The old preacher’s slightly shaky voice and once-hearty arthritic hands spoke of life and experience and hard-won wisdom as he held up a dusty tapestry with the backside facing us. The tangle of threads that seemed to go nowhere and snarl of multicolored knots gave no hint of the picture on the other side. “This is what we see,” he said. Then he turned the tapestry around to display the intricate, painstakingly crafted, exquisite picture on the front side. “And this is what God is doing.” He looked around the room, a kind and gentle understanding in his age-dimmed gaze. “Faith is trusting that your Father’s hands are carefully weaving a beautiful life’s story, even when all you can see is chaos.”
I remember this story often when life feels overwhelming, when big things like layoffs and sicknesses hit, and when small things like cranky toddlers, piles of laundry, and broken a/c units annoy. What feels to me like an endless cycle of dishes and diapers, punctuated by the odd disaster, must look like brilliant threads of golden perseverance, scarlet sacrifice, and soft blue-grey shades of faith, all woven tenderly into my life’s tapestry in my Father’s skillful hands.
I imagine life feels this way to my children, as well. As I try to teach and guide and nourish and encourage my children to grow into the beautiful humans they were created to be, they may not see the picture I am trying to weave.
They may not understand why they’re gently redirected when they try to crawl up the stairs or why bugs don’t make a good afternoon snack. They may not be able to fathom why their new dragonfly ‘pet’ isn’t allowed in the house or why they can’t hide in “the best hiding place EVER” in a hot car on a steamy Florida afternoon. They may not agree with the no-social-media rule and lack of a cell phone in their early teen years when “everybody has one!” And they may not fully get why the mall is not an approved hangout spot and why periodic texts to check in when out with friends are part of our family rules in their later teen years.
But, while these things may seem like meaningless threads or even unnecessary knots and tangles in their lives, the trust we share helps them to accept what they don’t understand, knowing that I have a purpose for each of these things even if they can’t see it.
It is that trust, that faith in my motives, my wisdom, my love, that makes gentle parenting possible. I don’t have to enforce my ‘rules’ with punishments or control my children with threats or intimidation because they know that I have their best interests at heart and that I will always, always listen to their concerns, even if I can’t change things or give them what they want.
I start building that trust from the moment my children are born and continue building it throughout their childhood. I respond quickly and consistently to their cries, whether they are eight days, eight years, or eighteen years old. I meet their needs as fully as I am able, whether those needs are a clean diaper, a full belly, a listening ear, or a warm hug. I respond gently and thoughtfully to their behaviors, whether they are having a meltdown, whining, tattling, questioning, or even challenging me.
And, perhaps most importantly, I’m honest about my own imperfections, am willing to apologize when I make one of my many parenting mistakes, and don’t expect perfection from my very human children.
Life is messy. No one has all the answers, at least not earth-side. But we can all trust that this sometimes bewildering, sometimes joyful, sometimes flat-out painful chaos called life has meaning and purpose and beauty beyond the scope of human sight. And as we carefully and gently weave the strands of our children’s days into a beautiful childhood, we can trust that our Father is thoughtfully and tenderly doing the same for us.
On a somewhat side note, my stillborn son, Sammy’s, birthday is coming up in a couple of weeks. While he’s always in my heart, as his birthday approaches my heart tightens in my chest a bit more each day until the ache becomes almost unbearable, and then finally the day passes and I can breathe again. I wonder how tragedy must look from Heaven’s side. I wonder about my Sammy and my other lost babies, gone before they even had birthdays. What colors did they add to my story? What eternal beauty did they bring that would have made my tapestry incomplete if they had not come and gone, so heartbreakingly briefly, into my life? While I feel holes in my heart, one for each much-wanted child, and an aching cavern of loss for my Sammy, would my life have been complete without them? I can’t answer these questions. I won’t even try. But I imagine that is where faith stretches its silken blue-grey threads across my story like the fragile gossamer wings of a butterfly.
“Now we see through a glass darkly; then we shall see clearly, face to face. Now I know in part, then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13:12
May 11, 2012 | Categories: adolescence, attachment parenting, Bible, birth, character, children, Christian, Christian parenting, communication, family, gentle parenting, life, loss, miscarriage, motherhood, pregnancy loss, teens, wisdom | Tags: adolescence, attachment, attachment parenting, Bible, children, Christian, Christian parenting, gentle parenting, sacrifice, stillbirth, teens | 4 Comments »