One of the things that becomes obvious with age is how painful aging can be. Looking at a toddler who is able to sleep in all sorts of contorted positions and wake up flexible and raring to go reminds me that I've crossed the boundary of being young. Falling asleep in a comfortable chair for twenty minutes leaves me "dreaming" of the next opportunity to see my chiropractor. But, with age comes wisdom, wisdom that is often the result of various types of pain, both physical and emotional. The benefit of wisdom is not automatic. Without grace, years of painful experiences can produce cynicism or negativity.
As a homeschooling parent with a sizable age span between my oldest and youngest, I now have a better perspective of the parenting endeavor. I find that I am not preoccupied with the incidental aspects of parenthood and I am more concerned with the opportunity to impart life skills that will have the greatest impact on responsible adulthood.
Just the other day I had a chance to put this wisdom into practice. I was watching two boys under the age of four whose mom was giving my daughter a piano lesson. A bit of "separation anxiety" was at play with the younger one as his mom went to another part of the church campus and left the boys and me in the nursery. In my earlier days, I might have spent a considerable amount of time and energy trying to get him to stop crying by diverting his attention and hoping he would become fixated on something else. Instead, I told him that I had no problem with him crying, his mom was going to be gone for a while and if he wanted to continue crying, he had to do it away from the door so he would not disturb others. This "reminder" had to be administered a couple of times as I physically removed him from the gate he was attempting to scale. I never told him to stop crying. After awhile, he went back to the door with a bit of a whimper trying as hard as he could to remember why he was crying. Unable to do so, he turned around, found an interesting toy and off he went. You see, I knew he would have to change his mind - I couldn't change it for him. In other words, I didn't work to lessen his pain. (Oh, that I had understood this 29 years earlier!!! No telling how much better life would have been for all concerned had this wisdom been present when I began parenting.)
Might I have been tempted to jump around and play a game with my little charge, crawling all over the floor if my half-century plus frame would have tolerated it? ---Was there some decided benefit in having to utilize other resources more readily at my disposal? Yes! But now that I have the benefit of a long term vision, I decided to use this situation for his long-term benefit. This youngster is in the process of learning to deal with pain - something that will accompany him the rest of his life. He wouldn't have been helped if I had lied to him and told him his mom would be right back. He would have only learned to distrust those caring for him. Instead, he got to "exercise" the muscle of patience and develop an understanding that life isn't always governed by personal dictates. Like the rest of us, he will learn that much of the progress obtained in life is the result of pain and disappointment.
Viewed and understood within the framework of a biblical worldview, it is obvious that pain is a vital part of the process of sanctification. After all, the very event that opened the door to heaven for us involved a tremendous amount of pain and suffering by One who for the joy set before Him endured the cross and the shame. Picking up one's cross and following Jesus leads us into the blessings of providential pain.
- Andrea G. Schwartz
Andrea Schwartz is Chalcedon’s family and Christian education advocate, and the author of eight books including: A House for God: Building a Kingdom-Driven Family, The Biblical Trustee Family: Understanding God’s Purpose for Your Household, Empowered: Developing Strong Women for Kingdom Service, Woman of the House: A Mother’s Role in Building a Christian Culture, and The Homeschool Life: Discovering God’s Way to Family-Based Education. She’s also the co-host of the Out of the Question podcast, and Homeschooling Helps (weekly live Facebook event). She can be reached at [email protected].