There is a scene in the movie Footloose, the 1984 version with Kevin Bacon (does the newer version even really count?!), where the character Ariel attempts to speak with her father and he is too busy. Ariel seems to be used to not having her father pay attention, other than attempt to control her through religion, while he seems to be everything to everyone else in the church he leads and the community he is a part of. The story line seemingly points out this behavior of her father as being part of the reason Ariel becomes a rebellious, promiscuous teen – one who is slapped in the church of all places by her father, after sharing she is no longer a virgin.
Of all the scenes, why is this one coming to mind? Trust me, I enjoy the scene where Kevin Bacon is dancing solo in the barn, or where Willard is learning to dance to “Let’s Hear It for the Boys”, much more!
As God led me into ministry over the years, I have often thought of this scene. I would pray the Lord would keep me aware of what was going on in my home, and with my children. I’ve prayed He would help me not grow more concerned with the needs of others, MORE than that of those just down the hall from me. I have prayed He would help me always operate from a place of love, rather than religion.
I have seen one too many pastor’s kids slip away, unbeknownst to the shepherd God entrusted them to. I have heard too many folks judge the behavior of a child, or parent, or both, simply because the parent chose to live a life for others, rather than self, and their kiddos appeared to be experiencing growing pains and learning things the “hard way”. I have seen people who have professed the love of Jesus too often be the harshest and most judgmental when folks they held to an unknown (and often unrealistic) standard, failed or made mistakes, withdrawing or becoming overbearing. I have seen those same folks be happy to expose the faults of others and even propagate them in their circles of influence – defaming the child and the parent. After all, if the parent were paying more attention…or if the parent was so “right”… Little Johnny wouldn’t be making such blatant mistakes while appearing so white-washed-perfect, right?
You and I both know we don’t look to movies to guide us in life, we look to the Word of God – both written and spoken to us in the prayer closet. Recently, I’ve had to do just that. My kiddo messed up – BIG TIME. The details aren’t important, but sharing a few things the Lord has led me to via the circumstances, is.
Jesus was twelve when He began to operate in His free will and listening to His heavenly Father (Luke 2:42, 48-49 MEV). If at this age He believed He should be free to follow after the Lord, then at this age one can conclude kiddos begin to exercise their own free will and ability to make their own decisions – we hope they are good choices, but sometimes they aren’t. My husband and I chose to not be controlling with our kiddos. We had experienced this and it was no bueno. We had also witnessed friends who were controlling, even wielding religion over their children – again, no bueno. I trusted the Lord would lead and guide through me by His Spirit, and He has.
In fact, when the situation with my kiddo came up, I knew the truth right away. I wasn’t consumed by the ministry or helping others to the point of oblivion in my own home. No, He provided revelation. But He wouldn’t trump the free will of my soon to be adult child and force her to be honest. He did however pursue her to the point where the conviction He was spurring moved her to being honest and then repentance. He is good like that.
Onlookers are often dismayed at how good God can be towards those who follow after Him with all their heart, mind, soul and strength. Because their pursuit may be lukewarm (or nonexistent) at best when compared to others on fire, they often “chomp at the bit” to discover something that reaffirms the thought “no one can live life like (fill in the blank)”. When the scrutinized does make a mistake (and they will as long as they are a human being walking this earth) the thought is somehow affirmed and folks chatter, “See, I knew so-and-so wasn’t what they portray themselves to be”.
In our scenario, my daughter was concerned about the impact her decision would have on me. This wasn’t about me, it was about her. I knew the Scripture in Ezekiel, her sins are not mine, and mine are not hers. We are individually accountable. ‘Doesn’t the child pay for the parent’s sins?’ No! For if the child does what is just and right and keeps my decrees, that child will surely live. 20 The person who sins is the one who will die. The child will not be punished for the parent’s sins, and the parent will not be punished for the child’s sins. God doesn’t hold the parent accountable for the child’s sin, nor vice versa. It is often human beings who like to project this type of mindset. It is also human nature to want to punish, or make sure someone “learns their lesson”. Again, God is not wired this way.
Ezekiel 18:21 shares: But if wicked people turn away from all their sins and begin to obey my decrees and do what is just and right, they will surely live and not die. 22 All their past sins will be forgotten, and they will live because of the righteous things they have done. 23 “Do you think that I like to see wicked people die? says the Sovereign Lord. Of course not! I want them to turn from their wicked ways and live. 1 John 1:9 states it this way: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
But shouldn’t someone be held accountable? Shouldn’t they have to PAY for their actions? There needs to be some punishment! Again, when I look to Scripture, I see Jesus interact with a guy named Peter in a completely different manner. Peter did not want Jesus to obey God, by going to the cross. Sin is essentially disobedience to what God is instructing us to do through His Holy Spirit leading, at any given moment. Peter’s desire to have Jesus disobey was called out by Jesus and this is what He had to say in Mark 8: “Get behind Me, satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” Satan? Really? But did Jesus withdraw from Peter? Did he communicate to everyone in ear shot his weak and sophomoric mindset, warning all He could about Peter’s “issues”? No.
SIX DAYS LATER PETER SEES JESUS IN GLORY. After six days Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John and led them up a high mountain, alone by themselves. And He was transfigured before them. His garments became shiny, extremely white as snow, such as no launderer on earth could whiten them. Mark 9:2-3 MEV. One day Jesus is calling Peter out and paralleling him to satan, six days later He is lavishing Him with revelation and glory. I wonder how God feels when we seek to punish others rather than pursue reconciliation and His passionate purpose for them.
But what about repeat offenders? They must be taught a lesson. They must be stopped. You’re right, they should be taught. But the Lord is the One to do the teaching. He is the one to bring the justice. He is the one to bring the conviction. Any correction outside of consulting Him in prayer first, is futile and more damaging. Peter was a repeat offender. After denying Jesus three times and then going fishing, Jesus again blessed Peter rather than withhold from him or give him the cold shoulder. Luke 22:61-62, John 21:3, 6 Holy Spirit also gave Peter a boldness to preach a convicting message that then added 3,000 souls to the Kingdom of God in ONE DAY. Perhaps herein lies the issue, Jesus truly LOVED the way God needed Him to, and humans (even professing Christian ones) have a hard time with this command. Yes, this is a command.
Jesus was more concerned about covering Peter in love (1 Peter 4:8) in order for Him to reach and live out his call and destiny. I believe Jesus could see past the sins, denial, zeal and fleshly fervor of Peter and into all God had for Peter.
There is a lesson to be learned in every scenario. We learn things about ourselves, we learn about others, and we learn what God needs us to see when we look to Him FIRST and all other opinions second or third – if entertained at all. With each lesson we can choose to build up, learn and grow, and implement boundaries, or we can tear down, remain small in our limited understanding, and attempt to invoke vindication not ours to impose. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD. Leviticus 19:18
In the end all Ariel was looking for was her father to love her and guide her through her confusion, hurt and sorrow – she happened to be looking in the wrong places, while giving into the influences of the peers around her. Ren (Kevin Bacon) did not see her as her past mistakes or a girl he could take advantage of, but as a girl worthy of only a kiss, a beautiful dance and a tender heart. Her father? He was able to truly see his daughter, abandon religion and pursue relationship with her. Then everyone was able to dance!
I pray as we continue this dance of life, we are able to allow the Lord to lead, and joyfully follow, while dropping the stones in our hands in order to take His and be merciful, kind, forgiving and most importantly – love – to one another. I pray we are just as eager to see the plank in our own eye, as we are the splinter in others. I pray we are positioned to learn from one another and build one another up, rather than point fingers and do our best to tear one another down. Blessings!
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.