Friday, November 03, 2006

Learning to decrease

As I was starting my morning get-ready-for-the-day routine, a verse came floating into my mind, from John 3:

He must increase, but I must decrease. (John 3:30)

This was spoken by John the Baptist after some malcontents came to him to complain that Jesus was baptizing others. Perhaps they were a little confused that this man Jesus was interfering with the work of John. Of course, John knew exactly how to respond, and he humbly informed all who were listening that it was his job to decrease, while Jesus increased. Jesus was the reason John was preaching in the first place. He was to prepare the way for something better. John's assertion that he must decrease whereas Jesus was to increase was the correct way of thinking.

I was thinking about how this applies to me as a Christian woman. This principle of decreasing is not something that is restricted to John; it is for all of us. Paul reminds us of this in Philippians 2:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, thought he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:5-8)

This passages echoes what John says. To have this mind of Christ, we must make ourselves nothing; we must decrease.

But what does this look like in every day life? Where can we see this put into practice? I was thinking about this today with regard to my children. My kids are 17, 14 and 12. The natural course of things is for them to increasingly become independent. While we will still have a relationship, the future of our relationship is one where we must give up time with them, where we must give up control of some of their decisions, to trust them to do things on their own. Sometimes, it means seeing them widen their circle of friends, and spend time with other people who mean a lot to them. It means, eventually, allowing a spouse to become more important than their parents. How is this an example of me decreasing and Christ being increased? Because it is putting someone ahead of myself. Seeing my children become more independent can be a sacrifice, because it may mean that I have less time with them. It may mean that they don't follow my advice; it may mean that they make a decision that I don't like, but which they feel is the one God would have them make. It means allowing them to be guided by Christ on their own, without me harping at them and reminding them. It means trusting God that the way we have raised them has been a way that they will continue to embrace on their own. Ultimately, it's an act of faith. We relinquish control because we trust that God loves our children more than we do and wants what is best for them.

When our children are little, we as parents are often larger than life. We begin to shrink a little as they get older. Actually, when they are teenagers, we really shrink. The nice thing is that as our children get older and have children of their own, we get a little bigger again. However, the ultimate goal is not for me to be bigger in the life of my child than Christ. My desire for my children is not to see myself reign supreme in their lives, but for Christ to do so. The goal for both parent and child to be continually decreasing as Christ increases in our lives.

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