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Thursday, February 5, 2015

Discipling and Discipleship in Parenthood

It has been an oh-so-difficult couple of weeks on the parenting front. We are all adjusting to a new routine in the new year, and our boys have seemed to be exceptionally whiny and cranky these few days. Whining, squabbling, having meltdowns... handling each of these moments has left Mark and I feeling physically tired and emotionally drained.

In the midst of it all, we found ourselves on Saturday morning at Labrador Park, feasting on sausages and hash browns under a tree, letting the boys wander around and explore the grassy patch nearby. They started collecting stones and throwing them into the sea, and after awhile decided to build a tower with the stones. 
Enjoying a simple picnic by the waterfront.
In a moment of inspiration, Mark said that we should build an altar and let it signify a time of surrendering our family once again to the Lord. We did so, taking turns to remember God's promises to our family and laying down a stone each, ending the time by worshipping God together with the song "Fires of Revival". It was a sacred moment. 
Our 2yo earnestly building the stone tower.
4yo Z makes sure the structure is sound.
But the boys continued to behave badly; even during dinner with some good friends later in the day. Things however got better when we spent time praying that night. We asked God to help the boys with their behaviour. It was then that our younger son E made the decision to follow Jesus. We ended with the hymn, "I Have Decided to Follow Jesus." The very next morning, I felt the Lord assure me of his decision when the same song was sung in church, and we witnessed our cocooned caterpillar transform into a butterfly that same day. Beauty in the midst of ashes.
Our little butterfly newly-emerged from its cocoon.
Preparing to release little "Fly", so named by our 2yo.
The butterfly chooses to rest after it is released. 
It has been such a trying period for me as a mother. So often, I look at the kids misbehaving, and at the back of my mind I can't help thinking of how I have failed to bring them up to be well-behaved and respectful of others. I think of all the times I am physically present with them at home, but not fully present and in the moment with them. I think of the times they have reached out to connect with me, but I have hurried them along and curbed the opportunity to show affection, because of tiredness or schedules. I sometimes look at the chaos and mayhem that happen in our home on a daily basis, and think, surely this is not how it's meant to be. I want peace and trust to reign in our household, but my heart is filled with worry.

Well, one of the pitfalls to avoid, especially when you are a stay-at-home mum and also when you are homeschooling, is making the family your idol. 
Recent Jurassic adventures in homeschooling.
And as I came to the Lord in brokenness and wretchedness Sunday morning at church, He reminded me that I am not in charge of my children's spiritual and emotional growth and well being; He is. In my concern over my kids and wanting to do the best job I can as a mother to them, I have been doing things in my own strength. I have been thinking I have a part to play in helping them to know God, when it is only God who calls them to Himself. In my holding on, I left no space for God to allow His spirit to work in their hearts.

I am reminded about what discipleship in parenting is all about. Firstly, it is the most important mission for us as Christian parents. I am reminded of why God brought us together as a family; the chief aim is to bring up our children and to do all we can do to plant the seeds in their souls that they might know Him, then leave the rest to the Sower. If we have done that, we have done our job and been faithful to the gifts He has given us to be stewards of in our children.

Secondly, it is all about letting go and letting God work in our children's hearts. Thank God that our children's salvation does not depend on us! We will spend all of our lives as parents making mistakes and thanking God for His mercy, letting go and letting Him take control. Having children is kind of like leading a life-long cell group. As a shepherd of a group, you see to the members' spiritual needs and growth. They are always on your mind. You think about how to help them develop in certain areas and to grow in their weaknesses as well as their strengths. So it is with parenting. However, just like in ministry, in parenthood sometimes you forget that there is nothing you can do; it is God's timing and work in people's hearts that causes them to grow.
Learning to let go of our children into the hands of God.
Thirdly, I am reminded of the power of prayer. Is there something that I am worried about with regards to my children? Turn it into a prayer. If there is insecurity, I pray that their identity will be in Him. If I see rebellion and a strong spirit, I pray that it will be surrendered to the Lord and used mightily for His glory, like it was with the apostle Paul. I pray that He will use the worship songs we listen to to minister to their spirits and develop the gifts of music we see in our boys. Prayer is the most helpful thing that can come from worry channelled to good.

I have been reading Pastor Ken Shigematsu's book "God in My Everything" and have been trying to apply some of the principles in our daily lives to slow down and look up. We have taken seriously his suggestion to start each morning with a shared worship song, a piece of Scripture from an audio Bible, or a prayer like the ones St Francis prayed. We end the evening thinking about our day and where we saw evidences of His grace, as well as the times when we have messed up and need to seek His forgiveness.

I am enjoying the richness of our family's spiritual life this week. May He open up in your minds and hearts new ways and visions that might grow your family too.

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