Why are you upset?
Preschoolers love to ask “why?” If you’re a parent, you’ve probably experienced those days in which you cringe at the never-ending question. It can seriously feel like the infinity line on a graph. Sometimes it’s just impossible to get to the bottom of it all. We have lived enough life to realize that at the end of those days, there’s really not a final answer. Nothing we say will bring closure.
So, we choose to cope with the overly-repeated question and we hope that our kids might actually listen, really hear, one answer in a million … and learn something that will stick. Yes, we press on, trying to answer the whys. And of course we would all admit to answering “just because” on occasion!
I was talking to a friend recently about resolutions. Although I don’t typically set a bunch of goals at the beginning of each new year, I do like to take the opportunity to assess things in my life. It’s a time to ask myself that all-important question. Why? I realize that the question is not always noble. As a parent, there was a big difference in my preschooler habitually asking why? because of a curious mind or lack of vocabulary and my preteen asking why? to avoid immediate obedience or to balk at my authority. In fact, the first time the question came up it was clearly a sign of pride and distrust. In Genesis 3:1, the serpent questioned God’s authority and instruction by tempting Eve to doubt. In essence he was asking Eve to think about it: why would God say that?
Today, I am not talking about a rebellious or doubtful kind of why. I quickly admit that I’ve had that adolescent attitude toward God from time to time, but that’s not what I desire. I am choosing to ask why? at the start of a new year because I want to understand what lies beneath the surface. It’s a new year’s gut check. I’m heeding my own sermon and applying what I believe to be very wise advice: “It’s not what you do or even believe that matters most, but why you do it or believe it.” The bible instructs us to avoid judging the motives of others, but shows us the importance of judging ourselves (i.e., 1 Corinthians 11). When he found himself depressed and discouraged, the Psalmist had to ask himself this very question. It was the only way to get to the bottom of it all. Lysa Terkeurst calls it soul integrity.
Not only at the beginning of a new year, but constantly we should check our motives and motivations regarding what we say and do. It’s such a fine line we walk as parents attempting to discern how to guide our kids to make the right choices for the right reasons. As growing Christ followers, a sign of maturing in grace is that we walk in holiness more and more because we want to, and less and less because we have to. We examine ourselves and allow God to shine a light in the areas of our heart that need to be exposed and transformed. As we do this, we change from the inside out.
Taking a mental assessment of my life at the beginning of a new year helps me renew my commitment to check my motives. Asking myself the why question, and answering honestly, encourages soul integrity in my life. It is a good thing to act kindly. It is even better to be filled with the Spirit in such a way that my heart is filled with kindness. We all have to start somewhere. Sometimes our actions or words don’t match our hearts, and we confess that and pray for God’s intervention. I so want Him to change what I do (or don’t do) and say (or don’t say) so that I look more like Him. But even more importantly I want Him to change the why of my heart!
I’ve discovered that the more I examine my own motives and pray for sincerity of heart, the more that God honors my desire. He is continuing to purify me and create in me a clean heart.
Love the Lord your God with all your HEART,
with all your SOUL, and with all your MIND.
This is the first and greatest commandment.
The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.