Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Sending Your Children Out Into the World

“He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.” – Mark 16:5 

The Catholic Church always begins her work as a parent with the knowledge that she is to send her children out into the world on a mission to save it. Everything she does, everything she says, every rite and ritual she gives to her children are all designed to help them understand that mission and accomplish it to the very best of their abilities. She knows this may mean sending them into danger, but she does not hesitate to encourage her children to do what they must do anyway.

My mother once gave me a tidbit of parenting wisdom that I will now share with you. Our job as parents is to work ourselves out of a job. What she meant by this is that our job is to teach our children how to meet their own needs. They may still come to us for advice or counsel, but they no longer need us to take care of them, motivate them to work, or push them to learn because hopefully we’ve already instilled inside them concepts of personal responsibility, a desire to serve others, and the knowledge of how to take care of themselves and the things around them.

I will add to my mother’s tidbit of parenting wisdom one of my own: Our children are born to make the world a better place, and it is our job to help them figure out what it is they were sent to do and then to help them figure out how to do it. We can guide them and help them, but we cannot do this for them. Everything we do as parents must be done with this end in mind.

The Consequences of Failure

But Moses argued with the LORD, saying, “I can't do it! I'm such a clumsy speaker! Why should Pharaoh listen to me?” Then the LORD said to Moses, "Pay close attention to this. I will make you seem like God to Pharaoh, and your brother, Aaron, will be your prophet.” – Exodus 6:30-7:1

God had a plan for Moses’ life. Moses was conceived in the womb of a woman who was an Israelite slave at a time when all male children were being put to death by the Egyptians. This woman was inspired by God to take her son and hide him, and then to put him in a basket made of reeds and float him down the river. The woman then sent her daughter, Miriam, to watch over the basket and make sure no harm came to the baby.

The basket, by God’s plan, came to be seen by the maid of the daughter of the leader of the Pharaoh, the same man who had ordered the execution of the Israelite male babies. Pharoah’s daughter took delight in the baby and she adopted it as her own. At this point Miriam stepped out of hiding and told the woman she knew of a woman who could nurse the child until he was old enough to be weaned. She asked Pharoah’s daughter if she wanted Miriam to take the child to that woman. Pharoah’s daughter agreed, and Miriam took the baby Moses home with her that day.

Three years later, her mother gave her son Moses back into the care of Pharoah’s daughter, and Moses was raised as an Egyptian prince. As a young man, Moses saw one of the Egyptians beating one of the Israelite slaves. He became angry and ended up killing the Egyptian. When it was discovered what he’d done, Moses ran and hid.

In the passage above, God is calling Moses to return and speak to Pharoah – to be God’s spokesperson. Moses has a speech impediment. God knows this. God also knows that Pharoah will know that, too, and that in fact everyone who hears Moses will know that. Moses’ divinely gifted ability to speak freely and clearly will be one of many signs to the people of that court letting them know that God is present. After all, it’s one miracle none of the scribes or sorcerers of the Egyptian court had been able to accomplish. Furthermore, the people of the court know Moses. Some of them helped raise him. All of them know his integrity and intelligence. He means something to them. He is uniquely qualified for the mission at hand.

However, Moses does not understand this, so he argues with God until God relents and agrees to let Moses’s brother Aaron speak for him. Aaron is naturally gifted as a speaker, nobody in the court knows him, and he’s an Israelite to boot so he’s considered to be less worthy. Aaron is not a good fit for this job, but God needs this mission accomplished quickly and He doesn’t want to waste time arguing with Moses. The job does get done, the Israelites do go free, but not without a lot more pain and a lot more bloodshed than God desired.

Your child isn’t Moses, but like Moses your child is uniquely qualified for whatever task God has for their lives. If your child fails to live up to that mission and fails to accept that plan, the job will get done, but not nearly as well and not without a great deal more tragedy before it’s all said and done. The world needs your child, and they need you to step up to the plate and be the parent for them that God needs you to be. No pressure, right?

Give Them To the Lord

“After he was weaned, she took the boy with her, young as he was, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour and a skin of wine, and brought him to the house of the LORD at Shiloh. When they had slaughtered the bull, they brought the boy to Eli, and she said to him, "As surely as you live, my lord, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the LORD. I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the LORD. For his whole life he will be given over to the LORD." – 1 Samuel 1:24-28

Samuel was the most precious gift Hannah had ever received. She’d waited so long to be given a child, and the Lord had finally done just that. She understood, though, that such a gift was not meant for her to keep. It was meant for her to turn over to the Lord so that the child could be the gift that God intended him to be. Samuel went on to become one of the great prophets precisely because his mother gave him over to the Lord.

Your child is a gift to you and to the whole world from God, but to fully tap into that gift you have to first give your child over to God’s care. God is the only one who knows precisely why He gave you the child He did, and He’s likewise the only one who knows what that child’s purpose in life is. Now, this doesn’t mean that you need to drop your child off at your local church and let your priest raise him, but it does mean that you need to be teaching that child how to listen for the sound of God’s voice and how to walk in a relationship with God.

One of the benefits of giving your child to the Lord’s care is that you can stop worrying. God has them. He’ll protect and guard them. Worrying is a fear based behavior that accomplishes absolutely nothing except to make you sick and everyone else miserable. It doesn’t show your child how much you love them – it shows them how little you trust God to take care of them.

The other benefit of giving your child into the Lord’s care is that it takes off of your shoulders some of the responsibility you might feel to shape and guide them. I promise you that if you entrust your child into God’s care, you will have done plenty to shape and guide them. The rest is up to God. You do not need to control their destiny, or force them to follow a certain path. All you need to do is set them on the path to God and He will take care of the rest. You also don’t need to worry about their future. God has that well in hand, too. Just give them into His care and let Him do what He does best.

Conclusion

I hope you have enjoyed this chapter of Catholic Parenting: What the Catholic Church Teaches Us About Parenting.  If you are just joining us, you can find the introduction and earlier chapters by following the link above.  Please join us tomorrow for the final chapter, chapter 39: Cats, Tuna, and Stray Children.

Thank you for taking the time to read. Please leave a comment below and let me know what you thought.


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