I've struggled with this whole parenting gig lately. I'm utterly crazy about my kiddos. Seriously, I don't think I had any idea that I had this much love in my heart before having kids. I know it's cliche, but it's true. There is just something so incredible about having little combined versions of yourself and your best friend to take care of. You can look at them and just see pieces of yourself and this man that you're madly in love with. God had a neat plan with people having kids. What's frustrating though is when your kids start sinning. Am I right?
I knew that I'd have sinful children, but really, I don't think I ever imagined that it would look like this, or that it would evoke in me the kind of emotions that I feel about it all! This is rough stuff friends! So I'm working through a few things:
1) I am reminding myself that this little person is a person that God has purposefully placed in our family. He is perfectly suited to us as parents and that even in the times when I feel really incompetent to handle what the little guy (or girl) is throwing at me, I am competent in Christ. He has given him the perfect parents for HIM and he has given us the perfect children for US. He is growing all of us in His perfect way though these relationships and the struggles that come with them. And the end result for all of us who trust in Christ will be looking like Christ. It will be beautiful!
2) I always knew that I was going to have kind of a rough time in these early years. Babies and toddlers are most certainly not my forte! I can't even tell you the feeling of freedom I felt when I stopped working in the nursery a few months ago, or the feelings of fear that grip my heart when I think about helping my husband teach our new 3-5 year old class at church. I told him he's going to have to do a lot of the teaching! But while kids this age range might not be my strength as far as communicating goes, I am still MY kids' mom and I can't skip over these very, very important years. For one, I don't want to miss it! There are so many moments of pure joy watching them grow and learn and say the most adorable things. So even in the ugly times of fits and tears and flat out defiance, I have to consistently discipline them in love, showing them Christ and the gospel.
3) And I pray. Pray, pray, pray. I pray for myself-that I would be wise in my choice of words and actions. That I would not be controlled by my own emotions in times of disobedience. That I would be more concerned about the hearts of my children than the image I'm projecting to those around me of myself. Oh, so many things to pray for. I also pray for my kids' salvation. I have to recognize that they have unregenerate hearts at this point in their life. They are depraved. And they don't have the Holy Spirit to convict their hearts like a believer does. And it's my job to share the gospel with them.
4) So I try to turn times of disobedience into Gospel moments in their lives. It's hard, at some level impossible, for them to fight sin. My children aren't Christians. They don't have the Holy Spirit. Not that they can't choose right. But it is hard. And it's ok to tell them that. The book Give them Grace by Elyse Fitzpatrick talks about this extensively and gives some great examples of conversations to have with your kids (although some of them are pretty long). Here's what some of mine have sounded like. 'L, I know that it's really hard to do what's right. The incredible thing though, is that Jesus came to die for your sins. He lived a perfect life and then died to become the perfect sacrifice for the sin that you just committed in your heart and in your actions. He died so that you can be forgiven! Isn't that incredible. We have a loving God who wholeheartedly extends grace to us in our darkest moments. He loves us more than we can ever imagine.' It's not perfect, but slowly, I think he's starting to understand. Before I read that book I thought it was going to be about giving your kids a break (like don't hold them to too high of a standard, don't discipline them when they sin.... give them grace.) Thankfully I read the book and got the concept right.... give them grace--give them the gospel of grace. Give them the gospel. It's really the most important thing I can do as a parent. So my husband and I try to turn these moments into moments when we can tell them about Jesus. As my son has gotten older, this has gotten easier and more fun.
So.... while I'm struggling, I'm not despairing. I'm working through this time, knowing that it's a season. Parenting is not easy. No one has ever claimed it to be. And it is lots and lots of fun. But in those rough moments, the ones where I kind of want to hide in my closet, I take a deep breath, say a quick prayer, and dive in. Because my kiddos need me to be their mom, to shower them with love, and to teach them the gospel... and I'm happy to do so!