Thursday, January 30, 2014

Surviving Parenthood

Lately I've been thinking about parenting. That statement is kinda funny since I have six children between the ages of 22 and 2 and all of them still live with us (except for #2 who went away for college...but he'll be home during the summer) -- so really, parenting is a constant in my life. Despite that, it is a topic that is worthwhile for me to meditate on from time to time.

Through relationships, those of us who have been parents for awhile mentor our younger friends. We look at them chasing their toddlers or scolding their tweens for reading under the covers at night instead of sleeping. We smile and we understand their frustrations, their anxieties and their petitions for perseverance. Yes, parenting takes a lot of perseverance.

 In 2030, when my youngest is 18, I will have raised children from birth to that age for 36 years. As a home schooling mom, I will have taught almost all academic subjects for all grades for not just my own kids, but a few others. Whew! The thought makes me tired....and grateful for the opportunity and the memories. I do love my kids and despite the pubescent bouts of "I forgot to do my homework again", I do love teaching them.

I started my journey into the world of writing because of the topic of God as Father. My husband had been leading a family bible study and we sojourned into the land of Ezekiel 28 --- where God laments the departure, destruction and demise of a son He called Daystar or Lucifer which is Greek for Light Bearer.
Understanding the emotions and manner of God not just Creator, but as a Father --- a parental figure, our eternal relative -- a role that we know is so important to Him since Jesus came to introduce us to His Father: Abba, helped me understand how to better parent my own children.

In my book, Abba's Lament, Abba continues to pursue Daystar until it is evident that Daystar will not repent. That longing for renewed relationship reminds me of the father of the prodigal son, who kept looking out across the valley in the hopes that his son would return. "Is a lost child ever forgotten, when the departure was the child’s, not the father’s? " (Part II, Abba's Lament)

As a parent, no matter what our children do, it is natural, no, it is godly to wait for them, to long for them, to take hold of perseverance and wait for them to reverse their waywardness or resume communication, or come home.  As our children mature and begin to 'own' their Christian faith, we become not only their cheerleaders but their team mates who sit on the bench and watch them drive around the opposition in order to score a few points in a "game" that lasts a lifetime. As a parent, we are always for them, not against them.

Parenting takes perseverance and patience. That truth inevitably makes me turn my gaze upward and think of my own journey as a child of God and my relationship to my heavenly Daddy. How patient He is with me! How He persevered when I was a young Christian, zealous but ignorant. Truly, I had no clue, but His steering hand gently redirected my path so that I would always end up on His lap, in good times and in bad.

As I grew older, I became convinced that my Father in Heaven loved and adored me, despite my frailties. This is because as my children were born....I could understand this love and adoration for one's offspring -- no matter what they did!  .

Now, let me change course for a second. Do I believe in godly discipline? Yes. Do I believe in tough love? Definitely. But I must understand the Father's demonstration of "tough" love. I must understand what the Bible teaches about discipline for our kids depending on age and stage. Our heavenly Father certainly does not enable bad behavior...what He does is to allow earthly consequences to teach us. Always with us, He waits for us to cling to Him. This clinging is restorative. Forgiveness is healing. We cannot change ourselves. Wholeheartedly receiving His grace and kindness brings forth lasting change.

So whenever any of my children have needed and received "tough" love, my husband and I have never refused to also extend tenderness, availability, encouragement and direction. In those tough times, they need boundaries and biblical training from a parent whose demeanor is compassionate and gentle, not overbearing and critical. The Bible says that "loving kindness leads to repentance" (a change of mind, an about-face). Yelling will only make a child resentful, fearful and angry. Those emotions kill relationship.

Parenting isn't easy, but it is made easier when we take a moment and reflect on our Heavenly Father whom Jesus reflected in everything that He said and did. Sometimes we find that we see Jesus and the Father very differently and hopefully we realize that our image of the Father needs tweaking. Jesus said, "If you see Me, you see the Father."

Our Father, our eternal parent, is SO loving, SO gentle, SO forgiving, SO instructive, SO patient, SO persevering. For those who are His children, purchased by the blood of His only begotten Son, He is a way-maker, the soul-anchor, an ever-present help, and a constant friend.  For those who've yet to receive His gracious gift of redemption, He is the Judge who awaits the convicted to receive His pardon.

Such love.

So my fellow Christian parents, if you ever feel like you don't have a mentor--look up. Be the child of God who can sit on our Heavenly Daddy's lap and say, "Teach me, I need help." And He will.