Here is my family . . . in the picture above. If you would have asked me a couple months ago, "Do you find your identity in your kids?" I would have said, "Of course, not! I know I shouldn't do that." Or I might have said, "I totally know who I am without my kids." But then . . .
A couple months ago, I read this tiny little article by one of my latest faves, Paul David Trip. It was about finding our identity in our kids. I am not a particularly insecure person, so I didn't think I struggled with identity. And like I said, I would not have thought I do find my identity in my kids, until one paragraph in the article. It begged the question, "Are you embarrassed by your kids in front of your peers?" This one little article made me realize that when I'm around some of my kids, I feel super, but when I'm with other kids in this family, I feel super embarrassed. (If you are one of my kids and reading this when you get older, assume you are one of the kids that make me feel super).
How I feel about myself in a given moment, is often times directly related to which kids I am with and MOST DEFINITELY how they are behaving and even what they look like. There are times when well intentioned friends recount a concerning behavior about one of my kids and I want to crawl under a rock! The thing is, the kind of behavior that embarrasses me, is behavior that clearly speaks to how badly they are hurting. When I'm in the embarrassing moment, I'm just mad, but when I'm out of it, I really do KNOW that their behavior comes from so much yuck in their little lives. But, somehow, I feel like their mode of operation is good reason for me to feel shame and embarassment. If I had my identity in Christ for reals (how do you exactly do that?????), I wouldn't be so shakable. This article talks about what a huge burden that is for kids to carry . . . the identity of their parents. UGH! I think I have also put that burden on to my husband (or husbands), at times, but that would be a whole new post.
If I had a family that did not have so much brokenness, I'm not sure I would ever see the full extent of my own brokenness. Is my brokenness there because of my circumstances or is it there because I am human and I just see it more clearly, when everything is messy? It's pretty tough to keep it looking all put together in a family as messy as this one. That's why sometimes I just wish I lived in a trailer park, where messy lives are standard. Is that judgmental? I probably need to work on that, too.
Anyway, this is what is on my mind a lot lately. Last New Year's, the Writing in Pencil gals, did a little parody video on our "words" for the year. This year, I didn't think I would post mine on Facebook or anything like that, because the only word that keeps coming to mind is, "STRIP."
I need to cut away all that the world and my flesh is telling me I am defined by. I like this process. It doesn't feel good to look at that ugliness inside of me, but I do love that God is bringing it to the surface and I know that I am learning so much. I am eager to see if I am a different person this time next year. Will I really be willing to surrender my fleshly desire to try and make my kids make me look good? If I am with an unshowered, poorly dressed, awkward, or misbehaving child, will I tend to his or her heart first, without a care for my reputation? (I can't even imagine how freeing it would be to say yes to that). Will I really get serious about learning what it means to FOR REALS have my identity in Christ? I think I know a lot of the answers to what it means to have my identity in Christ, but do I know how to make it my breath and being? Not yet, but I am learning.
One of the reflection questions at the end of Tripp's article is, "What can you do this week to relieve the burden of your identity from the shoulders of your kids?" I thought that was a pretty difficult question. What are your thoughts on that question?
Gracious! I feel like my kids will already have to go to therapy because of me. The last thing I want to do is cause undo stress on them because of my identity issues. But, alas. The very essence of parenthood denotes we have a soul tie with our kids. Whether they are birthed or adopted, there is a bond that is beyond words. I'm not sure it's possible to entirely disconnect our identity from our kids. They are a part of us. That's part of the design. But the other half of the design is that they leave and cleave. In marriage, yes. But also as they grow up into adulthood. So how do we travel that path in a healthy way?? It is a DAILY struggle/choice/decision. One that hits me square between the eyes nearly every day.
I often think parenting is a lot like bowling. Kids are the bowling balls and parents are the bumpers. The ball is going to go where it's going to go -- showered or not. We're just trying to make sure it isn't completely in the gutter!! But if it does go on the gutter, we have to trust there will be grace for that too.
This question of yours wrecked me:
"Is my brokenness there because of my circumstances or is it there because I am human and I just see it more clearly?"
This thought makes me ache for relief from this burden of our circumstances and also from this pile of "shoulds" that we walk around holding!
I carry all of these things, too. In fact, the other day while I was in the shower the thought hit me that the things I was so stressed about had to do with who I had decided was a Master I needed to serve. You name it; the friends we envy, the family we'd love to emulate, an expectation some has laid upon us.....
It's heavy and long list and we CAN be free of that.damn.list. We CAN!
What can I do to relieve the burden of our identity from my kids' shoulders? Heck if I know!?!? But perhaps the starting point is to offer an expanse of grace and soft kindness and maybe even some much needed levity to someone I come into contact with - today.