Without a doubt, the most humbling thing about parenting for me is realizing I am basically a two-and-a-half year old before the Lord. Sometimes my daughter’s smart, sweet, and dependent self drives me absolutely crazy. She mimics me more than she listens to me. Her favorite phrases, demands, and expectations of me are a mirror image of mine on her.
I want her to respond quickly, so she wants me to respond quickly. I want her to stop talking (and take a bite) and she wants me to stop talking (and let her fling necklaces at her sister’s face). I can preach and PREACH a lesson to her, and undoubtedly she will respond by preaching and PREACHING that same thing to me and others.
I do this.
I read the words in the Bible and I grab them up to repeat to others. I hear the good news of the Gospel of Jesus, my Savior, and I want others to know that good news is for them. Rather than receiving both love and instruction for my own life and sanctification, I stretch myself out like a trampoline and try to function as a backboard so that God can get his message to others.
In my pursuit to follow Jesus, I forget that he came for me too. I am the sheep that wandered, the prodigal son, the lost coin. He sought me out. He found me. He loves me and considers me worthy of pursuit. I don’t mean that his message, gospel, and love are meant to stop at me, but it shouldn’t skip over me.
I am convinced that we are all prone to mimic more than we listen. (Thank you Jesus for being the LIVING Word, our example!) So, when I think about my kids and their young budding understanding of God, I ask myself: What is it that I want them to see in me? If I want them to receive the love of Jesus for themselves, then I need to receive it for myself. If I want them to confess their wrongdoings before God and their community, I have to value those for myself. If I want them to choose pleasing God and worshiping him alone, then I must let them see me disappoint others as I do the same.
Long gone are the days that I thought middle school was the Queen of peer pressure. Peer pressure is just as relevant as an adult. We call it “people pleasing” to feel better about our condition, but it is the same.
As a mom, I feel pressure to make my kids appear to meet all of the expectations- social skills, developmental milestones, schooling, dietary choices, behavioral maturity (by perfectly combining a million strategies for making toddlers act like well adjusted 40-year-olds) and whatever else would mark me as “such a good mom”. But these kiddos are watching. Even without awareness, they are developing their future peer pressure tactics. It is one thing to say, “Do what is best in God’s eyes, even if it upsets others.” and another thing entirely to actually display that for them.
But friends, the time we have with these little humans in our house, mimicking our every move, is SO LIMITED. It’s like we have a 30 second Super Bowl ad in the grand scheme of their life, and we have to consider if there is enough time to share with every tradition, experience, and photoshoot willed by our community. Have you ever watched a commercial that has too much going on, and at the end, you discover the advertisement was for something that had nothing to do with the images you just saw? Those irritate me. They don’t help me understand the product, or worse, make me dislike the product all-together.
Childhood has gotten so crowded. Parenthood feels like a traffic jam. Life is really full and simplicity is more difficult to find than my toddlers shoes when we are running late. And God? Faith? Church? There is only so much room to squeeze those messages in, it seems. Something needs to be cut.
Watch Me Struggle and God Prevail
I was afraid. I was pregnant, and we had just decided to begin gathering in our home with the Church rather than being a member under a steeple. I spoke about those fears with a woman I loved and respected who had just been through the ringer of institutional church mistreatment. I told her my biggest fear was for my child- all that she would miss out on by not being in Sunday school. After all, it was in the midst of active church life in my own childhood that I began trusting Jesus. Her response was filled with wisdom and grace as she said, “But think of what they will see. They will see you loving God and your community first hand. Those lessons in Sunday school are good but seeing their parents’ faith in action is better.”
As I face the painful questions in life and the Church, and wonder if I should fake it for my kids’ sake, I remember that displaying “faith in action” includes more than the days of preaching, teaching, and leading ministries. They, like me and many others, will one day have questions. They will experience doubt. They will get hurt. They will grieve loved ones. They may even get so caught up in church functions that they lose sight of God himself. And in those moments, they will either fake it, or they will face it. And God Almighty, show them through me that it is better to face it. I want to show them what faithfulness actually looks like, not what I wish it looked like. I want them to see that our standing before God isn’t dependent on our standing before others. I want to show them the good news of Jesus: they are loved without condition, wanted without qualification, and enough without any deed of their own. So, here I am on the journey of preaching those things to myself, so that one day they might mimic me.