My grandson Jakob was just 3 years old before the last presidential election. I was babysitting him once during that time, when he sat at my kitchen table in a grouchy mood. In his crabbiness, he was apparently trying to think of the worst thing possible that he could say to annoy me. Finally, not daring to look directly at me, he stared at the table and muttered, “Nama… I am going to vote for Barack Obama!!”
After this bold outburst, he sat stone-still, cautiously peering at me through the corners of his eyes to assess my reaction.
You will probably be relieved to hear, however, that in his repentance later that morning, he told me that he was not going to vote for Barack Obama after all. He said he would actually be voting for Ron Paul. I did not know that 3 year olds were now voting, but on the other hand, nothing in America really surprises me anymore.
It was apparent from this little situation, however, that Jakob did not, in fact, begin his life as merely a blank slate to be written upon. How I wish it were that easy. On the contrary, just like we all do every day, he experiences the continual pull of a sin nature that wants to deny others and please self. His parents’ job in the next 18 years of his life, then, is to constantly turn him away from a focus on himself, to becoming a pleasant, hardworking, productive God-focused adult. It’s a big job. And if this task seems impossible to accomplish, that’s because it is–if we’re trying to do it by our own strength and ability. Yet it’s the greatest privilege that we will ever be called to accomplish.
When I first found out that Jakob, our first grandchild, was on the way, I just could not contain my happiness. Our expectant daughter and her husband were living 15 hours away, yet I loved hearing about her doctor’s reports or her efforts at preparing the baby’s room for arrival. I found great joy in the anticipation of grandparenthood. I was the last of six siblings in my family to become a grandparent, and I could not wait to share funny grandchildren stories like my sisters did.
Near the end of her pregnancy, my sisters and nieces hosted a baby shower for my daughter Sarah. Watching her open gifts of newborn outfits, children’s storybooks and toys was exhilarating with the anticipation. Then she opened a gift, a parents’ devotional from some of my nieces and nephews, and inside the front cover, my nephew had drawn a little sketch. There was a very large oval shape beside a very small donut shape. He labeled the shapes, ‘watermelon’ and ‘Cherrio,’ and wrote under them, “Your mission will be to push the watermelon through the Cherrio. God bless you.”
All of a sudden, reality hit me. “This is impossible!” I thought. Childbirth is impossible! It’s crazy! Even more sobering was the sudden reality that my daughter was committed to this task. She could not back out now. And I could not do it for her. Reality was very, very sobering.
Now, six years later, my daughter would probably say that childbirth was the easy part! She called me one morning recently, in tears of frustration. “Ethan kept waking up all night long; I’m totally exhausted from such a terrible night’s sleep; now he’s crabby because he doesn’t want cereal for breakfast; two temper tantrums; two crying fits; and it’s only 8:30 in the morning! How am I going to get through this day?”
“Ethan had a tempter tantrum?” I meekly asked, surprised.
“Mom–” she cried, exasperated, “I’m talking about me!”
Yes, mothers have days like that. All mothers do. But just think about the impossible irony of what God has called you to do: you begin motherhood with a small, squirmy, totally helpless, totally dependent little baby. You probably don’t have any experience, and you’re overwhelmed with the crash of hormones trying to scramble for balance after such a monumental experience.
And your job for the next 18 years is to care for, teach, and train this child to become a hard-working, productive, pleasant man or woman of God who will impact his-or-her world for the glory of God.
No, wait. That’s too easy.
Let’s try that again: you begin motherhood with a small, squirmy, totally helpless, totally dependent, totally self-centered baby who arrives with a sin-nature and the propensity to choose what is wrong every time. Furthermore, we don’t have the advantage of being able to practice on some disposable children first, or have the chance to test our theories with the Scientific Method before we form conclusive, surefire, tried-and-true success. We only have one chance. We must do it right the first time.
Then shape him into a hard-working, productive, pleasant man or woman of God who will impact his-or-her world for the glory of God. It’s impossible! This is enough of a challenge to drive us to our knees!
And drive us to our knees it should! Impossible situations are the tool God uses to force us to become intensely God-focused, truly Theo-centric in our faith. I am constantly amazed that God would give parents such an intense, demanding, challenging, impossible, albeit wonderful task– and yet He calls us to accomplish it by recognizing our inability, by turning away from self-sufficient efforts, and by constantly finding His grace, His mercy, His strength made perfect in our terrible weakness.
The task of parenthood can only be truly successful when it’s truly “God-centered.”
In Matthew 19, Jesus affirmed the little children, saying, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” Immediately after, he was approached by the rich young man who boasted in his own efforts to keep God’s law, yet still could not bring himself to separate from his riches, the product of his own sufficiency– his great distraction. Jesus took note, and reminded his disciples that it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for such a one to enter the Kingdom of God.
The call of God on your life as a mother is the most amazing call you will ever know. You are called to accomplish what seems impossible. But Jesus says to us (:26), “With man, this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible.” Indeed.
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