Parenting, and especially discipleship parenting, is not easy. It’s not easy being patient when you haven’t gotten enough sleep for 2000 consecutive nights. It’s rough because the hours are terrible and you never get a day off. It’s hard because there’s a lot of really gross, really smelly, and even really slimy stuff you have to deal with on the regular. It’s frustrating because toddler logic (even on a good day) will stretch the limits of your patience, endurance, and probably even your knowledge of scientific, religious and philosophical truths. And, to top it all off, your actions teach by example (whether you like it or not) through it all.
But, for me at least, the most difficult thing about raising kids is that there’s nowhere to hide.
I’m not just talking about how that idea called ‘privacy’ that you used to view as a fundamental human right no longer applies to you. Just today, as we shared a bathroom stall, my son asked me very politely, “May I please see your bottom to check if it’s different than mine?” Nope, nowhere to hide. But that’s not what I’m getting at.
It’s a character thing.
What I actually mean is that all of my character flaws are really, REALLY easy to spot under the almost all-seeing magnifying glasses of my children’s watchful eyes. So, if I want my kids to be kind, I have to be kind. If I want my kids to be generous, I have to be willing to share, too. If I want my kids to show others grace and mercy, I really need to be a merciful and gracious mom.
And, because that’s not possible, and I make mistakes, and sometimes I’m unkind and selfish and punitive, I have to apologize and really honestly mean it. If I don’t, than I really can’t expect them to know what to do when they mess up in the completely understandably human ways that they will. There’s no getting away from it, people.
Are we really qualified to teach by example?
In a word: no. We need to join forces with God. We can’t just do this on our own, because we’re all pretty awful sometimes. When I was thinking about this today, Psalm 73:21-25 spoke to me:
When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you. Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
Can you relate to these words at all? Has your child been “grieved” or displayed an “embittered spirit?” Maybe your toddler has been a “brute beast” before you (tantrums, anybody?). But you’re there for your child anyway, right? You’re holding his hand and guiding her with your counsel because you want to lead them into success in this life and in Heaven!
Well, our Heavenly Father wants to do the same for us (even if we are senseless or ignorant beasts, ourselves). So take your child’s hand in yours, slip your other hand into God’s, and follow His parenting lead. He’ll set the example for us, so we can teach by example: His! Our goal is to pursue closeness to God to the same extent that our children desire to be near us.
Think about that the next time your kid won’t let you make a phone call, use the bathroom, or wash the dishes in peace.
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