being a parent is a great lesson of learning to follow Christ in the means of dying to yourself. when you become a parent, life should no longer be about you; like when you become a follower of Christ you begin to live your life fully for God. Your life is no longer about your bucket list being achieved, your dream career being your all-consuming priority, or even about your time being your own.
the importance of all these things changed when I became a mom. their value and the role they played in my identity were changed. like the manner in which my identity was transformed when I surrendered my life and gave it to Christ. becoming a parent is like that act of surrender - only the tangible reminder of what you've surrendered to, never stops reminding you "it's not about you" anymore.
this morning I was the most impatient parent alive. I'm fighting a cold with a 2-year-old daughter and 6-month-old puppy at home - still trying to get some work done for my small business that I heart-achingly want to grow. when my daughter went down for her nap, I knew mommy had to take one too. or I wasn't going to make it through the day without losing my mind. and I'm grateful I did.
it's like God spoke ever-gently to my heart while I slept. I woke up remembering it's not about me or my to-do list. that my identity isn't in what I accomplish today but the heart with which I do it.
instead of potty-training, cleaning up toys (again and again), and making four different lunches until one finally gets eaten, etc...being a total and complete annoyance, I was reminded so sweetly that this precious girl is mine. she needs me. I get to love her and serve her; and be loved by her which is the greatest feeling imaginable. then how can I so quickly become frustrated by the simple acts of service that she needs from me? because sometimes they make me feel like there is nothing left for me, that's how.
I can't imagine there is a mom out there that doesn't know exactly what I'm talking about; especially any stay-at-home or single parents that carry the majority of the everyday work that is raising kids. but the fact is when I approach parenting from the standpoint of 'me', I fail - and make myself miserable in the process. when my expectations are realistic and I approach parenting from the perspective of 'her', seeking to meet her needs, speak her love language, and just BE with her, I am always amazed. I feel elated and hopeful. I feel grateful and blessed beyond measure. I feel fulfilled and best of all she feels loved.
I feel that this is a lesson I am constantly learning over and over again. when I first heard (and understood) the concept of 'dying to self' as a follower of Christ, I was both baffled and bewildered. first of all, I couldn't figure out what it was going to look like to die - to - myself. I thought "how does that even work?" I am the center of MY world and the only way I relate to anything is the association of how it relates to ME - how do I just shut that off? then God made me a wife and I started to understand.
as a wife I was called to serve another person's needs and interests before my own. I was called to forgive him and love him in all circumstances. this marriage thing wasn't going to be about me. it wasn't about how happy it made me or how loved I felt. it was about serving God as one in matrimony. it was about laying down our own personal agendas to live for the other, and seeking God in all that we do together. I started to see what it looked like to 'die-to-myself' and then God made us parents.
now I get it. I am reminded of it everyday. somedays I don't like it, I deny it - and in that route I wind up miserable, frustrated, and impatient. that's when I typically breakdown in prayer. pleading with God that I can't do this. and every time, He sweetly reminds me that I am right. I can't do this. I can't make parenting about me. I can't make my marriage or my life all about ME and what I want, if I am truly serving Him. and in that moment of being reminded of where I have lost perspective, He is never condemning, never angry - but always loving, always patient, and always merciful.
I can't do it alone. I am blinded by my selfishness and my worldly desires; my ambitions and earthly aspirations. but He's never asked me to do it alone, actually the opposite. He asks me to lay my burdens at His feet for Him alone to carry. He asks for me to surrender my heart to Him so that it can be transformed by the all the power and authority that is Him in the Holy Spirit. He doesn't ask me to stop dreaming and planning a life that seems bigger and better. but He does ask for me to trust in the plans He has for me, that they would be far greater.
and when I put all this into words it seems so silly that the trivial things I was utterly overwhelmed by, would've even affected me. they are so little and mundane. however, they are deceiving. these seemingly small things can have a huge impact on perspective. they can build upon themselves to make a mother feel like a failure; make a parent feel like they aren't good enough; make a stay-at-home mom think maybe she should go back to work full-time because she just can't do it anymore. instead I encourage you to embrace the fact that you, and I, can't do it - and instead seek God.
it's not about you and how capable or incapable you are (or feel). it's about surrendering to a God that wants to carry your burdens and show you what He is capable of. it's about learning what unconditional love, immeasurable patience, and unwavering kindness looks like from the Father first, and allowing the Holy Spirit to deliver that in you. it's about realizing the miraculous works God does in the mundane and seemingly simple. rather than discrediting yourself in your impatience, look to it as the opportunity it is to learn humility and perseverance.
seek to be what is valuable to God (selfless, humble, servant-minded, etc.), instead of what is valuable to the world (wealthy, powerful, elite, etc.). embrace your struggles as the means in which God is making His power and authority known to you. because let's face it, if we weren't constantly reminded of our weaknesses we would neglect to recognize our dependence on God. our ego's would lead us to believe that what is good in us is because of hard work, wholesome ethics, and a striving to succeed - and that's the kind of 'self'ish thinking that makes us feel like failures in the first place (because we will never achieve them perfectly). those things are important, but they are not the purpose of life or the only attributes of value.
the most valuable characteristics of a person, the kind that leave behind an eternal legacy, are most often the kind learned through adversity, obstacle, and hardship. if marriage was easy it would have a much higher success rate. if parenting were easy, anti-anxiety medications wouldn't be some of the most highly prescribed drugs in America - but they are. we can either succumb to the challenges of defeat or choose to triumph in the victory He declares by dying to 'self' and adopting an armor of humility - that joyfully serves others and loves selflessly by the grace of God.
I want my daughter to choose triumph - so I choose to try and model that for her today, tomorrow, and always.
a few of my favorite verses related to dying-to-self:
Galatians 2:20 NIV - I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Luke 9:23 - Then he said to them all: "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me."
Mark 8:35 - For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.