Parenting, much like the rest of life, seems much like trying to cook five separate foods on a four burner stove. It’s remarkably difficult to know how to prioritize the many moving parts of which family and work life consist.
In my family, like so many others, my partner Kaile [pronounced Kay-lah] and I both work. She’s also finishing graduate school. We live in a small, two-bedroom apartment, and she’s pregnant with our third child – due in February of next year.
Oh yeah – and I work full time!
Recently Silas , our older son, has been acting out – regressing – for the past couple weeks. He’ll yell, tantrum, throw something, hit Maelin , or lash out at his daddy. Part of it, I think, is the intensity of upcoming change [they both began preschool this week] and his need for structure [which we hope for preschool to provide].
For most of Silas’s life, change has more or less been a constant. Born in Grand Rapids, he moved right after he turned one to San Francisco where he lived in our walk-in closet. Six months later we found another place on the west side of SF where we lived for a year. Next, we packed it up and headed to the Silicon Valley, and have been in the same apartment for a record-breaking two years [except we did move downstairs to a different unit in the same building; does this officially count as a move?].
My love for him is strong. My hopes for him are high. And yet, I realize I am simply not some perfect parent who does the right thing every time. My skills are still growing as I get impatient, as I catch myself being inconsistent, as I’m sometimes too relaxed yet other times too strict. Consistency is supposed to be good, but it’s not easy to maintain!
Now where does that leave me as I continue to seek the best ways to do what I sense God has called me to do [husband-ing! pastoring! parenting! friend-ing! neighbor-ing!]?
There seem to be a couple paths. I’ve written about this elsewhere from a different life experience if you’re interested. Anyway, the first path is what I call the cycle of cynicism, with a few key markers:
1. lack of control over one’s life
2. consistent feeling of overwhelm
3. overstating or hyperbolizing one’s challenges [sometimes called catastrophizing].
On the other side, there’s the cycle of hope, characterized by a hopeful sense that God* will preserve and encourage – even in the challenges [or most especially amidst the challenges!] there are opportunities to transform and grow.
Honestly, there have been seasons where my faith has pressed me to do new things, times when being connected in a relationship with Jesus and sensing the Spirit’s guidance has pushed me to take new risks and do really challenging things. But presently, my faith is an incredible resource that gives me a whole lot of hope [that whole *cycle of hope* thing].
Some clever pastor said Jesus afflicts the comfortable and comforts the afflicted.
Saint Ignatius, father of the Jesuit order, refers to seasons of consolation and desolation, getting at the same idea.
That is certainly the case in the New Testament, and it has proven to be true in the lives of many people around me. And it’s proved true in my own life. When things are easy, I tend to tune into the ways my faith challenges me; when things are more difficult, I tend to emphasize the comforts. And it all seems to happen internally – I just need to pay attention to where the Spirit is guiding me.
Here are some words from Jesus that have often served as a spiritual on-ramp back toward that cycle of hope. Maybe they will serve to encourage you today:
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly. [Matthew 11:28-30 MSG]
I am leaning on this invitation as I look to stay on that cycle of hope.
May we all experience these unforced rhythms of grace.
*For other faiths and philosophies this can vary to some degree; I’m speaking as a Christian.