by Laura Coley
It’s a word I’ve heard about 46 times so far today. “I’m coming!” I shout in reply, picking up the toys scattered across the floor as I make my way to my three year old in the bathroom. Once there, a glance in the mirror reminds me there’s yogurt in my hair, which then reminds me I have a Zoom meeting coming up. I check the clock…9:32am. “How is it only 9:30!” Anxious thoughts rush in: “I need to prep for this meeting; should I shower or review my notes? How am I going to keep him occupied? I hope he doesn’t interrupt again. We still haven’t done any of his school work today. He’s getting too much screen time. So much for quarantine schedules, making special memories, and #goals…I’m totally failing at this.”
As my eyes start to well up, the still, small voice blows in.
What’s going on in my heart that’s making me feel this way? I’ve been trusting in my works to make me feel secure. I’ve bought into the lie that I just need to try harder to be a good enough parent. I’ve set a standard for myself based largely on comparison with others rather than on His Word. I don’t need to appear righteous; I need true holiness. Yet, no amount of school lessons, outdoor activities, or sensory playtime will ever produce holiness in me. Only God can do that (1 Cor. 1:30)!
The goal set before me now is to let parenting during a pandemic become a tool for my sanctification. For parents, here are three reminders to help you keep your heart pliable during this time!
- God is more concerned with your heart than He is with perfect parenting.
There is a beautiful freedom in accepting that we simply are not good enough, and that we never will be as long as we are on this earth! You will fail. Yet, our loving God invites us to rest in the accomplished work of our Savior rather than trying harder (Psalm 62:5). When failure comes, His way is simple: repent! Confess to the Lord the sin in your heart, and ask Him to reveal your motivation. Repent to your kids! Ask them to forgive you when you lose your temper or fail to be present with them. When you do, you’re showing them that they, too, can rest in the righteousness of Christ rather than holding themselves to a standard of perfection!
When you start your day with your kids, open with prayer about the heart instead of meditations on the day’s to-do list. Set your mind on things above (Col. 3:2)! Dwell on the eternal value of loving your children well, rather than the burden they may seem to be while you’re stuck at home. Ask the Lord to make your heart pleasing to Him and to release you from the weight of selfishness. He will answer!
- Your children will naturally become like you.
Have you ever heard your child say something that you wish they hadn’t learned from you? I certainly have! It’s a clear example that our children become like those with whom they spend their time, and if there is one gift that this quarantine has given us it is lots of TIME together! Each day that we are home with one another, our children are absorbing who we are. Scientists have agreed for many years that there is a direct relationship between the home environment and early childhood development. That’s because God designed the brain of a child to be molded and shaped by his or her family. From the beginning of the Old Testament, God has charged his people to give their children an inheritance of knowing God and walking in His ways (Deut. 6:6-7).
I now understand that what I am passively teaching my son is just as important (if not more) as what I am teaching him intentionally. If I want my son to love the presence of God, I must love God’s presence! If I want my son to be wise, I must walk in wisdom (Prov. 13:20). I must model the spiritual disciplines that I pray my son will practice. I cannot tell my son to love God’s Word and keep my Bible on the shelf. I cannot shepherd his heart if I am spiritually unhealthy. Use this extra time at home to prioritize your own spiritual health. Allow Christ to fill you with Himself, and the natural overflow will be spiritual investment in your children (Luke 6:45).
- Focus your thoughts and energy on what matters most.
We will never be able to do it all – the projects around the house, the spring cleaning, the yard work, the homeschooling, the career productivity, the investment in your marriage, the optimal parenting, the spiritual growth, the sabbath rest. A decision to focus on one area most often means neglecting another. Fortunately we are not called to do it all; Christ has already done the work (John 19:30)! What we can do is prioritize with spiritual eyes.
Instead of measuring the success of the day by how many tasks you accomplished, consider what your little ones learned about the Lord. Did you pray together? Did they learn about forgiveness? Did they hear worship music today? The most important task of both parenting and the whole of our lives is to make disciples. My son may not be able to write his name by the end of this school year, but he will know more Bible stories, memorize more verses, and sing more songs of praise. Not all parents are called or gifted in the same ways, but we all are called to steward the souls of the precious children that God has entrusted to us.
The COVID-19 pandemic will pass, as will your current season of parenting. This unique time is a challenge that none of us could have imagined just a few short weeks ago! I pray that you will rejoice in the face of this trial, knowing that the Lord is proving your faith for His glory (1 Peter 1:6-7). Know that Christ can redeem our purpose in parenting, even in a pandemic.