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The Log in my Eye

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A close friend called me a few days ago to tell me that her kid almost got kicked out of preschool on the first day.  On day one, her daughter shoved some kids, bit a teacher, and spent more time in the principal’s office than in the preschool room.  

And I bet many of the parents (and even non-parents) reading this blog silently graded themselves a little bit higher on their parenting skills.  

I mean, c’mon, be honest, when you read those lines, didn’t you start to think of what you would do if your kid had a first day like that?  And maybe, just maybe, you might have thought about how her kid needs more consistent discipline or more structure.  And ouch - let’s be honest.  Maybe you were thinking that you could do it a little better.

But what you don’t know is that my friend is an outstanding parent – and I’m not just saying that because she’s my friend.  I’m saying that because it’s true.  

And it’s not just because her daughter was adopted out of a traumatic situation at a young age that this happened – it’s also because she’s a kid.  She’s a whole person walking around with gloriously random ideas and wild reactions and likes and dislikes and raw emotions and everything that makes a kid a kid.  And mostly it happened because a lot of days parenting is like walking around with a short-fused firework in your pocket.  One day you might be just fine, but if the weather conditions are right, and she gets rubbed the wrong way, she just might blow.   

And Monday happened to be her daughter’s day to blow.

“And the worst part,” my friend said, breaking up with tears, “was that they spoke about Elizabeth like she was a horrible kid.  She’s not a horrible kid.  She can be compassionate and full of love and wonder.”

“And you just have to remember who that kid is,” I told her, “ the one that you know is underneath all of that. And stick with her until you see that side of her come back out.”  It was so easy for me to give that piece of advice.

You see, my daughter hates reading. Whoopdee doo, right?  Big deal!  But for some reason, I get really embarrassed about it.   That’s just the kind of thing a God with a sense of humor does to a parent who was a public educator for eleven years.  Can you hear Him chiseling away at my ego?  Because some days it feels like he’s doing a root canal with that chisel.

It’s not like “Thou shalt love reading” or “Thou shalt take school seriously” was one of the ten commandments.  And if Moses had kept on chiseling out those stone tablets, I doubt it would have even hit the top ten-thousand.  So, why is it so easy to give that advice to my friend and so hard to take it myself?  What is it about parenting that makes the log in my own eye so hard to see?

Watching my friend remind herself of the amazing child underneath the not-so-hot first day in preschool inspired me to look back at my own daughter -and to remember.  Oh, yeah, Arielle is the only kid that her autistic friend comes running up to hug because my daughter can connect with those difficult kids.  And yeah, she’s the one who burns through all of her allowance trying to take other people places so that they get to have as much fun as she does.  And let’s not forget the day she walked out of children’s ministry and asked, “Mom, if we should pray for our enemies, shouldn’t we start praying for Satan because if he turns back to God the whole world will return home with him?”  And those are the things God sees when he looks at her.

If God intricately created each of us by intentionally piecing each part of us together – even the stubborn streak and the big nose and the tone-deaf singing voice and the short temper -- and he gives us free will to make our own good and bad decisions, why are we so emotionally tied up in our own children’s mistakes?  When it comes to my child, why is it so hard for me to let the potter be the potter and stop trying to nitpick where the handle is?

Instead, how can I really invest in helping the vessel understand why it was created and how to be filled up with living water?   And how can we as parents help each other strip away at the idols of our children’s achievements and remind each other of the incredible value of the gift God gave us in all of our children?  And it’s moments like this that I realize just how far I have to go.   And all that’s left to do is pray.

Dear God,

Help me daily to delight in the gift you have given me.  Sometimes I don’t know why you trust me so much, but thanks anyway.  Let my child’s wonder remind me of how I should approach you.  Help me always guide her towards You, whether through soft embraces or hard lessons, in the way that you guide me.

Show me how to love all parents, no matter the magnitude of their mistakes, and remove all judgement from my heart.  And if I start to get too inflated about my own child’s achievements, go ahead and put me in check.  But please, please, please, do it gently.

Can I get an Amen?

The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. -Psalm 145:8