Rubbing the sleep from my eyes, I sank into my rocking chair and pulled a blanket around me while my three extra children settled onto the couches. After a smidgeon of rustling and wiggling and whispering, the kids were asleep for another hour before they needed to get up for their ride to school.
In the dim glow pooling by my chair, I opened my Bible and started reading in Galatians. And I found two verses that were exactly what I needed.
You know the feeling of identifying an emotion or action that you didn’t have a name for before? That is what I felt when I read this verse:
My little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!
Galatians 4:19 (ESV)
“So that’s what I’m feeling!” I thought. Although the verse is from Paul to the church he was addressing, I sensed the truth in relation to parenting.
This thing called parenting is incredibly wonderful…and incredibly hard. Some times it feels like it will never end. One moment I might despair at my children’s frightful table manners or want to clutch my head when I see dried orange peels and candy wrappers littered under the bed again, and the next moment I wish all my parenting problems would be so simple.
What do I say when I urge a child to pray about his problems, and he sadly replies, “I’ve tried that many times and it just doesn’t work”? I feel a knife in my heart, and wonder if God is going to come through for him.
How should I handle a temper tantrum from a usually kind and peaceful child? How do I help him resolve his pain and respond in a healthy way?
What do I say when my children bear the cost of decisions I have made to follow Jesus? I don’t think it’s fair for them to suffer for my choices. How can I validate them and give them what they truly need?
How do I make room for Jesus to speak to them and shape them?
It helped me so much to realize that this is spiritual childbirth. The agonizing, the waiting, the anticipation of new life. And in childbirth, we must press into the pain, and let the new life emerge even when it breaks our souls apart.
The second verse I found a few chapters later.
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
Galatians 6:9 (ESV)
I noticed that the verse didn’t say that we will be rewarded if we accomplish a certain amount, or if we see specific results, or if our kids turn out to be the world’s best Christians. The verse says we will reap if we do not give up!
That thought sent so many of my fears to flight. I saw that this parenting process is not about being perfect. It’s not about doing everything right. It’s not about turning out the best kids. It’s about sticking with the job and not letting go, even when you are tired and want to quit.
It’s about not giving up.
Meanwhile, daylight crept into the room, and I woke up the slumbering children. They arose, bushy-haired, from their nest of blankets on the couch. I brushed and braided the two girls’ hair, and helped the little boy get his shoes on. We set off for school, sleepy smiles on their rosy faces.
All through that day, I kept thinking of these verses as I cared for my four birth-children, and prayed for strength for the journey.
Whether you have biological children, heart children, or both, I want to encourage you with these truths. If you are weary of caring for the little ones God has put into your life, you aren’t dysfunctional or immature–you are feeling the pains of a spiritual childbirth. And you most certainly will be rewarded if you don’t give up.