Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Weak of prayer, part 2: Confession

Here's the post that, on the one hand, could derail this whole project, as I put it off in fear. On the other hand, once I get started it could be the one that breaks my commitment to "short and sweet"; God knows I could go on for terrabytes. Do remember I have agreed to self-censor, meaning that in the dizzying spiral of my fatherly shortcomings, this list is but the first loop.

OK, here goes.

Day 2 - Confession

Lord, I get really tired sometimes, and wish for a life of ease and sterile convenience rather than the rich, rough road that fatherhood is. I spend too much time resisting the blessings of raising my children rather than savoring them. I still wonder at times why You muddied the clear waters of Your existence by creating life beyond Yourself.

I too often discipline my children out of anger rather than wisdom. It's like the darker side of the affection thing, where they get what they need--mostly a reprimand and timeout or slap on the hand--but my motives are more about meeting my need to act out frustration than about helping them become more like You. Teach me to discipline in cold blood, for their sake and not my own.

I really enjoy telling my children "no" when they ask for things. It's just that I think they need to learn to deal with negative responses to their requests, to grow out of their egocentric sense of entitlement. But something in the way I relish the denial of their petition seems wrong in light of "Ask, and you will receive....
If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" Help me to learn a spirit of abundance rather than scarcity, even if it is best not to indulge my kids' every cry of "I want..."

I can get more into projects--even this writing--than into the people You have given me to love and lead. Teach me to balance all lesser callings against the greatest calling.

Rachelle prayed aloud the other day in a group of adults, and it was the first non-kiddie prayer I'd heard her utter in months. This is not for lack of Rachelle praying, but because I have not been making prayer with her a priority. Give us a commitment to shared time with You.

I so quickly grow impatient with people in my life, and with myself. Teach me to slow down.

I feel so angry so much of the time, frustrated with myself when things do not go as I feel they ought. I say words that deny the image of You in me, words devoid of hope or faith. Release me from the rut of anger.

I frequently let circumstances or someone else determine our family's plans, and then I complain about how things turn out and feel like a victim. Teach me to take more responsibility for planning or to shut up about the end result.

I sometimes let time slip away at work that could be life-changing if reallocated to home. Make me a penny pincher of time when I'm away from my family and liberally generous when with them.

I don't like to admit that I'm wrong. Remind me to confess--to you and to my family--my sins, mistakes, failures and whatever euphemisms I have for when I blow it.

And remind me as I do so that Your grace dwarfs them all.


That's enough for now...I have the balance of the year for you all to hear the rest of the bad and the ugly.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing - this one stuck in my mind for a while. I referred to it from my blog - hope that's okay with you.

Michael J. Bennie said...

Thanks for fleshing out the tension that was behind that confession in my blog. (And yes, of course, you and all your readers are welcome to read, comment on and reference anything here.) It was entertaining (especially loved the circuit of dangers your child runs, which leave us chanting the "no" mantra) and insightful. The whole paradigm of abundance in a world where some resources are seriously limited is appealing, yet hard for me to swallow sometimes.

The best I can come up with is this: All that is most important is unlimited (love, joy, peace, etc.). We should provide these things to our children without measure. However, the means toward these ends are sometimes in short supply (water, food, shelter, and yes, toys). Among my goals is to teach my kids to seek, discover, create and share the former without regard for the latter. Athletes use "VO2 max" as a measure of physical fitness; the more your lungs can do with less air, the fitter the athlete. Thus, runners will train at altitude, where oxygen is scarce by design. I want my kids to be spiritually fit, so there is some purpose in my design of denial. Maybe this is why one of the first virtues I tried to instill in Brielle was "flexibility," which I defined to her as "being happy even when we don't get what we want." Hopefully if I model generous abundance in what we REALLY want, they will not miss all the gadgets we fiddle with to get us there (the phrase "fumbling toward ecstasy," the old Sarah McLachlin song, comes to mind again).

What I don't like is how good it feels to tell them "no" sometimes. Maybe I'm like a coach pushing an athlete to grow beyond her comfort zone, and thriving on the endeavor. But something tells me my motives are not that pure.