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Don't Follow Rules

I think I am starting to understand why grandparents are the way they are. They're closer to home.

Lord willing, I am a long, long way from being a grandparent myself. Already, however, I am losing my will to fight little ones with angelic voices and bright eyes when they ask for one more cookie at bedtime, to climb in the middle when I want nothing more than to sleep alone just one time, to dance on the stage after church is over. The older my children get, the bigger college looms on the horizon, and the looser I hold them. I realize this is by design, but for someone who has white-knuckled her way through every stage of parenting thus far, it's catching me off guard.

One child is happily decorating a chart with stickers every time he flushes and the other is sending not-so-subtle hints about what vehicle she would like to have next year. The ones in between are either sharing or fighting over everything from the remote to their shoes. (Speaking of shoes, why is it impossible for every person to simply find two that match before it is time to walk out the door? What's up with the rogue shoes? Don't even mention socks. It's Summer. No need to speak of that evil.)

If I am not careful - and I mean extremely careful - this season of life can whirl by so quickly, it will all just be a blur and I'll feel a little nauseous looking back.

Lord, I want more.

"So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. Return, O LORD, How long? Have pity on your servants! Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil. Let your work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to their children. Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!"
Psalm 90:12-17

It's a prayer of Moses, but I think most of my friends would gladly claim it as their own right now. We are all longing for a miracle. (If not today, then we will be next week when the baby wakes for the seventh time at 3:15a.m.) No matter what season we are in, parenting is a task too great to tackle alone.  

Let's be real. Life is too great a task to tackle alone - with or without kids.

[Full disclosure: one of the hardest parts about walking in obedience as I transition from teaching to ministry is that I know full well that I do not have anything figured out. I am still learning how to manage my household, much less anyone else's. I have no priceless words of wisdom, just real accounts from the trenches of how God has been faithful even and especially when I was not. That's not going to change until I get home. God keeps reminding me He knew all that when He chose me.]

As the pages on the calendar are turning too fast for my liking, one thing alone has given me peace: I have surrendered every single parenting goal I had.

To mother children with diverse personalities is to discover that the tactics I deemed "gold" might have glittered for a little while, but only because of grace, never gold. When applied to another child, those oh-so-brilliant ideas didn't even sparkle anymore. In the world, we are so tempted to look to our right and to our left, comparing what God is doing over there with what He is doing over here. Children are no different. They crave boundaries, but they are jealous little creatures, too. They seem to think we as parents are required to do the same for one child as for the other. What we know is that each child has unique needs and, therefore, must be approached individually in ways as unique as they are.

Do we fail to see that God does the same with us?

Something shiny at our neighbor's house catches our eye and we start to wonder why God blessed them and left us out. Something perfect-looking on our newsfeed leaves us looking around the jumble that is our reality and pouting because we feel cheated somehow. Either we sulk and refuse to speak to God or we rant and rave before Him, asking why we've been left out. Like toddlers, when the tides change and we are on the receiving end again, we giggle with glee and forget our neighbors altogether.

I said I surrendered every parenting goal I had. That's true, but it's also true that I have to surrender anew many times each day. We are quite literally parenting every phase of childhood at the moment. What has been appropriate for the baby has been ridiculous for the teen - until now. The one goal I'm holding fast to - for all of them - is to teach these children to simply follow. This time, though, I'm not teaching them to follow the rules. I'm teaching them to follow Jesus. Not the preacher, not the teacher, not their daddy, not their friends, not their grandparents, not me: Christ alone.

I care less about the cookie at bedtime than the reason they are still craving. I am less concerned with getting that extra hour's uninterrupted sleep than I am with knowing that child felt secure when he needed to feel secure. My little dancer is the one that stretches me most. There is no amount of money I would willingly accept for dancing on a stage, so I don't understand her motive; however, to deny her God-given love and ability in return for the appearance of having a compliant child seems like a bad deal to me. The list goes on, but the closer we get to this finish line that we sort of thought might never come, the clearer we can see.

May that be true in our lives as well. Lord, help us see Truth more clearly the closer we get to home.

Let us care less about appearances and more about what lies beneath. May we pour ourselves out for the sake of another. May we not envy, but rather applaud the gifts of those so different from ourselves. May they see You in us when we do. May we learn to hold loosely to what we have kept in a death-grip for far too long as we learn to trust in You alone.

May we surrender our agendas, look less to rules, and live this life with one solitary goal: to follow hard after You and see You glorified.

If we are not careful - and I mean extremely careful - this life can whirl by so quickly, it will all just be a blur and we'll feel a little nauseous looking back.

Lord, we want more.


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