Callie’s instagram picture above says just about everything I want to say to young moms today:
Put your game face on, but admit that you are terrified.
Vulnerability and valor are not mutually exclusive. Fear is unavoidable, and you’ll probably feel a lot better if you’ll admit you feel it. But fear sure is a terrible motivation for just about any endeavor in life, especially for parenting. Make fear parenthetical and make the rest of your scary job as a mom the main sentence. That’s courage.
Somehow, I think we moms are duped into thinking we have to raise children who are respectful, beautiful, obedient, happy, and nice. We have to make the exact right choice every single day about schedules, snacks, and sleep. We have to feel peaceful and exude peace to our children. It gets more complicated as the years go by. Netflix, video games, “bad” friend choices, parties, sleepovers, clothes, sports, all threaten the illusion of “safe for the whole family.”
Speaking in our ears all the time is the blaring voice of a very opinionated Christian culture which, by the way, is telling you in some cases the exact opposite of what it told me when you were little. And if we listen to this voice, the world we eventually launch our kids into becomes a scary place… to us. If we’re not careful, our kids will learn this slightly paranoid world view from us. One type of kid will find this fascinating and go for it, ill-equipped and wild. Another type of kid will anxiously close in and make his or her own world smaller than God ever meant it to be.
Somewhere along the way, probably at those times when a few of my worst fears actually happened, I became more focused on my Father and what he could give me and less on what I could give my kids. And my fear began to subside a little.
Recently my courageous friend Karen pointed out a surprising phrase at the end of Jesus’ words about how our heavenly Father is a better Parent than we are, even though we have good enough instincts to give our kids fish instead of snakes and bread instead of stones:
“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:13
So God doesn’t always give us the safety we crave for our children or enough money for a college fund or a house in a good school district. He may not enable us to help our kids keep up with every fashion trend or new tutoring program. We may find “bad” friends at our doorsteps, or our own kids may be treated, rightly or not, as the “bad” kids. Things may not go according to the newest parenting plan you learned at the newest parenting class.
But God promises to give good gifts, and the only gift He mentions in a parenting parable every child born to a parent understands is this: His Holy Spirit.
As I began to defer in my fear to this Holy Spirit, the one who represents Jesus inside of me and around me, who illuminates the Word of God with a still small voice in the still, scary mornings or the dark, scarier nights of parenting. As I began to hear him, I found a place to tell my fear out loud. And I discovered my path for the next nanosecond of my life, including what to do next as a parent. I could rest, at peace, knowing this was a voice I could trust. Every next was in his hands.
It wasn’t a template, and it hardly ever looked the same twice, but in the best sense it “worked.” Not knowing the outcome (Ahhhhh… the fear in that!) turned out to be the best plan of all.
This January, one of our sons had this to say about his childhood in his journal:
“We didn’t have much money—so this perfection did not look like a big house, a nanny, or frequent vacations. But we did have something significantly more important and lasting—unconditional love… It was beneath my feet from such a young age propelling me forward in confidence and strength. I had fears, doubts, insecurities, but they were never a huge burden on my life because of the culture of peace and love my parents created for our home.”
If I could edit his journal, and I can’t, I’d correct that last phrase. I’d say that we did not create the culture we ended up with over the years. While we, being evil, were handing out fish and bread as best we could, God was doing the rest. And the rest was pretty much all of it.