Several years ago, as a very new, and very green professional, I picked up a book on negotiating. Little did I know that it would be the following decade, when I had the job of parenting a 3 year old, that I would refer to it. Turns out, I was/am pretty naïve to the persuasive powers and tenacious possibilities of my pre-Ker. It still amazes me, that items that seem pretty cut and dry are up for negotiation in her mind. Her sharp wit and determination are all too often acid to my parental resolve. This week in particular, I saw how I allow this to affect my ability to parent justly. Oh, how sadly, upon answering the same request several times, I am irritability personified! And yet, while my heart and eyes are opened to this need for growth in me/us, I can not help but like that she is prone to pushing the envelope a little bit, testing the boundaries, and thinking outside the box. I routinely meet adults who, having grown up in households where “no, means no, and quit asking you little squirt!” triggered a shut down mechanism in the brain. They heard “no” and stopped going, stopped thinking, stopped brainstorming, stopped problem solving. In adulthood, this hampers the ability to persevere under trial, think outside the box, and explore alternatives when plans A and B don’t work out. (There will always be a time when plans A and B do not work out).
Persistence and parenting justly. My brain goes to Luke 18: 1-8 and Jesus’s teaching of the parable of the widow, who, for lack of better terms, just won’t quit asking! I physically laughed out loud that it is a widow indicated here, and not a widower, and my struggle this week was with a daughter. Is it coincidence, or is the female more prone to pushing that button? Think of the rich young ruler, after having been reminded of the one thing he lacks, he just goes away, you don’t see him trying to negotiate or vie for a rule change. Perhaps there is something to how the woman is wired where persistence can be either a good thing or bad thing. One must review the heart behind the persistence. Why, if persistence is in the form of nagging wife, is it BAD? However, in the form of a questioning widow, GOOD? When looking at God’s heart towards the widow, He does not rebuke her or down play her continual asking. In His eyes, she is not a pest, meant for dismissal. Ironically, in the parable, this is how the judge treats her, but it is the widow we are called to emulate, and not the judge. God’s message: He will reply, answer, and do so justly. We need not refrain from asking, as long as we also do not refrain from trusting in and respecting His justness.
Boy, that is tough. Thank goodness for helpmates. Regardless of your station in life, I firmly believe that God puts people in your life to live out, right before your eyes, the very things you lack. In a lot of ways, my husband is a stronger parent. I recently overhead an exchange where said daughter literally asked him the same thing, persistently petitioning, about 6 times in ten minutes. And each time, he answered, cool, calm, collected the same answer. He didn’t appear annoyed, troubled, wearied, or worse for the wear. He didn’t harp on, sigh loudly, roll his eyes, or lecture on the need to quit asking already because I already gave you my answer and clearly someone is not listening……..and you know why? He parented justly. I was amazed and convicted. Now, God doesn’t desire parental pushovers, but he does desire parental justice and not parental annoyance.
Kids, and maybe more so those growing up in Christian households, will very early on, start seeing the scriptures and making comparisons. If it was not only okay, but good for the widow to keep asking, then why not okay to keep asking Mommy and Daddy? The heart of the parable was not that persistence was bad, but that the Heavenly Father responds justly. Not necessarily “yes” every time, but with justice. What a helpful reminder to a wearied Mom’s heart. My reply need not be yes all the time, but it should be grounded in justice.
And what a call for persistence! I see persistence more often in younger people then older. Could it be that as we traverse life and are told “no,” we lose a little of that “fire in the belly” doggedness? We don’t know the age of the widow in the parable, but it may have been that she was older, and that also made her stand out.
Is there something that you have persisted in prayer to God over? Keep going, He will answer justly. Are we persistent in prayer for others? We are called to carry each others burdens in prayer, not just as a one time deal. My closest relationships are those that have shared in repeated teary-eyed, snot filled, cries to God for change in some area.
Our fellowships are richer for it. We are designed, by Him, to petition, to persist, to keep at it. Therefore, may our strength continually come from Him, who persists in parenting us justly.