Arrows of Character
It’s been over seven months since I’ve posted on this blog. I can honestly say that not a day has gone by when I haven’t thought about writing.
So much has been going on in my heart in the time that has elapsed, and simultaneously, so much has changed in it. All of which I’ve longed to share, but I just haven’t felt like it was time yet.
This is probably because most of what I want to write about (at least tonight) is motherhood. But perhaps because motherhood—the decision to be one (or not), the being one (or not) and all that comes along with it—is such a polarizing issue, I’ve held back. In writing about motherhood, I feel an elevated sense of responsibility, and I hope this post reflects that.
A few things have changed since I last wrote. I decided it was time to take my own advice (please see number five here) and quit the job that I had been complaining about for nearly five years. An opportunity to teach at the local university presented itself in late December, and I jumped at the chance.
I’m now an adjunct lecturer in the Recreation, Parks and Tourism department at Cal Poly nine months of the year, which means that during the summer, I’m a full time mom. Save the sleep deprived days of maternity leave, this is my first experience with being at home full-time. Now that Holden is 18 months old, talking up a storm (I’m telling myself his chattiness is a sign of intelligence not just an annoying habit he got from me.) and starting to test his boundaries, I’m noticing the importance of the choices I make in regards to how I parent him.
I’m also noticing how isolating, tedious and downright frustrating motherhood can be, and thus how hard it is to make good choices in regards to the way I raise him at times.
There are so many days when, after telling him “no,” “sit down,” “stop” or “quit whining” for the 100th time, that I do ask myself “what’s the point?” and know that it would be easier to give him the cookie, turn on the TV or let him jump on the couch. (Sidenote: I realize that I only have one kid and having two or more will clearly rock my world.)
But in the midst of those days, in my darkest, most frustrated hour, I try to remind myself of two things:
1.) The choices I make and the boundaries I set for Holden now will impact who he becomes in the future.
2.) Motherhood is not just about my child. It’s about me and my personal growth.
(Yet another sidenote: I’m reminded of the apostle Paul, who spent 17 years preparing for his ministry before he went out and actually started preaching the gospel. It is not lost on me that 17 years is only one year shy of how long most children stay at home and under our wing.)
Just today, I read an interview with J.D Greear, the pastor of The Summit Church in Durham, NC, about the mission of parenthood. Greear said:
“The ultimate purpose of parenting is not to hang on, but to let go; not protection but empowerment.
We certainly hope parents don’t interpret that approach as advocating a sloppy, carefree approach to parenting where you put your kids in unnecessary danger. But many Christian parents fail to grasp that God entrusted their children to them to train them up for his purposes, not theirs.
Psalm 127 says that children are like arrows in the hand of a mighty warrior. Arrows are given to the warrior to launch into battle, not as accoutrements to your lifestyle…Children are arrows, and arrows are designed to be launched out.”
Arrows. Arrows that shoot out into the world and show love, mercy, kindness and compassion to those that they come in contact with. Arrows of character who lead people and businesses and our nation into new chapters and decades.
Whether you are religious or not, I hope you’ll see the point in what Greear said: It is our responsibility as parents—as mothers, whether we are home full time, part time, almost no time—to raise children who will one day go out into the world as men and women of character.
I don’t know about you, but any redeeming character qualities I might have did not come automatically or easily. If I’m patient, kind, loving or giving towards someone it’s probably because I saw it modeled by someone else early on in my life or had parents who were willing to lovingly and consistently correct my behavior when it was out of line.
There are days when the task of raising “arrows of character” overwhelms me almost to the point of despair. How am I supposed to raise good kids when I myself am flawed in so many ways? If I’m frustrated with Holden at 18 months, how much more will he drive me up the wall as a middle school or high school boy who is really testing his limits and my patience?
Ironically, it is God’s words to the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9 that come back to me as I think about the years of child rearing to come.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness.”
On the days when I think I can’t hear Holden whine one more time.
God’s grace is sufficient.
On the days when I want to cry as I look at the crumbs and the laundry and the piles of toys.
God’s grace is sufficient.
And on the days when my frustration gets the best of me and I lash out at Holden or Russ or someone else I love.
God’s grace is sufficient And His mercies are new every morning. (Lamentations 3:22-23)
Tomorrow is a new day and a new opportunity to try again to get it right. But only by His grace.
Being a mom has taught me more about relying on God to temper my selfish human nature and do the right thing even when I don’t want to. (Cause come on, no one wants to be out of bed and at the park by 7 a.m.)
I have no idea where most of you are at in your journey through motherhood. Or maybe motherhood is not your journey. Maybe it’s a job or a relationship or your own personal struggle that’s weighing you down. Whatever it is, I assure you that His grace is sufficient for that too. His power is made perfect in your weakness.
For those of you who are on this motherhood journey with me, I want to encourage you to keep pressing on. In the midst of the day to day, it often seems like we’re getting nowhere, but I have to believe that the choices we make in the small things–setting a good example and setting boundaries when we don’t want to, speaking lovingly when all we feel is anger, giving when we feel we haven’t got it to give–will eventually yield a child who is ready to be shot out into the world and impact the lives of others.