My kids, especially the biggest, the little stinker, have been used mightily this week by God to do a work in me that soooo needed to happen. In the process, though, I have been frustrated, angry, scared, and at my wit's end.
So, I cried out to God in exhaustion. And, as I sat and prayed with clenched fists, these are the things that kept coming up:
Lord, I work so hard at parenting and she is still selfish.
I work so hard to protect them, and they are still exposed and enticed by evil.
I work so hard at having good relationships with my girls, and they deliberately disobey me.
Then, I unclenched my fists in hopes of just listening to God.
I sighed a deep sigh and laid it all out.
God, I'm angry and frustrated. "Because you don't have control..."
I'm worried about evil. " I have good plans... "
I don't like the neighbor girl who acts way too old for her age. "She's a wounded child and I love her deeply... "
I feel like I can't do enough and it's too painful to fail. "Come to me..."
I felt such hope afterward and I couldn't really explain why. But, the next morning as I read in Hebrews 4 about Sabbath Rest, it became a little clearer. We are encouraged in that passage to enter fully into His rest - the completed work of redemption - and to be careful that we do not fall short of it. We are asked to cease working to bring about redemption in our lives and in the lives of others. We are invited to be still, and understand that God alone redeems. And if we don't do that, we risk falling away.
I can see how that would happen, actually. My own frustration at not being able to produce the results I want with my children has me in tears regularly. And I realize now that my anger, frustration, and worry about those things are because I believe that somehow I should have more control. That somehow all the work I do should produce perfectly behaved children who never encounter evil. Somehow I have made the subtle shift from guiding and helping to shape my children to taking it upon myself to do the redeeming work in their lives. It's a shift that has, at it's core, a belief that God's goodness towards me, and towards them, that his grace, is not sufficient. And just like that I have taken a nose dive off the edge of my faith...I've fallen away.
But here is the hope in it all and what snatches me back from the edge of faithlessness.
I can't do it. I'm ill equipped to be a redeemer.
And thank goodness. Because in spite of my great love for my kids, what I have to offer in that regard would fall so far short of what God wants to do. Pitifully short. And I want more for them than an earthly redemption that would make them good little robots who are motivated by my fear or anger or frustration to do the right things. I want their hearts to be redeemed by the One who invites us to live life to the full, and transforms us by his love.
There are still issues. My kids are still selfish. The neighbor girl is a 10th grader in a 2nd grade body and I'm not sure how to handle that. My kids continue to wound me with their little rejections. And all of it is likely to produce suffering in their little lives that I feel like I can not bear to watch. But I hope I will let those things lead me to a life of prayer and surrender, instead of fear and frustration.
As I attempt to daily enter into the Sabbath rest, I pray that I will parent with more hope, and less fear, as I understand more of the character of God. I pray that I will be more apt to trust that his desire to relentlessly pursue redemption in my life and the lives of my children is far greater than anything I can drum up. And I pray that as I pry open my hand and release my children to his tender care, that I would know better how to love them in a way that invites them to willingly place themselves in his grip.