Monday, January 11, 2016

Biblical Parenting (Or, I'm Not That BAD!)

For those of you who don't know, we just started taking foster parenting classes. One of the assignments we have to do is to list the strengths and weaknesses of our family and us as parents. There's a big part of me that wants to write "Inability to fill out strengths and weaknesses lists" as one of mine. Self-assessment, for whatever reason,are never fun and are far much harder than merely comparing ourselves to others. After all, that's why we watch shows like Hoarders or Dance Moms, isn't it? So we can go, "Hey! My house might not be clean, but it's not that bad!"

Of course, whenever I start too feel too comfortable with where I am as a parent and I'm grading myself according to someone else's failure that's when the rug is typically pulled right out from under me. For example: being at one of our church socials, I am grateful that the whining child is not mine until I see one of my kids nearly knocking down an elderly person to get at the front of the food line. Or, when Benjamin, who was barely five, decided to yell at me at the top of his lungs, "Get your hands off me, you devil!" Precious. No one posts those memories to Facebook.

So I look at this assessment form and sigh. Heavy sigh.

Strengths of our family?

Does pushing each others buttons count?

Last Sunday our Growth Group was covering Exodus where Moses and the Israelites are in the desert. Because of all their grumbling, whining, and complaining, only two of the millions of them made it into the Promised Land.

What was my take on this?

A great model for our next family road trip. "We are headed to Myrtle Beach, but some of you may not make it there," I could see myself informing them. Please, you know you are wishing you'd thought of it, too.

Okay, so I'm not a Pinterest-perfect parent.

Yes, my kids do not sit at my feet daily waiting to hear my mountain-top wisdom.

But I'm not sure I agree with the person I overheard saying that they want to be a "biblical parent." I mean, really?

Have you honestly looked closely at the parents that are in the Bible?

The whole book of Genesis is full of Parenting 101 failures: from Adam and Eve onward. How about that whole Abraham and Isaac story?  Can you imagine what the trip back from nearly sacrificing Isaac was like? It was a three day trek by foot. I bet nobody was whistling The Andy Griffith Show theme that day. And I'll bet Isaac liked to throw that day back in his father's face whenever he got the chance. Do you think Isaak let his father take the grand kids on any camping trips alone?

Then there's the story of Jacob and Esau where both parents have chosen their favorites: Isaac with Esau and Rebekah with Jacob.

There are times when one of my kids will tell me that the other is my favorite to which I reply, "Then that just means you have to work harder to earn that slot." (Joking, of course).

You think Jacob would've known better, right? But no, he goes on to favor his son Jacob to the point of allowing his son to not only wear an expensive coat (after all, dyes for the colors that made the fabric weren't cheap in those days) and, when his brothers had to go out in the field, Joseph didn't.

If you think the New Testament's any better, even Joseph and Mary forgot Jesus while on a trip. How would you like to be the parents that forget the Messiah of the whole world while away on vacation?

But I'm glad all of them are in there because it shows us that we are all, in our own ways, screwed up and in need of some serious grace. I like how Henri Nouwen in his book the prodigal son said that we can all be at one time the prodigal son, we can also be the older brother who is self-righteous in his goodness, but we are all to strive to be like the father.

As I look at the assessment sheet, however, I know that our family does have its strengths though they get tested on a daily basis. Yet at the end of the day, we know that we love each other, that Danelle and I work in partnership as parents and balance each other out. Being in a family can be crazy and messy and no matter what we do as parents we will screw them up somehow. We will either love them too much or too little. Give them too much or too little. The key is that we're there for them, we keep trying, and we keep loving them even when either they or we don't feel the least bit loving or lovable. It's not easy. There are days, as parents, you pray, "Thank you God" and other days you pray, "Please Lord send gypsies by." There are days when you will think, "I aced this one" and others where you pour yourself some wine and said, "There's always tomorrow . . ."

"You take the good, you take the bad,
You take them both and there you have
The facts of life, the facts of life . . ."

And yes, I am quoting the theme song to the TV show Facts of Life.

But whenever you're having a crappy day and you feel like the worst parent on the planet: just stop, take a deep breath, and remind yourself, "I didn't leave Jesus behind on a road trip!"

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