Ugly Honesty and a Little Redemption

Tonight it happened. I was putting the kids to bed and was just at the end of my emotional rope. I felt as if the dog barked at one more thing, if Nora said, "Mama" one more time, if Judah cried for one more minute, that I would just calmly walk out the door and go. Somewhere. Anywhere. It was ugly. I was ugly inside.  

As I sat there nursing Judah, hoping against hope that he wouldn't wake and cry when I laid him down and wishing Nora could just put herself to bed, I prayed. I prayed that God would redeem parenting for me. 

I left Judah crying while I helped Nora get ready for bed, even though I've tried not to leave him to cry at night. And Nora got her Bible story and prayers, but no extra frills at bedtime; even though there's this inspiring blog post being shared all over about how "sometimes bedtime takes forever (and it should)", this Mama's love always stretches to forever, but sometimes her kindness doesn't.  

The crying subsided and even though the dog still barked and I still heard my name at least 10 more times, I didn't walk out the door.  And at first I heard nothing in response to my request about redemption. So I headed to the only place that made sense. The Bible. I looked up some passages about parents and children. And felt discouraged.

I always think of redemption as God taking something that was His that sin made ugly and making it what He intended it to be again. I can think of at least three times that redemption has been mentioned in this context in the past several weeks during sermons: redeeming marriage, redeeming singleness, redeeming gender roles. These have all been nice, easy concepts of redemption for me. Like when God redeems us from sin, these three have been taking something stressful and messy and made it better. Made it easier, gave relief, gave peace. 

Redeemed parenting? It wasn't shaping up to be so nice, easy, clean, or relieving. I was hoping for a nice metaphor. I was hoping for lots of passages saying things like, "children are a gift" or "being a parent is a joy"...at least then all I'd have to do is grapple with how to get my emotions to reflect what the Bible said. 

But God doesn't deal so much in emotions as He does truth.

The truth that I kept coming across was that passive parenting is not what God intended. I found time and time again a charge for parents to pass the scriptures and the testimonies of what God has done in their lives down to their children. I found Hannah who prayed so hard for a child that Eli thought she was drunk and when she received him she dedicated him back to The Lord. I turned to that darn Proverbs 31 woman (who I often feel I hold so little in common with--especially tonight) and found that she actively worked hard to provide for her children and they called her blessed. I found that she had "faithful instruction on her tongue". I found that parenting is hard. 

I began to think God was telling me my picture of redemption was skewed. This is what I found when I started digging a little: 

"The most common definition provided for the word redemption is to buy back. However, in studying the use of this word in scripture, this simplified definition is found lacking. While it does provide a nice simple definition for many instances of scriptural redemption, it does not adequately define the word as used in the most significant biblical redemptions. A more accurate definition of redemption, as used in scripture, would be to justly bring about the end of a covenant of bondage by which someone or something belonging to God is being held captive." (http://josephjpote.com/what-is-redemption/)

So the thing in captivity which is God's is my parenting and my children. What, then, is the bondage?Our pastor mentioned a few weeks back how what the world advertises as freedom is often slavery.  What am I being told in the parenting world is freedom for my children?  The thing that has come to me strongly is this: freedom of choice. It starts early and only escalates as they grow. 

"Susie didn't want bedtime prayers tonight, so in order not to spoil them/poison her against them, I didn't force the issue."

"Johnny chooses to play 4 sports, be in band, take private music lessons, dance classes and be a Boy Scouts."

"Jane is too old for me to be approving what she wears."

"Chris didn't want to come to church/Sunday School/Youth Group today. I can't make him, it's really his choice."

Then we sit back and wonder how the next generation's morals, values and priorities got all mixed up. Look back at that definition of redemption. Buy. Bring about. Verbs. Action. Passive parenting is creating a prison for our children. Our choice not to set a standard or expectations makes our parenting a covenant of bondage with our children. 

God then directed my thoughts back to the few passages I did find about children being a gift and  to parables like the talents and those beautiful metaphors I was looking for like gold being made perfect in the refiner's fire. God has lent us His children here on earth. Our sweet little ones are but borrowed. What will we do to improve them while they are in our charge until God comes back for us or for them?

We must choose action. 

We must set an example of a heart that loves God and pursues His heart.

We must offer guidance and that faithful instruction mentioned in Proverbs 31. 

A diamond in the rough does not become a sparkling gemstone without shaping, gold does not become beautiful without refining. 

We must choose discipline for ourselves. To commit to redeemed parenting. 

We must pray hard for our children. Hard like Hannah. 

We must dedicate them to The Lord. 

No. I did not find a nice, easy, comforting lesson tonight. But I did find peace.  Parenting is tough, but the redemption is mine to receive, not to create. I am not the redeemer, I am the redeemed.  The freedom for me tonight in my moment of ugly is knowing I don't walk this path without the Wonderful Counsellor by my side giving me faithful instruction so I can make the right choices.

Thank you, God, for answering my call tonight, even though you answered it much differently than I expected. 

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