Friday, March 21, 2014

Parenting As Prayer, Not Talent

Some pictures from times gone by. How they pull at the heartstrings! They're so little!

Being a parent affords me many lessons on life and love and grace. My two boys are so different, it's amazing. Parenting them is like a daily Bible lesson.

Paul knew all his letters, sounds, and the numbers past 20 before he could utter a sentence (before age 2). Mesmerized by the parts that make up language and the building blocks of math, he's a parts-to-whole thinker. He's also very bright and he knows it. He loves God and he's thankful for his intelligence, but as with many gifted people, he struggles with pride over it.

Oh, but his pride makes me cringe as a mother. Learning is so easy for him and it's hard for him to put himself in the shoes of others who struggle or learn at slower paces. I pray for him and remind him that everything he can do, he owes to God, not himself. He gets that, but understanding it is not the same as thinking or living humbly. Being thankful doesn't necessarily put us in a humble spot, I'm finding, though it's a necessary first step.

Peter is also bright, but there are some central processing deficits that slow down his math computation (dyscalculia--lining up all the numbers correctly for long division and six-digit multiplication, and recalling facts quickly, for example). There are also central processing issues with spelling (though he's made enormous strides), handwriting, and organizing his thoughts for an essay (all part of dysgraphia).

We're not talking a little bit of frustration, but sometimes, full-blown-fit frustration, even though his end product is always fine. Thought formation for narrative writing is not a problem, only responsive writing. Interestingly, he can organize his thoughts in an oral narration just fine, but with paper and pencil in hand, it's a struggle. And learning to type has been very difficult (we're getting no where with it).

But processing disorders are not the same as the shady-80 issue (which is low IQ). Learning-disabled people can be very intelligent and have high IQ's, and thus, they live with a high level of frustration over their deficits. They know much, but can't get it out quickly and efficiently.

Peter's frustration is further confounded by the OCD and ADHD, leading to much anger, jealousy, and angst. He needs God, but he doesn't want to need Him this much. He doesn't understand how his siblings can be so well-behaved without the same desperate prayer, and the many mistakes that characterize his day.

I explained the other day, yet again, that God doesn't expect us to work in our own strength, and that it is good to need Him.

"But I want to be able to do it on my own!"

He sees his siblings sailing through life with few problems, at least from his perspective. It tears him up. Right now he's adjusting to new life with a dog, and while he loves the dog, change of any kind is terribly hard for him and magnifies his deficits, while routine minimizes them. Still, challenge is good. We can't know victory if we don't know challenge. We can't be humble if we don't know failure.

How do I teach humility to Paul, who rarely fails? If he gets even one problem wrong on his math, he struggles with tears because imperfection bothers him that much. He's used to 100%. If we aren't accustomed to imperfections and the trouble they get us into, we have a hard time understanding humility, much less practicing it.

When Peter uttered that desperate sentiment..."But I want to be able to do it on my own!"...the Adam and Eve story came to mind. Isn't that the fundamental problem with the human condition? We want to be able to do it without God. We want the control, the expertise, the glory.

In as much as Peter keeps me on my knees, and gives me gray hairs and headaches, I think he's better off than Paul in terms of ability to please God on the last day, provided he doesn't succumb to bitterness. The last shall be first. He who humbles himself will be exalted. 

If I were Paul, I would ask for a thorn, though who with skin on can make themselves do it? He has mild OCD, but compared to his brother's, it's barely a blip.

My prayer for Peter is to let God be his rock, with joy, not bitterness, and to relish that because of his weaknesses, he can shine God's glory. He gets to do that!

My prayer for Paul is that he will daily humble himself, even though his circumstances don't facilitate it. I want him to be able to fail and not fall apart. I want him to feel God's strength, rather than be so assured of his own. I want him to take risks and meet God in them, much like Kristen Welsh did when she started Mercy House Kenya.

Kristen grew up a Christian and had a lot going for her, but after going to Kenya with Compassion International in 2010, she realized her faith and her commitment to Jesus were weak. She was living the American dream with nothing stopping her momentum. When she saw intense joy in the lives of the Christian impoverished, and knew that her joy paled in comparison, she woke up to the real Gospel. Four years and much growth later, she lives for Christ and her joy rivals that of her sisters in Kenya (or at least on many days).

I want my boys to be used of God, and to know the true Gospel, before they chase the American Dream. I want their lives to be lived in the Gospel fringe, instead of the American Dream mainstream.

The lesson of motherhood--and what my boys have taught me--is that however hard I want this for them, I can't accomplish it. Defining my purpose isn't enough. God has to disciple them, and commission them, through us--the parents. It may come in spite of us, but never because of us. Parenting is a prayer, not a talent.

Prayer Time:

Dear Lord, thank you for parenthood. Thank you that it is so hard, with no true answers outside of your grace. Use us mightily. May our hearts and lives conform to your purpose and your will. May we labor for you and through you, for your glory. May we lead our children to the cross daily, and may they drink of the humility spoken there. May we drink of it Lord, as parents. May our children be interested in bowing low, not climbing high. May they meet you in their weakness (revealed by risk-taking for you), glad to be filled, so they can exalt your Holy Name.

In Your Son's Name I Pray, Amen.


Beth said...

I have begun to realize how much I need to be praying for my children. Thank you for your thoughts. said...

Yes, my prayers often come down to, "May these children be yours, Lord, before anything else, and help us [my husband and I] to set a good example because we can't do it without You!"