Thursday, September 18, 2014

Glorious mess

The Hearts at Home link-up topic today is love your triumphs. I've thought all day about this and I realize that triumph means something a lot different to me today (AHC = after hard children) than it did before I started parenting children from hard places (BHC = before hard children.). BHC, I still had the illusion that I had control of my life and the lives of my children. I believed the false, but commonly held, assumption that if I did things the 'right' way, then my children would be like the ones in Lake Wobegon... smart, good-looking, and above-average. My competency, the triumph of my parenting, would be reflected by all my children were and became.

And then came our first child from a hard place and my entire belief system was slowly and irrevocably shattered into a thousand tiny bits. Because, you see, when a child has been hurt like my child had, the damage is extensive. "Good" parenting isn't enough. Actually, I learned that my good parenting wasn't so good after all, especially for this child. Not only did it not help, I'm pretty sure it set us back by several years. It was hardly a triumph.

After hard children, I was back at square one. Sometimes it felt as though we were so far off in what he needed that square one would have been a positive step forward. While each of our children has their own strengths and challenges, our children with less than stellar beginnings have this more so. Life is just harder for them. Things don't come as easily. And there are some days when J. and I wonder if what each of their future holds. Therapeutic parenting... parenting in a way that promotes healing... is a full-time job and one that often feels it is providing small drops in an ocean of need. The idea of triumph seems like a foreign concept.

That's only if you define triumph as a great effort culminating in a finished and completed project. My children, like myself, are works in progress. We will never be completed this side of Heaven. They are also autonomous individuals who have been given free will to the same extent that I have. I don't always make the right decisions, regardless of who has influenced me, and it is the height of hubris to think that my influence will have any greater affect on my children. I can do my best, but that's all. I also have no control over the things that happened in their past. While I can be angry over the hurt and injustice, I can't change it. I can only do my best to make their current lives better. More filled with love.

So what is triumph, especially when you are parenting children for whom life may always be a little more difficult? It is acknowledging and celebrating the small successes. It is loving them despite the fences they have put up to disguise their hurts. It is rejoicing that while we can do our best, their ultimate healing is not within our hands or in our power. It is letting go of the worry of what others think and admitting that your life isn't perfect. Triumph is sharing that life can be hard and not expecting perfection from ourselves or from others.

Because the ultimate triumph comes when we accept the glorious mess of this world. The mess part is easy to understand. Life is messy, no matter how hard we work at it. We are none of us perfect and sometimes we are at our messiest at those exact moments when we are trying to be the most perfect. It is glorious because when we are at our messiest, that is when Jesus can break through and do His redeeming work in us. And that is the real triumph. That God can use our mess and make something beautiful out of it.

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