Parenting is hard. It's hard for a lot of different reasons. I find it harder to parent a toddler than I did to parent a newborn because my once docile, sleeping, non-mobile little angel is now a walking, running, jumping, talking, screaming, wall scribbling......uhh.....he's....a typical two-year-old! The challenges of raising a child this age are different than that of raising a newborn baby, and they require different things from me to meet them.
Let me be clear - I am not complaining. I love my son, and I love the parenting process, I just can't see it as a single thing that I can call THE best thing I've ever experienced (past tense) because....well....I'm STILL experiencing it! It's the process, not simply the event that makes me a parent, and I do so love the journey.
The one thing that I can say about becoming a parent and the parenting process, is that it has broadened my understanding of God and his love for us. And even with that deeper level of understanding, I still am mystified by that love! When I think, that God gave his son for me.....I cannot fathom it. It's like the hymn says....."And when I think, that God, his son not sparing, sent him to die, I scarce can take it in." I have a son. Could I give him over to death to save those who hate me, seek to destroy me, or do atrocious things in my name? No. I don't know that I could. But, I am not God. My love for all mankind isn't perfect because I am not perfect. I doubt that I could make a sacrifice of that magnitude. Even so, parenting is a sacrifice in even the simplest of ways. Whether it's staying home with a sick baby instead of going out with the girls, passing on the meal I really want to cook for myself to cook something I know my child likes and will eat, forfeiting my to-do list because my baby needs a nap, giving up sleep to console him in the middle of the night, or watching Spy Kids for the umpteenth time when I'd rather watch the news - the sacrifices of a parent are unending, and they're done out of love. A love that requires one to take a backseat to another's needs.
I remember once, when my son was younger, a situation that gave me a glimpse into the heart of God. I have many stories like this. On this particular occasion, we were driving, I in the driver's seat, and my son in his rear-facing car seat in the back. We were on our way home. Josiah, my son, was tired and hungry and ready to be out of his car seat. He was a mess....crying, screaming, calling out to me....just miserable. I tried to console him from the front seat while resisting the urge to tell the slow driver in front of me how I felt about his snail's pace. I found myself saying things like: "It's ok, we're almost home." "It's ok, I'm right here." " I hear you, baby, we'll be there soon." And then it dawned on me.....I was driving the car. I knew the plan, and I knew where we were going, and I knew how close we were to being home. He was facing the rear. He couldn't see where we were headed, couldn't see me, and he didn't know the plan. All he knew was that he was tired, hungry, and ready to be home. And I thought to myself.....God is driving the car. He knows the plan, and where I'm going. Sometimes I can't see where things are headed, I'm weary, and ready to go home, and I cry out to him. And all the while.....God is there saying: "It's ok, I'm right here." "It's ok, we're almost home." "I hear you, we'll be there soon." I realized that my heart was rent for my son in hearing him cry and scream even though I knew that the peace and rest he wanted was just within reach, and even though he couldn't see me, I was with him, guiding him. And this....THIS is how God feels about me. About you. About all of us. It hit me, and I bawled, right there in the car. As sure as I was that I was in control of that situation in the car, how much more should I trust my creator for knowing the plan for my life and for being there with me, even when I can't see where things are headed?
Perhaps the greatest parallel I have experienced so far between a parental love and God's love for us, is that in both instances, the love is unconditional. Josiah can be mischievous, and push the envelope, and disobey like any other two-year-old. But (and parents, I know you've experienced this too) when it's time to hand down punishment, sometimes I do it, and then I look at his face and smile....or laugh, sometimes because I marvel at the cunning and forethought it took for him to concoct whatever scheme he'd just pulled, but more so because, despite what he has done, he's still my little boy. I still love him. I still see pieces of myself and my husband in him....and it melts my heart.....and I show grace - probably more than I should (I'm the good cop, my husband's the bad cop!). But in our humanness and our sin, God still smiles on us. He still loves us, and shows us, the beings created in his image, grace....and mercy. He still made sure there was a plan to reconcile us to himself, and the bible tells us that there is not one thing on this earth that can separate us from his love - nothing we could ever do could make him stop loving us. Period. How amazing is that?!
Becoming a parent is something I do anew everyday, and although it isn't the single best thing that I've experienced, it is the most transformative thing that I've experienced, because not only am I learning about what it means to parent a child.....I'm learning what it's like to understand a small fraction of the fierce love God has for me. Parenting is teaching me many things....patience, flexibility, true love, discipline, time management. And all these things, not the least of which is a deeper understanding of my creator, are enabling me to grow into what God has called me to be.