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Parenting is Not My Highest Calling, Part II

December 8, 2013

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Parenting is Your Highest Calling and 8 other Myths That Trap Us in Worry and Guilt
by Leslie Leyland Fields
WaterBrook Press, 2008
We were not so much trapped in “worry and guilt” as were trapped with a small box of parenting tools ill-suited to the job at hand. Between our parenting education and raising Faith and Mercy, parenting was something like being apprenticed in furniture restoration. Then God blessed us with Hope. Having some experience refinishing old chairs barely prepared us for rehabing the Victorian house that was our third child.
We struggled for three years to make the tools in our toolbox work, convinced that the parenting wisdom  we had been taught was biblical and convicted that God’s Word was perfect and sufficient for all things. But, as Fields points out, acknowledging the truth in cherry-picked Bible verses (Psalm 127:5-8; Psalm 113:9; Proverbs 22:6; Proverbs 29:17; Luke 2:51-52) is not the same thing as rooting a parenting philosophy in the full counsel of Scripture.
The tragic thing was that Hope was a gift to us from God. But it took us three years to acknowledge or accept that as true because our hands were so tightly clenched around our familiar parenting tools. Fields’s book was probably no more than musings on her heart at the time my husband and I abandoned our too-small tool box. Had it been in print, it would have freed us to let go and encouraged us to reconsider the foundation of Bible-laced-human-wisdom we’d built our parenting upon.
You can read the Introduction to Parenting is Your Highest Calling and 8 Other Myths, on Leslie Leyland Fields’s website, here. Fields comes to parenting as the biological mom of six, including two “surprise” children born in her forties. Her personal experience includes neither adoption nor (that she disclosed) special-needs parenting. Yet just as you’d expect from an author whose main text is the Bible, the ideas she raises span the full gamut of raising children, no matter how they joined your family or whether their challenges arise from sin, temperament, neurology, or all the above.
For the balance of this review, I’ll let her speak for herself.
Describing radio interviews she did for her book Surprise Child, Fields writes: “I would begin the interview by describing the emotional terrain of unplanned pregnancy…. Then the  radio host would inevitably ask, ‘And now aren’t you so happy you have those children? Aren’t they blessings from God?’ Yes, every one of my children is a huge blessing…. But these questions are mostly  irrelevant. Even if my children had not brought me happiness, they would still bear the image of God, they would still be created by God, and they would still be of infinite value. It is not the state of my feelings that determines their value. Their value is found in the God who made them.” (Parenting… p. 21-22)
“Here is my own confession. I wonder how much of my hopes for my children’s happiness are hopes for myself. If my children are happy, then my parenting life is quieter and less complicated. I find myself falling into this trap more often than I wish.” (Parenting… p. 80)
“Pursuing our relationship with God before anything else frees us to see each child in her own uniqueness rather than squeezing our children into a prefabricated mold. It frees from us from the expectation of total control. It frees us from unbiblical promises of sure outcomes. It frees us from seeing our children as products rather than people.
At the root of all of this, we need to choose to give up the quest for an expedient parenting life. The only perfect parent –God himself –led a parenting life that was anything but expedient….The Old Testament reminds us of the truth all parents live with every day: every child arrives as a fearfully and wonderfully made creation with a steely will and heart and mind bent toward serving self. Considering our children’s ability to make choices, their God-given uniqueness, and their sin-damaged hearts, how can we reduce parenting to an efficient one-size-fits-all program that will make life ‘easy’?” (Parenting… p. 117)
“And when my own servant’s heart is emptied, as it often is when I stand among my family’s continual needs, I am reminded that I cannot be Jesus; I can only need Jesus. In the times when I feel as though I fail most –when I dissolve before my children into anger and helplessness –he covers and forgives my exhaustion, sin, and limitations. He teaches me that his own work in my children’s lives is not dependent upon me, that even in my weakness I am living out before my children the most essential truth of our lives: all of us are in severe need of this glorious and merciful Savior.” (Parenting… p. 143)
To return to my question last week in How Do We Prepare to Parent Kids With Disabilities, “Are there ways we can help those coming behind us do it better –or at least, with a learning curve a little  less steep?” I would answer to Christians: start with a book like Fields’s that will help you reflect on and re-order your parenting priorities. Then you will be free to see and to accept the gift God holds out to you.
Part I of this post is found here.
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