My child is created perfectly for the purpose and assignment the Lord has for them.
As I raised my kids, I believed that with all my heart. But in a moment of complete honesty, I will also let you in on a little secret. There were times.... like when my argumentative one threw a fit in the grocery store and people looked at me funny, I wondered. When my shy one buried her face in my shoulder and physically shuddered at the thought of speaking to a stranger, I wondered. When my messy one could never find more than one shoe but could pull petrified food from under his bed, I wondered. Or when my daydreamer stared out the window for an hour instead of completing her math, I wondered. I really wondered if I had any idea how to raise THIS child so as to not mess up that design.
On a macro level, I always agreed absolutely that God created my children perfectly. But now that my kids are mostly grown, I am revealing a deep, dark secret of motherhood, one we rarely confess, even to one another. I did not always understand my kids. In fact, I did not even always like them.
Before the kids arrive, nobody tells us of the infinite makes and models available. Maybe because we have no say whatsoever in the model we receive? As our belly swells with burgeoning life, we dream. Will this new human win a Nobel prize or go to the Olympics? Attend Harvard or be a professional athlete? Or both? Maybe if I parent well enough, they will do it all!
Nothing prepared me for the intense love present from the moment I gazed into my infant's eyes. My heart immediately made a covenant to do all I could to raise and protect this amazing human. This love was immediate, and not dependent on a single thing other than his or her existence.
Here is the reality- I had just intensely fallen in love with a complete stranger. It is the truest love-at-first-sight that ever existed. But it takes years to know this new person. Each child comes wired with gift and talents, but also quirks, weaknesses, and besetting sins. Their personality unfolds and reveals itself bit by bit. And lets be honest- not every "bit" is as cute or enjoyable as others.
When the messy bits take stage, front and center, a great deal of faith is required to remember and believe that the Lord created our children exactly how He desired them to be. He crafts strengths so that they can do the exact job He designed them to do.
But why does He allow weaknesses? Each one of our precious children arrives scarred by the ravages of the sin nature they inherited from us. Our job as parents is to work with our kids so all the messy weirdness does not overtake them to such a degree they become less effective in their God-given assignments.
Our job is not to change our children, but rather to train their hearts to be strong so that their sin nature will not destroy or distort the Master's design. I am a big proponent of pro-active parenting. What we do in our children's lives makes all the difference in the world. All kids need TRAINING. No matter the personality or tendency, all kids need to learn to be polite, patient, kind, hard-working, respectful, and a host of other character qualities that come from slow, consistent parental teaching.
- My shy child needs to learn to honor others by looking in their eyes and saying hello.
- My talkative child needs to learn to value others by constraining his/her own mouth long enough to listen.
- My active child needs to learn to control his/her body when activity would be a distraction to those around us.
- My strong-willed child needs to learn to follow directions to be respectful to those in charge.
- My lazy child needs to learn to work in order to be of service.
How grateful I am now for my parents who actively worked with me on my faults. How much more of a mess I would be now it they hadn't done so. They taught me to be polite, and think about others, and to be kind, and many other qualities that were not natural.
EVERY strength has a corresponding weakness. And I don't know about you, but I never "grew out" of weaknesses I smuggled out of childhood. I may have found more socially acceptable ways to use them, but the ones that weren't dealt with when I was a kid are still hindering me. As an adult it is not a bit easier to overcome my entrenched sinful habits of a quick temper, or procrastination, or selfishness. In fact, I am pretty sure it is more difficult.
What a conundrum parenting truly is. Yes- our children have a Designer...and therefore a design! And it is not our job to change that design. BUT, it is our job to teach the character qualities that help them be loving and successful human beings. It is not about creating little "Stepford children" who all act the same. But it is also not excusing bad behavior because "they were made that way."
I believe God's design in our children is under attack from three areas: the world, our own expectations, and their own sin nature. That is why parenting is such a grace-needed, prayer-producing activity! As parents we are not supposed to be engineers, tinkering with the design.
Rather, we are gardeners: pulling weeds, fertilizing, pruning, and watering the gardens of our children's hearts.
Gardening requires us to get our hands dirty, sweat, work hard, and be patient. Parenting this way is hard work! But our kids needs us to be pro-active. Lets PARENT our children. Teach them character. Help them see the needs of others.
Yes, each child is unique.
Each one especially designed.
Each one carved by the Master's hand.
Each one with strengths.
Each one with weaknesses.
We will never be perfect parents, but we do have a perfect God to turn to. So every day, lets ask Jesus for wisdom on HOW to raise this child of His. He is the Designer and therefore He is the only One who truly understands the heart of our child.