Thoughts About God


Every night, I try to pray over my babies as I put them to sleep. When I do so, I find myself going through a list of wish-fulfillment. I mean, who doesn’t want good things for their children? Sometimes, I find that my prayers seem to be a way to try and manipulate and control God. Other times, it is out of genuine belief.

Here is what I try to pray for my kids (obviously not all-inclusive) and the thoughts that go through my head while praying:

1) That they would be healthy and live long, meaningful lives. Not really sure what that means or looks like, but I’ll know it when I see it.

2) That they would be spared suffering. But then I think that a life without suffering tends not to produce people of character, hope, or perseverance. So then, I think, perhaps just enough suffering. Not too much that it breaks my children, but not too little that it breaks them a different way.

3) Crap. Perhaps I should just pray for resilience. That they can bounce back from things. But then, I don’t want them to be too self-reliant and not ever learn to trust in God. Or be too glib.

4) I want my kids to be smart and work hard. To know that just because you’re smart and things come easily doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have to work hard and settle for just getting by. (That would be my entire academic career. Oh, let’s call a spade a spade. My entire CAREER, too.)

5) I pray for my kids to have their heart take after God’s own heart. That they love the poor, are humble, and have compassion. That they see beyond the physical.

6) I pray for my children to value the insides of a person. To want to be a person of character as well as seek people who have character.

7) I pray for my kids to be incredibly good looking.

8) I pray for them to be funny – both to me and to people in general.

9) I pray for them to choose to believe in God and Jesus not because they were force-fed it as children, but because they have vibrant, full faiths of their own.

10) I beg God to protect my children from evil. I ask God to protect their hearts and their spirits and their physical bodies.

11) I pray that DD knows her value as a person and as a woman and doesn’t throw herself away at “inessential penises” (to quote Daughter of Smoke and Bone). Of course, I realize that I presume she is going to be heterosexual – which is somewhat of a prayer only because anything else will be hard for her. (See item 2. However, if she is something other than heterosexual, I will always love her and support her and who she is meant to be.)

12) I pray that DS also knows his value as a person – and becomes a man who values women and isn’t threatened by or use them. (Same thing goes for heterosexuality assumptions, here.)

13) Inevitably, I pray God helps me be a good parent.

I can’t remember any more off the top of my head, but like I said before. Not all-inclusive. What do you pray/hope for your children?

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As some of you know, I am an avid reader and one of my favorite genres is speculative fiction. As a result, I end up reading quite a few books based in a dystopia – and lately, they have been really wearing on my soul. I’m pretty sure that the main reason they have been grinding down my soul is because I now have children. The possibility of a future such as The Road (which, I keep meaning to read, but seriously, the idea is just too fucking depressing) just fills me with such deep, profound sadness.

Of course, I am also hypnotically drawn to articles wherein the headlines blare something to the likes of, “Baby/Toddler/Child is  Raped/Killed/Murdered/Missing” and I have to read it and then sob uncontrollably. DH always asks with such disgust, “Why do you read this crap? You know from the headline that it will be sad and depressing.” To which, I have no good response except that I must.

Which is all to lead into what I mean to blog about tonight. Ever since I became a parent, I am constantly aware of both my intense gratefulness for my children and paralyzing fear (if I let myself dwell upon all the possibilities). They are twinned and I wish they would not be. (Although, one could argue that I am so grateful because I am also acutely aware of all the horrible, gruesome possibilities.)

I find myself sobbing as I hold tightly to DD or thinking of DS (because if I sobbed while holding him, he would be very concerned). Any book or article that I read will immediately feed my fears. When I read about dystopias (shoot, let’s try our current third world countries or the less fortunate in our first world) where children are starving or beaten/abused/sick/dying, etc.

I grab my children and pray fervently for their safety, health, and happiness. I pray, as if by my desperate praying, I cast a spell of protection over my children. I pray to God, begging him to keep my children from harm and suffering. As if my pathetic pleading would protect them. That the sheer act of praying is a talisman, a way of controlling the future and manipulating God to do my bidding. That God is small, petty, and would only do good for my children if I whimper and grovel. Or, alternatively, that God is easily controlled and as long as I say XYZ and do my ritual obeisance, God will provide.

But sometimes, I think that it doesn’t matter if I pray or not (even if it makes me feel better). Because the odds are, my kids will be fine and grow old and be happy. That they will make of their lives as best as they can. That by virtue of being born in the US to two college educated, high-income earning parents, they will go on to have similar trajectories and be set. Of course, it is not guaranteed, but it is highly likely. Because if you truly think about it, good and bad things happen alike to the devout and the apostate. After all, “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matt. 3:45, NIV)

But then, I recoil in fear at this thought (that maybe just by voicing it, I am condemning my children to unhappiness and suffering). And then, (if you aren’t already whirling in confusion by my crazy thinking), I try to reassure myself. After all, who do I think God is? A complete asshole? If, God is really a good parent, surely, I have nothing to fear – that even if the worst of my fears should come to pass, that He will be faithful and good? I mean, if all our parental love is modeled after His perfect love, then I should know that His love for my kids (and me) far surpasses mine. “You parents–if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not!” (Matt. 7:9-10, NLT)

My brain whirs and I think to myself, I don’t know that I could continue to believe and trust that God is good if anything were to happen to one of my children. I find myself begging God to not test my faith in this manner – for surely I will fail and I would never forgive Him.

It is truly humbling to know that all my professions of faith quell and quiver before the immense uncertainty of life – which can all be neatly laid at the feet of my God. My only comfort is that God knows all these nasty parts of my soul (and indeed, knew them before I ever did), and that He still will be good to me and mine.

“I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24, ESV)

Before I had children, I never thought it was possible to love anyone more than I loved DH. I mean, granted, ours was never an epic, love-conquers-all type of sweeping love. But it was good, sweet and comfortable. The kind of love that lasts and survives the indignities of ten thousands of days and nights. I didn’t want drama or romance. I wanted steady and good. And that is what I have in DH.

So, with that in mind, that you know, we weren’t epically enthralled with one another… I took one look at each of my children after they were born and they immediately surpassed anyone else in the entire universe in terms of my love. It’s not that I love DH less, (although it kind of works out that way), it’s just that I love my children more. I never knew my love could expand into such a fierce, unconditional force that wills itself into being.

Now, when I think of babies in orphanages or broken homes (did you know that babies will stop crying because eventually they learn that no one will respond to them so they just sink into an alarming silence and stare blankly), I just want to weep. When I look at my babies and hold them and snuggle with them, I just cannot imagine anyone willfully harming or not loving any child. Grown ups, yes. They are prickly and horrible and not all that lovable. But it’s so crazy to me that even the most horrible person started off as an infant – so perfect and sweet.

The other day, I was talking to a friend of mine and he mentioned that loving and taking care of children is in line with what Jesus commands as loving the poor and the “least of these.” After all, babies have nothing, cannot feed, clothe or care for themselves, and are completely dependent upon the mercy of their parents or caregivers. It is a heavy and heady responsibility that I am only too glad to do. But it is still crazy.

And to think, that as much as I love my children, that God’s love is deeper, wider, higher than even that. (Is that even possible? Yes, I suppose it is. How humbling! And how comforting!)

I remember distinctly a few years ago, one of my friend’s just had her first child. She was a successful optometrist but she took one look at her baby and knew, just knew, that she was meant to be a mother and that she no longer wanted to work. This was a woman who loved her career and made damn good money doing it, yet she put that all on hold because she wanted to be a SAHM for her son. I thought she was crazy. I just assumed that I would follow in my mother’s footsteps and work.

Well, I had DS and took one look at his beautiful face and knew, just knew, that I was meant to be a mommy and I wouldn’t want to do or be anything else. Two years and another beautiful baby later and that is still the case. In fact, I’m already plotting the third and fourth babies.

I know my mother had to work (you know, those pesky mortgages and needing to put food on the table and clothes on the kids) and would also have gone crazy if she had to stay at home. I also know that my brother and I had a great time being latch-key kids. We basically watched TV for hours every afternoon/evening and became very self-sufficient and independent. But I will admit that I envied my friends who came home to mommies that had snacks and hugs and were involved with the PTA (God forbid!) and were present.

I want my kids to know that type of security (and perhaps even chafe at it sometimes). I want our home to be the place that their friends come over and eat all our food and watch our TV and play our toys and whatnot. I want our home to be hospitable and generous and safe. I wanted so much to have a safe haven when I was growing up – I want that for our kids (and for their friends).

The thought of making a warm home to all folks makes me so happy and glowy. It is a dream come true.

Read a thought-provoking article on Grace, today. Here’s a paragraph that particularly struck me (emphasis mine):

The first tragedy is that many of us are deathly afraid of being known as desperate recipients of God’s grace and love.  We wake up each morning praying that there won’t be a headline on the news trumpeting to the world that we’ve failed to live up to God’s standards, that we’ve made a complete mess of something.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love telling others whose dark secrets have been laid bare that God’s grace is theirs for the asking.  I just don’t want to be that person. I don’t ever want anyone to have to think, “Wow, if it wasn’t for God’s unconditional love, Ken would never be allowed to be a pastor.  He clearly doesn’t deserve to be one.”  If you’re like me, then you are desperate never to look that desperate. So we don’t confess our secret sins to anyone and certainly never in Christian contexts.  And we find ourselves endlessly confessing to Jesus those same sins, never believing that he’s forgiven us because we haven’t forgiven ourselves.  And we’ve never experienced the lack of judgment from fellow confessed sinners.  What a tragedy to preach the Cross, to sing about God’s amazing grace, and yet to be so offended by it that we try to live like we don’t need it.

Grace Actually, Ken Fong

I totally resonate with this passage! How true that I would never want to be the person who needs grace. I am reminded of a story in the New Testament (Luke 7:40-50 NASB) about a woman at a party who bathes Jesus’s feet in tears and an extremely expensive perfume. The host of the party is scandalized because this woman is a “sinner.” Jesus tells the host, “You didn’t welcome me with a kiss, nor gave me water to wash the dust off my feet. This woman has not ceased kissing nor anointing my feet with her tears and perfume.” Finally, Jesus says that this woman loves a lot because she has been forgiven a lot. And that those who aren’t forgiven much love very little.

I used to get annoyed with this passage thinking that it gave license to sin a lot. After all, how can you be forgiven much unless you sin much? But then, after a Bible study on this passage, I realized that this passage was more on grace. That this woman was very clear on her need for grace and forgiveness, and because she realized just how much Jesus forgave of her, she was so very grateful. And as a result, she felt very loved.

One of the applications from that study, I recall, was that if we didn’t feel very loved by God, it might be because we weren’t all that cognizant of our need for forgiveness. That the more we were aware of how much we needed forgiving, the more we would ask for it. (So the application was to confess our sins if we didn’t feel very loved – because then we’d be “loved much.”)

Another take-away I got from this study was that I am a very graceless person. And the reason I give so little grace is because I perceive myself to be needing very little grace. In other words, I think I’m perfect and never fall short so I never cut anyone else any slack.

How true it is! (Not that I am perfect and never mess up royally – although, come to think of it, that does sound about right… no?) I know that whenever I’m really aware of my screw ups, I am usually much nicer about it to other people (especially if they mess up in the same way). But, when someone makes a mistake on something that I perceive to be incredibly obvious or easy, I’m a complete ass. I’m the mean person who rubs your face in the mistake. Just ask DH or my mom. I have that incredible ability to make any normal, intelligent human feel about as awesome as a piece of lint. I am that good.

Which brings me back to the passage I opened up the post with. How true it is that I am so desperate to look undesperate! I always want to look put together! Even in my self-deprecation, it’s to hone an image of humility! (Ah, the tangled webs we weave of self-deception!) But the reality is, I am a mean and petty person if left to my own graceless devices.

Here’s the immense irony: I crave so desperately to be genuine and real. To know that I am loved for who I am. However, how can people love me for who I am (warts and all) if I always project an image of togetherness? This is why marriage and family can be so good (and hard). There is simply no way for me to keep that act up for super long periods of time! Inevitably, I will revert to my assish ways! (And yet, my mother and DH continually forgive me and love me. Fools!)

This is why I love shows like Celebrity Rehab. People being real, fucked up people. I love it because minus the drug addiction, I’d like to be a real woman someday.