Tuesday, March 30, 2010

On Parenthood

TITLE: On Parenthood
Written by: Conrade Yap
Date: 31 Mar 2010

A Meditation on Holy Week

Key Point: Letting go is an act of trust. Letting God take over is an act of love through faith.
Scripture: "So Jesus grew both in height and in wisdom, and he was loved by God and by all who knew him." (Luke 2:52, NLT)

A) A Parent's Odyssey of Learning to Let Go
When they are little, we hold their hands tightly. As they grow, we loosen our grip. When they become teens, we learn to let go. When they enter adulthood, we let them fly. For the rest of our lives, we as parents can only cheer them on.

This is a typical odyssey of a family with children. Someone once told me that bringing up our children is like flying a kite. When they are younger, we hold onto them with a firm grip. As they grow, we learn to let go, and let them bravely face the winds on their own. Finally, we just have to completely free them and trust that they will live the best possible lives for themselves. We can only stand on the side, to watch, to cheer, and to pray.

Letting go is not altogether a sad event. There is always hope. As parents, one thing we need not despair about is seeing our children grow up. We need not be stuck in a constant state of nostalgia, lamenting for the ‘good old days’ when our children lives and depend on us. We need not worry about their future if we learn to give our worries to Jesus. My thoughts this week center around how God lets Jesus go, and how Jesus chooses to follow the will of his Father.

B) How Joseph and Mary Let Jesus Go
As a little baby, Jesus was completely dependent on how Joseph and Mary obey the instructions of the angel (Luke 1). As a young boy, he was seen growing with stature with both God and men (Luke 2:52). He made his parents worried about his whereabouts, but told them that his rightful place is his Father’s house (Luke 2:49). The gospel records Joseph and Mary as being puzzled by what Jesus said. It is a sign that Jesus is teaching his parents to start letting go of their possessiveness, and to recognize Jesus' higher purpose. That is to obey His heavenly Father in Heaven. I can imagine that fateful day, when Joseph and Mary feel powerless. They must have been distraught to see their son arrested, cruelly tortured and unfairly judged by the religious and political powers of the day.Even though Joseph is simply a husband to Mary, he feels for this boy born of the virgin Mary. Like a typical parent, he is understandably worried for the safety of Jesus. He finds it hard to let go.

This week is Holy Week. Christians all over the world will  make a special effort to reflect more on the person of Christ. As we remember the work of Christ, and his journey to Gethsemane, we need to let the process of remembrance flow. There is no need to press a quick fast-forward button to jump over Maundy Thursday or the Good Friday crucifixion. Being human, sometimes we want to avoid the pain and torture of Christ to focus on the victory and the ultimate triumph at the cross. This is understandable. Let us be patient. There is a time for everything. Holy Week is not simply about God overcoming death at the cross through Jesus. It is reflecting on God letting Jesus go to the cross in full obedience.

C) The Essence of Letting Go: Love

Holy Week is about love, faithful and everlasting love. It is about a love that is present with us whether in sickness or in health. It is a love that is with us, whether we are sad or happy, uplifted or downtrodden; together or alone. It is a week to remember that love came down to earth in a humble servant to die for the sins of the world. This love is demonstrated so clearly and passionately, that we learn the greatest meaning of dying to self. For parents, we can only glimpse at the willingness of God the Father, letting go of his completely innocent Son, to die for us.

God does not have a divine ego to fill. Neither does He need to justify himself for how creation turns out. Why should He apologize for something that belongs to Him in the first place? It is pure and simple. It is love. Love unlimited. Love freely and fully given. Holy Week is reflecting on this love of the Father that is so great, that God gives his only Son to die for us sinners. It is seeing how God loves us through the highs of Palm Sunday. It shows us the depth of Jesus' love to tolerate the injustice inflicted on Him. It reveals to us the breadth of Jesus' sacrifice for all on the cross. It demonstrates the extent of Jesus' work, to give us all a pathway back to the kingdom. This is because God the Father is able to let Jesus go, and Jesus willingly chooses love.

D) Our Children : Future Leaders of the World
I am a proud father of three growing children. As the years go by, I watch them become more independent, more inquisitive over adult matters, and more intelligent with 21st Century tools like technology and the latest fashions. Sometimes I feel I have more to learn from them, instead of they from me. My parenting posture needs to be readjusted. At some point, ‘letting go’ becomes the primary attitude, not ‘grabbing hold.' The former trusts, the latter distrusts. Grabbing hold is an attempt to control. Letting go is an act of trusting God. Letting go is a discipline that parents will find it hard to adopt. It is necessary. Letting go is love.

As parents, the challenge for us is this. After years of caring and catering to our children’s basic needs, the next milestone of love is to cheer them on. We can either choose to be pessimistic about their future. We can worry constantly about whether they can make it in life. Or we can be optimistic that they have a bright future ahead of them, and that they will know how to handle life when it comes. I want to take the optimistic approach. I take comfort in the words of the famous US President, Abraham Lincoln:

A child is a person who is going to carry on what you have started. He is going to sit where you are sitting, and when you are gone, attend to those things which you think are important. You may adopt all the policies you please, but how they are carried out depends on him. He will assume control of your cities, states, and nations. He is going to move in and take over your churches, schools, universities, and corporations. . . The fate of humanity is in his hands.” (Abraham Lincoln)
As a Christian parent, I do not fully agree with the last statement. In fact, the promise of humanity is in the hands of our loving Father God, through the presence of the Holy Spirit, will guide our children to do the will of God, in heaven as well as on earth. In God’s perfect timing, under the guidance of God and the prayers of the parents, children will soon take charge, and become parents in their own right.
What if we as parents find it hard to let go? What if we find it difficult to trust our children to do what is best for them? We can advice them. We can guide them. We can even try to get the best help for them. Regardless of what parents can do for them, eventually, our children will need to take a step for themselves. When we find it hard to let go, may I suggest prayer. May I recommend that parents adopt an unceasing prayer attitude? In prayer, we never truly let go of our responsibilities. For in prayer, we entrust our deep love for our children into the mighty hands of God.

E) The Final Stage: Letting Go
In conclusion, what is the greatest joy of a parent? I think, as a Christian parent, the greatest joy is knowing that by letting go of our children, we let God take over. We continue on the privilege to pray for them, to watch them mature from a distance, and be loved by God. We see them rallying around friends, and friends around them. It is with deep gratitude to God, that through them, God will change the world in ways that we as parents could not. They will live out their dreams. We can only cheer them on. Like a wise teacher, as our children grows up, we put off the sage-by-the-stage mentality to command them on each and every move. Instead, we take on the role of a guide-by-the-side to cheer them on to good works. The final stage of parenting is simply this: Letting go of our children for growing, and letting God take over for grooming.

Thought: Higher Education is not performing as a sage on the stage, but as a guide by the side. Christian Higher Education moves a step further: Parents praying unceasingly for their children.


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