I used to take my children for granted. Not on purpose, of course. It just happened when I wasn’t looking. Like so many things do.
It happened for a good reason – love. As any mom can tell you, love for one’s children is a fierce kind of love. It’s a love so intense it can blind us. I became very focused on things that I was “supposed” to do to make them happy and comfortable and safe.
I was “supposed” to work long hours. A good income should allow me to provide an amazing house, easy lifestyle, and loan-free college funds. Trade-off: I was never home to see them enjoy the house and lifestyle, or help them with homework to prepare for college.
I was “supposed” to enroll them in every activity imaginable. This should allow them a wide range of opportunities, help them find their passion, and contribute to a well-rounded life experience. Trade-off: We were never available to play, talk, or even eat together.
I was “supposed” to buy them everything I never had as a kid, and everything their friends had. This should improve their quality of life, avoid conflict and provide entertainment. Trade-off: A cluttered house, entitlement attitudes, and an unquenchable thirst for more.
Over time, the trade-offs were wearing on me. The constant rushing around chasing perfect finally drove me to the brink of breakdown. I thank God every day that Jesus was standing on that brink with me. You know those miracles you read about in the Bible, where Jesus heals the blind? He still performs those miracles today.
He opened my eyes, and showed me the truth. Instead of ensuring perfectly well-rounded lives, I was delicately balancing my family inside a dream bubble, ready to burst over the pit of reality. Jesus held me together in that moment of realization. He helped me tear down all the walls and start over. But the most amazing thing happened as the dust was settling.
I was finally able to SEE my kids. They are beautiful. Breathtakingly amazing. Funny, smart, athletic – and I was missing it! I reprioritized, putting God first in my life. I started reading and talking about the Bible with my kids. I found a job that provides flexible hours and less stress. We scaled way back on activities. I asked about their days, and listened when they told me. We played games. We worked on homework. I figured out who they are and fell in love with them all over again. Pure beauty.
I expected to just live happily ever after…but then we started fighting. They liked the extra attention at first, but they weren’t really used to me participating in their lives. They had been in charge, and that wasn’t something easily given up. Add to that the hormonal roller-coaster of pre-teens, and an ugly battle of wills began. I was devastated. Why would Jesus give me this gift and show me the beauty of parenting only to allow me to fail?
As with any suffering, I have to understand it is to teach me a lesson -this time, about my true role as a parent. He wanted me to fully accept the responsibility of raising these children for Him. The truth is, I am a pushover. Blinded again by love and feeling guilty for missing so much time, I was overcompensating by letting these precious angels get away with anything and everything.
I had to learn how discipline fits in to the picture. And I really didn’t like it. At all. But I had learned to recognize the trade-off. I knew my children were looking for guidance and pushing boundaries. If I am not willing to set those boundaries, they will look to the world instead. I need only turn on the TV for 30 seconds to know that is an unacceptable trade-off. I simply must make the hard decisions that make them unhappy in the moment, but build their character for a lifetime. I must teach them to trade-off the comforts of this world for an eternity with God.
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. ~Hebrews 12:11 (NIV)
Jesus has taught me how to suffer for my children. Isn’t that ultimately what He did for each and every one of His children? Don’t we know the struggle makes us stronger? Aren’t we more grateful for the hard-fought victory rather than the easy win? Don’t I want my children to experience the joy that comes from the journey?
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. ~Romans 5:3-4 (NIV)
Don’t I want them to be trained and ready to stand before God? Absolutely.
So I carry on, learning with my children one day at a time. I’m giving up some temporary moments of happy for some tough learning experiences. But, now that we’re falling into step, there are way more good days than bad. The pure beauty is returning.
When we all come out together on the other side of a hard-fought victory – refined and knowing how to overcome it next time – that’s when I catch the true beauty of parenting. When my children hug me, apologize, and tell me they love me – that’s when my heart almost bursts with joy. And when I watch from afar as they handle the latest peer pressure without me – that’s when my cup runneth over.
There are more slammed doors and tears and silent treatments to come, I’m sure. But just as He suffered for me, patiently waits for me to learn, and refines me to become holy, I will suffer for them – knowing there is greater reward coming.
Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. ~Hebrews 12:3 (NIV)
Are you raising a parrot-sponge? To find out, and read more of Missy’s thoughts on parenting, try The Circles – Part 5 – Children.
Missy Funderburk is a writer exploring what it means to be a “real” Christian. She documents her journey on www.thepath2eternity.com. Missy does accounting for a living, but sometimes poems and blog posts interrupt tax returns. She recently transplanted from the Midwest to Florida with her family, where she enjoys biking, kayaking, and beach walks – none of which involve ice or snow.
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