Getting it Backwards

I’m going to go a little rogue here and suggest that much of our effort in cultivating our children might not be entirely necessary, and may perhaps even somewhat damaging.  

As a parent, I have spent countless hours of my life teaching and instructing my kids, aiming to guide their thoughts, creating activities, pursuing opportunities, disciplining errors, and educating at every opportunity.  Desiring to guide my children into patterns of righteousness and relationship with God, I have filled their little hearts with instruction, with “shoulds”, with best practices, and pounded out teachable moments at every turn.

Deuteronomy certainly affirms that teaching and talking to our children is an aspect of a healthy development.

“Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” – Deut.11:19

However, I suspect that much of my teaching and talking over the years has stemmed from a place of fear, anxiety, and a need to control the “process” of my children.  It has had more of an urgent quality, a religious intensity, a panicked sheen of needing to “pack it all in” before it’s too late. {Granted, this has often been approached with creativity and warmth, but nevertheless was rooted in insecurity.}

This is very different in quality from the relaxed conversation, meditative reflection, personal sharing, and delightful engagement of real-time curiosity that stems from faith. 

As I have shed the need for my children to compete in the world’s systems, or to appear ‘perfect’ to the penetrating religious eye, to measure up to outsiders’ expectations, to behaviorially conform to ever-shifting expectations, or to be somehow something other than the God-filled life that they are (whether appearances support this reality or not!), I have discovered that ultimately it is me who is changing. 

As I change (live from hope, rest in God’s ability to be God, delight in my children), the atmosphere of our relationship changes, and in some miraculous way the children are freed to be good.  Without me constantly goading them, they are free to not resist me, and there is a radical new kind of peace manifesting in our home.

In all my striving to enrich my children, to prepare them for the future, to guide them into goodness I have discovered that:

“…the relationship between parent and child exists for the primary purpose of the parent’s transformation and only secondarily for the raising of a child.”  – Shefali Tsabary

Raising our children is important, divine work.  But, I suspect that my approach has largely been off, as though nailing certain strategies, or covering particular topics, or perfecting certain approaches or routines were the recipe to raising my children well.  Jesus turned this all around, by reminding us that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to little ones.  Turns out, they are here for my sake, to draw me into the truer parts of myself, to aid me in shedding lies, false securities and comforts, to invite me into simplicity, presence and delight in God now.

“[What] we teach our children about God is almost a side issue.  In a way the less said about God, the better.  And then it must not be religious, or the children will find God irrelevant.  It must not be preach, or the children will find God trivial.  It must not be “should-ful” or they will reisist, rebel and reject.  Let God be God’s idea, occurring spontaneously and responsively to you and your children together.” – Polly Berrien Berends

God has our children firmly in His grip.  I wonder how much of our frenetic activity is what actually propels them away from this truth?

Me and my children are first God’s children.  Should I presume that I could out-parent Him?  He who so gently and generously dwells with us in every moment, pouring love upon love and grace upon grace over our home?

Let God be God’s idea.

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