This post is the ninth installment of a series on children’s faith development called Vision from the Frontlines: Voices, Experiences & Practices of Faith Development. For more information about this series, click here. I am to welcome my dear friend, Coleen today. Coleen and I met about twelve years ago and enjoyed many years of friendship in the East Bay, while both attending First Presbyterian Church in Berkeley and participating in a small group together. I have relied heavily on Co’s wisdom, hard-hitting questions & parenting advice and despite miles separating us now, I still call on her often. Thank you, Co, for sharing here today. I know it is a message that will resonate with us all…the need for reframing. Coleen blogs at Dusty Paths.
Let’s start with a confession: pre-kid I could have been, ahem, classified a little, teensy-weensy bit Type A. My college friends and I debated the merits of Week-at-a-glance vs. Month-at-a-glance, but we all treasured those organizers. Yes, we
were are nerds. There was something satisfying about choosing what to write in that white space and then doing it. One planned, one did, one conquered. Looking at many of our résumés, we were pretty successful by worldly standards. My only point here is that I think it was easy for me to believe that if I did the right thing I would achieve my desired end-result; it worked for me.
Consciously or unconsciously I brought this idea into parenting: as long as I do it right my kids will end up
ok well great. Don’t misunderstand; I firmly wanted to do it “right” in God’s eyes. And I could even back up my perfectionism by cherry-picking Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” It was my job to train up my children. It was my responsibility. My huge pile of parenting books evidenced my longing to do it well. I was a bit stymied when the experts disagreed. Eventually, the weight of sleeplessness and my own…imperfections, shall we say? gave way to tears. Lots of tears. My children were going to be lawless heathens, and it was going to be all.my.fault. I can still remember the shame, although at the time I didn’t know to call it that. But my well-laid plans went awry, and, ‘tho Steinbeck had stated it decades ago, I was still surprised.
One day my daughter casually stated, “I don’t pray to be part of God’s family anymore.” and I swallowed hard. What was my five-year old saying?!? Heart pounding I asked, “What do you mean, honey?” She responded, “Well, I was asking to be part of God’s family every night in bed but I don’t think I need to do that anymore.” I am embarrassed to say that my first response wasn’t amazement that she had entered God’s family; it was that I didn’t get to do it with her. What was I going to write in her barely started baby book? But then I truly heard what she said and I rejoiced. That moment turned the tables, and I began to change, to see how God was working in her life, that my kids were His kids, that it was never all about me.
The good news is that growth happens. God intervenes. And my faith from the front lines shows a much bigger picture. Just like picking one verse from the Bible without considering the larger Story is wrong, I learned that God works both through me and despite me. My daughter and son are mine because God graciously gave them to me and my husband, and we are to be examples of His love, grace, and mercy in their lives. But it’s not all about me. It’s about the Rescuer, who planned from the beginning to undo the crud in our world. I think that’s why I love The Storybook Bible as much as my kids do; it’s a fantastic reminder that we’re part of a much bigger story than my day-to-day life suggests.
One time a woman in the bible study Christine and I shared brought small picture frames for all of us. We talked about “reframing” situations in our lives to see them how God would see them. That’s what I try to do (sometimes successfully) when my kids are challenging and I wonder what in the world I’m doing. If I can see this moment how God sees it, ask the Holy Spirit what he wants to do right now, then maybe, just maybe, we can all be changed. Amen.
Coleen is a physical therapist turned stay-at-home mom who now analyzes gait as she chases her children from one room to another. Her passions include coffee consumption, staying warm, and seeking to live a life of integrity and justice. She is on the board of Reeds of Hope, a non-profit serving orphans in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Her attempts at blogging can be found at dustypaths.wordpress.com.