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Monday, July 14, 2008


Last night at bedtime a scene played out at my house that happens more frequently than I'd like. One of my beautiful, precious, beloved young daughters (seriously - they are amazing) lost it, started yelling, hit her mother, and kicked her sister. Having been warned only 5 minutes earlier (not to mention every day of her life) that she may not hit her mother, I took her up to her room to go on to bed. For nearly 30 minutes she alternately yelled and cried, "It's not fair! It's not fair!" After a long time of this, realizing she could not and would not listen to me, I left her alone for a time and only later was able to talk to her. What happened was also familiar - she had wanted something and was not getting her way. Though we responded to her with boundaries and expectations (like, "you need to wait for 2 minutes until this show we are all watching is over") she wanted what she wanted NOW. And despite the fact that she desperately also wanted to see the end of the show (the really not fair part!), her desire for her own wants took precedence over the rest of the family, the "rules", and even the carefully explained boundaries.

I describe all this in detail because we really do bend over backwards to be fair to our kids (as they are constantly comparing their treatment to their siblings treatment). But, despite all the fairness we could muster, when my daughter didn't get what she wanted, the whole world became unfair.

What was I doing anyway? Was I trying to make her miserable? Was I trying to control everyone around me? Was TV more important than what she wanted? Did I make up arbitrary and meaningless rules to rob her of her happiness? No, ultimately - and maybe you can't explain this to a five year old - I was trying to teach her that trickiest of human lessons, that she is not the center of the universe. I don't mean that in a mean way - in many ways, she IS near the center of my universe! But I believe from the depth of my soul that one of my chief purposes as a parent is to show her the face of God and that God is the center of the universe. This is the "missional" or "searchlight" lesson played out in the parent/child setting. Ultimately that involves teaching her that loving and serving God is more important than self. And closely tied to that (says Jesus), loving and serving others is more important than self. [But then, just to keep it challenging, I'm also supposed to teach her that she (herSELF) is important because she is created in God's image to reflect His glory.]

And as a parent, I "train" her for this by walking her through the steps of gracious submission to God and others again and again until it becomes habit, then desire, then character.

And anyone who has trained, coached, or parented knows, that process comes with many, many hours of "that's not fair" and even an occasional, "you hate me!" That's what stinks. It's no fun having your child rail against you claiming you aren't fair and don't love them, when nothing could be further from the truth. What I cling to as those cries rip my heart out is the conviction that I am being faithful as a parent and the hope that one day they will "get it."

I often tell people that becoming a parent was and is one of the most significant things to happen in my own spiritual life. That's because I finally got a first-hand glimpse at how God sees me and God's infinite patience and love toward me when I rail against Him in frustration. I get reminded of it every day, and that's a beautiful thing.

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