The other day our baby played his first prank.
I was holding him on my hip as I talked with a friend. It was time for us to leave so I instructed him, “We gotta go, Judson. Say ‘bye’ to Shami.”
“Bah bah!” he repeated as he waved his little hand in the air. Then he leaned toward my friend with his lips puckered. “Oh! Look Shami, he wants to kiss you!” Shami was delighted by Judson’s show of affection. Giggling, she leaned her cheek toward him to receive a kiss.
My son leaned in for the kiss and then at the last second he turned and planted that kiss squarely on my cheek and laughed. Baby’s first prank — I was so proud!
Children grow up so fast, don’t they? Not a day goes by when I don’t say this to myself or hear it from someone else.
But I don’t always live like this is true; I suffer from bouts of parental amnesia.
Parental amnesia is not just where you walk into a room and forget why you’re carrying the laundry basket with four dirty coffee mugs in it. That’s called normal. Parental amnesia is where we forget about two things: tomorrow and eternity.
First, we forget that Lord-willing our children will grow up to be adults. I have a hard time imagining my 5-year-old as a 35-year-old or a 65-year-old. Her big goals right now are waiting patiently for her first loose tooth and learning to tell what time it is. Sometimes I think she’ll be five forever and do five-year-old things forever.
Second, we forget that our children are more than just potential adults. They are people made in God’s image and they have eternal souls. When the mundane looms larger than eternal life we forget who God is, who we are, and who our children are.
We tend to forget about tomorrow and eternity when our day is filled with the tyranny of the urgent. Do you ever feel like that ball in the arcade game that ricochets off the walls? Supervise homework while diverting toddlers from swishing their arms in the toilet! Hand down verdicts in Mother’s Court about whose toy it really is! No wonder it’s hard to keep an eternal perspective.
For me, parental amnesia settles like a fog in the morning hours. If I don’t renew my mind through the truths in God’s word then the fog doesn’t burn off and let light of the gospel shine in. By the end of the day I am lost in a cloud of discouragement that doesn’t lift.
It’s easy to let our perspective get buried in an avalanche of cotton blends at Mount Laundry. Even so, we must make an effort to remember that our job is more than feeding, bathing, clothing, and educating our children.
Hope in Christ
The reality of forever reminds us to prioritize eternity in our hopes for our children. But before we extend an eternal perspective to others then we must be hoping in Christ. Too often my hope is in my ever-changing circumstances. I say things like, "I really need the baby to take his nap this morning," which is a fine thing to say and a fine thing to look forward to. But if come lunch time and the nap didn't happen and I'm so emotionally wasted by it that it ruins my afternoon ... then I've probably put more faith in that nap than in the never-changing circumstances of the gospel.
God mercifully intercedes in those moments and shows me his ways are above my ways. By God's grace I can resist the temptation to treat my children as interruptions to my will for my life. Instead, God enables me to treat them as precious gifts he is using to shape me into his image according to his will for my life.
This morning my daughter ran back upstairs to get her purse before we left the house. By carrying an empty purse she feels that she is ready to save any abandoned puppies or kittens she comes across. (She has only ever found baby geckos where we live in the desert.) While I wrangled our family circus out the door I thought about calling after her to just leave the purse behind.
But something made me stop. I was impressed by the thought that just yesterday she was the baby who needed to be cared for in every way. And now she already wants to nurture others. Lord-willing, someday she’ll have bigger responsibilities to help the helpless. I decided against telling her to just get in the car.
In light of eternity, I want to seize day-to-day opportunities to lift her sights to admire God and image him. My train of thought was interrupted as she skipped over the bottom two steps and landed in the foyer, purse in hand. “I got it!” she breathlessly announced. “Now I can bring home baby animals like Jesus brings home us!”
Sometimes God uses our children to remind us of the eternal perspective that we’ve forgotten. They grow up so fast, don’t they?