Parenthood can be kind-of mind blowing. Sure it’s completely common and normal, and yet, what a very central way for God to design humanity to show us that it is just NOT about us. Any parent that is even remotely an okay parent is putting someone else before themselves, though the frequency and skill at which that happens can certainly distinguish the great from the good from the okay from the bad. (For the record, I sometimes pray for God to make Aub and I great parents, but I know myself, and I will be quite happy for what a counselor will call “good enough” — mixed with lots of prayer.)
My husband was out of town a couple weekends ago (3 bedtimes — I believe that’s the most appropriate way to measure time in this case). I tried to mentally prepare myself for the time, in hopes we might even thrive, instead of just survive. I even got out my daughter’s markers and made a list of weekend goals and I did it my favorite way to make goals these days: big picture goals and then ideas to carry those out.
Long story short, it was a rollercoaster of a weekend. It was bit mind-boggling, actually. The kind that leaves me scratching my head a bit, wondering how both my child and I can be so happy one minute and so desolate the next. Over and over again. Wondering how I can gush with relief and joy over the glory of the Gospel that says I am loved no matter what one moment, and grieve with tears and discouragement that I fail so often (aka, I actually need the ‘no matter what’ part). Wondering how I can look at my child and feel so much awe and love and contentment that I feel my heart might explode one moment, and look at her and feel so much confusion, frustration, and anger the next that I feel my head might explode.
It’s like my heart has whiplash.
Parenthood is undoubtedly such a beautiful thing. But, like so many other things, false expectations so often make it into something less than the fullness of it’s real beauty.
In the same way that the Gospel is beautiful, but not in a pretty, romantic way. The Gospel is beautiful in an agonizingly real, bloody, brokenness-made-right, transcendent way. Yes, God loves us humans with a wonderful, space and time defying love, but our sin had so marred the creatures He loved, that love meant His Son had to come spill blood, sweat and tears.
In the same way that childbirth is beautiful. Oh, there’s almost zero that is aesthetically pleasing or romantic about a child being birthed. But a mother sacrificing her body, blood, sweat and tears to bring a tiny person out into the world is, again, transcendently and fully beautiful.
And even in the same way that living cross-culturally can be beautiful. It can often seem pretty and romantic, especially with a nice Instagram filter, but it’s usually just normal life in a place that is uncomfortable. Daily setting aside personal preferences on food, smells, aesthetics, customs, procedures…most everything. Usually not bloody, but often sweaty and tearful. And yet, beautiful when done with humility and a spirit of love.
When I expect parenthood to be this idyllic, pretty or dressed up, romantic picture of loving a little human, I am actually selling it short. Because real love is often NOT those things, but what it is so much more. And as painful and painstaking as it can be to live the “blood, sweat and tears” version of love day by day and moment by moment, God is in the business of making all of these messy, broken, tearful moments and transforming them into a life, a love, that is gloriously and incandescently beautiful.
I do have to remember that love that beautiful doesn’t just happen, it’s not magic. I have to make the choices, large and small, and do the work, large and small. I have to be faithful to choose what’s right over what’s easy, what has lasting worth and beauty over what might be the quicker way to a cheaper aesthetic. But (BUT!!!!)…I have to trust that it’s ultimately God, who is love, who will make my offering of love – even with all it’s failures and short-cuts and selfishness – into something truly beautiful.