A Christian leader recently did a survey in his audience and estimated over 80% of the students (adults) raised their hands when asked if they feel guilty or live their lives in guilt. I am dismayed by the words ‘I feel guilty’. I feel bad because I took the day off. I feel guilty because I wasn’t at his assembly. I feel like crap because I missed her game. I feel sooooo bad because we didn’t have anything for supper. I feel terrible because I didn’t buy fall pictures (how many seasons of pictures can there be?). I feel awful because I didn’t go have lunch with her today. At least once a day from someone, especially myself, guilt is in play. I read a great article yesterday regarding the 9 things children need from their parents and I was going to write about it but instead I am going to write about this:
"Since therefore, brethren, we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is His flesh, ... let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water." (Heb. 10:19,20,22)
There are thousands of articles out there right now, all of which, tell you how to parent better, how to say no less, how to limit technology, how to reaffirm with your words and a million other things all directed at our heartstrings and all super successful at making us feel guilty. I am not saying these directives aren’t significant and often very true. BUT STOP WITH THE GUILT. After reading said article I came home and sort of had all of these tips in the back of my head as we went through our evening. All of these things that I am clearly lacking to start with. Listen parents, keep it simple: do your best. That is all. Quit with the laundry list of things you need to do better and just do your best. Quit enrolling your children in 17 guilt driven activities and sit down at the dinner table. It is so uncomplicated, I think. We feel the need to overcompensate for whatever reason and feel so much social pressure for our children to be the best of the best that we are missing out. I posed the question at a small group meeting last month. What is this all about? The scheduling and taxi driving and child shuffling? What are we really doing it for? And my answer is this: we want our children to be better than us. We want them to have more, be more and do more than we did and we want them to be happier than we are. At the end of the day, aren’t we protecting them from becoming who we are or are not? I was not the most popular. I was not the best athlete. I made bad decisions and on and on…So in turn I am trying to protect my children from experiencing the heartache and suffering and poor decision making I went through in my younger years. I am trying desperately to change the course of her path from mine when in essence, THE PATH IS GOD’S. What would make my 9 year old most happy is to go climb a tree, kick a ball or ride her bike. What makes ME most happy is for her to win the 50M butterfly amongst 10 year olds so I KNOW I am doing it right, for her to place first in UIL so I KNOW I am doing it right. Well guess what? I am doing it right. You are doing it right. You are doing it better than right and the more you let go of what drives YOU the better off they will be. Whatever you are overcompensating for (in my case divorce and the fear of them turning into me) STOP. They see you. They know how much you love them and getting them to two practices in one day does not change that. You are doing your children and God a huge disservice with all this running around in overdrive. Go back to God. Go back to bike riding. Go back to the dinner table.
“You can’t do everything. Your children can’t experience everything. To them, every opportunity looks good. It’s your job to keep your children grounded and prevent them from drowning in activities. Don’t allow your family to worship the idol of over-commitment. Learn to say no. Over-commitment is one of the great idols of American Christianity. We worship this idol because it tells us we’re important and our children are gifted. And, unfortunately, we sacrifice our children on this altar. We enjoy the satisfaction from our children being the best. This gives us importance. But it creates teenagers stretched thin, obsessed with outward achievements, and overcome with anxiety.Your children might not say this, but they need you to say no.”-Frank Powell
At 9 years old Betty believes she will be an Olympic swimmer. She believes it and therefore so do I, but that is not up to her or me. It is up to Him. I totally support youth sports and I love her basketball team more than life itself but the fate of our children is not really in our hands. We must guide them and love them and above all give them to God. I love this poem by Kahlil Gibran. “Your children are not your children.” They belong to God. “You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are set forth.” HE is the archer. “For even as HE loves the arrow that flies so HE loves the bow that is stable.” HE loves you as much as your children and so doing your best, putting your faith in Him, is ENOUGH.
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.
As we were driving home from a practice the other day I looked over at my long lashed beauty and I thought do I really know her? Do I really listen to her? What is her favorite flavor of milk shake? What book is she reading? What does she want to be when she grows up? What does she pray for at night? With the barrage of things we expect from ourselves as parents, the little tiny parts of their hearts get overlooked. In so many realms, I believe, it is time to get back to the basics. Time to simplify and let go and do LESS. Let Jesus take the reins and just do our best. It is time to make sure we are the keepers of their hearts.
In the midst of typing this I went and layed down after work (we are all fighting the crud here and feeling pretty worn out) and thought about feeling guilty since everyone needed to be fed before a game in another town. In the dark, I heard the clibber clobber of little feet coming down the hall. He cracked open the door and whispered, MOM. I waited to see what he would do. He came in, crawled on the bed, whispered MOM a little louder this time, patted my face and gave me a big ole slobbery kiss. Off the bed and back out the door he went. Man, are we ever doing it right……
Let these moments guide you. Kindness and generosity and humility should be your compass, the moments when sweetness shines through and love is displayed should be your affirmation. Not awards, medals, swim times or ribbons. Compassion, gentleness, joy and empathy. That’s when you know your bow is stable, that your arrow is flying straight and the Archer has the prize in His sight.