Yesterday, during an especially frustrating time with my children, I stepped outside to get some fresh air. As I sat on the step, my attention was drawn to all of the little green sprouts in my garden. I haven't explicitly planted anything, yet, but I had buried some rotten pumpkins and the birds had dropped some sunflower seeds, and I had eagerly been watching the progress of those sprouts. But the temperature had dropped below freezing the night before, and several of my garden volunteers had withered overnight. I was somewhat disappointed, but not too much, because really, I had done nothing to nurture those plants, and if even a few survived, they were still freebies. And a few actually had survived. I thought to myself, "Those were probably the strongest ones, and a good dose of cold probably just made them hardier."
My mind wandered back to my children. They have been misbehaving more than usual lately, and I have been losing my temper and yelling more than I like. I found myself praying an all-too-familiar prayer, "Dear God, please don't let me screw them up too much."
One of the hardest parts of motherhood, for me, has been watching the consequences of my imperfect actions affect my children. It's terrifying to think that I have been entrusted with these perfect specimens of humanity, and it feels like anything I do will just damage them.
Suddenly, the parable of the talents from Matthew 25 came to mind. A master goes away, and entrusts three of his servants with varying amounts of money. Two of them invest the money and turn a profit for their master. The third one buries his in the yard and returns exactly the amount he had been given. The master is angry with the third one. He wanted to watch his money grow - that's why he entrusted it to the servants in the first place.
It is so tempting, as a parent, to want to shield our children from anything negative in the world. To hide them away and keep them safe. Especially as a Christian, the idea that my children are not mine, but God's, can be overwhelming. What if I mess them up? But God gave them to us to grow. And they will never reach their full potential without some degree of trials and testing.
Two thoughts immediately began battling for my attention. The first was how horrible it was to think of myself as the agent of suffering that my children will have to endure in order to grow stronger. That's not a very pleasant role for a loving mother to imagine herself in! But I think that's taking the analogy too far. I am not recommending or condoning causing any deliberate suffering in your children's lives. But I can't beat myself up for doing my best and falling short. God knew my failings, and still gave me these kids. If nothing else, my kids can learn all about repentance and seeking forgiveness, because my failures offer me ample opportunities to model that to them.
The second thought was even darker. What about all those sprouts that shriveled up and died? What if my gamble doesn't pay off, and instead of growing stronger, my kids are ruined forever?
And the parable of the talents came back to my mind again. It has always bothered me just a bit that none of the servants made bad investments and lost their master's money. The story could have gone an entirely different direction, then, with the master praising the one who at least returned his original money, instead of gambling and losing it.
But, it's a parable, not an economics lesson. It's there to teach us about our relationship with God. And, whatever the "talents" in your life are - your children, your skills/abilities, your resources - God gave them to you to watch them grow. The fact that none of the servants in the parable lost their master's money is not an oversight, it's reassurance. Your omnipotent, omniscient God gave you that talent, and he will guard his investment, if you just trust him, and let go.