a false feeling of security, or exacerbate our fears. In other words, genuine peace of mind must first come from God.

In the interest of full disclosure, I own a gun. But the gun doesn’t give me as much peace when I put my head on the pillow at night as verses like Psalm 3:5: “I lay down and slept, yet I woke up in safety, for the Lord was watching over me.”

Here’s my point: The gun is a tool that deals with symptoms, not the cause of evil. If we want to impact the root cause of humanity’s ills, we need to apply the majority of our efforts at wielding tools like the word of God and living a genuine Christian life. Ultimately, it’s Christ who transforms hearts from evil to good.