“So we must not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9
Parenthood is tough work. On the best of days, I can tumble into bed thinking I hopefully got 50% of it right that day, and the other 50%, by the grace of God, He will meet each of them where they are, filling in the holes left by my parenting fails. And then waking up just to do it all over again. On the worst of days, I am convinced countless hours of therapy are in their future because I may have a 1% parenting accuracy for the day. Those are the days when I am ready to throw in the towel, give up, and ask myself, “what is the point?”
I once thought that the years of chasing toddlers, changing diapers, mastering endless loads of laundry, and fighting bedtime battles were the toughest years. And wouldn’t it be wonderful when they got to an age where they were rational human beings and I could reason with them?! As I look in the rearview mirror of those days, I see beauty in every stage coupled with unique challenges specific to their developmental phases. Yet present in every stage were the long days where I was certain I was invisible and that the entire purpose of my existence was to serve at the pleasure of the people in my home and meet their needs. The highs were always great, and we celebrated those. But the highs were often overshadowed by the monotony of everyday life as we transitioned from diapers and strollers to a constant stream of driving to and from practices and always on to the next thing.
And then there were the times when BOOM! An unexpected bombshell would drop and we would have to circle the wagons and reevaluate everything. Bombshells can come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. They can be small and smoldering or large and like a landslide with its effects. Sometimes bombshells arrive as bullies in our kids’ schools, and we have to resist the urge to inflict war on adolescent girls and boys. The enemy throws darts and threatens the perimeter, looking for a means to infiltrate our home, at our weakest moments and in our weakest areas. Bombshells can be unforeseen illnesses with no cure. They can be found in broken hearts and unimaginable disappointments at the hands of others. Regardless of what shape they take, we all will or have experienced them at one point or another.
What a rosy picture of parenthood–not quite the one presented in baby commercials or the one we envisioned in our minds as we anticipated the arrival of our first child. It is easy to become disheartened and discouraged as a parent. It happens to each of us, inevitably, during one season or another. I have lived many days feeling like what I do simply doesn’t matter because, in the moment, it doesn’t feel like it matters. Then, when the tough things hit and we experience unanticipated challenges, it is easy to wonder if anything we’ve ever done has ever mattered or will ever make a difference. I once knew a woman who pretty much gave up parenting when her youngest child was around middle school age. I remember thinking at the time, “how does that happen?” Since then, though, I have had my days where I, too, wanted to quit. It seemed that none of the good I had been doing even mattered. I mean, no one appreciated it, right? And they all seemed to do what they wanted, make their own choices, and pretty much have the answer for everything. I seemed to exist in the backdrop of it all and felt rendered nearly obsolete.
This past February was one of those tough parenting months for me. I mean, Satan had me knocked down, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to get back up. I lamented the sacrifices that seemed to go unnoticed for years on end and the thanklessness of the role as mother. After all, no one really needed me anymore, right? I was woeful in spirit and truly began to think that, perhaps, it really had all been for naught. Did any of it matter? The tears, the prayers, the boundaries, the endlessness of meeting the plethora of needs. Did it matter? I was losing heart. But God so gently pulled me close and whispered His truth to me, “Do not grow weary in doing good, for you will reap a harvest at the proper time.” This was certainly not the harvesting season, but His words offered me hope that it was coming.
Teenagers have the freedom to make their own choices, and with those choices, they must accept the outcomes, whether good or bad. When they are young, we can quickly run to intervene and save them from dangers. But, as they grow older, we face the decision to fix it or to allow them the opportunity for failure. It is hard to watch them struggle, even harder to watch them fail. Yet as parents, we support them as they get back up and try again, hoping they have learned the lessons necessary to prevent a repeat offense. We plead to God on their behalf and often we become the fiercest of prayer warriors when our kids’ well-being is at stake. Somehow, God in His grace, gives us the strength to not grow weary in doing good by our children.
The harvest surely cometh, if we do not lose heart. How do I know? Earlier this week, I had the great pleasure of visiting my oldest daughter in her world for the day. We had the best time, the best conversations, and the best food. I stepped into her world, watched her amongst her friends, and found my heart overflowing with joy. On my car ride home, I reflected on the joy I felt from the day. There was not one particular thing that had happened that made it special. I found myself pondering over what had stirred the abiding joy in my spirit that day. Then I realized, I was watching my daughter live out the life God created her to live and watching her become the woman He created her to be, fulfilling His will and His call on her life. Whoa! What a gift. My mind then shifted to Mary, the mother of Jesus. On two separate occasions in Scripture we read that she kept these things and pondered them in her heart. I couldn’t help but wonder if, despite the heartbreak and anguish she felt watching her Son suffer and die on the cross, she felt a joy in her heart knowing her Son was fulfilling the will of His Father. One day, I will ask her.
Be encouraged and continue doing good in parenting, friend. One day, the harvest will come. It may not be in one massive reaping, but in small portions. Enjoying the presence of my boys around me, eating food as quickly as I can fix it–a small harvest of joy. Sitting outside with my college-aged daughter, her boyfriend, my boys, my husband, and our dogs, grilling burgers, throwing football, enjoying the spring weather–a small harvest of joy. Take each victory and turn into motivation to keep doing good and to not give up or give in. Remember on the toughest of days when failure feels like your constant companion, that you will reap the benefits if you do not give up. Someone needs to hear that today! God has not abandoned you in your parenting. He loves your child more than you do, and He, too, wants to see them fulfill His purpose for their lives. The harvest is coming!