Parenting inevitably leaves us discouraged, empty, and grasping . . . but maybe that's a good thing.
It had been a great morning . . . right up until five minutes before the school bus arrived. That was when things completely fell apart. One daughter suddenly had to go to the bathroom, the other copped a major brat-itude and called me a “Meanie!” Meanwhile, their school shoes were nowhere to be found and neither daughter was listening to anything I was saying.
As the screech of bus brakes signaled its arrival, we barreled outside in full-on sprint mode—me still in my pajamas, carrying my girls’ hastily grabbed snow boots so they could put them on en route to school, with my two sock-footed daughters running frantically behind.
It looked very funny on the outside (my neighbors still tease me about it), but I felt profoundly frustrated on the inside.
No matter what I do, they don’t appreciate me, I thought. No matter how hard I try, things still blow up. Parenting—in that moment—had left me deeply discouraged. It had taken only five minutes for me to reach the very end of my rope.
How is it that normal childhood misbehavior had thrown me so off-kilter?
I think it was because I’d inadvertently slipped into a tempting mindset: I was looking to my children—to my role as Mom—to provide me meaning and satisfaction. So when I got a “You Meanie!” rather than a “Thanks for all you do, Mom,” my sense of value plummeted.
Being a parent is certainly an amazing and precious gift—but it is not a fairy wonderland of bliss. For all its joys, wonders, and intimacies, parenting will inevitably leave us discouraged, empty, and grasping if we seek our soul-satisfaction there.
Psalm 63 is a powerful wake-up call reminding us of what our souls truly need. “My soul thirsts for you,” David prayed as he was in the desert facing a parenting pain of his own (63:1). His son Absalom had led a revolt against him (see 2 Samuel 15–18), and in his grief, David expressed what is ultimately true for every human on this planet: God alone can provide us the satisfaction our souls most long for.
For all the joy wrapped up in God’s good gift of parenting, it is only of God that we can say, “Your unfailing love is better than life itself. . . . You satisfy me more than the richest feast” (63:3, 5). Sometimes we each need those fall-apart moments to nudge our hearts away from the gratification we desire in parenting and back toward a centered focus on the true satisfaction of intimacy with God.