Yes, yes, we all know that parenting is hard. Let’s just move on from the clichés and start talking about solutions. This year, more than any other, I have had to persevere as a dad. It’s like those wars and rumours of wars that I had read about suddenly had apocalyptic implications for our family. I’m not going to get into the specifics of it (although I will say that my wise pastoral adolescent theories are being challenged at the moment), but I will say this, it’s really not about the kids anyway.
Let’s be honest, if you got married with the intention of pursuing personal happiness then you have probably figured out by now that that didn’t work. (Someone once told me that marriage isn’t about happiness, it’s about holiness. That’s a good one.) And if you thought that having kids was going to bring back the fantasy of first love… HA! Actually… HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Oh the thought…
Many people get married with some pretty big false presumptions and even more unrealistic presumptions when they have kids. I remember when our first child was born thinking thoughts that shocked me. I assumed I would just naturally be an awesome dad! It is astonishing what a crying kid at 3AM and nothing but farmer-vision to watch can do to a guy. The interesting thing looking back is that somehow I had the capacity not to do something rash in my exhaustion. I did have some foundation to work with. What about those who don’t? What will make the difference?
This past weekend Stefan Duerksen preached on our identity and said that he will be producing some daily challenges, or exercises we can do to increase our capacity and grow a healthy identity. We will be posting them with a little parental commentary here on The Renewed Family (so check back each day). But he also said developing these skills takes time. Time is the killer isn’t it. Let me offer some advice that I am learning as I grow the skill of perseverance.
- If you are going to grow in perseverance you are going to have to remember that this whole parenting thing is actually about how you turn out and less about how your kids turn out. I’m not making you the centre of the world or anything, but rather suggesting that parenting is about God doing something in you! Think of your kids like a black light in a hotel room, they have a tendency to light up all the gross things in your life that you thought no one could see. Let me ask you something; if no one could see them, could you? We have blind spots! And guess what? By definition a blind spot is something you can’t see! So how is the fact that your kids bring out the worst in you good news? Well you can’t clean a spot you can’t see. Now you can see it. So thank the Lord that He used your kids to expose an area of your life that can use some touch up by a divine hand.
- Speaking of a divine hand. Did you know that a large part of perseverance is unrelenting trust in the divine hand? Who could persevere under the constant weight of fear? We all fear that something might happen to our kids; emotionally, physically or spiritually. But we can’t actually protect them from all that much, we need a divine protector. You know why I don’t worry about my kids going to public school? Because I know who their ultimate Teacher is. We work hard to equip them for the battle and then trust them to His care. (BIG DISCLAIMER! We totally love private school too, in fact we sent our daughter to the Christian school and have prayed about doing the same for the boys. It’s just that we try not to make the decision out of fear, but out of doing what is best for our kids.) Can you trust the Lord as you work on the stuff in your own heart and release your kids to Him daily knowing that He will keep His end of the bargain? You can’t persevere if you don’t.
- Finally breathe. You’re human, I’m human. You’re broken, I’m broken. Perseverance isn’t about getting things all right all the time, perseverance is a process just like everything else. BUT when you take a breath, that little break between naps, diarrhea, scrapes, confusing homework, nourishing your kids on KD, yelling at the dog (we don’t care so much about his character) and waiting for bedtime, remember what you used to be like and marvel how God can use a willing heart. I suspect perseverance is as much about looking back as it is getting through the present. There is hope.
Parents, we need to persevere. It seems like so many people give up these days and there’s simply too much on the line to be quitters when it comes to our kids! So pursue Jesus. Let Him transform you so that you have a greater capacity as a parent to love and nurture your kids and then breathe, He’s got this. You’re OK!
What can I suggest as an action step? Do the exercises Stefan sends out. Do them with purpose and intention and see if working on your heart doesn’t affect your home.