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Spiritual Practice of Parenting: Tales of Grace and Forgiveness

October 8, 2013

As is common in my life, my parenting and children teach me more about faith than I’ve learned otherwise.  Kids are so forgiving.   They push me to greater selflessness (a challenge to me).  Kids make me a better person, some of the time.  (Other times, well, other times kids make me more aware of my own humanity and weaknesses).

Take this weekend for example.  For some reason, Saturdays have been for me lately, not quite sure why.  However, I tend to be grumpier on Saturdays and less patient.  Maybe it’s because the kids are more tired on Saturday (this particularly Saturday because the babysitter started bedtime an hour later than I asked her to), maybe it’s because the kids are around all day, maybe it’s because I don’t have much of agenda for Saturday due to soccer games and I don’t accomplish enough.  Whatever the reason, I’ve been a total grump on Saturdays.

Saturday a few weeks ago was worse than usual, like I’ve mentioned, because of how exhausted the kids were.  Whininess was the mode of communication for the day for the kids and all of them wanted to be by themselves, except when they wanted to play with someone else–who didn’t want them to play with them.  There was a lot of screaming and crying (from the kids, not me).  I held it together as best as I could.  I stuck to my calm voice, separated myself from my loudest, most adamant child, and played peaceful music to try to keep me in my happy place.  My kids needed me not to be a grump.

I didn’t totally succeed (nor did I totally fail).  After one child kicked another in the face (and was sent upstairs), things settled a bit, at least for  the child doing the kicking.  I finally got the most upset child settled (while attempting to make supper…) and was completely fried.  Curtis got home (he was helping his mom that afternoon) and at that point I was done.  The child doing the kicking returned downstairs, the youngest followed and the two of them started demanding things from me, again.  I snapped.   Curtis retreated with the kids, out of the kitchen while I finished our very late supper trying to recover.

Madeleine voluntered to set the table that evening, something unheard, especially since it was Isaac’s day to set the table.  When we sat down, I noticed a folded up piece of paper at my seat.  I opened it and read:

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I sat there and cried.  I was forgiven.  Madeleine held nothing against me in my impatience and frustration.  She offered me grace–she brought me from my feelings of failure and despair and I sat and cried for a moment.    She forgave me when I was being short-tempered with her, and she gave me a chance to forgive her as well.  I looked at her, and she smiled at me.  I breathed and understood a little more about what grace meant.

The evening turned for me, but wasn’t complete until after we had put all three to bed and were watching a movie.  In the middle of the movie, John wandered downstairs (my most adamant, upset child from the afternoon).  My oldest two are sleepwalkers.  We’ll see them wandering the house after they’ve been asleep for awhile.  We’ll steer them back to bed and the morning, they’ll remember nothing.  John stumbled over to the couch and curled up next me, tightly.  I said another prayer of thanks.  Though my boy was asleep, I felt like my redemption was complete.  My terrible, horrible, no good, very bad afternoon was transformed by two acts by my children, one knowingly and one instinctively.  Although I was frustrated with him in the afternoon and lost patience (sending him outside to scream because I couldn’t handle another moment of it.inside.the.house.), I was his safe spot in the middle of his bad dream.  I was forgiven, put back where I belonged.

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It’s a wonderful thing, this being a parent thing.  In the span of three hours, I experienced the grace of God and unconditional love from my children.  I had a concrete example of what forgiveness feels like.  I also was able to be the refuge for my child, the safe place in a fearful time, even though earlier in the afternoon, he was yelling (in essence),  “why?”  “it’s not fair!”  and “I don’t understand!” just like I sometimes internally yell at God.

There are two analogies that are frequently offered in helping us understand our relationship with God.  Often, our relationship with God is described as a marriage–in Revelations, we (the church) are described as God’s bride, we are referred to as the Beloved and are said to be waiting the arrival of our bridegroom.  The other analogy is that as a parent/child.  In this stage of my life, I prefer the parent/child analogy.  I understand that much easier–I am comfortable with God being the parent, a parent like myself in that I can not control everything my child does nor does God choose to control us.  My children will get angry, be hurt, break arms, and make mistakes.  My heart will break in those instances.

Unlike God, I don’t always react with love.  However, my less than perfect reactions teach me how amazing God is–to react with love and to love us unconditionally.  God is not the parent who loses his temper and lashes out.  God is not the helicopter parent or the controlling, domineering parent.  God lets us make choices, listens when we complain it isn’t fair and we don’t understand, and snuggles with us at night when we are scared, wrapping us in his arms and letting us know we are never alone.  We will always be beloved children of God.

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