Parenting is a lot harder than I thought it would be. And it’s not just because I had twin boys. I won’t pull that card out. Yet. No, parenting is hard because I am not as altruistic as I knew I was before they were born. And now I’m fairly certain that how I think of, and treat, the people around me - particularly my kids - is a direct reflection of how I relate to my Creator. Here’s why I think that:
I was reading Psalm 50 the other day. When it was written, the Jewish people were required to offer animal sacrifices in their temple to atone for sin. Jesus’s salvation through His virgin birth, perfect life, death, and resurrection for us hadn’t happened yet. Despite not actually being a God that ever changes, I used to envision Him being “satisfied” with all those rituals, that people’s hearts weren’t yet part of the equation. But what He says sounds pretty similar to what our family and friends want from us: to be more than just an obligation. And you and I both know how often we go through the motions because “we’re supposed to.”
In Psalm 50, God tells His people that (as the Creator), He knows every animal, and everything already belongs to Him. He doesn’t need to be fed. He doesn’t have needs that require His people’s care. The sacrifice He wants is gratitude. Fulfilled vows. To ask Him for help when there’s trouble.
My kids don’t need ME specifically to feed them, or shelter them, or buy them clothes and toys. Anyone could do that. Anyone could take them in and put them on their to-do list. Could make sure their teeth are brushed and they don’t stay up to late. Could think of them as little “things” to be taken care of and kept quiet. But my unique relationship to them is irreplaceable. These specific boys are in my care for a reason.
It’s easy to forget - yes, I subconsciously do it too - that humans at all stages of life are equal. Some of us are just at physically stronger, more developed stages in life and therefore, it’s our privilege and responsibility to use that vitality to care for, and protect those at physically weaker stages (Pre-born, infants, children, the disabled, and the elderly).
But not even God Himself - the strongest, most beautiful Being - wants to be treated as an obligation. Sweeping the floor and brushing the dog are duties. People are never duties. God is not another number on a to-do list. Every single human spirit is someone created and paid the highest price for - even if they have turned their back on that Gift. And those humans, including you and me, come from a Creator who desires a relationship by way of specific acknowledgement, faithfulness, and trust in the midst of trouble.
But it’s easy to type that last sentence and harder to live it out.
When I do remember, I am present. The world seems larger and richer. I stop envying others, bend my head down, and happily get to work. Treating myself as the highest priority is never, ever rewarding. I’m not saying that as a sort of trained, religious monkey. I mean that sincerely and from daily experience and struggle. My selfishness, though the easier option in the initial moment, returns the favor like a criminal sneaking up from behind and throwing a black bag down over my head. I become fearful, frustrated, short-sighted, and lose control. I kick and fight the people around me, trying to get them to leave me alone.
Parenting really did shine a spotlight on my own anger, pride, and neediness. The way I still prioritize myself and my perspective despite being fully reconciled to and loved by the Creator. By a trustworthy husband. By two sons. By a warmhearted family and kind neighbors. I have been given much. For what? To have much to give.
If I was a carpenter and someone gifted me a fully equipped workshop with every tool imaginable, training with expert carpenters, and time to work….how dumb - or how human shall we say - would I have to be to just spend a few minutes here and there in the shop, tinker once in a while, caress my table saw, admire my drill press, then turn and lock it all up safe. What if my shop was located in a town where everyone had some problems with their houses that I was fully equipped to help fix? But no. It’s not my problem, I would say. Actually, isn’t it tea time?
And then one day, my time would be done. And I would hear, what did you do with what I gave you? And I would open my mouth, confident that the correct answer would come out. But nothing would. Maybe a couple of moths from the years I went without sharing the Gospel. God forbid I don’t have an answer to this question at the end of my life. God forbid I continue going through life half asleep, alternating between not caring and thinking all the provision and time and tools and energy is about me.
The Bible tells believers that we are like members of a body. We all have different roles, different skills, but we are still part of the same body, with Christ as the head. If we came across a kidney or a big toe laying by itself on the asphalt, what would we think? Oh, that kidney is doing fine by itself or that big toe just has a different personality than the other toes.
No, it’s grotesque! A human body is lacking without those parts. And the severed pieces of dead flesh are completely useless.
That is what happens to us when we view God and people as obligations.
But I am confident that God is extremely eager to help whenever I ask Him to help change my heart, my perspective, on both Him and others, particularly my fast-growing children.
1 Thessalonions 5:17 says "Pray without ceasing".
That’s crazy, who does that?
A parent. A parent who faces their own screaming imperfections and impatience daily and wants all the help they can get from Someone who knows exactly what your kids need and want most.