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When I asked God for the future I want

Monday, April 7, 2014

Right now, my two "big" boys are 7 and 5 1/2.  They are followed by my little girl, who is 3, and my toddling boy, who is 17 months old.    During all the lunacy of bringing home a newborn with a toddler on my hip, or the crazy-making of raising two preschoolers at the same time, or even the insanity of moving four tiny kids across the country ... in all of the crazy seasons having four kids in five years has brought to my life, never has my home so closely resembled a zoo as it does right now.

Essentially, early elementary boys are puppies.  They wake up playing, eat while playing, fall asleep playing.  And they seem to be continually living out some sort of Despicable Me-style battle scene that includes death by bodily function.  They never stop talking - ever, ever, ever - and they prefer to talk at the same time.


They can spontaneously rupture into wrestling or play-shooting, which quickly devolves into hurt feelings and retaliation.  I try to rise above the din long enough to remind them not to hurt one another, but I wonder aloud why I am even talking.  They never hear me.  Together, they are lost in their own world, these two.  My only function is to dole out food and justice, schedule baths, and occasionally mix up a little chocolate milk.  

Then we have the younger two, which act like ... well, like baby animals a zoo.  The youngest takes off his clothes and diaper all day long (already!) and my little girl is committed to the theory of survival of the fittest.  She is naturally sweet-natured and calm, but with three brothers, she is quick to pummel whatever kid happens to get too close to her.  They take turns squatting in a corner, and one has an unfortunate habit of cramming toys into excrement if I do not intervene in time (my 5-yr-old:  "Mom, Legos stuck in poop are called Pegos."  Me:  "I'm sorry we even need a name for such a thing.")

In stores I feel like I'm the ringleader for the clown car.  At any given moment two children are dangling in various stages of escape from the cart, one has already scattered, and the fourth is crying on the floor.  I have no idea what I'm buying, or why.  I just want it to be over.

It is total chaos around here.  So when I decided to pray about parenting, I wasn't kidding around.  

Earlier this year, I realized something important:  most of my parenting strategies were rooted in fear.  For me, fear of what others will think is not usually my problem (though when I'm doing the repetitive swoop-swing to place screeching children back into the cart, the thought does cross my mind).  Rather, a fear of the future paralyzes me.  I'm working day and night at this, but am I getting any of it right?  Am I focusing on the wrong things?  What if I am not building a lifelong relationship with my kids?  What if I drive them away from faith?  I want to be rooted in love, and mercy, and faith - not in fear.  So for Lent, I decided to pray over my parenting.

More than anything, I want to raise children who grow into kind adults.  I want to build a lifelong relationship with each of my kids, and I deeply want - though I know it's not in my control - for my children to grow up to share my faith.  But how do I do that, and how will I know when I'm doing it right?  How do I let go of fear, and trust myself?  I couldn't answer any of these questions.  But I knew God knew who my kids would be, and how I could guide them toward the best version of themselves.  I took on drinking more water (an area very much out of balance in my life), and with every glass, I asked God to show me what steps to take to move toward the future I so desperately wanted to have with my kids.

God didn't give me the first answer to any of my questions.  Instead,  I started to see my children differently.

My view of each child widened.  I began to see how they were motivated, what their pitfalls were, what they needed to hear from me.  My children are not equations to solve. There is no formula to reach their hearts.  Instead, they are little people, with their own complexities and ironies and dreams.  I started noticing those dreams and ironies, seeing who my kids are on a deeper level.   The longer I prayed over my parenting, the more I realized that God was not going to promise me the future I wanted.  Instead, He gave me insight into my kids' hearts.  And He reminded me that parenting is a relationship.  If I want to have access to my children's hearts when they are adults, I need to see them as people now.  To empathize with their frustration, to show grace for their weaknesses, to share my own concerns.

When I began my Lenten prayer, I was willing to let go of my fear - as long as God would give me a formula that guaranteed I could still get the future I want.  But God doesn't hand out formulas.  Instead, He opens our eyes.  Over the past several weeks, I've grown into a deeper love and recognition of the little people who make my life so chaotic.  I asked God to show me how to get the future I want.  Instead, he showed me these precious little people - and their pure love - I already have.  He reminded me why I really love living in a zoo. 

4 comments:

  1. This was beautiful. I also have a 17 month old boy who loves to shove things into his diaper. What is it with that? He has four big sisters: 13 yrs, 11 yrs, 9 yrs, and 7 yrs. I find that as they grow and their lives become more complicated, my relationship with them is both more precious to me and more easily harmed. It's frightening and challenging to be a parent! And absolutely brimming full of blessings.

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    1. Yes and amen. Thanks for reading!

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  2. I really needed this today. I saw your post on mampedia this am and now I'll follow your blog. Thanks.

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    1. Thanks Amy! I'm so glad you liked it! If you'd like to join our email list to make it easier to follow along, email me at awidemercy@gmail.com.

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