In light of the recent gorilla hubbub, my daughter (a new mommy herself) wisely texted me this morning: parenting is humbling, isn’t it?
There is so much truth and grace in that statement that I actually have been thinking about it all day. After spending time with another sweet young mom last night and chatting about the wisdom we all need in child rearing, I have been rehearsing my own years of early parenting as well as the more recent ones.
Certainly parenting is not the only means of being humbled. The reality is that all relationships bring with them humbling experiences. But there is something about raising children that tends to bring about in our hearts either a false pride and sense of our own accomplishment or a great deal of guilt and self-condemnation about our children’s behavior or choices. You also add to these feelings those circumstances in which the child’s needs require special attention and even outside help. How do we face this daunting task that is daily upon us?
I believe we have been given some parenting guidelines and principles in God’s word. But there’s so much that is not covered. And with each generation there is even more to concern us, due to our ever-changing society and the move away from simplistic living. From cartoons to car seats, from videos to vaccinations, from safety helmets to super heroes … the list seems almost endless. We aren’t sure what to choose for our children, and when parents do make the tough calls they are often subjected to cruel judgements and harsh criticism. Of course, it doesn’t stop even when our kids get older. There are conversations we have that are as basic as homework and as complex as homosexuality; we share our thoughts about religion and racism, poverty and politics, hard work and homelessness … and so much more.
Even as we pray for wisdom to love and lead our children well, there’s the underlying realization that they are not our robots. They have minds and hearts of their own. It’s true that we have to confess our times of failure. As parents we are sinful just like our children. Sometimes the choices we make as parents affect our children negatively. And when that happens, we know what is required.
We must humble ourselves.
We choose to own it and we surrender anew our lives as parents to God and thank Him for His kindness and mercy.
But even more humbling are the moments that it seems that our hard work is in vain. We have read the books, we prayed the prayers, we listened to the sermons, and we’ve done the hard things. But there goes our child. They run toward a hissing snake when we have loudly and sincerely yelled for them to stop. They look back at us with a glance – a look in their eyes telling us that they know that we mean it … but they run on ahead toward the danger. Sometimes it’s not as serious as a snake. It may only be a stick on which they may trip. But still the willful disobedience in their heart makes its way to the surface and they ignore our warnings. All the while, the onlookers are forming their opinions. They are making their analysis. Whether we want to be or not, we are on trial as parents.
In these moments we must choose to bend our hearts. We recognize that we lack the capability to parent perfectly. We offer our lives and the lives of our children to the Lord. We accept that we have only so much we can control. We cry and we cry out.
We are humbled.
And we must now choose to worship.
So, we bow and thank our Father from the deepest part of who we are for the gospel of grace. We are amazed again at our own redemption … that He would choose to save us and to give us the gift of children. We choose again to trust Him … to believe He’ll answer our constant and deepest prayers for ourselves and for them.
Parenting is not for cowards. It takes courage and humility. We are never so much reminded of that paradoxical blend of grace and truth as we are when we become parents.
And everyday we preach the gospel to ourselves again.
Amazing grace… How sweet the sound.
Some days, we parents sing it with overwhelming awareness of the Father’s goodness.