I've been reading the book, "Five Minutes Peace," with my two year old before bed; it's a book I inherited from my mom and distinctly remember reading as a child. In it we follow Mrs. Large, a momma elephant who's just trying to escape from her three kids and find some peace and quiet.
The story is funny and cute and Eben loves the pictures, so I've tolerated the content up to this point. But I shake my head when I consider that an entire children's book was written about a parent wanting to escape her kids, and how strong the language is at times.
"Why?" asked Laura. "So I can get five minutes peace - from you!" said Mrs. Large.
What's striking to me isn't that this book exists, but rather that we all resonate with it so strongly. Let's be honest: the writing of the book is so much less extreme that many parent's average Facebook posts.
Here's the truth: we love our kids, but there aren't many of us who love parenting them.
Imagine taking a sheet of paper - just a regular printer sheet - and writing in black sharpie everything that frustrates you and bothers you about parenting. It wouldn't take long to fill the page, would it? "Dates are so hard." "Expensive!" "Can anybody but me clean this house?!" "NOISE" "Just five minutes peace!"
Those phrases and thoughts are real representations of the struggles of parenting - they're accurate and they shouldn't be diminished. I don't want to diminish them. But at the same time I am convinced they absolutely pale in glory compared to the mountain of goodness that is God's design for parenting.
God's design, will and goals for your role as a parent - in the lives of your kids - is so unfathomably incredible that to stand and consider its glory can actually take away our breath. Yes, God's intention for the family is a mountain of goodness.
But it seems that this beauty of parenting is commonly obscured behind the list of our struggles.
It's About Focus
What's larger, a mountain or a sheet of paper? Well, the mountain of course! But then why is our public discourse about parenting so much more about the paper, and so much less about God's glory and intention? Is the paper that huge? Or is God's plan truly that small?
Actually, I believe it's because we've chosen to hold the paper in front of our faces, and we've pointed all our focus there. Even a sheet of paper can obscure a mountain if we hold it close enough to our nose.
This is a growing and real reality - we've focused far too long on the paper we're holding, and we're not nearly well-enough acquainted with the mountain. We need to learn to let the sheet drop, to pull away our eyes, and to focus on God's plan.
Over the next few months, I want to begin a project to both explore God's good intention for parenting - clarifying a theology of parenting, if you will - but also to try and identify when we started staring so fully at these sheets of paper as a culture. I'll share the books I'm reading, the insights I'm gaining and the prayers I'm praying.
I want to be clear again - I don't want to diminish those struggles. They're real. They're unique, and they can't be ignored. But my ultimate desire is to see our struggles as parents in light of God's plan - not as spite to God's plan.
I would appreciate you accompanying me on this journey! Check back for updates. I'll create a mailing list as some point in the next few weeks for regular updates as well. In addition, I'll be salting the blog with plenty of tongue and cheek posts - I'm sure it would be hard to resist with VBS right around the corner.
Let's learn to enjoy this ride, rather than just tolerate it!