Now and Then
One of my mother-in-law’s best qualities is her ability to save money. One of the many ways we have all benefited from this is her knack for keeping things we’ll need later. When we had our first child (her first grandchild) you would not believe the amount of baby gear she had kept that I am still able to use. Vintage Fisher Price and Little Tykes toys that would go for tons on eBay. A 30-year-old Pack-N-Play in pristine condition. Adorable smocked outfits that my husband once wore.
The first night we stayed at their house after my son was born she woke up with the baby to let us sleep in late. When she couldn’t find a diaper, she found one in her clean and organized baby stash—except it was a 30-year-old diaper.
These things have brought us many laughs—especially considering how dangerous they seem now and how they’re all recalled by their host companies. A drop-down crib, an expired car seat with no chest clip, a rocking horse with exposed springs that are sure to catch small fingers. It is amazing how parenting and even children’s toys that seemed fine and so safe then are dangerous and forbidden now. It is easy to look back and wonder, “What were they thinking?”
Harm or Good?
I recently heard an older woman reflect on this very thing when it came to raising her children. Her adult children now have young children of their own. Just like the once-beloved but now dangerous toys, she remembers the techniques and parenting styles that, she jokes, may put her children on the couch in a therapy room now. At that time those techniques seemed right. At the time she was seeking her child’s highest good and doing what she felt God wanted her to do. But now, after listening, talking, and reflecting, she sees that some of the things she did caused more harm than good.
This conversation haunted me for a long time. I began almost daily asking myself, “What am I doing now that may harm my child later?” And even more I wondered, “What am I doing now that may lead my child to turn away from the Truth later in life?” If many other parents used techniques, parenting, or discipline styles that they later found did more harm than good, isn’t this likely to happen to me, even as I seek the Lord just as they did?
Truth to Remember
But thankfully, by God’s good grace, this fearful thinking does not align with what the Word teaches. I began with basic truth:
Christ created the whole world and everything in it, and still reigns over each and every part.
"Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God." (Psalm 90:2)
God keeps all things in motion—the sun, moon, stars, earth—even my next breath. He sees and knows all things (Hebrews 4:13). He has the power to move mountains or calm a storm or heal cancer or withhold good or stop evil (Hebrews 1:3). How arrogant for me to think that my flaws, my sin, my parenting, or my words could stop or hinder God from working in the lives of my children. To think that I hold the power to derail my children’s lives. This—just like Adam and Eve in the Garden—is me thinking that I am like God.
And yet, we all know that there is sin and hurt in this world. We will certainly hurt our children and make mistakes in rearing them. Since the Fall when Adam disobeyed God, all people sin against God and one another—even against our children. But parents are still called to raise children in this sin-stained world. We are responsible to lovingly act with the knowledge we have.
Putting the Pieces Together
How do these concepts—God’s sovereignty over our lives and our responsibility—fit together in our daily lives?
My answer is simple and will likely not satisfy this question for you. But it is the same thing I try to teach my two-year-old who can’t understand that running into the road could lead to harm, or that eating an entire bag of candy will make him sick. His two-year-old mind cannot understand why.
He must simply obey.
Likewise, we must be faithful with the knowledge and instruction we have been given. To be faithful in the work God has given us as parents (Colossians 3:23), to lean into the Holy Spirit for help in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:10), and to do everything as unto the Lord and for His glory (1 Corinthians 10:31). We can trust the character of the Father we obey.
He Fills the Gaps
Weekly, daily, and every hourly, we lean into our Heavenly Father to help us. He fills in these gaps left by our sins and failures—the short tempers, the unkind words, the attitudes left undealt-with, and the unintentional hurt too. These gaps are filled by our Savior’s love for our children and His great power to overcome.
He makes up for all of it, because he already made up for all of it on the cross. Father, Son, and Spirit come and heal where there seems to be no hope, comfort when no one is there, soften hearts when sin has hardened them, and make us new—to a life more abundant than we can imagine.
So now, rather than feeling hopeless as this sinner raises two more sinners, I see Jesus filling in the gaps. I pray for God, in His good grace, to use my attempts, my good intentions, even my bad intentions, to work mightily in the lives of those around me.
I may one day realize that my dentist-approved sippy cup has caused my kiddos to need braces. My carefully timed introduction to peanuts may, in fact, still cause allergies. Or worse, my attempts to teach Scripture may not be accepted by their little hearts.
But Jesus fills in the gaps, as he wills and works in the lives of his children for his good pleasure (Philippians 2:13).
Your friend, Rachel
Meet the author:
Rachel Dee is a wife and a mother who is most passionate about her faith, her husband Matt, and their two boys, Jack and Thomas. She enjoys being outside with her little family, photography, learning to write, and Chick-fil-a. You can follow her on Instagram.