I am raising four (Baby Bear has recently learned to scream, but I wouldn’t call him strong-willed) extremely strong-willed and painfully closely spaced children. And, it seems, we’ve just entered a new realm of self-assertiveness with the five-year-olds. After the sweat and hidden tears that accompanied wrestling them inside (in front of the neighbors) yesterday when they wanted to be outside, I put a finger-gun to my head and I pulled the trigger. For the record, I’m thinking that’s a sin. But I do think it’s worth sharing just in case I fail to mention my overwhelming, I-am-but-dust revealing, failures in parenting enough.
Confession time: Sometimes, as in at least once a day, this parenting thing kicks my
butt bottom, too.
If we could have put in our order for children back before we had any, I definitely wouldn’t have asked God for four children within sixteen months. I wouldn’t have thought I could do it. Of course, I would have been thinking about the whole four in diapers thing and the now infamous, “Do you ever sleep?!” line that has caused me to wonder, for the past five years, just how bad the circles under my eyes have gotten. I would have had no way to realize that the “four babies” stage was the absolute easiest, romancing and even fairy-tale resembling part of my parenting journey (thus far). I wouldn’t have known that teaching my children
love for God,
hatred for sin,
indifference to materialism,
joy in all circumstances,
love for the truth,
hatred for lies,
love for the world,
hatred for the things of the world,
how to pray,
how to not say ‘yuck’,
how to swallow spinach,
how to witness,
how to not judge,
how to recognize a stranger,
how to compliment,
how to not say ‘fat’,
how to not ask ‘is that a man or a woman?’,
how to share,
how to deal with a bad dream,
how to fight the devil,
how to think about themselves,
how to make positive confessions,
and how to respectfully correct their mother was the part that would drop me to my knees in prayer multiple times a day. I wouldn’t have known, because I simply wouldn’t have thought about it. Before my maternal heart was pricked to the deeply important, spiritually symbolic purpose of parenting, I couldn’t have had any idea.
There are several careers (that I can think of off the top of my head) where training is a constant part of the job. But none so much as with parenting. Even the very best parent is only an expert up to the age, stage and personality of their oldest child. If God gives us spouses to make us holy, He gives us children to keep us humble (as well as to reveal His heart toward us by imparting to us a small portion of His creative ability).
It’s when we embrace that holiness and that humility that we learn the difference between happiness and joy. And there is, I have learned, an enormous difference. Joy in humble parenting allows us to, when faced with whining so high pitched and feverish it can actually melt brain matter, think about God’s hatred for whining and grow little more grateful in that moment. Joy in humble parenting allows us to, when wrestling our children from the PlayPlace or the back yard to a place they would rather not go, give second thought to the excuses we’ve found for not moving or ministering or responding to a call from the Lord. But I think, most importantly, joy in humble parenting allows us to try and fail, try and fail, over and over again, without growing weary of the process.
We ought to try to be perfect while at the same time always acknowledging that our righteous is found only in Christ Jesus. When our children mess up, publicly and blatantly, they’re only proving to us that their job is not to make us look good. Their job is to keep us, humbly and actively, seeking after God. And our job is to return the favor.