For as long as I can remember, I’ve heard the saying, “parenting is not for the faint of heart.” But I never quite knew what to make of that saying before I had children. In truth, parenting didn’t seem as scary or difficult as people made it out to be …
… well, God certainly has a sense of humor, as I now find myself neck deep in the throes of parenting, disciplining, and teaching two of the strongest-willed children on this planet. The fact that God chose me to be the mother of such precious, iron-willed humans boggles my mind. It really only makes sense in the truth of 2 Corinthians 12:9, when the Lord told Paul, My power is made perfect in weakness (NIV).
Recently, I had an experience that made me want to disappear from the planet and use one of those “Men in Black” gadgets to scrub the memory of everyone around me.
On a beautiful morning, my mom and I decided to take the kiddos to the farmer’s market. What could be more relaxing than strolling the booths of mouth-watering just-picked strawberries and rows of delectable tomatoes, squash, and lettuces?
Well, within about 5 minutes, we had major meltdown on our hands. My son broke out of the stroller and began grabbing hunks of broccoli and berries from a table, even after I repeatedly told him to stop.
My daughter, indignant that her brother escaped the confines of the 5-point harness, began screaming as only she can, bursting the eardrums of all those around us and garnering the kind of attention you make it your mission to avoid.
As the hot California sun bore down on my head, a mix of sweat and tears began rolling. My children refused to obey and refused to calm down. If people’s looks could kill, I would have been dead a dozen times over. Helpless and exasperated, we scrapped the trip, put those screaming children back into the car, and headed for home, where they forced my hand into some serious discipline.
I felt utterly humiliated, embarrassed, and incompetent. Here I was, round and pregnant with baby #3 while the two I already have wreaked havoc and blatantly disobeyed my orders.
We’ll mark that under the category of mothering fail.
I cried to my mom about how incredibly tired I was of going places and being embarrassed by their behavior. If you’re a parent, I’m willing to bet your children have also left you feeling embarrassed or helpless a time or two. The feeling of humiliation and judgment sticks to your skin like the thick, humid air of the South.
It plain old stinks.
But God has been teaching me, as only He can, about the treasures and lessons to be learned in the sometimes humiliating midst of this crazy hard thing called parenting.
With each tantrum and meltdown, God has revealed hidden plaques of pride stuck to my heart—stuck so tightly, apparently, that it’s taking the searing heat of disciplining my strong-willed children to melt it off.
It is a pride born out of a stiff-necked, flesh nature desire for independence and control. I stand amazed at the stubbornness of my children, yet all the while a part of my own heart wants nothing more than to be in control and independent, just like them.
Once again, the seemingly simple act of raising children is revealing my endless need for dependence on God like never before! In my own strength, I am weak. In my own wisdom, I am lost.
In these moments, how grateful I am for the life-giving words of the Psalmist:
I lift up my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth (Psalm 121:1-2 NIV).
Just like Eve long before us, the enemy entices us to think that somehow, we can do it better without God—somehow, our own will could be better than that of our loving, helping Creator. But try as we might, there’s simply no escaping the truth—as believers, our freedom is won through total dependence on God and His resources.
Whether it be in parenting, relationships, work, or any other facet of our lives, we must get serious about living out the words of Proverbs 3:5-6:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight (NIV).
What about you? Is there an area of your life in which you’re attempting to function and thrive independently of God’s strength and wisdom? If so, I’m willing to bet that, if you’re honest, it’s not really working for you—just as it’s not really working for me.
Let the words of Hebrews 4:16 settle deep into your core:
Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need (NIV).
Sweet reader, whatever your struggle is today, you’re not alone in it. You and I serve a God who is Holy and Sovereign, yet at the same time invites us to sink into the comfort and strength of His arms. It is in dependence on those arms that we will find what we need to handle our strong-willed children or taxing job or difficult marriage.
When you find yourself lost and confused as to the next step—how to discipline that child, how to proceed in that relationship, whether or not to take that job—run to the One who knows the answer to all your most difficult questions. As James 1:5 tells us,
If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him (NIV).
I don’t know about you, but this is a promise to which I’m clinging whole-heartedly these days, as I’m learning to depend more wholly and fully on Him in the fire of life’s trials.
What circumstance is leaving you humbled, confused, or defeated today? Let me be so bold as to ask you to do the same thing I believe God is asking of me:
Be willing to be humbled or in need of help from friends or family. Be willing to accept grace, which I find oftentimes harder than extending it. And be willing to embrace your need for dependence on Him. There is so much freedom waiting just on the other side of laying it all down …
… A funny thing happened later that morning—once the kids settled down, my mom in her wisdom suggested we put them back in the car and try again at the farmer’s market. Those sticky plaques of pride in me balked at first, unwilling to risk further embarrassment. But at her gentle urging, I decided to exhale and be willing to go and let it be what it would be.
And wouldn’t you know? My children behaved like the sweet ones they truly are, and I felt a little flicker of hope at this evidence of progress. It is thrilling to watch your little ones learn to trust and obey—and in similar fashion, I imagine God greatly rejoices when we respond in obedience to and reliance on Him.
Be willing, dear one. And when the fireworks pop and sparkle this weekend as we celebrate our national independence, I pray that your heart and mine will pop and sparkle just as vibrantly at the freedom to be found in spiritual dependence on our Creator.
This post is a part of this summer’s series Finding Meaning in the Mess. All summer, we’ll be diving into the faith lessons we can learn in the midst of our everyday lives. God can teach us through all kinds of trials, big or small–let’s commit to drawing nearer to Him and hearing His voice!