Hard-hitting Christian memes have become a favorite share on Facebook and social media, but one phrase has stuck with me: "Did you have a bad day, or did you have a bad 5 minutes that you milked all day?"
It's a good question! When we process through the days, the weeks and the years, which moments and experiences are we allowing to define our thinking? Our present attitudes will often be influenced by the perception of our past - and that perception is something we have control over.
One of the reasons parenting is difficult is that we have so many mini-moments throughout the day that can become definitional for us. Those 5 minutes we can milk? We're given quite a few options! Whether it was the tantrum over "this is the wrong breakfast cereal!!" or the eye roll and huff when you remind your teen about morning chores, or a battle over bedtime, it's easy to dwell on these moments that sap our joy, contentment and excitement.
We need wonder to live in our hearts as parents.
Wonder is a feeling of surprise and awe, caused by something beautiful or marvelous - it's the very essence of staring at your newborn or holding your adoptive child for the first time. Wonder is being caught up in your one year-old taking her first tentative steps, or the joy of seeing a smile for the first time on your infant.
Wonder isn't confined to the early years of parenting, either - it's found in talking to your teen about the difficult decision they had to make at school, or wrestling through a life decision and walking away thinking, "If I had an ounce of the courage he has..." It's found in the audiences of high school bands and on the sidelines of soccer matches and during parent-teacher conferences. Wonder is a pervasive piece of proper parenting.
And as Christian parents, we're given another element to wonder over as well: that God would choose to use us as instruments in the growth, discipleship and life of our children. Psalm 139 speaks of the intricacies God puts into the creation of his children but by implication, it also speaks of the value God places on parents. As God lovingly stitched together each element of our children's frame - as he considered each piece of their lives - he also lovingly choose to place them with us and in our care.
Our children's very presence in our lives is a miracle of unfathomable proportions - and that should lead to wonder.
And wonder should buoy our hearts.
It's wonder, in part, that should define our attitudes and approaches and days. It's the wonder of our God and our children that should influence our thinking and our attitudes. As parents, we need to wear the wonder of our children and the wonder of the task to which God has called us as armor against the disappointments, frustrations and aggravations of day to day parenting. Far too often it's the opposite - we allow the momentary frustrations to cloud and overshadow our wonder. What if we reversed this trend?
My heart thinks immediately to Mary (who perhaps had even more to wonder and marvel at than the average parent). The traditional Christmas birth story is recorded in Luke 2, and no less than three separate times in this passage - from the night of Christ's brith through his 12th year - does it say, "Mary marveled" or "Mary stored up these things."
Luke 2:19 speaks to a Mary who, after the shepherds left on the night of Christ's birth, stopped and spent time simply marveling and recording to memory the things that had happened. Later, during the baby Jesus' ceremonial presentation at the temple, it says in verse 33, "The child's father and mother marveled at what was said about him." And then later still, after finding the boy Jesus in the temple, it says again of Mary that she, "treasured all these things in her heart."
What a wealth of wonder Mary was creating for herself! I imagine there were many times, perhaps even during Jesus' three year public ministry, when Mary drew on these seeds of wonder to bring her mind back to the good work God was doing and had done.
We need to do that same. We need to be cultivating and returning to a regular sense of wonder and amazement at our children, our calling and at God's direction. This will look different for each parent and each parenting circumstance, but God has been faithful no matter your circumstance. There are seeds of grace throughout each interaction and season of parenting.
As we consider the high calling God has given us, we should regularly marvel at his mercy and providence. Would that wonder define our hearts as parents!
Father, you have given me an overwhelming task in caring for, loving and parenting these children, and I'm amazed at their beauty and life. But, there are so many times I feel beaten down and exhausted, and countless other times I'm tempted to grade my parenting experiences by the hard moments.
Help me not to do that, God. The role you've called me to is wonderful! It's full of experiences, moments and emotions that are just short of magical. In fact, they're miraculous - truly only coming from you. And I need to see my role focused by the miraculous, again and again. Help me to look at my task of parenting through a different lens - to not be caught up in the difficult but rather lost in the wonder and beauty of my calling.
As I consider my heart as parent, allow me to be caught up in awe and wonder. Help my attitude and position to be characterized by wonder.
- What's the most wonderful memory of your children you have? What memory do you cherish the most?
- How does pondering that memory or that moment reframe how you think about parenting?
- Would you say wonder characterizes your thought-life as a parent?
- If you have to guess how often you wonder at your children, versus how often you allow frustration, anger or disappointment characterize your thoughts, what would your answer be?
- What are two or three ways you could better cultivate wonder towards your children?
- How have you wondered at the place and position God has given you in your children's lives recently?
- I Samuel 3: There's something truly amazing about the story of boy Samuel and God speaking to him and calling him. There's a true wonder to it.
- Luke 2: The birth story of Jesus. Pay close attention to Mary's attitude of wonder.
- Exodus 14-15: There are few more incredible stories in Scripture than the parting of the Red Sea, but it's accentuated by the song of praise Moses offers in chapter 15. There's true wonder here: "You had led in your steadfast love, the people whom you have redeemed; you have guided them by your strength to your holy home."