When I was pregnant with Ellia, I had a clear sense that having a kid was by far the gutsiest thing I could do. As much as I was anticipating immeasurable joy, I was also keenly aware of the risk involved. If I loved this person, which, presumably, I would, and if I loved her so much that when she hurt, I hurt, then there’s a lot at stake. I remember thinking that if we ever lost Ellia, I would have a hard time ever enjoying life again. There was a word I heard from God during my pregnancy: Just as I’d had to learn that my life wasn’t my own, I had to realize that my family wasn’t my own, either. I didn’t own this life I carried. I wasn’t giving birth to a mini-me dress up doll who would perform for my friends to show what a great parent I am. I was carrying an individual with her own voice, preferences and ways of relating to God. I was parenting a person who was different than me.
With this realization, the gravity of parenting grows. There is a certain level of trust in God that is now required. This life isn’t ours, so it isn’t ours to contain, manipulate or coerce. It means that God is ultimately responsible for the growth and voice this unique person experiences.
If we don’t own our kids, it also means we don’t get a say in everything that happens to them. Someone will break our daughter’s heart. Someone will hurt our son very deeply. People will say things to our children that will eat away at the foundation we’ve sought to build. Pain will come. Dreams will fail. Sickness will interfere. And there’s little we can do to stop it.
It makes sense that we’d want to. It makes sense that our own desire for control leaks out and splashes onto the canvas of our kids’ lives. In these moments where we see our children face real hurt and struggle, we must re-member that our kids aren’t ours.
If this is true, there is a certain freedom with which we can parent. It really is true that when you try to grab on to sand too tightly, it slips out through your knuckles. You can’t hold on to it, so stop trying.
Stop trying to own what isn’t yours to own. The more I fight to control, the more my enjoyment is ruined by sheer exhaustion.
I am the mother of Ellia. No one else will ever be her mom. I know that being her mom means I have a unique voice as Christ’s representative to her. I have the job of mirroring to her how God feels about her. Parenting is shaping. Parenting is shepherding. But parenting is also enjoying. I hope I never get too concerned with method or discipline that I forget to enjoy Ellia and Olive. I want to enjoy those girls the way God does.
God has made it clear that I have no say in how long my family will be with me, but I do have a say in how present I am to them today. Leave the toys on the floor. Laugh instead of critique. Sit with the blood and flesh gifts God’s given you.
Being present forces me to see God’s very real enjoyment of me. His obsession is not with changing me, growing me or disciplining me. He’s loving me. This love is the source of his transformative and pruning work in my life, but it begins with the truth that he is Love.
I can’t parent well without constantly remembering that I am enjoyed by God. I enjoy because I’m enjoyed. I love because I am loved. And there are two little hands, sticky from fruit roll up, that are grabbing me to take me deeper into what it is to be human—what it is to be enjoyed by the God who wants to be known as Abba.