Sometimes teaching my children feels like skipping through a field of daisies, and sometimes it feels like trudging through murky swamp waters or worse...quicksand. At the start of the school year, many of us feel encouraged and ready to tackle another year of schooling. Glossy new textbooks and freshly sharpened pencils inspire and excite, but the honest truth is, we lose much of the inspiration in teaching and parenting with a tough day of bad attitudes, lengthy assignments, and other stresses of everyday life.
We are formula-loving people. It’d be so convenient if we could follow a checklist with which we can ensure success in training up our children. Sometimes we spend the majority of our time researching logistical how-to's and collecting tools but fail to consider that the vessel through which we are training our children is OURSELVES. Our kids are learning through us.
A good day for us is when there are lots of smiles and laughter, all work is completed in a timely fashion, and I feel affirmed as a mom and teacher to my kids. But, realistically, many days look more like chaos with little ones underfoot, tears + math worksheets, and me feeling insecure and doubtful that I am cut out for the job.
Since we can’t prevent difficulties in parenting and teaching, it’s not how to avoid them, but how to MEET the challenges you will face as a parent and teacher this school year that will make all the difference.
I am a metaphor person, so let me share this with you in this way: We often choose to parent like STONES: hard, polished, smooth, and oftentimes inflexible and unwavering as a parent. We set the bar high and stick to the schedule. We work hard not to be vulnerable to our surroundings and the stresses of the day, believing our primary job is to stand our ground and hold down the fort. We often chose to be cold and task-oriented, striving to be all business with our children so as to be efficient and non-superfluous. Sometimes we cause hurt when we wielded our authority with force. And when the pressures of life closed in, we break or chip in rough and jagged ways.
But, here's the thing I've been reflecting on again and again. I often quote Luke 6:45 to my children, but fail to hear it for myself:
The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.
We parent out of the overflow of our hearts. Whatever fills us up will spill out.
So instead of a stone, perhaps a sponge possesses more the qualities I need to have as a parent and teacher to my children.
A SPONGE is...
- soft and gentle
- absorbent and always seeking to be filled
- malleable and vulnerable to its surroundings
- not a tool/weapon but a vessel
- its purpose is to transfer and to gather and pass on
- when there’s pressure or it's squeezed, it overflows with what’s inside
What kind of parent are you? What kind of parent are you under pressure?
Are you a stone? One that is unyielding and harsh? Standing your ground and heavy in your delivery of discipline and instruction? Or are you a sponge? One that is filled up so as to spill out with the grace that you yourself have received?
You see, it is not how polished we are, how smooth we deliver our lessons, or how firm we stand upon our expectations for our children, that will cause us to succeed as parents. We will be most effective as parents when we train and teach our children out of the overflow of our lives lived unto Christ.
So that begs the question...What are you most filled with as a parent as evidenced by what spills over? What overflows from your life when the squeeze or the pressures of life wring you out?
Is it patience, humility, gentleness, joy, and dependence on the Lord? Or do you, like me, often overflow with anger, anxiety, perfectionism, expectations, self-sufficiency, and pride?
Our only hope is to be filled with the good news of the Gospel if we are to overflow with the fruit of the Spirit.
So, as we begin this school year, are you focusing on the methods and procedures that will get your children to obey? or will you consider Luke 6:45 as it affects YOUR heart as a parent?
This school year will not be measured by how many facts and figures your child learns. It will not be measured by their grades, your teacher’s comments, or even how obedient your children are. It won’t be measured by how clean your house is or how early you complete all your coursework. Friends...none of those things will be the measure of your worth as a parent because the Lord looks on the heart:
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” -1 Samuel 16:7
In those times of discouragement and pressure this year, resist the temptation to pity yourself or offer a stone when your children ask for bread. Instead, go to our great God for the filling up to do this GREAT task. Be filled up by, with, and through him, that you may be poured out FOR Him. He will enable you to do all that he has called you to.