The parenting advice that has puzzled me the most and also pushed me into the dark corners of my children's facial expressions has been, "Get to know each of your children because they are all different." I always nodded my head yes when I heard it, while rolling my internal eyes, thinking "well, duh."
Now that I have three little boys, ages 5, 3, and 2, I cringe at what I thought I knew.
In getting to know my oldest, after five years of watching and listening, I've learned that he can give a quick answer, and it will be right and true. He answers "Jesus" before anyone. He prays with eloquence. He explains it all so well, but just below that smooth surface, he struggles hard with disbelief, perfectionism, and a lack of understanding about grace.
What doesn't come naturally for him is the admission of weakness. He hates to ask for help. He doesn't want to need grace or correction or mercy; he doesn't want to mess up.
And so here I am telling you all the dirt I hope to ever share about my child, and oh, at the same time, have I not also described myself? Yes. I do give many right answers, quaking with insecurity.
If I ever correct one of my children, 10 times out of 10, the lesson is somehow also for me.
Let me meet you here in this safe room and tell you this:
I am weak.
Because I am entrenched in mommy-grog, because I have so many thorns in my flesh, because I have tried and worked and begged and, at times, given up, I have nothing much to say except that I've nothing much to say.
But He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9&10)
I am weak, and yet I am delighted. Yes, there is no ocean that compares to grace, no depth or height. All the power in the universe rests with grace, in that deep crook of God-arm.
Please let me give you permission to brag, to delight a little. What weakness should you acknowledge so that Christ's power be made perfect in and rest on you today?
Your son sounds like the typical first born in personality, a personality I can identify with because it’s my own, also a first born. It has been a long journey to discover weakness can be a good thing, leaving space for God’s grace to come rushing in. For so long I built up walls against weakness. But through various situations God’s shown me how much I still need him, even when I think I can do it all on my own. Especially when I think I can do it all on my own.
Thanks for pointing us to those beautiful words of scripture today. They have become some of my favorite.
This was such a good reminder for me today! I appreciate the idea that all (10 out of 10!:)of the discipline I dole out to my kids are in reality lessons for me. My prayer is that I could remember that in the dredges of the day. It’s easy to understand and think I know that right now, but they are sweetly tucked away in bed… hopefully in an hour I will still be seeking to live the lessons I am learning. Bless you for being open with your struggles and the tools you have been given! Jesus is using them in our lives to bless us.
As a first born also, I can honestly say that my quest for perfection become the beast of “pride”. And it took God setting the circumstances in such a way so that I by myself had to fail, for me to acknowledge that I could not walk through life alone. And now when that little girl inside pipes up and says “but I CAN do it by myself” my more mature side has to gently remind “but why, when I have help?”
This is I think my first comment on your writing except maybe on the post where you mentioned The Be Good Tanyas, but here I am to say that last night I was having a hard time putting my just-fed baby down in her bassinet, and I wanted to pray about it, and I thought I should not pray for things to be easy, what with tragedies around the world, which is a thought that comes to me sometimes — and I realized in the dark that I was acting like maybe I shouldn’t pray about little things at all, like maybe God would rather let me handle the sleeping baby all on my lonesome than to be with Him in it.
And I remembered that I need God every hour, not just in times of disaster, and I have been praying for his strength and help, praying this all the time since, oh, maybe 9:45 p.m. last night? I fear I will forget I need to pray soon, but until then I am playing “I Need Thee Every Hour” in my mind.
Oh yah, we have neighbor children who come over all the time, and they don’t have a good sense of how to behave in a neighbor’s house so I am trying to show them, with love, and also they are teaching me a few parenting lessons five to nine years early, and I have tend to discipline them with a smile because I tend to be extra-gentle unless I’m a bit too sharp, and I wonder whether I am doing the right thing, and I imagine I could certainly be doing some better thing… and it is good to know that God works in them, too, and not just in me, because then there is lots of hope despite all my many mistakes in things that matter.
Kelly Langner Sauer says
That verse is going around this week… Here is mine: http://www.thisrestlessheart.com/2010/01/when-barren-is-beautiful.html
This is a message I have just discovered this week, and my daughter is 3.5. She was an easy, happy baby and toddler, but has recently been discovering her independence and “voice.” She is still one of the easiest children I know, but I am finding God is using my teaching her, to teach ME. I thought I was patient before (I am a veteran elementary school teacher), but He is teaching me patience all over again. I didn’t know I had a temper, but it appears I do. In teaching her grace, both mine and God’s, I am learning it again myself. Thank you for the reminder.
That verse in 2 Corinthians has without question been the cornerstone of my life as a parent. I can’t count how many times I have gritted my teeth and recited the words when I felt like I couldn’t go on, or when I felt anger, and shame, and that frustration of not wanting to admit weakness.
I wrote a long winded post about it once, and it was fun to look it up because this reminded me of it. http://misstea-to-be.blogspot.com/2007/11/like-child.html
But simply put, I think the clearest way I have seen my reflection in my child is when I would sit (or rock or hold) with her, usually for hours, as she cried and fought and couldn’t settle down to sleep. Her frustration and her despair were obvious and heartbreaking and she couldn’t see anything else. Often she would refuse my comfort while crying all the louder for something she couldn’t name. I would sit and think “Be still. Be quiet. I am here. I love you. I know what you need.”
How often I saw myself in her. Crying in anger and frustration, feeling alone, feeling despair- all while my Father was there just waiting for me to calm down and receive his comfort and peace.
Holley Gerth says
I love you in all your grace-needing glory. And in it, I see so much of His.
We are THAT family says
God uses my kids to teach me every.day. Thank you for this Word, Amber.
To Think Is To Create says
I noticed today that I am quick to be anxious…among the many other thorns, this one I think I let run wild within me, thinking it wasn’t sin and it was just “understandable”. I don’t want anxiety having dominion over me any more.
Not that I will suddenly be walking around the most confident peacock on the block, but if I can rest in peace and surrender to him each tiny speck of tension that has wrapped it’s tentacles around my heart, I will be so SO free.
Hillary @ The Other Mama says
Awesome, Amber. I can see clearly that my prideful perfectionism is clearly coming through in my 2nd born- not my first. And I’m praying that he won’t be cursed with it, too! But, if so, I hope that he learns to give it to God- with all weaknesses and pride. What an amazing message today!
my weakness is living like God doesn’t exist, though i claim to know and love Him.
i want to live mindful of His presence…and show my little boy how to live that way, too.
some days i am honestly stumped and totally humbled by the task set before me. and it’s then that I know I need grace. so much.
molly mackiewicz says
Pray for my family marriages that are under attack. That they will seek our Father and salvation. Give them Hope!!! in Jesus Name
Faith Barista Bonnie says
My weakness is my natural disposition – to think that I am insignificant. When I succumb to it’s bidding, I easily stop daring and settle into being hard of believing.
My oldest is already the same way at four. Just like me. Loving him, is helping me love myself. Who would’ve thought parenting could be so life-threatening and self-healing at the same time!?
Are you the oldest in your family?