Updated: Nov 17, 2021
We are blessed with seven grown children. Six daughters and a son; all two or three years apart. It was amazing having a large family. My son making his appearance as second to the last, led friends and family to believe that we were DONE. Oh what a breath of fresh air! This boy, who could entertain himself at the kitchen table with two matchbox cars, making zooming noises under his breath, for upwards of twenty minutes, brought me a few moments of sanity. I surely appreciated it! Then, the "baby" was born and that nickname is still in place today. Our "icing" (God's name for her while I was expecting), proved to be a well-placed period at the end of the offspring sentence.
...a gift in its rawest form doesn't look like a gift at first...when God is in the molding and shaping of the will of a child, it cannot be anything but good.
Having five daughters in quick succession meant there were lots of chatter, lots of loud discussions, giggling, secrets, "borrowing" of clothes and way more nail polish than one home should ever have. Our home was anything but quiet and my "little darlings" weren't always so. Many a frustrated day of colorful, defiant personalities left me in a heap on my living room floor by sundown. Since God indeed saves our tears, He probably needed a moving container for mine.
I did all the things good mothers do. Others told me I was a good mother, Jesus reassured me that I was a good mother, but still, I struggled to believe it. I wanted to be the mother each of them needed, but all I saw were my failed attempts. Those defiant attitudes ran painfully against my grain. And to boot, it was reminiscent of my own childish shortcomings. And more than once I remember saying, "Oops, sorry, you got that from me." Parenting has a way of highlighting the flaws.
We wanted to raise strong, Christ-hungry, articulate kids. Many times, "strong" and "articulate" would backfire on us parents. Anybody who has been locked into a discussion with a teenager having heightened critical thinking skills and a mouth that would qualify for the INDY 500, knows exactly what I mean. Yet, even in the middle of the mess, where my heart raced and my blood pressure rose and tears flowed from me and my child, I knew we were raising tenacious children.
How about your family? Are there things you instilled through your child-rearing that have come back to bite YOU in the rear? Take heart, it happens to most of us.
One particularly delirious-from-exhaustion prayer session riddled with my complaints about my children, resulted in a profound revelation. God said, "Seek out the gift." It may have been audible, I don't remember. This one shift in perspective revolutionized my mothering. Those attitudes and obstinate behaviors were unredeemed gifts. Whaaat? Truth is, my kids would need those qualities, once redeemed, to fulfill God's call on their lives. Ah, but channeling those tendencies towards the things of God, therein lies the key. Seek? This requires active searching with a different type of lens. Hmmm, let me adjust my glasses...
That loquacious one, where all the world's a stage, whose only volume is high; that one, will be an amazing worship leader or preacher. The one that defuses an argument with a joke, to the irritation of those involved, creating an even bigger argument than the one before, will be an excellent counselor. That seemingly oversensitive one, who feels the pain of others so easily, will speak hope to a hopeless situation and show the love of Jesus in such a way as to usher in healing. The daredevil, being the sole reason why the home medical supplies are well-stocked, will remind those around to enjoy life. The thinker that analyzes everything, much to the dismay of the free-spirited fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pantsers, will be appreciated for their thoughtful insight on issues. The question-asker, that has you secretly Googling for answers while pulling out your hair; coupled with a strong sense of justice, will be a voice to the voiceless. That one annoyed by disorganization, with the clothes-folding and room-tidying ability of Konmari on steroids, brings a calm and order to one's surroundings, which to some, is a precursor to a much needed stillness of soul. All these, without being checked and balanced can be a straining point for parents. Or, they can be perceived as gifts.
What do you see that annoys, befuddles and pushes every boundary you've laid in place?
Do you feel challenged daily by the little darlings you've raised?
Come now, let me talk you off the ledge.
God-fearing parents want to raise God-fearing children. It is a deep desire to see our children choose to live squarely in the middle of God's destiny for their lives. Sometimes, we lose our will to fight along the way because the struggle is exhausting. Many times, hope-crushing. Yet God doesn't call us to raise them alone. He has given each of us, parents and their children, world-changing, hope-carrying gifts. Yet, gifts in it's rawest form may not seem like a gift at first. Honestly, many times they are disguised in life moments so taxing that you find yourself daydreaming of vacation destinations closed to children. When God is in the molding and shaping of the will of a child, it cannot be anything but good. Embracing this "seek the gift" perspective has changed how I pray for my babies, back then, and now. A good friend of mine, in the middle of will-shaping would tell her kids, "I can wait to be thanked!" Today, I would venture to say that her grown children have indeed thanked her.
Can I encourage you to look deeper and see beyond what's right in front of you? See that unbridled behavior as your child having redeemed energy to victoriously complete this earthly and spiritual race of life. See that stubborn child as a visionary that will push through obstacles. See that verbal-to-a-fault child as a mouthpiece God will use to reach the marketplace for His glory.
Keep at it, parents. Keep watering it, keep developing it, and keep seeking it. Gifts look differently as seasons of life change. Don't give up and don't give in! You won't be disappointed. In the end, God will have empowered you to raise confident warriors, strong for the kingdom of God. With His help, we did. What an amazing partnership!