I've read a few books lately that have really challenged me to examine a lot of things about my poor little ol' self. I'll only mention one today. If you're like me, you may think you should bypass this one because upon seeing the title, you know you've already got it licked. It's Parenting without Perfection by David John Seel, Jr. I know, you see it and say to yourself, "Check. I've got that one mastered." Parenting without Perfection is not just for parents, either! You know what especially vexes me, though? The men (fathers) who will overlook this book, simply because the word "parenting" is in the title. It's as if they think they have nothing to learn or that parenting really doesn't concern them in a personal way. It's as if "parenting" is something they don't partake in, as if it's "knitting" or something. (you know what I mean, don't be so persnickety.) Certainly parenting is not perceived as a primary job! Whoa! If so, that would require it having a sense of value, and nothing is valuable without a bottom line number, right? UGH. You sense my disgust, and I have many more thoughts but will spare you except for this one question. What is the role of a spiritual leader, if not to be one worthy of respect and honor through his/her humility, service, and grace toward others...especially his/her own children? I'm thinking that "parenting" needs to be added to a few "to do" lists.
This book is not a cure for our kids' misbehavior, nor does it give us a million steps to follow or rules to impose in order that our underlings "obey without delay." (That my friends, is a ferr rreeyul mantra to some whacks, and for another day, as well. Oh, for those who don't live in the American south...that strange word just mentioned is just southern red-neck for "for real.") Forgive me, I'm digressing. This book doesn't tell us how to parent. Instead of dictating how, it asks us to reflect on what a parent is, and why we parent. It challenges us to examine what we believe as parents, and if we truly live within our beliefs. According to Seel, our responsibility in parenting is more about a mirror than a rod. It's more about what our lives reflectthan their outward behavior! There are so many nuggets in this book, but a fundamental theme throughout is how we should engage in the world of our kids. We're challenged to get uncomfortable and really learn the culture of our kids' world. Getting involved physically and mentally is fundamental when connecting with our kids emotionally and spiritually. We need to know our kids, and maybe even more importantly, we need to know who we are & whose we are, before we're able to influence our children in any way at all.
I love Genesis and the story of creation. It's sort of a big deal! The beginning of any story is essential to understanding the main idea, right? When we see the Bible for what it really is - one big story with many chapters - then we're able to see more clearly the redemptive story of Jesus from Genesis to Revelation. Understanding how to read the story brought the reality of the story in my life. We're all part of that ongoing story! From the beginning we learn a tad bit about why God made, oh, the cosmos! We learn why and how God made us! Being made in the image of God may have become so familiar to you that it's really quite unfamiliar. We tend to forget the magnitude of what it really means to be created in the image of our Holy Father. We forget to see characteristics of Him in others, and we neglect to maintain and nurture those within us, don't we? I do. We're creatures made in his likeness, so it's a pretty good idea to know a little about the One who created us. It's our birthright! In Parenting without Perfection, Seel points out what we really should already know (if we're realistic and know ourselves at all), but sometimes we need someone to put it in print in order to bring it to our attention. Sometimes we have spiritual amnesia. A nugget to ponder from this book-
* The possibility of rebellion is the mark of being made in the image of God. Seel writes, "As parents, we are stewards of young people who bear the image of God and whose lives will finally be directed by the choices they make before their Creator." He quotes philosopher Dallas Willard in his book, In Search of Guidance, "God has paid an awful price to arrange for human self-determination. He obviously places great value on it. It is, after all, the only way He can get the kind of personal beings He desires for His eternal purposes."
Are we humbled by our own rebellion as much as we acknowledge our kids' mistakes? Are we really shocked when our kids behavior doesn't meet our standards? What framework shapes the standards we set for them, and do our kids see us live within those standards, as well? I think I need to dust off my mirror and get on my knees.