Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Purposeful Parenthood

I really like this article and, though I'm not a parent (yet?), I have had many of the thoughts and ideas that this writer presented so I thought I would post it.

May 14th, 2008
Doreen Truesdell

It’s in the trenches of everyday parenthood that I most clearly hear God speak to me. No, I don’t have visions or mystic revelations, and I don’t hear voices. To tell the truth, I hear only one voice — my own.

“How many times are you going to make that mistake?” “When are you going to learn to trust me?” “Why do I have to beg you to do the right thing?” “You know, sometimes it seems that we’re not getting anywhere.”

There I go again, correcting, disciplining, cajoling, insisting and otherwise forming our children, often against their wills. These little “brains full of mush” are depending upon my husband and me to get them through the arduous journey of growing up to become the souls God intends them to be.

But as my words find their target, they ricochet back and hit me full in the face. It’s as if I can hear my heavenly Father in each word I speak. It inevitably leads to self examination: How many times will I confess the same sins? When will I learn to trust in God? Why do I find it hard to obey? Am I getting anywhere?

In the years B.C. (Before Children), I didn’t hear God much. Of course, I didn’t realize it at the time. When I prayed, I did most of the talking, not listening. The conversations went along the lines of “This is what I need, this is what I want, and by the way, thanks for everything.”

But in the years A.D. (After Dependents), with four little lives going in full gear, my prayers changed. Most of them went along the lines of “HELP!”

Is this why God created the family? To hush us up and make us listen instead? I think it is. We know that He Himself is a family, a Trinity of love, three entities yet one God. The essence of God is love and He chooses to express Triune love as a family, setting an example for us to imitate. When His Son became man He did so within a family, depending upon and treasuring the intimacy uniquely shared among parents and children.

There are many ways to experience God’s love and to fulfill a vocation, and I don’t intend to ignore or disparage chaste single life or married couples unable to have children. My husband and I longed for children for more than eight years before adoption opened the door to becoming parents. Certainly, religious vocations speak for themselves as examples of God’s love. But this article is concerned with family life because that is what I experience.

God created the family because He knew we needed an urgent and unceasing call to come out of ourselves in sacrificial service to others. We respond to our children in a way we would never dream of responding to friends, neighbors, business associates or anyone else we come into contact with. Like monks answering an abbey bell, parents answer the call of their children no matter the day or hour, in good health and exhausted health, most often the latter. Always interrupting what we’re tempted to define as “more important things,” God shows us that answering the call of our family is the most important work we can do.

When I look at my children, I see God’s infinite love for me. But it is in raising my children I hear the clear voice of God as my parent, correcting me, disciplining me, cajoling me, insisting and otherwise forming me as His child, with my own little brain full of mush to work with.

Jesus said “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect,” and it sounds like an impossibility. Indeed, left to our own ways, it would be impossible. Through God’s creation of the family He gives us a blueprint for realizing perfection, which in His language means to grow more like Him in the virtue of love. In order to love, we must become selfless, and in order to be selfless we must learn to sacrifice. Most of us can not — or will not — do this willingly. We need constant urging. If children are anything, they are a constant challenge to our behavior, our intellect, our patience, our understanding, and the limits of our love. With grace, these challenges can hammer our weaknesses into virtues. Family members, parents and children together, have the capacity to propel each other towards heaven in ways we would not otherwise contemplate or pursue.

Often I have thought how beneficial it would be for my soul to have more quiet time with God, to sit in a church alone, to go often to the Blessed Sacrament or, dare I hope it, daily Mass. But it really is true that God meets us where we are, particularly if our location is pleasing to Him. Family life that struggles to imitate the Holy Family of Nazareth, even though it most often falls short, is pleasing to Him. God takes my prayer crumbs, bides His time, and speaks to me in the midst of the daily chaos, even using my own words to form the soul of His creature.

Doreen M. Truesdell, a former newspaper journalist, is a freelance writer and editor. She and her husband, Stephen, live in upstate New York with their four homeschooled children, aged 4 to 13.