It’s not all up to me (and other unfortunate truths)

Photo courtesy of BigKidsLoveToys, Creative Commons via Flickr

Photo courtesy of BigKidsLoveToys, Creative Commons via Flickr

I am no good at change. It’s not that I can’t (or don’t) make changes; it’s just that I make everyone around me crazy with my crazy when change comes knocking at my door. Some people seem to be able to roll with the punches in life. I don’t roll; I tumble like a brick falling from the sky, sharp edges crashing into sharp edges.

We’ve been married seven-and-a-half years, so Michael knows my particular version of crazy inside and out now, and that makes things better. He knows when I get that look in my eyes that I really need him to say words. Saying words doesn’t always come naturally to him, but he understands that when life feels unsteady to me, I need to hear him say that everything is going to be okay. I need him to put his arms around me so that I can feel the steady of his heartbeat when mine is racing. I need him to put things into perspective so that I can remember that these things that are so big in my mind aren’t really that big.

I was more comfortable with change before I had kids. I try to remind myself every now and then that for-crying-out-loud I am the same person that packed up everything I owned and moved as a newlywed to sub-Saharan Africa, a place I’d never even laid eyes on. This was a place that spoke a different language and had none of the comforts of home. And yet I did it, and my life was forever changed for the better. The stakes just seem so much higher now that we are making decisions for two little lives who depend on us for everything. I desperately want life to be perfect for them, but then I know that life isn’t perfect for anybody.

Photo courtesy of BigKidsLoveToys, Creative Commons via Flickr

Photo courtesy of BigKidsLoveToys, Creative Commons via Flickr

I realized as I’ve been slogging through this idea of change, that I don’t make decisions well out of freedom. My life until the last several years was about survival, and I was good at making decisions to survive. I know how to claw your way out of a miserable situation and hope for something better. I know how to keep working and working and never be satisfied because you want a life better than what was handed to you. I built my whole identity around an ability to make good decisions, to act wisely and succeed. The problem is, if your identity is centered around successful decisions, there’s no room to make a mistake. If you’re good and worthy because you’ve made good choices, then you instinctively know that your world will come crashing down if you make a poor one. And that is the root of my fear of change. We already have good things and are incredibly blessed beyond what I ever hoped for. I can’t shake the (false) feeling, though, that one wrong move could mess it all up.

At the root of it all is an intense desire to get this parenting thing right, to make the right decisions for my kids. But where is the freaking manual for this stuff? What is so hard is that the right things for my kids might be different than the right things for your kids. Your family may need something totally different than mine does. There doesn’t seem to be right and wrong so much as a thousand shades of gray. The gray is what is paralyzing to me.

Here’s what I’m trying to remember about parenting my kids, though.

Photo courtesy of BigKidsLoveToys, Creative Commons via Flickr

Photo courtesy of BigKidsLoveToys, Creative Commons via Flickr

I’m just the gardener, and ultimately I’m tending the garden for someone else. These little people come to us as seeds. God sends those seeds like an unlabeled package from heaven.We don’t know what kind of flowers are going to grow- what kind of personalities and gifts and needs and desires our children will have- and it’s not our place to decide. We didn’t create those seeds; we are just tending the garden where they are to be planted.

As the gardener it’s my job to make sure my baby-seeds are planted in fertile soil, their souls are watered and nourished, and when weeds creep in it’s my job to pluck them out. Ultimately though, I don’t get to decide what kind of flowers grow. No matter how well or how poorly I tend the garden, it doesn’t change the fact that God is God, and he has already ordained them as the types of flowers he wants them to be.

It’s my job to be faithful with the task at hand- love those tender little plants and help them grow, but know that their growing isn’t all up to me.

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