“But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”” (Genesis 3: 4,5)
“And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, 6 and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written,
“‘You shall worship the Lord your God,
and him only shall you serve.’”(Luke 4:5-8)
“Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.” (Luke 23:34)
I was a far better parent before I had kids. Before I had kids, I knew that I had this parenting thing down-pat. My children would be well-behaved, extraordinarily bright, early developers that would start graduate school at aged 3 and be working in International Peace Negotiations by 6 and doing neuro-surgery on the side, all while playing violin in the Toronto Symphony.
O.k. well, truthfully it wasn’t quite that extreme – but I really did think I would somehow raise almost ‘super-children’ before they were even born. It only took the first sleepless night with the whole house battling a stomach bug before that proverbial bloom wore off of the rose! But there is this insidious thinking that worms its way into parenting, and that is that our success as parents is measured by our children’s success; and that there must be something wrong with us if our children are not the best at whatever they set out to do.
With this standard of ‘our success’ becomes this standard of ‘we need to do whatever is in our power to make our children the best’. In our household it was music lessons. We scouted out teachers to find ‘the best’ so that they would excel in whatever lessons we could manage to pay for. When our household, through a bunch of difficult circumstances, hit a period in our lives where we couldn’t pay for music lessons anymore, I got panicky with this loss. If we can’t ‘give’ then these lessons, then they can’t excel in music. If they can’t excel in music then there’s something wrong with me. Now, at the time, it wasn’t thought out quite that linearly and dramatically, but when you distill down all of the expectations and attitudes this wasn’t far off. We are given the expectation that our children must be granted all opportunity to excel, even if the cost of these opportunities is too high for us to manage. Its not okay anymore to raise children who are ‘middle of the pack’ or even at the end of the pack. Its not okay anymore to raise children who might get bored, who might not get into a plum school because we can’t pay for tutoring, or even who might fail at something that is supposed to be ‘life-enhancing’ or give them a ‘leg-up’ for a successful future.
In short, we (or maybe just me; but certainly I felt this pressure) are expected to raise our children to be ‘demi-gods’. To be better than we were/are. To be better than everyone else. Pride in accomplishment eclipses pure delight in creation.
It makes the fall from this place of creating demi-gods a really hard one. One of my mentors once said to me “It hurts when you fall off of a pedestal, so I would suggest that you don’t go up there in the first place”.
And see – here’s the thing; If you work your whole life to create either yourself or your children as demi-gods, then you miss the points where you can just delight in God’s work in your own or your child’s life. I wasted a whole lot of time expecting things to be different, and couldn’t see God’s perfect creation sitting right in front of me. And for that, I do need God’s forgiveness. God’s forgiveness for believing the serpent’s lie that consuming society’s standards would make me like God. God’s forgiveness wanting the ‘stuff and power’ of my accomplishment instead of wanting to worship God with my whole self. And finally, God’s forgiveness for not seeing that laying down my selfishness, my expectations and even my sense of identity means more than any accomplishment ever could.
I hope that today you will all join me in looking for God’s standards for your life; for your children’s life and allow your eyes to be opened to the delight of God’s creation rather than the striving for bigger, better and more powerful. Because a lot of me sees that the division over healthcare protection, that the war in Ukraine and even, well, the over use and consumption of our finite resources comes down to us all swallowing that fruit offered to us in the Garden of Eden – the fruit that tells us that we should be like gods and that achievement and accomplishment are virtues instead of service and self-sacrifice.
Blessings today my dear Bethel Friends, and remember you are Loved. (And that forgiveness is ours when we ask for it, because God….)