Lately I have been more sensitive than ever to the whole parenting thing. You'd think it wouldn't phase me any more, this emphasis on parenting as the be-all and end-all of the Christian life. This idea that you have to do it right. That there is ONE right way. That if you don't do it right then your children, and society as a whole, are doomed. This idea that it is all up to you.
I pushed back in my last post about the idea that young adults leaving the church is the result of parenting. Yet over the past week I see it again and again. It is like a tightrope out there. Walk on this and you succeed. Fall and all is lost. (Maybe I am the only one seeing this. Maybe in my almost 50-year-old brain, I have gone totally loopy and lost perspective and need to get a grip. Maybe I am just tired.)
I don't function well under pressure. Never have. I can be banging out a manifesto, rapid fire, on the computer and then, if someone comes and stands over me to watch, my fingers turn to wet noodles and the words turn to gibberish. I am, in no way, a performing monkey. It is like stage fright of life.
Think of it this way: You are to run in a straight line down the field. The lanes are drawn out so that you have a way to gauge where you are. Almost anybody, really, could run in that lane, given the lines were reasonably wide apart (say 6 feet or so) for a balance check and a fumble or two.
Now, make that a 6 foot wide bridge. Over a gorge. A deep gorge. A really, really deep gorge. Now, I hate heights. I go wonky and get total paralysis. So, if I were to be told to run down a 6 foot wide bridge, knowing that a trip or stumble or veering slightly off course meant certain destruction, I wouldn't be able to run. I wouldn't be able to walk. I might not even be able to crawl. I would be frozen in absolute terror and never move a muscle.
The problem is, that is how parenting is painted. That long, narrow, high bridge that you must somehow navigate without error. Any stumble, any failure, is the end of it all.
So, I have spent the last two decades, and especially the last few years, standing there, like a deer in the headlights, not knowing what to do next. Any move could prove disastrous.
They tell me how serious it all is, this thing called parenthood. They tell me if I do it right, everything will be fine. They tell me if I don't do it right, my children will suffer and their eternal destiny is at stake.
Others seem to have the skill, the boldness, the confidence, to able to forge ahead. I can't move.
Then God changes the scene and opens my eyes.
There is a bridge, but it isn't over a gorge. It is alongside the ocean. I need to cross that bridge, but falling off means getting wet, nothing more. Falling off means falling into an ocean of grace. Falling off means climbing back on the bridge and moving on, a little soggy, perhaps, but not destroyed.
Parenthood is nothing to be feared. It is a part of life I have been called to. Nothing less, but nothing more. And below is a sea of grace to wash me clean and keep me going. The pressure is off and life is on.