Of the eight beatitudes from The Sermon on the Mount, several can be applied to our marriages and to each of us in our roles as parents. When we fail to respond to Christ’s calls to these heavenly blessings, we not only tarnish our hopes of seeing heaven, but we can damage our relationships with our families. When we turn some of our worries over to God, we are better able to handle those that remain.
I am going to assume that, all other things being equal, in the early part of the 21st century, American women, young and not-so-young, do more parenting than their men. That WAY more of the burdens of caring, planning, packing, arranging, scheduling, and doctoring, are borne by our wives, no matter how liberated we husbands claim to be. (As for playing with our kids, that may be a draw.) I infer, then, that way more of the pressures of parenthood end up on the moms. This vestige of the days when we lived in caves seems almost universal. Therefore, I suggest that two of the three Beatitudes discussed here are more relevant for mothers. (Men are welcome to shoulder the other five, and will probably become better fathers in the process.)
As I see it, from the perspective of 38 years of marriage and three children, the most important of the Beatitudes for young parents tells us that the merciful will be shown mercy. As the speed of life increases, as our families grow, and as the demands upon us from one another, our children, our parents and our siblings continue to build, we often reach a point at which we must release pressure. How we release this pressure is important.
Although I routinely confess to having cursed A LOT when I go to reconciliation, I do everything I can to avoid cursing at Nancy. In the worst of our arguments, over almost four decades we have used next to NO profanity. If cursing one another is a regular feature of your lives, whether you’re fighting or not, you are chipping away at the foundation of trust, respect and intimacy at the core of your marriage. And over long periods of time, a damaged foundation will be prone to collapse when under stress. Agree not to curse at one another. Ever. It’s not that hard.
To me, it’s not surprising that so many working mothers are stressed out. To me, the wonder is that not ALL working mothers are stressed out, followed in short order by mothers, period. (Heck, maybe they are, and I’m just too old and out of touch to realize it.) Raising children takes more out of people than almost anything else I can think of. I applaud our readers who are doing everything they can to be good parents. During Lent especially, I pray that mothers everywhere can find it in themselves to show their children, and their defective, fallen husbands, mercy. Even when they don’t deserve it. For the fathers, I pray that you fully grasp the mental and physical challenges involved in being a mother, and that you not only appreciate her efforts, but do all you can to lighten them.
Earlier, Christ tells us that the meek shall inherit the earth. Today, for many of us, the meek are, in fact, our own children. They are the ones depending upon us for all of their needs–physical, emotional, intellectual. When we release our pressure on them, we probably cause harm. We may instill doubt in their hearts, doubt that we truly love them, and this can be a corrosive concern for a kid growing up. Our children need have no doubts that they are loved by their parents, even on the worst of days. Shielding them from our impatience is a grace from God, received through prayer. Short, momentary bursts of prayer during the day, staying in touch with God, staying cool, staying in tune with the universe. 🙂
Most of us know people, women generally, who like the idea of being surrounded all day by five kids under the age of six. At our bible study last fall, one of the young women at my table, working as a nanny to put herself through school, asked God for forgiveness for having had all three of her charges in tears that day at the same time. This latter person is, I believe, far more common than the former, although most of us know women like this, and some of us have been blessed to have them look after our own kids at times. But if this isn’t you, it doesn’t mean you can’t be an effective and loving mother. It just means you need to pray harder. You’re already doing all you can. So get help–invite the Holy Spirit to lend a hand when doing it all alone seems to be too much.
I wrote a witness for bible study this week in which I observed that I never really got along very well with my own mother. She was something of a perfectionist, I was anything but perfect, and an only child, to boot, and her continuous disappointment with me colored our relationship until the day she died. If you’re a young mother, and you’re struggling, you may want to pray about how your child will remember his or her childhood. If, during times of stress, you remember that we are called by God to be gentle, that the meek shall inherit the earth, it may be easier to maintain your composure and allow the rough moments to pass, so that they easily recall good times growing up.
Finally, it is the peacemakers who shall be called children of God. This, thankfully, applies to husbands and wives, mothers and fathers. If our children grow up amidst chaos, they will seek it as adults, and will find themselves in tumultuous relationships. Our home should be our refuge, and all of us crave the comfort and security that comes from a home that is one of warmth, love, understanding and acceptance.
Sure, things get wild, maybe every day, and hopefully on purpose; our homes are not meant to be tombs. But they are, at some point, and on some level, where we rest our heads and our hearts. Couples willing to spend half an hour together after the kids are in bed putting their homes back together for the next day’s festivities are, again, sharing God’s grace.
There will be more basketball games on TV. There will be more IMs on Facebook. But there will never again be a time when you can have this much positive influence over your kids and the adults they will one day become; their peers are gaining on you. The world is filled with people who regret not having been more engaged parents. There are relatively few people out there who, looking back over their lives, regret not having watched more basketball.
So, during this Lent, let us all promise to do more to promote peace, love and understanding in our own homes. Husbands, fathers, let us support our wives in their roles as mothers, and let us all show mercy to our own families first, and the rest of the world in its turn. While it’s not as good as having been there for The Sermon on the Mount, we will be integrating the word of God into our daily lives. He will be pleased with us.