How To Know Whether Or Not You Are Ready To Be A Mother:
The Mess Test: Smear peanut butter on the couch. Put a fish stick BEHIND the couch…and leave it there all summer.
The Toy Test: Buy a 55-gallon drum of LEGOs (if LEGOs aren’t available, substitute roofing tacks). Spread them all over the house. Then, put on a blindfold and walk from the bedroom to the bathroom without screaming.
The Grocery Store Test: Get two goats and take them with you to the grocery store. Always keep them in sight and pay for anything they eat or damage.
The Feeding Test: Get an empty gallon milk jug. Fill it halfway with water. Hang it from the ceiling with a rope. Start the jug swinging. Try to insert spoonfuls of soggy Fruit Loops into the mouth of the jug, while pretending to be an airplane. Then…pour the contents of the jug on the floor.
The Overnight Test: Get a 12-pound bag of sand. Soak it thoroughly in water. At 8PM, hold the bag in your arms for an hour while you waltz and hum. Lay the bag down and set your alarm for 10PM. Get up, pick up the bag, and sing every song you’ve ever heard. Then, begin making up songs. Keep this up until 4AM. Then, set your alarm for 5AM. Get up, make breakfast…and keep this up for five years while looking cheerful.
Last week, I shared that, in 590AD, Pope Gregory defined the 7 Deadly Sins as lust, wrath, gluttony, greed, sloth, envy and pride. At the time, he also included a counter-balancing set of values that he said we should adopt. That set of “counter-balances” has become known as the 7 Heavenly Virtues. We are spending a total of 7 weeks immersing ourselves in these lists in an effort to identify and celebrate our own strengths as well as name areas of our lives that perhaps need more attention.
Last week, we also established that “sin”- in the Greek “hamartia”- means “to miss the mark”. We also established that “virtue”- in the Greek “arete'”- means “uprightness, goodness, moral excellence”.
We started this series last week with a challenging virtue- Chastity, the counter-balance to the sin of lust. Today, we look at another challenging virtue- patience- which is the counter-balance to wrath. With all of that as a backdrop, here is today’s main Scripture:
Luke 8:9-15 And when His disciples asked Him what this parable meant, He said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’ Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.
Jesus has been traveling and teaching at this point. He has a substantial crowd following Him and He offers up what we have come to know as The Parable of the Sower. You know the one- “a sower went to sow some seed…” As the parable unfolds, the seed lands in a variety of places and where it lands impacts how it grows. The people listen but seem to not understand the meaning- they miss the symbolism. So, the disciples start questioning Jesus about what the parable meant.
He explains to them that the seed is the Word of God and the different environments where the seed falls are the different people who hear the Word. Where they are in their lives impacts how they hear and receive the Word.
Forgiveness and mercy that serve as a counterbalance to wrath.
You could preach for several Sundays on this passage. Each group who receives the Word has a different response to it and each response is worth digging into. But we only have SO much time, so we will focus on the LAST group of people- the GOOD soil, those who not only hear the Word but take it to heart…a good and honest heart. What is the outcome for them? The outcome is simple- they will bear fruit with patience.
Notice I said the outcome was “simple”- I did NOT say it was “easy”. There’s a HUGE difference. Now, at this point in the sermon, I need to pause and explain something. I had a “close” written for this sermon as of yesterday at 4PM. And then…my family came home from the movies! We went to see the Avengers: Infinity War movie yesterday. We like to see those kinds of movies as a family, so we waited until our older son was home so that the four of us could go together. We had errands in the morning sand plans in the later afternoon, so we went to the noon showing.
We drove “into town” (a 45-minute drive), leaving a little earlier than we might have to accommodate for any Saturday traffic- either on the roads or in the theater. We arrive there a good 25-30 minutes before the movie started. I had already bought the tickets online and downloaded them into my phone, so when we walked in, I went and stood in line at the ticket booth to get a hearing assist device (a MUST for me at a movie theater these days!) while the rest of them stood in the concessions line.
We rendezvoused, got straws and napkins and headed intro the theater. It was NEARLY empty and the seats we like, in the second row of the second section, behind the handicapped seating, so that we have the extra leg room the railing BEHIND the handicapped seating provides. We settled in. About 5 minutes after we sat down, a family, complete with a LITTLE kid, came in, looked around this nearly empty theater…and then slid in the row RIGHT behind us! (Why people do that I will NEVER know!) Their little kid ended up RIGHT behind me. (You can smell this one coming, can’t you?!) I made sure the hearing assist device worked (usually the first one they give me DOESN’T and I have to run and trade it out for another one before the movie starts!) It worked. We chatted for a few minutes and then the previews started. After exactly 427 previews, the movie (which we paid GOOD money to see) started. And soon after that…the inevitable “kicking the back of my seat” started! And there WAS licking. And nudging. And pushing. And did I mention kicking?
I tried to be patient. So, for a bit, I ignored it. And then, it started to grate on me. And as I’ve shared before, I struggle more than most people would realize with anger issues. So, as the movie went on, I got madder and madder. I tried turning around and shooting them “the stink eye”. I tried shoving BACK the second I felt those “dear little feet” against the back of my seat. I tried everything I could think of to be civil- all the while getting madder and madder.
BUT- I didn’t want to make a scene and ruin the experience for my family, so I bit my tongue. I decided that, when the movie was over, I would turn around and say something. Nothing mean. Nothing angry. Just…something. So, as I watched the movie, I “wrote” what I was going to say in my head. And here it is, “Just some friendly advice, but the next time you bring your child into a nearly EMPTY movie theater, perhaps you could choose to sit somewhere…ANYWHERE…other than in the ONE place in the ENTIRE theater where they could spend the movie kicking the occupied seat in front of them.”
I watched the movie waiting for my moment. And when the movie ended, I thought to myself, “Here’s your moment. Be kind but firm.” And…they hopped up out of their seats and took off like a bat out of H-E-DOUBLE HOCKEY STICKS before I could even turn around! It was like making an awesome dish for dinner…and dropping it on the floor on the way to the table! They say that revenge is a dish best served cold. I never even got to get my revenge out of the fridge, let alone SERVE it!
And at that moment- it struck me! I was less than 24 hours away from preaching about patience…and God JUST gave me a powerful reminder on the subject! That kid obviously hadn’t been taught how to behave properly in that setting, so it was NOT his fault. And frankly, those parents were doing the best they could. I was the one who had to make the choice- be a jerk or show some grace…some patience. And God, Who knows me ALL too well, decided to give me a powerful lesson on grace…and patience!
It seems appropriate to consider patience on Mother’s Day. Mothers have their patience tested every day in nearly every way. We ALL have our patience tested regularly. The question ISN’T “will you need to HAVE patience today?” The question IS, “WILL you have patience today?” And I would argue that how you answer that question goes a LONG way to telling you how far you’ve come…and how far you still need to go…on your Christian walk. A heart that holds fast to the Word will bear fruit…with patience!