Parenting: Humility & The Village

Let me start this post with a confession: I am not some parenting expert, nor am I a particularly great parent! I will accept that I am a good parent, but I don’t want anyone to believe that I’m some parenting guru or that I have all the answers. I am so far from having all the answers! But, as I have always maintained on this blog, I have a unique perspective, and I have come to accept that my unique perspective allows me to see things or congeal ideas in a way that is not present for many others. In any case, I wanted to get that out of the way.

I believe I’ve covered this before, but all the same, in parenting, humility is absolutely crucial, and this is where we come to in this post. My kids are growing up, and it feels utterly surreal that they are this old (especially because that means I am much older than that! LOL!). But in the midst of my grief at the times lost by my ex choosing to abandon my kids, in the midst of my own grief as my mortality is ever-more real to me, I am struck by how much my own flesh (my sin-sick side) grasps at some sort of importance, as if I need to be important or even central. My kids love me, but they shouldn’t cling to me! I’m blessed to have raised them to want to step out on their own. And any desire to reel them back in is not of God; it is purely my own selfishness.

That probably hit a nerve somewhere, and if it didn’t, then please consider that you may not be holding your kids close enough (or their in their 30s and beyond). In adolescence, we should be encouraging decision making, but with wisdom and guidance. We want them to leave the home and to follow Jesus into the things He’s prepared for them. Holding them back from that is generally a selfish instinct; to be clear, I’m not talking about being careful or cautious with a special needs child. My eldest is my most needy, in that respect, and while I’m excited to see him launch into the world soon, I am terrified and very cautious, trying to make sure I helped him establish good habits and behaviors that, even when he goes through the initial phase of forgetting (or not caring) about taking care of his home, dishes, etc, that he will still have the skills to pull it back together! At the conclusion of all things, it’s about making sure he has what he needs to be an adult, rather than trying to hold him back from adulthood because I’m not ready.

“So, what does The Village have to do with this?”

Oh! Well, it’s not The Village, like the M. Night Shyamalan movie. Rather, it is the reality that God likes to work with tribes. Another way to phrase that would be that God likes to work with groups, communities, peoples, and villages. Many years ago, Hillary Clinton ruined the phrase “It Takes a Village to Raise a Child” by turning it into some malicious twist that meant the government should raise your kids. But in reality, that statement’s original meaning remains! It takes more than just the parents of a child to raise it.

If we got back to the idea of a NASA rocket, the parents are the primary engineers. They design, modify, and solidify the blueprints that go into manufacturing. In manufacturing, if a flaw is identified, they are the ones to identify how to resolve it. In assembly, they’re more excited than anyone, and when the final launch day comes, they’re right there to help get that rocket into space/adulthood. So, we can’t exclude them or usurp their authority. At the same time, if those two engineers were the only ones building, testing, assembling, and transporting the rocket, it would never make it’s launch date! So, we have multiple people in the process who help to build the parts, help to put the parts together, help to load it on the launch vehicle, help to monitor it’s journey to the launchpad. These may be teachers, pastors, youth workers, grandparents, uncles/aunts, cousins, even semi-random folks like the mailman or a barber/hair-dresser. At the end of the day, the parents/engineers are responsible for that child’s/rocket’s launch, but there are hundreds of people in-between that will help reinforce, refine, and even help to figure out the views, values, intentions, and directions that will help that child become who they are made to be.

In the midst of that village, you find things you didn’t think of, or a perspective you didn’t expect. As noted above, these may help refine a perspective/value, or they may help reinforce or create a value. And this is where the humility comes in; that is, this is where we parents have to be humble enough to listen, even though “it’s my kid, and I’ll decide what’s best.” Yes! It is your kid, and you should decide what is best, but be willing to accept the feedback, as it may be a perspective you just can’t see yet. If we hold our abilities too highly, then we may miss opportunities where God is wanting to establish or correct something in our child, something that will make their future better with Him. If we choose not to listen, we choose to make life harder for our children. And all of this requires us to be in a relationship with Him. We can’t listen well, nor can we receive from Him, if we aren’t in relationship with Him. So, the converse becomes true, that we could miss an opportunity where God is wanting us to hold the values He’s already established rather than accept someone’s “fool’s gold”, as it were. And we won’t know that it’s fool’s gold, unless we hold it up to His refining fire of truth.

Single-parents, I think this reality needs to sink in for some of us. Depending on our stories, some of us have endured trauma that has caused us to be more comfortable in isolation than in community. As one who has (and still does) struggled with that, I’m going to tell you, “Stop it! Find at least one friend!” We know the enemy likes to isolate us, and Proverbs 18:1 tells us that “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.” In many cases, this isolation is a protective mechanism; this much, I completely understand. However, God calls us to community; in multiple places in the Bible, He talks of believers in groups, not isolated, and in many other places, He speaks to being together and not abandoning being together. Additionally, God Himself is 3 persons and He created us in His image, such that we can very easily infer that He created us for community, not for isolation. Hence, when we are honest, our selfish isolation is us protecting ourselves, rather than trusting in God to protect us, trusting Him that any/all pain is only as-much-as-needed, and trusting Him to heal us when such times come. After all, in isolation, we miss so much richness that we gain from friendships, from time conversing about the things of God, and from the valuable perspectives that we can never see until someone turns their light onto our situation. God is good! And though it sometimes means a bit of pain, remember the pain He went through just for the chance to know you, and trust Him as you step into community with His people!

And with all that said, I feel that saying much more would just be saying more of the same. So, I’ll go ahead and end here, but feel free to ask questions or otherwise create a conversation in the comments. Comments are moderated, mostly to keep the spam out, but I’m happy to entertain civil debate and/or exchange ideas.

Godspeed – 1 Corinthian 15:10

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