Cleaning Up Messes

My in-laws never let us help pick up the toys and mess before we leave their house after a visit. They say it’s part of a grandparent’s joy -the packing up and putting away – a liturgy of sorts, to recount memories made, to relive how imaginations had run wild, and to cherish remnants of being together.
And Wednesday night, before our kids went back to school the next day, I understood what they mean.
As our three oldest have grown, I have less mess to clean-up. Their crumbs and spills are fewer. We don’t lose each other anymore, or break appendages, in mounds of toys and puzzles on the floor. And although I don’t wish for all that back, I did enjoy walking around the house the other night, seeing the mayhem of a wonderful Christmas break decorating our house.
A football helmet on the sofa, a random sock on the living room floor. Crumbs and books on the coffee table, blankets in piles, and Nintendo Switch controllers and cords pouring out of the entertainment center.
As I tidied up, I reminisced over laughs we shared, necessary confrontations we dealt with, movies we watched, crossword puzzles we completed, cookies and gingerbread houses we decorated, and gave thanks that they were all sprinkled with the priceless investments of biblical encouragement, teaching, and correction.
I didn’t want our break to be over.
I tried to cheer myself up and remember that all of these good times and efforts made are part of the joy of parenting in faith, of eternally investing in our kids. But even that comfort was tinged with anxiety. So I pressed my heart further.
While I would be quick to say I parent in faith, I had to ask myself, “Faith in what or whom?” Like the act of giving thanks, faith, too, needs a Source, an Object.
My heart worked through this question with, “I’m parenting in faith so my kids will come to faith and follow Jesus and love him and others.”
And that’s when it hit me. In that moment, at least, my source of faith in parenting was misplaced. I was putting my faith in my kids and their response to Truth.
I let that sink in. I was parenting with faith in my kids.
Photos By Robyn
So I had to ask, “Is it enough for me to parent for God alone, putting all my faith in him?” That’s where my soul finds peace as a parent and I find joy and more ease with letting them go and grow.
Because then, I can teach them the Word regularly, as I do, and build a portfolio of wonderful memories together as a family, without worrying if I’m doing enough or being enough or saying just the right things to make them follow Jesus.
Instead, I can do these things as worship to him, as the service he deserves from my parenting, rejoicing in his truth shared from my lips, trusting his goodness and wisdom to use his Word and the works of my hands in my kids’ lives in the way only a perfect God and Heavenly Father could. My expectation is ultimately in him, then, not them.
They will let me down. He never will!
And there, my heart finds rest, because I’m no longer parenting my kids as a puppeteer thinking I can control them, but as God’s physical creations and the only one who can use our imperfect parenting to re-create them spiritually, too.
So, it turns out the last mess that needed cleaned up from Christmas break was my own heart. The sorting of my motivations and expectations. And unlike my kids mess-making around our house, God knows the mess of my heart isn’t something I’ll outgrow. But he doesn’t need a New Year’s resolution for that reorganizing project! Thankfully, He’s already committed to it as a lifelong endeavor.
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For Reflection
1) Can you identify anxiety (fearing a bad outcome) or cynicism (doubting a good outcome) in your heart as a parent?
2) As you trace the source of that anxiety and/or cynicism what do you find? Where are you placing your faith? In your efforts? In your control? In your kids’ acceptance of the Truth?
3) How can you adjust your motivations and expectations to parent from a place of rest, joy, and peace?

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