We stared at each other. Stubborn incomprehension on both of our faces. He looked angry and frustrated. I would have given anything to get into his mind and make him see sense. I asked question after question, knowing somewhere deep down that I should stop the interrogation of my almost 5 year old but not having the sense to walk away and breathe. We stared at each other. He blew in my face and walked away. I frustratedly sighed and huffed for a while. Later we hugged goodnight and again stared with incomprehension at each other. He, probably wondering what the fuss was about, me just wondering how I would ever understand this boy and help him navigate the world.
Later that night I turned to friends on Facebook for comfort. I felt like a failure once more in this odd land of parenting and wanted help. People expressed their support and care, people reassured me that I am actually a good parent, most of the time. There are times I get it right. A friend then dropped the line that set my thoughts free. Of course I have failed, I have not parented perfectly everyday of my life. But. There is forgiveness. There is grace. There is One who parents me and who sets me free to be ok with my failures. There is One who tells me that I am not a complete failure, but who is also realistic about the times I have been harsh, angry, impatient or lazy. There is One who always, unfailingly, offers forgiveness and a chance for a new start.
To be honest this is sometimes one of the only reasons I can find to still call myself a Christian. This good, insane, crazy news that I am forgiven. An external source is offering me grace. I don’t have to try and be perfect, I don’t have to sit and despair over my failure to be perfect. I can run to the safety of the arms that say I am dearly loved, that I am enough and that I am forgiven for all the ugly selfish behaviour that still dominates my life at times. It’s the only way I know to deal with the reality that I sin, that I hurt people around me, that I fail to love. I am forgiven. From a source I trust and believe in. I am forgiven. Words from the one who faced the worst so I didn’t have to. I am forgiven.
It’s also the only way I can face the future, when again I will be faced with children who are not perfect, who will be ugly in their behaviour to others. I will be faced with my fear, my anger, my ability to hurt others. It’s the only way I can look to the future with hope, knowing that I am and will be forgiven. Jesus died for me. Once for all. Once for all. I don’t know how else to live. I know those words don’t always sit well, I know those words can bring all the wrong images in the minds of some read these words. But I have no other ones. These give me hope and life. A way forward in the mess. A way to live without fear. It bothers me greatly that these words have been used in ways that don’t bring life and hope.
For now I live in the tension that I am not as I wish I was, but I am loved and forgiven and can be good enough for my beautiful boys. I live needing the encouragement to know that my parenting is pretty good at times. I live needing the encouragement that when it isn’t, when it looks ugly and wrong that I am forgiven, that I have a place to run to for safety and refuge. I long for the wisdom to know when I need to say sorry and when I need to say ‘go’ to the dark negative thoughts that swirl around me and trap me in fear.
I am grateful friends on Facebook provided that full picture last night.
This weird world of parenting can be so full of guilt, it’s hard to figure out what I am responsible for and what I am not. We are growing small people who will become big people and responsible for their own choices and actions in the world. I imagine there will always be part of me who feels responsible, who thinks if only we had done things differently…. But I think that’s the part of me who wants to think she can control everything. I can’t.
That’s been my ultimate lesson from the moment son1 blew our world apart. I could not control how he slept, or ate, or developed, when he sat up, when he crawled, when he spoke words, when he finally learnt to sleep all night in his own bed. I cannot control when he learns to read, how he interacts with his friends, what he will do next week. Together with the lovely husbandface we can try and provide an environment for him and his weirdo brother to flourish in, to be loved in, to be cared for in, to be listened to in. We can try and be his safe place, his touchstone to run to when the world confuses him but we cannot control him or how he engages with this world. I sigh in relief that I know a God who loves him more than I ever will, who holds onto us in this weird process of helping a boy grow into a man and who works for good in our lives. I am so glad of redemption, forgiveness and hope. I am glad we have the Spirit who helps us make wise, good choices, I am glad to belong to something bigger than me and whether I have got it right today or not. I am glad that it is never the end of the story.
Your correspondent, once more writing to remind herself of Good Things and maybe finding a few more reasons why she’s a Christian along the way.