"I haven’t read a single parenting book!" I laughed with my friends soon after having my first son. I guess I had a self-righteous moment where I thought the implications of reading a parenting book were legalism and too-high-expectations. But then that thought turned to logic, and I began a mental freak out. Our government makes us read manuals, take tests, and even drive a car with a government representative before we are issued a driver’s license, but they just send us home from the hospital with a baby. No manual. No test. Just a miniature human who relies on you for every form of sustenance and life teaching—food, nutrients, exercise, the importance of good hygiene, how to be a friend, healthy bones, coordination (Lord, I pray that he looks to his earthly father and not me for that), social skills, respect for authority, study habits, how to write a thank you note, work ethic, potty training, how to say no to e-spam and not send $500 to your friend stuck in London, humor, and the scariest of all--religion. The weight of parenting is a pretty big load when you really think about it, and I can use all the help I can get.
SO—I did begin reading, but I quickly discovered there is very little in parenting that you can fully prepare for. For example, our oldest son is 20 months old and has an iron will. IRON, I say! He can be sweet and endearing when he’d like, but some days my husband and I feel like all we do is discipline. It seems that not many books have answers on how to reason with children before they can understand reason itself. And so we are left to go to bed at night feeling guilty--Were we too hard on him? Were we too easy on him? Did we give him enough positive reinforcement for his good behavior? Are we making certain to preserve the positive aspects of a strong will (leadership, conviction, and passion)?
Our second son was born 8 weeks ago, and before we left the hospital, a pediatrician found that he had a heart murmur. Tests were run and eventually a pediatric cardiologist explained that Bennett has a pulmonary valve stenosis. His pulmonary valve is thickened which places stress on his heart as it pumps blood through a narrow valve. This was expected to fix itself but five weeks later, we were told it was worse, and next week we find out if he must have a procedure done to place a balloon in his heart. We were not prepared. I am left wondering what God could mean by all of this. It is certainly not as scary as a brain tumor but he does have something wrong with his heart, and that is not an organ that I would like to mess with.
In the gospel of Mark, Jesus was preaching in a home, and a group of men carried a paralytic to him, lowering him through a roof because they could not get through the door with all of the people in the house. Mark 2:5-12 recalls:
And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven." Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, "Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?" And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, "Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise, take up your bed and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins"—he said to the paralytic— "I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home." And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, "We never saw anything like this!"
Jesus was more concerned about the condition of the paralytic’s heart than his physical disability. There are many more examples of this in the Bible, and I am realizing the implications in light of parenting. Jesus wants to deal with my heart too. Very little sleep is being had in our house right now, discipline does not always go as planned, and we will probably have sickness and doctor’s visits on a regular basis.
There is no book that can help clean up the mess of life, and there is no all-inclusive manual for raising kids right. There is only what the Bible offers—a Savior. Jesus more concerned with my understanding that He physically experienced all of the pain that I am experiencing and then died that I might be set free. A Father more concerned with my experiencing His glory than experiencing a perfect family. A Spirit, a spiritual wind, more concerned with moving my heart out of angst and into worship than letting me worry about the things I cannot control.
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