Saturday, March 26, 2011

How my Children have made me a cynic and an optimist

First of all, I love my children. So much. I would never give them away. Take a two week vacation, maybe. Put them up for adoption? Never. Never, never, never. So please don't interpret anything I say here as a sudden failure of parental affection. However, being the caretaker and responsible party for two little people has taught me a lot about human nature--about the innate evil of man, about the great patience and mercy of God in dealing with us.

Here's the truth I have learned from my own (and other people's) children: Children are naturally uncivilized little brutes. You might be tempted to think I'm just having a bad day--I'm not. (If you have your own kids, you might be nodding in agreement.) The truth is that everything good, and civilized, and obedient, and respectful a child does is the direct result of someone's effort and training on their behalf. They were not born as well-behaved, kind, gentle children. Children left to their own devices will whine, hit other people, destroy property, and generally please themselves and make themselves unpleasant to others.

Yet in God's great economy, where nothing is wasted, he gave parents to shape children, and children to shape parents. Children need the firm discipline tempered by unconditional love that only a parent can give. Discipline without love is abuse. Love without discipline is folly. Only a parent operating in the grace of God can have the patience, perseverance, strength, wisdom, and love needed to raise a child. I know from personal experience that God uses my children to reveal areas in my own heart where I am lacking. He has also used the insights of parenting to give me great hope, because, after all, He is my Father. So, while I am a little bit patient with my children because of my love for them, he is infinitely patient with me because of his unending love. When I get weary of the endless process of training, I think about the way He teaches me the same lessons over and over until I have learned them.

So I am optimistic that, just as my children respond to my love and consistency with better behavior, I will respond to the patient work of God in my life by slow, painful, worthwhile change for the better.

"being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." Philippians 1:6

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