Parenting: A Slow Death to Self, Part 2 of 2: A Perfect Mess

With
our firstborn’s inaugural cry, we parents laid down our nets. We’re IN IT for the long haul, however
daunting that distance might seem. Admittedly at times, when our nerves are
fried to a crisp, we long to pick our crusty nets back up, shake off the sand,
and “take a long walk off a
short pier”, as my husband loves to say…into the sparkling azure of the
Caribbean ocean, with not a child in sight…ahhhhh….
…But back
to reality: parenting is messy. Unscripted. Less than perfect most of the time.
In fact, in our neck of the neighborhood, family life is typically a perfect
MESS
. The one beautiful shot we typically get from a family photo session
is accompanied by a memory card full of atrocities–not to the photographer’s
discredit: it’s just real life on the homefront, folks. The sheer prospect of
mixing an overextended pair of parents with a rambunctious pack of offspring,
intent on going their own way, is fodder for comedy. And the wreckage of adult,
dashed dreams that often results? The antithesis of amusing, in the moment.
Given
these conditions, one can easily surmise how easy it is to slip downward to
that exhausted place at the end of the parental rope, where resignation and
apathy set in, choking joy like noxious weeds, and we begin to daydream of a
carefree life sans our little sidekicks…
Inevitably
though, in the epicenter of the mess, when I’m clinging to the frayed ends of
my rope, God sends His “but insteads
like calming, softening breezes to my haggard heart, numbing the dying pains
and bringing me back to the blessed place He’s planted me.
…Just
once, at the near-end of a long day, when all my husband and I want to do is
flop on the couch and escape our offspring, we’d kill for a bedtime nanny to swoop
in and sweep the children upstairs and out of our hair…But instead, we (strive to) intentionally grab those precious,
fleeting moments with our kids before bed, investing in their little lives with
reserves that only God can give us. For He knows this is the time of day when
we truly have nothing left.
…Just
once (how about once a month?!?), I’d pay to go away with my husband for a romantic weekend, and revisit
the plans we made when we were young (read: clueless).
But instead, we plug away at family life on the weekends, shuttling kids,
making memories together, running the errands and completing the chores that make
our house a home: a comfortable haven for our children, where they are provided
for, nourished physically and spiritually, and sheltered from the evils of the
world. Because, next to Jesus, there is no greater gift we can give them than a
healthy home life.
…Just
once, when I glimpse a store I’d give anything to peruse ALONE, I’d love for my
car-full of kids to vaporize, so I could shop to my heart’s content, without a
barrage of “cling-ons” (as I sometimes regard my kids in these wistful moments)
I’m forced to drag down the aisles, with all the less-than-desirable behaviors
they reserve for public places. But
instead
, I drive on by, toward what is better for my family (however
longingly I may gaze in the rearview mirror), reserving that money for school,
braces, extra-curricular activities, clothes, summer camp, Christmas and
birthday presents. Because our joy bubbles over when we pour into our children,
in a way that blessing ourselves cannot replicate (though I might add there
certainly must be a time and a place
for us parents to have time off and treat ourselves: this makes us better moms
and dads, and less likely to resent the little ones we tirelessly serve).
…Just
once, I’d love to treat my taste buds to (takeout)
whatever sounds delectable that evening for dinner (mmm, Indian food/TAKEOUT!!), with no thought of
whether it’s too spicy, exotic, or vegetable laden for children’s palettes. But
instead, this cooks-out-of-necessity-ONLY mama labors in love to make family-friendly
meals that will bless all and keep the peace at that sacred spot: the dinner
table.
Having
kids means death to our schedule. Death to our carefully-laid plans. Death to
ourselves, that God would have space
to multiply the beautiful amidst the
mess in our families, with His trademark surprises. Dying to self is no easy
process…indeed, it can be a S—-L—-O—-W, painful death. In our stubbornness, we have to relearn the same, dreaded
lessons over and over again sometimes.
My
prayer lately has become, “Lord, let me be interruptible.” Because dying to
self as a parent means setting aside our task of the moment (typically at a
moment’s notice) and making ourselves available to the little ones with whom we’re
entrusted. I find when I choose what’s eternal in those moments of prompting over
my temporal, towering to-do’s, I’m blessed beyond measure as a result, and my family
is too. Without these God-given “opportunities”, we would be different people:
likely self-consumed, unfulfilled and miserable.
Parenting
is all about feathering our nest in the midst of the mess. Accepting and embracing
the inconveniences, quirks, and imperfections of family life; favoring the beloved “We”, over the ever empty
“Me”
. That God might be glorified through our disheveled, though endearing efforts…our
widow’s mites; things of unmitigated beauty in His eyes.
Come to the River…
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain
conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your
own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your
relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being
in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be
used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very
nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in
appearance as a man, he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—even
death on a cross!” Philippians 2:3-8 (NIV)
Personalize….
Think
of examples in your own life of dying to self as a parent, and behold the way God’s
smiles down on you, letting it warm you through. Then smile yourself, reveling
in gratitude for the blessing of parenthood, however unkempt.

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