There is no doubt that I am in charge.
A hundred times a day, my four children approach me with requests, questions, and reports that require me to respond in some authoritative way. Mom, can I download these iTunes? Mom, can you take me to John’s house? Mom, she took my doll!
Parents learn quickly, during the toddler years, that answers must be given decisively. Anyone who has uttered the words, “We’ll see,” after a request for a Popsicle knows that if you don’t want to talk about that Popsicle for the next half hour, you’d better come up with a yes or a no.
We are so accustomed to being in control of our kids that it can be difficult to see the places in our lives where we need to surrender that control—the times when God needs to lead. Yet every Sunday as we stand and say the Our Father, we pray we may do just that. We say a prayer of surrender: “Thy will be done.”
But what does this prayer look like in day-to-day family life? How do we blend allowing God to lead with the fact that, right now, we must make decisions—big and small—about our children’s lives?
Live with uncertainty.
It is in accepting this lack of control, however, that we learn to live in the moment—to give our situation to God. “Thy will be done” becomes a prayer with a shrug. We have little choice but to trust God with the situation.
Judy, a long-time foster parent, says that there are so many worries that come with parenting abused and neglected children that she has found peace only when she can give a difficult case to God. “I say to God, ‘This is your child. You know best what this child needs. I don’t have the answers.’ ”
“Thy will be done” becomes the hardest prayer of all in the face of true crisis. A difficult diagnosis, a death in the family, or a relationship crumbling all challenge us to enter fully into the realization of how little control we have.
God is my project manager.
Our children are God’s “projects,” and God wants the best outcome possible for them—that they live a life of love. Just as in the business world project managers rely on a team to bring their task to completion, God the project manager works with us.
As parents we are a crucial part of this team, but the project manager has the vision. The more we are able to understand that we are not solely responsible but are working under the leadership of God, the better we are able to make decisions that truly help our children grow into the people they are created to be. Saying “Thy will be done” is an admission that, ultimately, I am not the boss.
We always use metaphors to help people understand God. Some favorite metaphors for God in the Bible, however, such as king and shepherd, aren’t careers we run into much anymore. In thinking about how we allow God’s will to be done in our children’s lives, it might be helpful to think of God as our project manager.
Need proof? Look back, not ahead
A friend who wept bitterly over an unexpected pregnancy when she already had several small children told me a few years later that as her youngest daughter’s personality emerged, she finally understood why the baby needed to join the family. “She came because her older sister needed her—they are best friends. It’s so obvious now. The experience made me better able to believe God has a plan, even if I don’t understand it right now.”
Sometimes the presence of God can be seen best in retrospect. It can be easier to say, “Thy will be done” to the messiness of the present when you are able to remember how God came through for you during past confusion.
By Annemarie Scobey, from At Home with Our Faith newsletter.
Take a look at At Home with Our Faith, Claretian Publications’ print newsletter for parents on nurturing spirituality in the home–read a sample issue. We offer very low rates for parish use, as well as our free Moms’ Night Out monthly discussion guides. And don’t miss our popular single-page parish handouts on handing on the faith, helping kids understand the Mass, Lent, and Advent.