I’ve had some great jobs in my life. I worked at summer camp both as a cook and counselor. Where else can you instigate a major food fight and not get fired? In the process I’ve learned flour is the ultimate secret weapon but it will never quite “soak up the mess” like you’d imagine. Instead it creates a sticky paste that will congeal into concrete hardness if you don’t act quickly. For two years I had a dream job working with junior high students. Now most people have a certain innate fear of 11-13 year olds. And with good reason. They whisper a lot, make and break friendships in a moment’s notice, and laugh at bodily function jokes. Somehow I fit right in.
Five years ago Rod and I were at a church service honoring graduating
seniors. To my surprise, the kids I first met as 6th graders were
graduating. It was amazing to see them as eighteen year olds. I sadly
thought about how I had lost touch with them and how much they had
grown. I told my husband I would love to get involved with a ministry
that tracked kids from childhood through the early adult years. To get
to know someone and see them through life’s major events and invest in
them longterm. I thought of all this while we were walking to pick up
our daughter from the nursery. I began to pray for godly people who
would invest in her life. Then it dawned on me; we were supposed to be
those people. God had a built-in ministry for us. Parenthood. We had
two kids to invest in longterm. Our character will impact theirs for
decades. God had given us a place of importance and investment– the
family. We couldn’t flub this calling.
Many of my dream jobs, although very rewarding, included a lot of grunt work. What adult in their right mind returns to a junior high cafeteria just to hang out? Who makes 200 chicken fried steaks in one afternoon? Those were my questions then. Actually it wasn’t until later that I began to question the antics of my youth. Now I ask similar questions about parenting. Who reads Goodnight Moon for the 38th time? Who takes notes during Star Wars to be able to answer the 1,000 questions that will follow afterwards?
Those are the things of a parent. Much of what I loved about previous jobs was having an influence and feeling like I was making a difference. I’m learning that it’s one thing to jump into someone’s life for a summer and then dash into a different role when school begins again. It’s quite another to be with your own children 24/7 for eight consecutive years. It’s a little easier to fake spirituality for 13 weeks of summer camp. Many of my weaknesses had been revealed to the other counselors by early July, but I would try to manage in front of the campers. Now I see it’s not about being “on” for others to see. Having my own children with me most of the time, it’s about who I really am. Or more accurately, about the Christ living in me. But I tend to focus on myself and the me in the scenario. And when I ask who I really am, I have to ask some hard questions. Who I am when I am tired? What makes me tired? What frustrates me? Under what circumstances will I concede that I don’t have to act “Christian” anymore? How often am I confronted with the sinful attitudes of my heart? Am I really the person I would choose to be my children’s mentor? Generations can be affected by how I fulfill the role. How can I have this big of a responsibility? God’s fully aware of my frailties and shortcomings. I think I’m much more suited for food fights and summer camp dances.
Well, I don’t know if parenting is the dream job. The pay is lousy and the hours are unreal. The impact is huge and the responsibility deafening. I really could not do it without the Lord. Sometimes even with the help of the Creator of the universe I barely seem to scrape by. At times I look at my kids and think, What do I have to offer someone so foreign, yet so identical, to myself? I’m realizing more and more that God gave me children to mold me and draw me closer to Him. I am dependent like I have never been before which is a good thing because this job is much bigger than I am.
“I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me for their own good and the good of their children after them,” says the Lord. Jeremiah 32:39