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raising children, not an image

Between my daughter and I, there were about four different things that happened in the past week to one or the other of us where we were rejected or overlooked for something we wanted to participate in. You could call it failure. I'm going to use rejection and failure kind of interchangeably throughout these words, even though one is more others-induced and the other is self-induced. They often produce the same set of emotions, and it's emotional responses I'm talking about here. Anyway, it was so good for me to have the accountability of her watching as I worked through my own rejection/failure, and it was so good for me to have the feeling fresh in my heart in order to more kindly and gently help her through hers. I believe in all four cases, we offered up our best work; she even stated she wasn't experiencing regret over her own performance in her case. It was really just that the evaluators were looking for something different than what we were offering to each situation.

It is always a test of courage to seek to engage, participate, and be included. It is vulnerable and risky. It could end in failure, and so choosing to participate is settling with the potential of failure. But when the failure actually comes, it often looks and feels different than we had anticipated (especially because, deep down, we really didn't anticipate failing at all - and that's why we tried in the first place). Failing well is a hard-won skill, and I am still working at winning in it (not for lack of ample opportunities to practice), but even more than that, I am still working at internalizing it enough to also teach it out to my daughter -- and that is an entirely different level of skill.

I've watched her seek to be included in a group for several years now, and it is growing increasingly exhausting to watch. She is intentionally left out - not flat-out rejected, but just simply not included, and has to work overtime to keep up to date on the heartbeat of the group. It hurts me to watch it happen. Both of us know that some of the root of it is her own past mistakes and her own friendship learning curve; she is so honest about that. But I also see how hard she's working to grow from those past mistakes and not make them again in the future, and I also see how if the group really wanted to make it work, they could. And it hurts.

But it is not my job to fight back, or to let my emotions about the things that she is experiencing begin to drive my parenting decisions. It is my job to come alongside her, to remain her ally, and to lead her gently in the right direction - both in how she responds to people and how she develops herself and learns from her past mistakes.

There is a temptation as parents to raise our children not for the glory of God and for their own good, but so as to be seen a certain way by others, or so as to have others see them a certain way. While I believe it's important that we emphasize to our children the impact of the reputation they are developing for themselves, I also believe it's important for me to stay steadily focused on who God has created my child in particular to be. It is my job to raise them, not to raise the image of them or my own image. It's easy often to detour, feeling like if our children were a particular way they'd be more likely to be included, or seen differently by others, or any number of things. But as a parent, it is my job to raise them to learn to please the Lord -- none of those other things.

So when I fail and then they fail because of my failure, or when its the other way around... there's no fingers to be pointed, or despair to be had, or embarrassment to demonstrate. There is simply a need for acknowledgement of wrong, repentance, and a gently working together to move forward from here. There is grace to move forward from here.

I told Grant this afternoon that I had recently found myself in a number of scenarios where I felt like people wanted interaction with our family, but they only wanted interaction with certain parts of our family. They only wanted interaction with the easy, the good, the fun, and the life-giving parts of our family. And while I would love it if every encounter anyone ever has with our family could be that way, the reality is that we are humans, and so our family life is still very much a work-in-progress. We aren't always fun to be with, we all make a lot of mistakes, and we're all still learning how to get along and respect each other and learn from each other. If you have ever spent more than an hour with us, you already know this is true.

I hope that my parenting does include teaching my children how to interact well with others. However, my parenting is never for the purpose of making my children pretend to be saints to appear a certain way to others. My parenting is always for the purpose of making my children aware that they are sinners, but that there is a remedy for sin and that they have a very great God who loves them far more than I ever could. Rejection and failure in this life are opportunities for us to see ourselves as we really are, and for us to experience transformation in who we are because of Jesus.

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Hi, I'm Hannah.

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