I had one of those teary-eyed parenting moments yesterday evening. My 7 year old was at baseball practice and I stayed home to make dinner. I was fixing a potato and onion frittata (gotta use up all those pre-Lent eggs you know) when I realized I didn’t have any good bread in the house. Looking at my sweats and Birkenstocks I realized I didn’t want to be seen in any store and was just too lazy and tired to change for a quick trip. That’s when I remembered I had the next best thing to a hired servant in the house – a 9 year old. It did occur to me that this would be a good lesson in independence, but that wasn’t my first thought – it actually ran along the lines of “the boy, the boy, yeah, the boy could do it”. And he was excited about the idea – either by the prospect of doing something truly grownup or keeping the change from my $10.
So we quickly drove down to La Madeleine about a half-mile from the house. I parked within view of the front door and gave him his instructions. He jumped out of the car and I waited. He came back five minutes later with my change and said he had to go back in because the baguettes weren’t out of the oven yet. So off he went. After another 5 minutes I stepped just outside the car to get a better view of him through the window as he patiently sat by the front counter. He wasn’t messing with anything, he wasn’t goofing around, and actually, was acting like a real customer. I started to tear up thinking about how much he’s growing up and said a quick prayer thanking God for such a good son and asking him to guide him into adulthood.
It’s a funny thing about the life of a Christian. We spend our early years under the care of our parents, growing in independence (free will) and self-sufficiency, only to find that once we become adults our temporal and spiritual lives are as rooted in dependency as an infant. It can be a real shock for some young adults when they discover this truth. They’ve grown up believing what all of us well-meaning parents (at least American parents) fill our kids with – on ideas of individuality, independence and self-sufficiency – only to learn we’re all inexorably linked to everyone and everything around us.
Here’s a not too funny and all too true observation. How many overprotective mothers does it take to change a grown son’s light bulb? Only one – because a mother is all a son will ever need.
Shall I tell you the difference between healthy independence and the 38 year old single man living at home with his anime collection and part-time job at GameStop? It’s the godly parent who instills in their child the belief that they are personally accountable to God for the conduct of their lives, and that accountability is a godly co-dependence.
Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God. Proverbs 2:5
Omnipotent as he is, God doesn’t need anything we can give him; not our piety, not our sacrifices, not our spiritual efforts, not even our worship. God is above everything, yet intimately involved and interested in every aspect of our lives, and he willingly accepts our love, worship, and adoration. We grow in our free will love of Him and our independence is actually the strongest expression of dependence on God.
I believe that I’ve tried to accept that my sons could have a career in most anything when they grow up and that I would be ok with that, as long as they were hard-working and honest (and college graduates – ok sorry). Christian parents want the best for their children and we aren’t immune to praying for the same materialistic things – health, happiness, good grades, good jobs, a homerun or touchdown. But a Christian above all prays for their child’s spiritual life and their continued faith and dependence on God.
When I sent my son into that bakery I was just trying to save myself a little time and effort, but I didn’t realize that in some small way I was helping him become a godly man who, I pray, will one day realize his greatest worth is to be a faithful Christian. Dependent on God, but dependent because of his own free will.
O God, our heavenly Father, who lovest mankind and art most merciful and compassionate, have mercy upon thy servant ___ for whom I humbly pray thee, and commend to thy gracious care and protection. Be thou, O God, their guide and guardian in all their endeavors, lead them in the path of thy truth and draw them nearer to the, that they may lead a godly and righteous life in thy love and fear; doing thy will in all things. Give them grace that they may be temperate, industrious, diligent, devout and charitable. Defend them against the assaults of the enemy, and grant them wisdom and strength to resist all temptation and corruption of this life; and direct them in the way of salvation, through the merits of thy Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ, and the intercessions of his Holy Mother and thy blessed saints. Amen.
(An Orthodox prayer of parents for their children)