Today I gathered the kids around me and ranted at them about things they weren’t doing right, ways they weren’t meeting our expectations and on and on. I was angry and I was giving that anger voice in my words. Finally, my second daughter, the quiet one, stood up and said: “You need to go and PRAY! I’m NOT going to listen to this anymore!” and walked away. That brave little girl stopped me in my tracks and refused to allow me to hurt her feelings. She, my quietest child, found her voice and used it to defend her tender heart. I have never, ever been so proud of her as I was in that moment.
I called her back to me and we all sat together as I had a quiet conversation with Jesus. I apologized to them and then I told them a story that a friend once told me…
A father set his little boy up on something high and said: “Jump! I’ll catch you!”
But the little boy was afraid.
So the father opened his arms wider and said again: “Jump! I’ll catch you!”
So the little boy gathered up his courage and he jumped.
His father stepped back, and allowed his little boy to fall.
“That will teach you,” said his father.
When my friend told me this story, I was horrified. But in that moment, there with my hurting children, it made perfect sense.
Maybe my kids don’t need to trust that I will never hurt them, because that simply isn’t true. No relationship between human beings will ever be completely free from woundedness, struggle, anger and pain. Maybe my children need to see me not as a perfect role model but as a fallible sister in Christ, walking along beside them, muddling my way along the road just like they are, injured from my own falls but limping heavenward, nonetheless. Maybe what they need to trust is the fact that I’m as perfectly imperfect as they are and that I need forgiveness and redemption just as much as they do.
I’ve heard it said that children get their image of God from their parents. God forbid! I pray that my children see me as weak, uncertain, faulty… face down on my knees in humility, seeking forgiveness for the ways I fail every. single. day.* Maybe if they see that, they won’t be tempted to base their concept of God on their perception of me. Maybe they’ll understand how little I resemble their Savior on a day-to-day basis and maybe, just maybe, they’ll base their understanding of God on personal revelation, realizing that while I – and every other human being they will ever encounter – am imperfect, untrustworthy and sinful – HE IS NOT.
I may drop them. He never will.
*Of course, I also pray that my children will see me as loving, brave and virtuous… and humble enough to give credit to my Savior whenever I happen to give them glimpses of those qualities.