Sunday, January 29, 2012

The 10 Commandments for Parents: No Graven Image

I suspect that Jesus had colic.  That He didn't sleep through the night at 12 weeks, and probably not even at 12 months.  That He made messes and spilled things.  That He tantrumed some days.  It wouldn't surprise me a bit if He had difficulty meeting all the milestones that parents obsess over and struggled in school.  The Bible doesn't say, of course, but I am reasonably sure that He was not an easy baby, or even an easy child.  Nothing else about His life was easy.

I also believe He never sinned.  But for some parents, reconciling that statement with the previous paragraph is hard, because our society has created a graven image of the perfect baby/child.  A *good* baby or child is one that is convenient.  Who doesn't bother you or take away attention from more important matters (the more important matters being the parent's interests, free time, and above all, sleep).  Who only garners attention for cuteness and excelling in academics and athletics.  Who is quiet and plays independently, but is still socially sophisticated.

Um, I make muffins?  Does that count?
My mental models weren't limited to my children.  I was sure in the beginning that I would be a together mom.  You know the kind (well, maybe you do--I have never actually met her, but I have heard of her and seen pictures).  I would make sure to keep myself, my child and my home looking nice.  I would maintain the same level of availability and energy for all of my pre-motherhood relationships.  My child would always be perfectly behaved, and sleep through the night in her own room, because I would be the practically perfect in every way Mary Poppins mom who never tilted the wrong way from the perfect balance of kindness and firmness.   As she grew older and we had more children, I would competently make sure that their behavior was above reproach, and that no child ever felt left out. I would delightedly homeschool with creative and enjoyable lessons, always prepare delicious and healthy meals, and my darlings would never fight amongst themselves. I would be able to do it all, do it all well, and do it consistently. :laughs to the point of wiping tears. 

The other graven images I had?  That the Bible instructs parents to spank, that we must vigilantly guard against defiance and backtalk, that we must always be consistent and always present a united front.  That we are all sinners in the hands of an angry God.  They were all based off of popular opinion in our culture, but not real Truth.

Graven images are deadly.  They destroy relationships, leaving behind only an atrophied, hollow, wooden shell of the life that they are supposed to represent.  We are cautioned not to allow the world to squeeze us into its mold, to not conform to the graven images of our culture.   Trying to force ourselves or our children to fit into the little boxes we have created only brings shame and heartache.  But what about ideals?  What is the difference?

For me, the problem was in the priorities.  Relationship always needs to come first.  That usually involves a lot of stripping away of the outer things that we look at and measure by.  Another thing?  Convenience and long term goals are rarely compatible.  So we have to get rid of our little household gods and decide what (and Who) truly is worthy of our allegiance and our energy.

Knocking down those graven images is tough.  Nobody likes to admit that they were wrong.  But it is still worth the effort.  They need to be replaced with reality.  For religious misconceptions, it means examining the Scripture, studying to correctly handle the word of truth (which requires delving more deeply than a passing glance to make sure that it confirms our own biases.  A Hebrew lexicon--not concordance--can be very helpful.).  For other things, it may mean research into child development and mental health.

The beautiful thing?  Despite the messiness, the lack of airbrushed perfection of real life, it is just that:  real.  Not fake, hypocritical pretense.  Life.  Not a cold, empty statue of a false god.  My kids shattered the mold that I had envisioned for them.  I never attained all the standards I set for myself.  But that is OK, because it turns out that God is far bigger than the stern, tiny box I wanted to confine Him to.  He is full of mercy and grace upon grace.  He is a God of restoration, who lifts us and heals us.  A God of abundant Life.


Mike and Christie said...

We joked with our girls that Jesus didn't start his ministry until he was 30, because when he was 12 and they confronted him in the Temple... they grounded him until he was 30....
One of our girls shared this"fact" in Sunday School. LOL

Shianne said...

I "heart" this post (well, every post you write)!!

Adrienne said...

Love this!! Thanks for writing it!

Sara Savel said...

I think it would do us mothers all a world of good if there were a picture of Mary holding a screaming colicky Baby Jesus while St. Joseph is pouring her a glass of wine.

Love this post!

Alexis C. said...

As one of my friends once pointed out, "Jesus was fully human, and that meant he was fully baby." Thanks for the awesome post, and for your whole awesome blog :D