Friday, June 29, 2012

Erring on the Side of Grace

There are few things in life that have been as confusing as being a mother.
I'm forever grateful that God did not bring JT into my life until I was a bit older, because He knew what He was doing. I needed that time to learn intimacy and dependency on Christ alone before the onslaught began.

As Paul said, "not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me." -Phillipians 3:12

In my wise old age of 31, I have not become perfect in my maturity, but I am definitely more confident in my abilities to "press on", despite the many impedences of my own imperfection.

Before I became a mother, I did not know about "mommy wars", and I still don't understand them. I do understand why they occur though. Refer to the first sentence of this post. Parenthood is confusing, it is intimidating, it can be isolating. And everyone seems to have an opinion about it.

When you add being a "Christian parent" into the mix, things get even more confusing. Everywhere you look there is some person or some book throwing their thinly veiled opinions, marked as Gospel  down your throat. And, if you really care about your kids, if you care about your Walk with Christ, and the enormous responsibility that parenthood has thrust upon you, then it's right to listen. Everything must be examined. Tested, not just against your own heart, which we all know if it is not surrendered to God is "desperately sick", but against The Word of God and the Character of God.

I have stumbled upon a book recently that has really made me think.
I almost completely disagree with the "methods" of this book, and yet I have found myself fascinated with it.
Much of my insecurities in raising an infant have passed. In the end I am not a religious follower of attachment parenting, even though I am all for baby wearing and breastfeeding beyond infancy, and I have gone back to co-sleeping and night nursing my 15 month old. (this is sheerly a survival method, and this too shall pass). I do not plan to share a bed with my children until "they decide to leave" (Aquaman has been in his own bed for 2 yrs), or nurse a 5 year old, and I believe that the very occasional spanking, when not done in anger will not damage a child psychologically for the rest of his life.

But I am still completely spooked and awed by Babywise and its rigid schedules and lack of grace, and now as my older son reaches an age in which discipline has become so central, I find myself equally curious about John Rosemond's "Well-Behaved Child".

Like all books, outside the Bible, I've found some pearls of wisdom, and I've enjoyed the discomfort of challenging myself by continuing to read past when I began to disagree. I also think that sometimes people who have very kind hearts come off much harsher in their writing than they probably are in real life.

But I think the biggest surprise to me, since I first held Aquaman in my arms as a new and terrified mother, listening to him scream himself hoarse and feeling desperate to do anything within my means to comfort him; was the lack of grace and comfort I found in my search to be the mother God made me to be.

The impression I have gotten from so many of these resources is that children are a burden. Tyrants, out to ruin your life if you don't stop them. It's your responsibility to control them with whatever means necessary, but it is not your responsibility if, in the process, their hearts are damaged by your very insensivity.

I believe firmly that children, being man, are born with evil in their hearts. Corrupt from before the first breath. I believe that it's our responsibility to teach them the importance of obedience and respect for authority, and I also believe that in the end, God has a plan for them, and they have their own free will; and they will turn out as they will.

I guess you could say though that knowing my own shortcomings, I'd rather err on the side of grace.

The one thing I have learned is that my obedience to God comes from my relationship with Him. It comes from knowing Who He is, and that even when I don't understand it, or can't see the big picture I can trust Him because He gave up everything for me.
It comes from knowing how much He loves me. Even when I don't deserve it, and when it is inconvenient and even terribly painful for Him.
And since I don't think it's a mistake that God calls himself a "Father", which happens to be the name of a parent, I've decided to take my model of parenting from Him. My biggest priority in motherhood is to teach my boys that they can trust me. That I will (usually) have their best interests at heart, and that I will even be willing to give up some things in order to provide for their needs and some of their wants, be it physical, mental, emotional etc. Some of that means saying no to their wants, because in the end, their brains are still developing and they don't have a whole lot of common sense and they also have that aggravating sin nature that is always making them rebel.
Which is where the discipline comes in. Because how would we know how much we needed grace if we didn't know how deeply sinful and undeserving we were in ourselves?

But when I think about Jesus, chastising the disciples..."let the children come to me!"
I know He did not think they were a burden either.

Sometimes, I'll admit it, I act like they are.
Some days I am tired and frustrated.
Aquaman has a red hot personality to go along with his beautiful hair, and sometimes he really gets on my nerves. I yell sometimes. I always apologize for it.
I am guilty of sending him to his room or taking away his toys or administering a million other consequences just because he is doing something that annoys me. Not because he's doing anything that's wrong.
That's called being a bully, and that's not discipline. It is a good opportunity for him to see that moms aren't perfect either, but that they can humble themselves and admit their imperfections.
And it's a good opportunity for me to get alone with God (for 5 seconds or so before The Dude climbs up on a chair and starts eating crayons) and work on that log that's in my own eye so that I can see clearly to help Aquaman with his specks.

I hope we can be the kind of parents that train up our children in the way THEY should go. Not in the way that we had always hoped they would go, or that would somehow make us feel happy or complete.
It's going to take a lot of prayer. There's going to be a lot of mistakes.
At the end of my life, I know I'll get to heaven and I'll cry about the wrong and selfish things I did when I was raising my kids that I didn't even know hindered them in their journey to be who God made them to be.
And I will find my comfort in the arms of the God of Grace.

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