In September of 2004 a hurricane named Ivan waltzed into the Gulf of Mexico, toppled into Gulf Shores, Alabama and then tip toed across the southern United States and dove off the east coast. Ivan was not through though. He came up for air, headed south and then west across Florida and back into the gulf where he re-acclimated himself with the warm air and twirled himself to Louisiana. He was almost out of gas at that point but it was in Texas where his two step ended and Ivan was no more.
Just over a year later I named my son Ivan.
What was I thinking?
My Ivan is a dear, dear boy. A heart breaking sweet heart who dances and pounces and hugs and growls. He is a boy full of sunshine, who keeps a cloud full of wind and rain with him at all times, just in case. From very early on I saw his obstinate nature. His brows furrow well and his eyes can pierce the soul of those in authority and weigh their ability to remain steadfast in their convictions. He is not oblivious to the line, rather, he is desirous to see it’s strength and will push his full weight against it in search of security. It is not an insecurity that prods him to do it, it is more of an idealistic want for all to be well. A pro-active test of boundaries set about him.
This morning those lines and boundaries were stretched a bit. We went to church as usual and I left him in the competent care of Miss Sharon in the kindergarten classroom. He loves her and so do I. She taught Owen as well and has a strong and beautiful heart that desires good things for little children of that age. She was surprised when a cry came up from two little boys playing at the white board and saw blood trickling from the nose of one of them. Ivan had punched the young fellow for erasing his artwork and bloodied his nose. Later he kicked another boy who promptly kicked him back and soon Ivan was being marched down the hall to see Pastor Chris about his behavior.
I happened to see Sharon on my way into church and she let me know of the morning’s events. I was a little surprised but not shocked. I have seen Ivan’s behavior change in the last month. It may be a number of things contributing to it, but starting school, growing up and experiencing change has the ability to unleash that bit of storm he carries about. I waited for Kris to join me in the sanctuary and he immediately took leave and found Ivan in the children’s department. His intention was to deal with the problem but he was met by Pastor Joe who encouraged him to talk to Ivan but not to remove him from the service or dole out the punishment immediately. I am not one to argue with pastors, but I think Kris and I both would have preferred to handle things differently. In future we will not be swayed. Ivan, having been told he would receive a spanking upon reaching home, was in a bad humor the rest of the morning and acted as any boy condemned but not punished would act, ugly.
Interestingly, the sermon this morning was about life’s storms and I was tickled as I listened to Pastor Davis speak of Ivan. No, he didn’t mention him by name, but the sermon I heard was littered with Ivan analogies and escapades. One story in particular that encouraged me was about hurricane Andrew. The story (I’m unable to verify it but it’s a good story none the less) goes that after hurricane Andrew a reporter noticed a man whose home was the only one standing amid utter devastation on every side of him. The man was walking around picking up sticks and debris in his yard and the reporter asked him how his house had been able to withstand the storm. He explained that he had built the home himself and had carefully followed codes. “When the code said to use 2 x 6 roof trusses, I used 2 x 6 roof trusses, and it worked.”
I sat in my seat and felt refreshed. Good parenting isn’t a guarantee against problems just as good building isn’t a guarantee against storms. Good parenting is simply a way to get through those problems without losing everything in the process. Ivan (and Owen and Aron too) will bring storms into our lives now and then. We will be disappointed at times, we will be frustrated and heartbroken and we will certainly be questioning and concerned as they grow and push and stretch themselves into the man sized earth suits God has designed for them. I can look at all of this though without fear.
We are each given the opportunity to build our own home. Some choose to ignore what has worked in the past, calling it outdated and antiquated, choosing instead to use the latest most modern and contemporary blueprints, some cut corners to save money, some spend more than they have and others refuse to build for themselves at all, handing their responsibility to other authority figures, teachers, social workers and ultimately the government to build them something worry free to live in. My choices in marriage and parenting have not always fit into the status quot for marriage and parenting. I gave God my heart and allowed Him to fill it in choosing a mate for me. I met and married Kris without a lot of pondering over how perfect we were for each other. It was a matter of trust in the God who had introduced us and confirmed without question His desire for us to be together. I also give God my children and trust Him to fill them, protect them and lead them into maturity. Building a good home isn’t about how many experts I’ve listened to, my opinions, my function or disfunction, my convictions or even my genetics, it’s about my willingness to follow the codes.
Code number 1: Keep God first.
He is the Master Carpenter, the Builder and Maker, the Creator, the Author and Finisher, present in the beginning and faithful to the end. How foolish would I be to abandon His truth for my opinion? His Word is my footer and foundation. Nothing can move me because I am built upon this Rock.
Code number 2: Keep family second.
My spouse and my children will always find their needs considered in my heart second to God’s. In that fact they can always know they will be fulfilled. His will is that we prosper and be in health. Surrendering to that will cannot fail.
Code number 3: Keep the church doors swinging.
My zeal for the house of God will never falter because of Codes 1 and 2. My church family, my pastors, teachers, mentors, accountability partners, brothers and sisters, encouragers and prayer warriors are the roof trusses in my home. They hold things together for me when wind finds its way through doors and windows. When some folks lose their top, I will be covered. I love my God and find refreshment in His house, I love my family and know they will remain loved and prayed for through the covering of my church family.
Code number 4: Know the Word of God.
Every day must be a renewal of my interest and dependence on the Word of God. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. In the beginning was the Word and the Word was God and the Word was with God. Using each verse, each concept, parable and principle as the nails, pegs, screws and bolts of my home I am held up, held together and in every corner pierced by the presence of God Himself. His Word is what holds me upright and what sustains me when winds threaten to blow me down and rain and hail pound upon my resolve.
As pastor Davis showed us this morning it was before the storm when others were asleep that Jesus was up, alert, awake and experiencing the presence of God, so that in the storm He was so at peace He slept through the torrent of wind and waves. When everyone else was in a panic it was His voice that brought peace.
These codes have already been at work in my household. We are practicing protection and building our strength in the days of sunshine and I am without fear, without worry and completely at peace even as hurricane Ivan blows through my morning.
He is sitting near me now, quietly coloring a picture of Joseph and his coat of many colors that they talked about in Sunday school, content and peaceful, he is the sunshine I know God intends for him to be.