Reflections on the various dimensions of feminine vocation from liturgical homemaking and child rearing to education and the spiritual life.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Doubt and Glory

I was honored to be able to write the parents' "year in review" article for Wheatstone Ministry's The Examined Life, "a monthly e-magazine that encourages a Christian life characterized by creativity, maturity, and wonder."

The great thing about writing the article was the opportunity it provided me to read and reflect on the last year's worth of articles from other thoughtful and inspiring folks on The Examined Life website.

Here's my article, replete with links to lots of good reads by others:

“Mom? Sometimes I’m not sure I believe that God is real.”

“I don’t want to go to church. I hate church!”

“I don’t want to pray. I can’t see God. I can’t hear him. He doesn’t seem real.”

“How can I be saved but continue to sin? Every time I sin I feel so guilty.” 

Some mom friends and I were recently swapping stories about our children’s struggles with faith, those harrowing moments when a child expresses doubts about what matters most, about our central values and beliefs.

It is especially difficult when our child seems to be reflecting back to us doubts and thoughts that we ourselves may struggle with: I am not always sure I believe in God. I do not always want to go to church. I find it difficult to talk to someone I’ve never seen or heard. I feel guilty when I sin, and sometimes I despair.  

When a child’s doubts overlap with our own doubts, it can touch a nerve.

Recently one of my children expressed some doubts about God and caught me off guard. My first thought revealed my petty narcissism: “I have failed,” I thought. (As if it were ever about me or up to my control in the first place!) And my next thought revealed the feebleness of my own faith: “Oh, God,” I pleaded inwardly, “please be real!”

I silently offered up one of those desperate arrow prayers, the kind that Anne Lamott likes: “God, help me!”

And he did help. Because in the next moment, I realized my child’s revelation of doubt was a gift, perhaps one of those “terrible goods” that Charles Williams describes.

I often fail to embody those everyday graces that Rebecca Card-Hyatt so beautifully describes in her article “My Parents and Everyday Grace.” Yet, here was my child trusting me, leaning on me for comfort and reassurance. Here was a moment to listen, to talk, to affirm, to grieve alongside, to offer a maternal hospitality—to offer a safe place to reveal doubt and receive comfort. The moment was a great gift indeed.

It was also an occasion to remember, as Heidi Johnson reminds me, that we cannot secure our children’s salvation. All our attempts to teach, train, and mold our children will fall short. It is God who will rescue both them and us when we look to him, when we ride out into the fray in weakness, sure of our insufficiency. 

The desire to keep our children safe is, as Chris Leigh shows through the story of Abraham and Isaac, one of the greatest temptations for a parent. We can’t protect our children from pain, failure, harm, and doubt. The illusion that we can is preposterous. Instead, we are called to willingly sacrifice our children to the God who is Good. We must look to God and hope our children follow our gaze.

We parents were not made to carry the full weight of the future—of our children’s future, writes Caitlin Cogan Doemner—but rather to live efficaciously in each present moment with hope in our children’s potential and trust in the eternal God. Megan Monroe adds to this by pointing out that even our hope itself  is from God and will be fulfilled by his power, not our own.

When our hopeful expectations are fulfilled, writes Zach Weichbrodt, gratitude is what keeps us and our children right with God. In gratitude we remember the work the Lord has done for us, and the exultation of gratitude leads us, like Hannah in the Bible, to continue to trust and lean into God’s continued faithfulness and not be disappointed. 

Often, though, our expectation means waiting, notes Chad Glazener. Sometimes that waiting is just as St. Teresa of Avila describes it: sitting among our weeds waiting for the Gardener to do his work in us. Sitting and waiting and resting in Christ is a discipline,  and an indispensable one as Cate MacDonald explains: in silence and solitude we hear God.

Although we need solitude, we do not need to spend life alone. Connor Collins reminds us, in “How Wheatstone Changed My Life,” that God works in and through community to spur us on and to transform us more and more into his likeness. 

And all will be transformed. Peter David Gross’s article encourages us as he reflects on the reality that our lives—our pains and losses, joys and uncertainties—are all a part of the overarching story of creation and redemption. The particulars of our stories will not be lost or forgotten but rather transformed and glorified.

As parents, we seek to embody grace—piety, patience, empathy, relational hospitality, truth. But we don’t always succeed, and we can’t guarantee the outcome for our children. We can’t save them, but we trust in a God who can. We rest in him. We hope and wait on God and lean on one another.

As St. Patrick sings in “The Deer’s Cry,” it is all Christ from first to last: Christ in others, Christ in the waiting, Christ in the hoping, Christ in the resting, Christ in thanksgiving, Christ in our weakness, Christ in our doubt, Christ in our glory.

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