When I was young, growing up in a Christian home, I had very distinct views on how I would raise my children. I had convictions and standards, goals and vision, and that was good.
We had a perfect courtship so it started off well. And I just knew we were going to thrive as parents! In my head and in my mind, parenting seemed so clear, so tidy. It was all very clean, and if I followed steps 1, 2 and 3 then of course the result would be a happy home filled with love for Jesus.
But I forgot one thing, one very important thing, that was that every single little person that I would bring into this world, every tiny human that we welcomed into our arms– was a sinner. And 10 sinners in one house together is not always tidy and neat. Oh, it can be if things aren’t dealt with and all is swept under the rug, if we in military fashion command our households without thoughts for the heart, if our focus is on keeping up appearances instead of true heart religion it might not get down and dirty messy and might appear ordered and restful.
For many years I sought to keep that tidy and neat Christian look, that “we have everything together” appearance, with smiles on our faces and hoping the children would behave up to our standards when they were out in public. The problem is that I wanted my home run well because it felt good to me. I love control, I love order, so when I was wanting obedience from my children much of it was for my own comfort, instead of the glory of God.
But, what if messiness brings Him glory? What if it brings Him glory for there to be trials, temptations, hard mistakes that bring the fruit of repentance and righteousness.
And then it began to hit me.
Parenthood is not always walking in the park, pushing our strollers with our baby dolls or going on nature hunts and bird watches, returning with cheerful attitudes to do the evening chores. It is not always having my children matching with every hair in place. It is changing diapers, mopping muddy floors, holding back your daughter’s hair as she loses her dinner because of a stomach bug. Parenting involves morning sickness, fatigue and sometimes chronic illness. Yes, parenthood is messy, physically for sure.
But parenthood is messy especially spiritually. It is getting down and dirty with heart work. It is filling our children’s waterpots spiritually. It is wiping away angry tears from a child’s face and getting on your knees to explain how they need to respond in obedience to the Lord. It is sitting on the bed with a teenager late into the night working through relationship issues. It is having a listening ear when there are 5 other things pulling at you at the same time. It is being short and irritable with your family and having to go back to ask forgiveness. It is praying together, laughing together, and yes, crying together.
Sometimes in our house there can be a lot of intense discussions. We have issues to work through between each other and instead of sweeping things under the rug for the sake of “cleanliness” we are not resting until relationships and hearts are restored, because true relationships take work, rolling up your sleeves and digging in kind of work. This is the sweaty, deep fatigue, emotional and yet very spiritual side of parenting. Sometimes the greatest work for our children is on our knees before the Lord.
I had this view that my home would run like a little military where my little minions would follow my every order, but I forgot these are little people with feelings, hearts, emotions and most importantly souls. Their fears, thoughts, worries and cares must be listened to and comforted. Their souls must be nourished by the word of God and brought along with patience, tenderness and yes, firmness when necessary. Their desires, thoughts, questions, and needs have to be attended to.
So if you come to my house it will look far different from the way I would have envisioned it when I held my first son in my arms. But, I hope you will find sincerity in clinging to King Jesus and a readiness for true heartwork as we continue on this journey of parenting.