Friday, July 8, 2011

Sanctification by Community Pool

Last summer we freeloaded on some friends a number of times rather than joining a community pool ourselves. In my estimation, Josh was still young enough that being at the pool was less fun and more work.  Going occasionally was good but going all the time sounded exhausting.

This year, however, after another successful year of preschool, a great first season of sports and still no baby to be cared for, we thought it was good timing to join a pool and Josh was really excited about the prospect of making new friends and learning to dive for rockets at the bottom of the pool.  I was, I think, blissfully unaware of the challenges to my patience that awaited.

Apparently my inability to even desire to understand teenagers or treat them with much patience was about to become a big liability in terms of pool enjoyment.

We've been going to the pool for a month now. Sometimes as a whole family, sometimes we invite friends, sometimes we end up being the only people there.  I have learned quickly when the "right" time of day is to go. Namely, the time of day when the fewest teenagers will be there. You see, in one short month, I have overheard all the gossip I'd care to, witnessed plenty of teenage mockery and disdain, been splashed, jumped on, swum into, seen my child's rockets stolen from right under him as he was about to dive, been used as a human shield in "marco polo" and watched my own 4-year old pushed out of the way while he was attempting to swim. All of this has been executed without a single "excuse me" or "sorry". Not a single one.

Now, I'm not the kind of person to randomly blow up at a person in the grocery store who does something rude or even really get too worked up in general when people are thoughtless.  But there have been moments this summer, and I'm ashamed to say many of them, when my very first inclination was to reach out and slap one of these kids across the face. The rage that has welled up in me when I've been knocked over or when my four-year old has asked me, ever so sweetly, "why do they keep taking my rockets, Mommy?" has overwhelmed me at times. It's like that surprising first moment in parenting when your child makes you so mad you could scream and you finally understand why your parents got so worked up when you did things wrong as a child.  My anger has surprised and confused me which is amusing because when I really think about it, I'm not surprised at all.

Most of us feel a righteousness in angry response if our space is invaded, if an injustice occurs or if our young are threatened.  I feel all of these things at once at the pool on a pretty regular basis. But the real reason I'm not surprised is because I've seen my heart. I've seen the ways I self-protect, the ways I choose myself and my family over others, the ways I choose "me"  and my agenda all the time. Rather than trying to interact with these teens and see if there's some greater way that I can care for them, I stand far off. I judge. I seethe. I complain. I rail about parents who can't teach their kids manners and vow that my child will be different. And I feel justified.

So, this morning, when I'm faced with a rainy day and no pool prospects, I'm taking pause. What does the Lord have for me at the community pool?  What can my child learn about God in how I treat these teens who don't treat us well? What can I learn in humbling myself and letting Him speak and act through me?  What do these teens need from Him?  I am more aware than ever of my need for His grace in this process of sanctification, of becoming more and more like Him.  Since I'm pretty sure Jesus wouldn't actually reach out and slap these kids, I'm taking pause.

Next time I pack for the pool, I'll be sure to not only include our diving rockets, but a healthy dose of grace, mercy, patience and self-awareness.  Maybe God will do something really crazy in the middle of "marco polo" and surprise me. 

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