I just finished reading the gut-wrenching post at The Blessing of Verity. It is Susannah's first post after the accidental death of her son. It is raw and painful to read. It also confirms something I've been thinking a lot about recently. That would be the clash that happens when parenting bumps into God's grace. And believe me, it is a clash.
When you have children, you realize that you have suddenly become far more susceptible to pain than ever before in your life. You love this little person. You love this little person so much that if anything were to happen to this child, you are not sure you could go on. But it is not only that, you desperately want what's best for them. You are overwhelmed with the responsibility that parenting entails. If you are not going to ruin this precious child's life, you need to be the best parent you can possibly be. To fail in that mission means that you have not done your best for your child. It means there could very well be life-long consequences for your child.
And this is true to some extent. How we parent does have implications for our child's life. Neglect and abuse can damage a child and forever change his or her life.Yet modern parenting has taken this notion to such an extreme that it leaves little margin for error. If you don't do things a certain way, you have failed your child. There is a blog post (Back to School: the 70's verses today) being shared about just this notion that perfect parenting will turn out a perfect child. Christian parents have their own take on this. Unless things are done a certain way, your child will grow up and turn away from Jesus. The pressure (and the stakes) are high and it leaves parents anxious, fearful, and overwhelmed with the responsibility they carry.
In this mind-set, it's all on the parents' shoulders. Everything from health to education to socialization to belief from now until eternity. We parents take on so much more than we were ever intended to carry. We cannot bear up under this burden. We just can't no matter how hard we try and here's why: we are not perfect and we will not be perfect no matter how hard we try. We will fail our children at some point in our lives. We won't mean to, but we will. For some, that failure comes early, for others, we can go along for quite some time operating under the assumption that we are the 'good' parent; the parent other people wish they could be... if they would just try harder. But sooner or later, every parent... every single parent... will find that they have failed, that they have not lived up to their responsibility and their ideals. We will all have a moment (or more) where we wonder how on earth God could have thought that giving this child to me was a good idea. We realize that we cannot be a perfect parent. We will realize that sometimes we can't even be a good parent. Surely this child deserved more, more than me as a parent.
And here is where the clash between grace and parenting happens. Right in that moment when we realize that we cannot be the parent we want to be; the one we feel our child deserves. In that moment we can get a glimpse of what God's grace really and truly means. He knew we would fail. He knew just how spectacularly we would fail. He knew all this and still He gave us these precious children to love and care for and nurture. And when we fail, He still loves us. This is grace. When we have a glimpse of exactly how sinful and selfish and incapable we really are and Jesus puts His arms around us and tells us how much He loves us anyway.
I've said it before... parenting is humbling. If there were one 'right' way to do it, it would have been discovered and perfect children would already be being raised. No formula is going to do to this. We are sinful creatures, both young and old. If there were a formula, we adults wouldn't be able to carry it out, but it wouldn't matter because it wouldn't work on our sinful children. We don't get perfect this side of Heaven. Instead, we have to learn to function despite our failures... to learn to extend the grace that God extends to us to ourselves and to our children.
I often wonder if God gave us children because it would mean that we would be living out the Gospel on a daily (or sometimes hourly) basis. Nothing so perfectly shows us our failures as being a parent. It is in those failures that we truly see the need for a savior, some one to save us from the mess we see inside ourselves. And it isn't until we see that mess that we see the Savior and discover His overwhelming love. Because there is nothing like the love that is experienced when the person doing the loving knows all the bad stuff and loves you anyway. Grace. Amazing.