I don’t know if everyone else does this, but before I was ever pregnant I found myself playing a little game in my head. Whenever I thought about my future children, I imagined the parts of myself and my husband that I hoped our children would have–or not have.
I still find myself doing it now.
For instance, I hope our child gets my husband’s athletic ability. I hope our child gets my husband’s naturally straight teeth (He never had braces, and the gap between his two front teeth filled in on its own. I, on the other hand, experienced every tortuous contraption they could strap to my jaw). I hope our kids get my complexion–I don’t burn in the sun very easily. I hope our kids don’t get my funny toes.
And the list goes on and on.
I always feel pretty sheepish about this thought process. It seems a little like designing a custom-built house which, in my mind, conflicts with a mentality of unconditional love. Yes, some of this mentality is about wanting the best for my child, wanting them to have the easiest path in life. But some of it is about me too.
Amidst these misguided thoughts, I have tried to remind myself that such standards of perfection aren’t always best. Even if our baby has all of our best qualities and none of our worst, even if they don’t have to face the same challenges posed by my own short-comings, they won’t necessarily be better for it.
As much as I hated my horribly misaligned teeth, as much as I would have loved to excel at sports, and as much as I would have loved to change a number of other things about myself, God used those “frailties” for good. The challenges I faced not only made me stronger, but they eventually directed me to the one in whom my true security lies.
In 2 Corinthians 12 Paul describes a “thorn in his flesh” that he repeatedly asked God to remove, but was always met with a “no.” Instead, God reminded Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
This statement clearly revolutionized the way Paul thought about his weaknesses. At first his sole desire was to have the thorn removed, but over time his perspective changed and he was eventually able to proclaim,
“Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (v. 9-10)
This is actually one of my favorite passages in the Bible. It’s such a great reminder that God’s ways are not our ways. In a world that prizes having it all together, pulling yourself up by your boot straps, and conforming to a particular image of beauty, strength, and success, the Kingdom of God is quite the opposite.
In the Kingdom of God, our weaknesses actually bring us closer to Him and bring Him greater glory. It is only in our weaknesses that we can know what true strength is. That is why Paul not only accepted his weaknesses, but came to “delight” in them.
This doesn’t mean I should make my child’s life harder than it needs to me, but I don’t need to over-shelter them either. Nor do I need to despair at the obstacles they will face. I can both ache for the hardship of bringing a child into a fallen world that WILL hurt them sooner or later, but I can also rejoice in the hope that our God is a Redeemer.
The answer to my child’s inevitable struggles is not worldly perfection, but the redemptive work of their Savior. As I hold onto that truth in the future, I am sure it will take a tremendous weight off of their shoulders (and mine), and place it on the only shoulders fit to bear it.