Motherhood & Making Disciples
I'm two years in, and perhaps what I am impressed with the most so far is at how convincing my parents were at making me believe that they knew what they were doing, because if they felt anything like me, in reality they were flying by the seats of their pants!
Last week I shared a bit about my call and journey towards foster care, but the journey that led me specifically to my daughter is even more miraculous and evident than the initial call. And I am so grateful that the Lord has made Trinity's place in my life so undeniable and clearly ordained, because on the emotional roller coaster of the parenting journey it is helpful to at least be able to believe beyond the shadow of a doubt that she is the gift I was created to nurture in life.
But, parenting is hard! The "ups" are rewarding and amazing, but the "downs" are confusing, frustrating and discouraging. Sometimes I wonder if the hardest part even has anything to do with my child, or if the bigger challenge is my internal battle, which questions if I am serving her the right way, encouraging her heart correctly or disciplining her fairly.
I believe any parent would attest to the fact that nurturing little ones may be the highest level of a tangible sanctification process this side of Heaven. Sure, in the marriage relationship we see a beautiful picture of mutual servanthood and self-sacrifice, but in parenting, the service and self-sacrifice more than likely will only be flowing in one direction. Parenting is a task of providing faithful and consistent love, provision and care without being able to expect anything in return, or even knowing if you will get to see any fruit from your labor.
And it really calls out your heart.
Recently, as I have been navigating the never-ending cycle of discipline/ love/ positive-reinforcement/ and desperate prayer that my child turns out ok, I have felt the Lord really challenge me to identify why I respond to negative behavior and relational development in my child the way that I do. Is it because I am more worried about her growth and maturity, or am I more worried about how it reflects my image? Am I concerned about her heart coming closer to knowing Christ, or am I concerned with how my reputation is affected by her behavior in the circles we do life in? Am I comparing her actions against a temporal standard or an eternal one?
If I am being completely honest with myself, the fear that rises up in me when my child fails to meet my standards is often selfishly motivated. Internal thoughts such as, "What would people think if my child grows up and goes off the deep end?" are more accurately posed in my head as, "What would people think of me if my child grows up and goes off the deep end?"
And such a selfish focus on outer appearances generally steers my concerns towards my little one's actions rather than her heart. Am I more concerned with what my family photos portray, what her report card looks like and the compliments I am paid for my parenting? Or am I concerned with how her heart regards Christ, the connection she is making between her faith and her actions, and the example I desire to set of the necessity of incorporating Christ into every aspect of her life?
Gloria Furman sets forth an incredible perspective of one's role in parenting in her book "Missional Motherhood." She challenges many of our human instincts in parenting by setting forth the concept of viewing the role of parenting as a missional endeavor, and one with the goal of creating little disciples.
Like everything else on this earth, children are not ours, but rather are a matter of stewardship - a gift we have been given and have a responsibility to deal with as God would desire us to.
"We are not our own. Our children are not our own. Our homes are not our own. Our stuff is not our own. Nothing is our own. It's all His and for His glory."
I remember the first time I began to realize this principle in terms of money, and how much it revolutionized how I viewed what I had previously considered "my possessions." If we are managing something on behalf of someone else, it changes how we handle it quite a bit.
I do not mean to downplay the beautiful and mysterious relationship that God has created to be between a child and parent, but being an adoptive parent I do feel I may have been given a unique perspective of the balance between this deep parental bond, and the feeling of ownership. Because I did not biologically birth my child, perhaps the illusion of her being mine may not have been as strong. Rather, the overt Hand of God which brought her into my life framed her clearly as a gift that He wanted to put in my responsibility to steward and nurture. Believe me, the Lord has been her protector thus far, and God's invitation to play a role in her life is an invitation for me to join into the effort and plan that God has already been carrying forth in her life.
What is beautiful about carrying this perspective is the power of the realization that God purposefully chose me to nurture this specific little one. And if we let our minds think that any circumstance of parenting is of any less-ordained nature than this, we are doing our omnipotent God a disservice. No matter how you became a parent, no matter how long and difficult the journey, or how accidental and surprising, God chose you to be the parent of the little life in your care.
And that is a divine task, and a calling of eternal value.
How differently might we view our journey of parenting if we look through this lense of stewardship, and believe that God has handpicked us for our specific task?
As God continues to challenge and guide me in my path of parenting, I feel His biggest question to me lately has been, "What is your goal?"
As I seek to match a discipline with a behavior, or answer all of those endless, difficult little questions, I have begun to ask myself "What is the ultimate purpose I am trying to accomplish?" Am I responding in the moment based on my emotions, or perhaps based on the personal experience and expectations of my past? Or am I tapping into the Holy Spirit within me for help in an attempt to continue to usher her down a path leading to Christ?
Furman talks about it this way,
"We manage our home to be in line with God's truth to facilitate gospel ministry... We get to manage little gospel outposts for spreading the good news."
My prayer is that I may always view my home in this light, and that the heart of my nurturing and parenting may always rest in the purpose of raising up little disciples to carry the good news out from under my roof, to the corners of the world.
Mothers, our work is of eternal importance. May we not loose sight of the eternal goals and purposes that we are working towards, consistently, day after day.
I pray that in those moments where you feel you have hit rock bottom, you will be able to look back at your entrance into parenting with a sure call and conviction, and that when your discouragement rises, just maybe your child will walk in the door with a behavior award from school, pulling you back from the cliff of insanity, and assuring you that every tear, worry and ounce of energy spent on their behalf is eternally important, and is making a difference.