It was just yesterday. Mother’s Day. The day you were reminded how truly loved and valued you are. The day when they did their darnedest to bring a smile to your face. The day they told you that you’re the best Mom ever…
But today is not Mother’s Day. Today is like almost every other day. Regular. You’re back to the grindstone, back to routine. Back to life as normal. And all too often, you’re back to the rat-wheel of trying to be that best Mom ever… or at least to be a good Mom. And you’re remembering what work it is. You’re back to battling those depressing reminders of the hundreds, thousands of ways you blow it. Every day.
Enter Leslie Leyland Fields book “PARENTING IS YOUR HIGHEST CALLING ~ and 8 other myths that trap us in worry and guilt.” I tackled this book last summer and found it very thought provoking. And freeing. It could easily become one of those books that gets re-read on a yearly basis. And yes, you read the subtitle correctly. Myths that trap us. We, as parents, all too often believe myths about our role as mother (or father).
“Parenting is not meant to paralyze me… It is not meant to cripple me with insufficiency” Fields tells us. It’s not? NO! But if we are going to parent freely, we need to be awakened to truth. So below is the entire book in a nutshell. Go ahead – claim this as your Mother’s Day gift from me! Here are the top nine myths Fields tells us to be aware of… and the truth behind them that will, in essence, set us free to parent in perspective.
1. MYTH – Having children makes you happy and fulfilled. Maybe at times… But often, having children causes me to empty myself, to humble myself; it can make me quite unhappy and dependant ~ on others and most of all on Christ… “Our children reveal to us what we know we are: beggars before God.” My children are here to fulfill the purposes of God, not to fulfill me or bring me joy. I am responsible to parent faithfully and consistently, to honor God as I raise my children. God is responsible for all the rest.
2. MYTH – Nurturing your children is natural and instinctive. Okay, yes. When they’re behaving sweetly! But time and again, nope. It’s messy. It’s costly. It’s hard work. In fact, it will seemingly cost us our very lives to love the way He (God) calls us to love. True biblical love is difficult to live out because it is a call to death, dying to our own desires and plans. “Once your little one develops a steel will, a vocabulary, and an elevated sense of her place in the world, loving your child can become an Olympic sport. You wake up exhausted every day, all muscles and emotions fatigued, and you realize how very hard you are working to love your son or daughter.” It is not natural or instinctive.
3. MYTH – Parenting is your highest calling. To be honest, the highest call upon our lives today as Christians is to love God above all else. “If I pursue God first as my highest call and am satisfied in His love, then I am freed not to love my children less but to love them rightly.” Our love for others will actually grow as we invest time in getting to know the author of love Himself; it will not run out. The pursuit of Christ is to be our highest calling.
4. MYTH – Good parenting leads to happy children. “God’s first concern is always his children’s holiness, not their happiness… I am learning that it does not serve my children’s good to attempt to fulfill all their desires – most of which are not about pursuing God but about pursuing other things. Nor is it my job to shield them from all of life’s injustices or the consequences of their decisions… they need to be prepared to live out our faith in the world.” And this approach, my friends, does not always lead to ‘happy’ children.
5. MYTH – If you find parenting difficult, you must not be following the right plan. Ok then… which plan is that? Because this being-a-momma thing surely isn’t easy! “I am learning to resist the urge to rely on systems and formulas; I am learning to mistrust claims of a single biblical model for parenting.” Why? God calls us into a deep, daily, costly dependent relationship with Himself because what He wants most of us (the parents) is our hearts. What my children need most from me is my time and my presence… and that’s what God desires from me as well. “Parent like God – according to love and knowledge, according to individual needs.” “Godly parenting begins not in the rules we or other people make for our children but in pursuing a genuine relationship with God.” And it is difficult.
6. MYTH – You represent Jesus to your children. Well, we are to serve, love, and live like Christ. However, “I am convinced that the Bible’s command to be ‘like Christ’ was not meant to empower us but to humble us. In the face of that call to perfection, we confront our own sin and discover the most essential piece of news we need to know about ourselves as parents: we are weak, fallible, and desperately in need of grace.” We aren’t supposed to “imitate Jesus’ authority and omniscience, but his humility, his servanthood, and his sacrifice.” THAT is how we are his hands and feet in our homes. That’s how we represent Him.
7. MYTH – You will always feel unconditional love for your children. To love without condition is not normal. That kind of love is heavenly. Showing love doesn’t always feel good. It isn’t always soft or pretty. Love embraces a wide range of emotions and responses. It is because of His love that God forgives, shows mercy, and blesses us. It was also precisely “because He loved His children that …He was infuriated by their sin, He angrily punished their idolatry, His heart was broken…” This does not validate our own anger and judgment… it is just to say that love doesn’t always feel lovely! Sometimes we feel emotions other than love towards our children (frustration, disappointment, etc)… and yet we can, at the same time, show them love in the way we handle those feelings. And know that we still love them in spite of those other emotions!
8. MYTH – Successful parents produce Godly children. Don’t fall into the trap of believing that you can have total control over your children when you have a hard enough time having control of yourself! “Parenting is AN influence. It is not the be-all, end-all influence.” Spiritual transformation happens over time through the working of the Holy Spirit. Don’t worry about being ‘successful’… aim to be ‘faithful’! Faithful parents honor God.
9. MYTH – God approves of only one family design. “We have to let go of this idea that the only way God will save and sanctify our children is if we do our part exactly right and create the perfect Christian home; the right size family, the right method of education and discipline, the right roles for husbands and wives, the right amount of church…” “God takes every hour of our lives and uses “the mistakes, the flaws, the pain as much, if not more, than he uses the good.” We will always be imperfect… and that truth just keeps alive our longing for what is to come – HEAVEN! God has a family plan for you that is unique. Have you asked Him about it?
REMEMBER THIS~ Leslie Leyland Fields says: “Parenting is not meant to paralyze me with guilt but to send me running freely to God. It is not meant to cripple me with insufficiency but to lead me to God’s sufficiency. Parenting is so much less about me and so much more about God!” Let go of the myths. Hold on to the truth. Parent in perspective.