I sat there, in my living room tonight, feeding my children quesadillas at the coffee table while my husband was away teaching RCIA.
I chose a Netflix documentary for the evening’s entertainment: Wild China.
They watched the first few moments and my daughter said, “Wow mom, it’s so different from everything we know!”
“Yes,” I agreed.
And it reminded me of what I’ve been pondering lately. How this stage of life is unlike anything I thought it would be.
It’s totally foreign and completely intriguing.
As I’ve said before, when I was a younger mother I thought I had it all figured out.
And as many have said before me, the older you get, the more you realize you really have no clue at all. About much of anything. I used to think those folks were wrong. Now I know.
When I was a younger mom, I thought I had power.
Power to craft and mold and create and direct. I thought that these small ones would just be meldings of me and my husband. Combinations, like mathematical equations, using plain and predictable logic, combined together to make up these individuals. And that they’d grow up steadily and predictably, either positively or negatively depending on the way in which I pointed them. Like lining up an arrow or a windup toy car.
I thought parenting was a science. A science that I could, in a way, create and control for my family.
Prayer, too, I considered to be rather perfunctory. I’d observe a need in a child, a weakness or a lack of something, and so then I’d pray it up. Informing God of this weakness or that, of the areas that clearly needed to be ‘beefed up’ or repaired, according to my advice. And then I’d sit back and wait for the results. For certainly God would listen to the practical prayers of a mother. And get right to business.
Over the past few years I had begun to wonder. Did I really know what this was about? Had I missed something? Did I forget a step, stop too early, go too far? Because while things were good, they weren’t what I thought they’d be.
I, the consummate planner, had a plan gone awry.
And then, these last months it seems, He has opened my eyes a bit.
I see where I strayed.
Where yes, I am called to be a guide to my children, I’m not called to be a fortune teller.
Where yes, I am called to teach them right from wrong and the many beautiful ways of God, but I do not have to feel that I am the end all be all of their spiritual formation, or the final judge and jury of their spiritual character.
Where yes, I can use logic and knowledge to help guide and advise, but I have to admit that I really don’t at all know God’s plans for these people under my roof. And I shouldn’t pretend to.
Where yes, I can and definitely should pray for them. Often. Constantly. But I shouldn’t use prayer as some sort of antibiotic, or a punch-list that I place in God’s inbox, with check boxes, highlights and due dates.
I have learned, over time, what some may learn by God-given wisdom. Parenting is so much less about laying the path and drawing out a map for them. And so much more about just praying that they have the courage to forge the path themselves that God has planned.
Because now that they are not small little things, I see how very amazing they are. How breathtakingly perfect. Not perfect as I envisioned, but something altogether new and even better. Not necessarily because of their successes or accomplishments, but because they are perfectly unique, as God intends.
They, these four people, are nothing like I could have imagined they’d be, had I been assigned to write up the characters for my family script. I could not have imagined this intricacy. Some of the ‘faults’ I have listed in the past have bloomed into character traits that are admirable and one-of-a-kind. The weaknesses I may have noted in the past have been surpassed by complimentary gifts that shine so brightly they tend to overcome and balance out. They are so completely themselves, unlike each other, unlike me or my husband. For me, it is honestly a proof of God. There is no other way that there could be something so baffling and beautiful at the same time.
So now, rather than praying God up a to-do list, I pray with my awe and my imagination. I wonder with Him over all the possibilities. And I place each child in the forefront of my soul, and picture them, not in any particular role or job or state of life. But I pray them up to God with a heart hoping for joy and peace and contentment. I pray them up to God, that they will have hearts that always seek Him above and before all else. And then, I just leave them there, in my soul, in His arms, and I know He’s got my back. And theirs. And I leave it all there.
In this foreign land, it is all I can do. As I wander in this new place, even though the terrain is unknown, I find it so much more comfortable and beautiful and surprising than I ever thought it could be.
It is immensely freeing.
He has done mighty well thus far. I hand over the reigns. I transfer the title. I surrender all. You are in charge, dear God.
Because if they aren’t proof of You, I don’t know what is.