I love cookbooks.
Cookbooks with lavish photography. Cookbooks from church or school fundraisers. Old cookbooks from Grandma Jane. Brand spanking new cookbooks.
I love reading over the recipes, imagining the flavors of the foods, picturing myself testing out the new concoction, or sometimes laughing at the absurdity of serving the food to my large and crazy crew.
Maybe because I love looking at recipes and trying out new recipes so much I fell into the lie so easily.
Do you know the one? It’s what I believed for the first MANY years of parenting. I think of it as The Child Recipe Lie.
Recipe for a Happy, Holy Child
2 married parents
Weekly church attendance
Nightly meal together
Daily family prayer time
Reading “classic” books
Very limited TV and computer time
Wholesome family outings like camping or trips to visit relatives
Strictly enforced family rules
Mix all together and bake for 18 years in an environment of loving forgiveness and open conversations about all important matters. The child will turn out with a few nicks and scrapes but never burnt by such things as addictions, abusive behavior, cheating, poor grades, same sex attraction, pre-marital sex and pregnancy or anything else that could “ruin” the result.
That’s an oversimplification maybe, but basically what I believed. If my husband and I followed the recipe as closely as we could, our children would be spared all the terrors of modern life. I call it all a lie because it completely discounts one very important aspect of life: free will.
All those “ingredients” we have tried to provide for our children for the past 21 years have value. But nothing, absolutely nothing, can guarantee that your child will not fall and experience some very painful things in life.
The great and glorious truth though is that those painful moments in our children’s lives do not “ruin” them! Far from it! Like St. Paul says in the second letter to the Corinthians: “’My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12:9-10)
After walking through trials with my children that I never dreamed we’d face, I see so clearly they are weak but so very strong in Christ. I am immensely proud of who each of my children is today and they would not be those people if they had not struggled mightily with some very heavy crosses at times.
So pitch out your expectations of what your child’s future holds. Yes, provide lots of loving ingredients into the mix and do your best to be a disciple of Christ as you parent your children. Pray without ceasing, lift them up to the Lord and trust them into His care. Then let go of the results. God has gifted us all with free will. With this gift comes freedom to love deeply but also to be hurt immensely.
So in those moments that shake your family to its core, trust! Trust that you have laid good foundations. Trust that God’s providence is still there. Trust that your children will be saved and healed by their Savior who loves them WAY more than even you do. And then love your children even when they appear unlovable. Finally, ditch the expectations of what that Happy Holy Child will turn out to look like. The real life version in front of you is better anyway.