The Perfect Parent

Parents

It was one of those calls. You know, the kind every parent dreads. It was a little after midnight, exactly one month ago. I groped in the dark for my cell phone as it rang on my bedside nightstand.

It was Rachel.

She was crying.

Her apartment had just been broken into.

And I mean literally. Her window, smashed into pieces. Glass everywhere, even on top of the fluffy comforter she had been nestled under mere moments before.

She had screamed (I always knew that loud voice of hers would come in handy one day!) and had run out through the living room into her roommate’s room, where they locked the door and dialed 911, not knowing if an intruder was in the apartment. They spent another ten or so terrifying minutes on the phone with the dispatcher while they waited for the police to arrive, guns drawn, to clear the rooms.

Thankfully, Rachel and her two roommates were unharmed, and the perpetrator had fled into the night. But they were all understandably quite shaken. The window wasn’t the only thing broken that night. Their sense of well-being and security were also shattered.

Chris had been awakened by the concern in my voice as I talked to her on the phone. Before long, he was out of bed, dressed and out the door to make the 45-minute drive to Rachel’s college town. It was nearly 1 a.m. But it didn’t matter.

Because that’s just what a dad does.

He comforted the three rattled roomies and got them settled into a nearby hotel for (what was left of) the night. He then made the return trip back home.

The next evening it was my turn. I packed dinner and treats and drove down for an impromptu “sleepover,” despite being exhausted from the lack of sleep the night before.

Because that’s just what a mom does.

The girls dragged two of their mattresses out into the living room, where we watched a light-hearted movie and then (tried to) sleep. Despite receiving word that the police had arrested the guy responsible for the break-in, everyone was still a bit jumpy. But we made it through the night without further incident.

I found the timing of all of this intriguing. Just hours before Rachel’s midnight phone call, my Bible study group had listened to Beth Moore’s teaching, taken from 1 Thessalonians 2, on the parental heart of God. I felt God was now giving me a real-life illustration of the distinct ways He loves and parents His children.

God’s love is “paternal”:

For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.
(1 Thessalonians 2:10-11, NIV)
 

The Greek word for “comforting” is parakaleo, meaning “to call to the side of,” to aid, help. Just like Chris rushed to Rachel’s side in the middle of the night to comfort and help, God’s paternal love for us is strong, protective, and present. (In fact, Jesus uses this same Greek root when referring to the Holy Spirit! See John 14:16, 26.)

His love is also “maternal”:

Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.
(1 Thessalonians 2:7b-8, NIV)
 

“Nursing” in the Greek is nutritura, from which we get our word “nutrition.” (This helps explain why my instinctive response to this–and most any–situation was to bring FOOD!) Mothers are designed to nourish and nurture.

…we were like a mother feeding and caring for her own children.
(1 Thessalonians 2:7b, NLT)
 

“Caring for” literally means “to keep warm.” Rachel told me she slept like a baby the night I was there, the warmth of my body on the mattress next to hers. God’s maternal love for us is like this–warm, gentle, and nurturing.

Although we try to be good parents, Chris and I are far from perfect. We do love our girls and attempt to show it in the ways that come most naturally to us as a mother and a father. I trust Rachel felt our love in the midst of the trauma.

But how reassuring it is to know that in God we have The Perfect Parent. Maternal and paternal, the perfect blend of everything we need at any given time. He knows just what to do when His children are in distress. Or lonely. Or needy. His presence is constant. His love is perfect.

Perfect love casts out fear. (1 John 4:18, NAS)
 

I am painfully aware that as a human parent I can only do so much. As I prepared to leave Rachel the morning after our slumber “party,” I prayed that God would cast out the fear that had entered uninvited through that shattered window and replace it with His perfect love. That He would fill that little apartment with the peace of His presence. That He would comfort and soothe every frayed nerve. That He would take this situation and use it for good.

And you know what? He is.

Because that’s just what God, our Perfect Parent, does.

 

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Wedding Worrier

 

Wedding centerpiece ii

In a reoccurring dream I am arranging and rearranging wedding reception centerpieces. Flowers here, candles there. No, that’s not right. Try again.

And again.

And again…

I wake up exhausted. And anxious.

I am, after all, the Mother-of-the-Bride.

But you can call me the “Wedding Worrier.”

Most of you probably know that our oldest daughter Emily is engaged to be married. We honestly couldn’t be happier. We love Morgan, and his family, and look forward to celebrating their Big Day the end of May. (To see a sweet video of his proposal, you can follow this link:  http://vimeo.com/112763976 )

My thoughtful friend Cathy recently gave me a book called It’s Her Wedding But I’ll Cry If I Want To: A Survival Guide for the Mother of the Bride. (She understands. Her daughter got married a little over a year ago.) I need this book. I definitely struggle in new situations like this, where I’m unsure of my role and its perimeters. Enter anxiety and frustration.

Yesterday I picked up another book and read these familiar words of Jesus in the fresh translation of The Message:

Look at the ravens, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, carefree in the care of God. And you count far more. (Luke 12:24)
 

How this spoke to me! I tend to find security in the checklists and safety in the job descriptions. But God wants us to live free of all that, carefree in His care! And He does care!

Walk into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They don’t fuss with their appearance—but have you ever seen color and design quite like it?…If God gives such attention to the wildflowers, most of them never even seen, don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you?
(Luke 12:27a, 28)
 

Another talented friend had agreed to purchase and arrange the wedding flowers for us, but unfortunately had to bow out last week due to circumstances beyond her control. Emily and I were disappointed, to say the least. But reading this passage yesterday reminded me that our Creator God cares about little things like flowers, their colors and design. We don’t need to worry. We can trust Him to provide His beautiful best.

People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep yourself in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. (Luke 12:30-31)
 

I DO know God. I HAVE seen what He can do. So why do I fret and fuss as if He were not completely capable and in control? Like the loose tea in my morning pot, I need to “steep” myself in the reality of who He is. He is Jehovah Jireh, the God Who Provides. He will take the initiative to provide for every detail of this wedding, along with every other thing that concerns us.

Last night I meandered through a few stores, killing time while Laurel was at her youth worship team practice at church. I’ve been searching without success for an uncommon item we need for something we have planned as part of the wedding festivities. (Sorry to be so vague, but I risk the wrath of Emily if I reveal too much!) And there, perched alone on a shelf, was The Exact Item I had been looking for! It was as if God Himself had set it there for me to find!

But whether or not He actually placed it there, I knew in my heart it was a message from Him that Yes, He IS in the details and Yes, He cares. (Even about obscure, hard-to-find objects that I cannot at this time safely mention!)

So. Chances are you are most likely NOT currently neck-deep in Wedding Planning. But I wonder. What worries keep you up at night? What concerns preoccupy you during the day?

A line from a new favorite song on my WOW Worship CD goes like this:

I believe everything that You say You are. I believe and I have seen Your unchanging heart.”*

Putting our faith in WHO God is and WHAT He has done for us in the past will help us trust Him with the future and the things yet to be done.

He is aware. He cares. He will provide.

Join me in believing that the One who turned water into wedding wine can also turn worriers into…warriors.

 

 

*Lyrics are from “I Will Follow” by Jon Guerra. You can listen to it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OezS0Gzml10

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