Think with me for a minute about that one thing in your child. That one thing that can both lift your heart and make you roll your eyes. That one thing that might even be a mirror of yourself. That one thing which, among many other things, makes your child unique.
That they get so focused on whatever they’re doing they lose track of time and can’t focus on anything else.
That stubbornness that can be so frustrating.
That creative way they seem to draw all their pictures.
That way they have of thinking that reminds you they have a whole world constructed in their minds.
That one thing.
Now think with me not of what that one thing looks like right now, because right now, it might indeed be frustrating. It might be maddening when you know they need to stop being so focused on the television that they listen to you asking them what they want to drink for dinner. It might cause you to want to pull your hair out that no matter how many times you logically explain a situation they are still committed to their own ideas. It might be endlessly aggravating that they always seem to be moving on from the small things like making the bed or cleaning the toothpaste out of the sink.
Don’t think about what it looks like right now. Think of what that same characteristic might look like having been filtered through the redemptive hands of God in Jesus Christ.
Think of the perseverance that redeemed stubbornness might come to, as your hard-headed son or daughter stays in a marriage or in a church 20 years from now even as it becomes difficult.
Think of the focus that redeemed single-mindedness might come to, as your TV watching child ruthlessly keeps their eyes fixed on Jesus no matter what it costs them.
Think of the courage that redeemed recklessness might come to, as your accident prone little boy or girl shamelessly speaks words of hope to those around them in their future life.
Think of that, and then feel your heart and soul begin to lift. That’s what redemption looks like. It’s God, taking these characteristics that, apart from Him, are expressed in greed, laziness, and self-centeredness, but then transforming them into something more. It’s not that the characteristic itself changes; it’s that God gives them an appropriate avenue for the expression of that characteristic.
Think of Paul, who described himself like this beginning in Philippians 3:12:
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
The crazy part is how active and vigorous the verb is that Paul uses in verse 12 and 14. He says that he is pressing on. In verse 14 it has a competitive, athletic contest feel to it. Maybe Paul is thinking of the Olympic Games which would have been a familiar sight to the Greek Philippians. Those games were originally made up of footraces and in those races the athletes would have to strain at the end, pressing hard towards the goal. The verbs mean to pursue. They mean to run hard. They mean to focus your energy and your effort. In fact, they are so vigorous, so competitive, even so violent, that they can be translated as persecute. It is the same verb, in fact, that Paul uses a participle of in verse 6 to describe himself before meeting Jesus.Then, he was “persecuting” the church.
For Paul, zeal – even to the point of obsession – was neutral. The question is not about zeal; it is about the object of that zeal and whether it is deserving of obsession. For the difference between Paul’s life then and Paul’s life after becoming a Christian was not his level of addiction. If anything, he was more preoccupied post-Christ than he was before. The difference is that he finally found something worth his obsession. He has finally found the true object of worth. His passion remained, but it was redeemed.
May it be with our children. May it be that those things which cause us daily frustration might move us to prayer as we dream about what those traits might become in the hands of a redemptive God.