I’ve seen some terrible maternity shirts, but in my opinion the worst—yes, even more terrible than the sonogram picture with the baby making an obscene gesture—would be the shirt that has “All I wanted was a backrub!” in bold letters across the front. This mom is making plain to the world that the baby she’s carrying was an accident and she’s trying to make the most of it. Possibly even more infuriating is when I hear adoptive parents say, “Yeah, we wanted kids of our own, but that didn’t work out, so we went the adoption route.” They view their children as a clearly inferior plan B.
Even if we wouldn’t flaunt our feelings to the world like that, many (or most) of us might somewhat feel the same way about our own kids. By harboring those feelings, we are at risk of---on some level---emotionally orphaning our kids…and, if we’re Christians, we might be showing them a really terrible picture of the gospel.
James 1:18 says “Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of His creatures” (emphasis mine.) I often think that God is dragging His heels to respond to me. When I mess up, I sometimes feel like it was a mistake, some kind of divine oversight, that I’m one of His children at all. Our spiritual conception as children of God was no accident or Plan B to Him; He actually initiated our salvation “of His own will.”
How is God able to do this? Have you ever thought about the fact that He has been faithful to consistently rebellious and straying people for thousands of years? It’s no small feat that “His steadfast love endures forever, and His faithfulness to all generations” (Psalm 100:5), especially when we consider our own frail love and how even just a couple years of keeping the marriage commitment feels like an enormous accomplishment.
Maybe one of the reasons we get so upset with our kids is because they’re not giving us what we want. Our souls might be vehemently craving well-behaved kids, or smarter/more talented kids, or kids that look and act like everybody else,…or we might continually be finding ourselves in fond remembrance of days without kids altogether, longing for when they’ll be out of the house and we can have our old lives back. All we can think about is what we deserve that our kids are preventing.
Though it’s good to face our feelings, and totally normal to cry sad tears when you find out your life isn't going to turn out how you always dreamed, we must make an effort to truly want our children for who they are. By doing this we can not only communicate to them the tremendous love of the Father, but experience His love on a deeper level ourselves. Psalm 103:13-14 says, “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.” He is even more aware of our weakness than we are, but His mercy is enough.
God is able to love us freely because He is self-sufficient. I’ve read and been confused by all kinds of heady theological speculations about “intertrinitarian love”, but the Bible gives enough insight into the perfect union of the Trinity that all believers can be encouraged. Jesus gives us a glimpse in John 17:24: “You loved Me before the foundation of the world.” In Isaiah 42:1, God says of Jesus, “Behold My servant, whom I uphold, my Chosen, in whom My soul delights.” Psalm 16:11 says “in Your presence is fullness of joy.” In John 17:5 Jesus prays, “And now, Father, glorify me in Your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.”
So Jesus, being eternally in the presence of the Father and the Spirit, truly knows “the fullness of joy.” God was completely joyful in Himself before He even made anything; this dispels the origins-of-the-universe reasoning that “God was lonely, so He made people.” So calling a people to be His own, putting Jesus on the cross and bringing Him back to life, giving us the Holy Spirit and welcoming us into His glorious plan for the universe---it’s all just grace and He can give freely because He isn’t bound by anything.
It's changed my life to realize that this self-sufficiency of God frees Him up to love me whether I’ve been good or not. And I, by finding all my sufficiency in God, am freed up to love others. This can change every aspect of my life, and I've seen it change how I feel about my kids. Indeed, two out of three of my pregnancies have been “surprises”, and I’d be lying if I said I never cried sad tears about what my 20’s could’ve been like if I wasn’t a mom. However, the reason my husband and I have been open to children in the first place is because our lives are overflowing with so much love for Jesus that we want to welcome others into it. When I view parenting in that way, I find my children as a delight more than a disappointment.
If we don’t expect our kids to be filling any gaps in our lives, we truly don’t love them less when they’re not what we dreamed they’d be. Elevating something above its proper place will lead to disappointment, every time, and—if gone unchecked—it destroys us, every time. Idolatry 101, and it can lead to child abuse. So we must be careful when we find our minds wandering to baby-free dreams or if-my-child-was-different fantasies. If we find our satisfaction in Jesus, we are liberated to make our children feel truly wanted because we love them, not because we need anything from them. Welcome your children into your joy!
Photo by Kim S on Flickr
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My name is Hope.
I'm 25, married to a former skater dude and raising three little people ages 1-5. I like chartreuse, calligraphy, Coke Icees, childbirth, crocs, Studio C, and...alliteration.
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Youth Ministry's Family Blindspot - Christianity Today