Thursday, June 22, 2017

Careful What You Wish For

O Thou, Who at the ninth hour didst taste of death in the flesh, mortify the presumption of our flesh, O Christ God, and save us. 
                             from the prayers of the Ninth Hour

Sometimes I have a tendency to say my prayers without thinking much about the words. It's not really a problem per se because I completely and absolutely trust the holy saints who composed the beautiful prayers that we use. However, God always hears our prayers and sometimes the answer comes while I'm busy looking the other way, because I just wasn't paying attention to what I was asking for.

If you look closely at the short prayer above you'll see what I mean. It's very easy to say those words and even easy to agree with the sentiment. But look more closely, take a minute to define some words, and suddenly it's not such a simple or safe prayer anymore. In fact it's downright dangerous if we aren't ready to face some mortification!

The same could be said for many of the prayers we pray. I have often asked for patience; it took me a long time to realize that asking for patience in prayer meant that I was going to be getting more and more opportunity to practice being patient!

It's always a good thing to ask for good things. Our God pours blessing down upon us without stint. But often we don't see the blessings because we haven't paid close attention. We get distracted by the illusion of fulfilment in this life and we forget that we're just visiting. This world shouldn't feel like home because it isn't.

...mortify the presumption of our flesh, O Christ God, and save us. 

Saturday, June 17, 2017

What Parenting is Really About

The longer I'm at this parenting thing the more I realize I just don't know what I'm doing. Often I find a big disconnect between reality and my ideals. I know I'm not the only parent with this problem; the multitude of parenting books available these days seems proof enough that many parents are looking for help. We see that we have a problem, whether it be a sleepless baby, a grumpy toddler, or perhaps disrespect, disobedience, lying, laziness, or any other number of problems that older kids can present us with, and we think it's our job to solve it. We search for the right method of dealing with Behavior X, hoping always to change our kids into better people. The books promise that we'll find the magical solution if we just follow steps x, y, and z. 

But somehow the magical solution doesn't really work so magically after all. Things might improve for awhile, but we still have the same child with the same struggles particular to him or her. We forget, or maybe don't even realize in the first place, that children aren't problems to be solved, nor is it really our job to "make them better". When we rush out looking to solve problems or fix our children we forget the most fundamental principle of all: children are born persons. And what else does it mean to be a person but to be made in the image of God? Our children are icons of Christ; they are already good by the very nature of who they are

This doesn't mean that the struggles and temptations that they face are not real, nor does it mean that they will always behave like perfect little angels. What it does mean is that rather than trying to fix them, and eradicate bad behavior, our job is to help them learn how to deal with the struggles they face in a way that honors God. In my new favorite book, Parenting Toward the Kingdom, the author says this 
Parenting is not about stopping misbehaviors or getting children to listen to us. It is the process of shaping and guiding our children's souls in and toward God's love through the tasks that need to be accomplished and the struggles of daily life. 

 It's not about stopping their behavior or getting them to listen. That idea stopped me in my tracks and made me do a double take. And of course I realized that he's right. If I truly believe that my children are icons of Christ then that means that my job as a parent is different than what I thought. I'm not exactly sure what I thought before, probably mostly about me rather than them, but even though I knew in my head that they are persons, I was not understanding my own role as a mother in that light.

I'm hoping to write several more posts about this book; maybe I will, maybe I won't be able to. I hope that as I write my readers will join me I thinking about these things and even discussing in the comment box if you like. If you are a parent, grandparent, godparent, or if you work with kids in any way, go buy Parenting Toward the Kingdom. Read it. Read it again. Let this understanding take hold of your mind and heart and transform your relationships.