Saturday, November 16, 2013

Who Deserves to Be Parents?

I have coffee cup at elbow and a crying grandbaby in the back who I have tried to pacify for the past 20 minutes so his mother can get some much needed rest (he didn't sleep last night; neither did she).

I think he wants his Mommy, not his MayMay.

Lucky for me, an aunt has arrived home with a friend and they are pacifying him much better than I. Patio Pacifying, is what I call it.

What is it about babies and young children that love, love, love being outdoors?

And with all this chaos in the background, the following concerns are vocalized by a friend reading my piece in yesterday's The Joy of Children. It's about how my view of parenting has changed...and how parenting changed me.

And so I feel compelled to answer those concerns and, if I start to loose you in my fast-winding thought-process, please come back to these questions:

* What about parents who really do regret having kids? They love their kids, and there kids are just fine, but they wish they'd never had them.


* What about the parent who had no business having kids at all? 

* What about the children treated like dogs and who later pay the price of neglect and abuse?

Society's solution? I think we could answer that rather easily.

Those people have no business being parents, most of us might agree. Yet as a society, a culture, as Christians, we owe it to mankind to help these parents, to intervene, to assist; often to sacrifice at great expense our own time, money and comfort.

Sometimes the expense on our time, money, and comfort are enough to harden the hearts and souls of many of us. It breaks more than our pocketbooks. It breaks our desire to help anyone.

God knows all about great sacrifice at a personal expense of his undeserving children. He's been there, done that. I wonder if He regrets it.

I understand this side of the debate and I've scraped it on the heal of my shoe several times.

I've read lots on Dorothy Day (am still reading lots) trying to understand the whole social justice/God's justice/ Christian servitude/ God's mercy. She lived it. She worked it. She prayed over it. She agonized over it. She stressed over more undeserving souls than I ever will. So much of social justice seems to contradict itself. Seems to... 

Justice and Mercy in the same sentence?

Parenting and Salvation in the same sentence?

The fact is we all come into this world on a wing and a prayer. We have nothing and no one owes us anything.

And out we go again...

We have nothing when we are born. Nothing. Anything we get is gifted to us by God. He owes nothing and we deserve nothing.

Some are gifted more than others. Some have easier lives than others.

Some have good parents, some have bad; most of us get a mixture.

There is no perfection in parenting.

And what happens when that parenting is flawed and fails at rock bottom?

My father-in-law's father abandoned his wife and five children. My father-in-law's oldest brother died at 15, leaving my father-in-law as the oldest. His sisters say he was the father figure in their lives. He learned how to be a father the tough way.

He worked to provide for his mother and younger siblings. He could have blamed his father for his misfortune and not proven himself any better of a man. He could have left the whole lot of them and said the hell with everybody, including God.

He didn't.

{Me with my faither-in-law.}

Because of his hard experience he became a better husband, a better father and left four sons who have carried on his legacy and are great fathers today. They all serve their families at the expense of great self-sacrifice to themselves.


Society would have said Mark's grandfather had no business being a father and, truth is, he wasn't much of one yet, God used that man to help create a wonderful man in my father-in-law. 

Without one, you cannot have the other.

My father-in-law touched many lives. The hidden fact is that this hand of mercy had an invisible reach back to a man who gave nothing and deserved nothing. This is truth. This is reality. Society would probably say my husband's grandfather had no business having five children he was not equipped to provide for and care for.

Society would say he's not worthy of this.

But God willed it. Because it was His picture to create. Not ours. And God uses imperfect creatures... all of us... to create life with Him. It isn't for us to spoil God's will or God's plan.

Mark's grandfather is no longer here to stand fruitful in the picture but his name is on the family tree and cannot be dismembered. So it is with Mark's father...the one who would have loved to have shared in this day.

Is justice shown? Is mercy present?

The Church calls us to be open to His will...His plan...His life within us...preferably within the holy bonds of matrimony. Preferably as good parents.

Yes, we mess things up. Royally so. We have no need to look further than our own community, city, church, and cloister to see a sinful fallen world. We experience it daily, weekly.

This is the reality, a reality we all know, a reality I don't avoid. If anything, my job as director of religious education puts me in a dilemma with mercy and justice. Reality puts me constantly out of my comfort zone. I speak to a lot of parents and hear lots of contradicting opinions and see lots of different lifestyles. I don't judge them because I have no clue as to what their full story is. What I must try to do is show them the beauty that God sees in each family, each home, and each situation and bring them into a greater awareness of a loving mercy that they have done nothing to earn. I can only do this while embracing mercy in a world that shouts for justice.

Justice and Mercy. As contrary as they are, they go hand-in-hand. We cannot have one without the other. The only way to commune them is through prayer. Lots and lots of prayer.

Mercy in life is something the Church calls us to present to others and it can be found. Some people think of it as throwing a veil over an otherwise flawed image of life. A superficial masking over of life's reality.

They're right.

It's like a rare piece of fossilized amber. Raw life is ebbed and veiled over. The sap of life rolls down a tree and kidnaps a defenseless creature in its agonizing, merciless grip. It is hushed and silence. It's hidden.

Most of us look at the sap in life and choose to see a sticky, useless, disgusting mess. We go years searching for that one small piece of mercy that life has never shown us, digging for it; never finding it. But it's there and some are lucky enough to discover it, often because they never stop searching. They know that if they wait long enough, that sticky sap will turn into amber and encase the very dimensional code that is life itself.

Hardened and calcified by outside forces and storms, the life preserved is still a thing of beauty and mystery...mostly because it is now untouchable and unexplainable. A mystery to us who do not know the full story. It shows us that there is life outside of life and it is usually outside of ourselves as well.

So, for the concerns that keep arising and for which we might never find answers:

* What about parents who really do regret having kids? They love their kids, and there kids are just fine, but they wish they'd never had them.

* What about the parent who had no business having kids at all? 

* What about the children treated like dogs and who later pay the price of neglect and abuse?

It might not be for us to decode those questions. Not that we should ever stop seeking justice but knowing that we are owed nothing nor do we deserve anything. Sometimes being encased in sap is mercy enough. We do better in quieting the voices around us and just knowing that life and mercy happens outside of ourselves and is often an agonizingly slow process.

Does this sound like saccharin spirituality? The kind that turns people away from the beauty that is God? Perhaps. For me, it's all I have. It's my own little translucent gemstone that encases the one thing that makes it truly valuable...a precious entity called life.

Thus my imperfect parenting, and yours, becomes a thing of beauty and a lifeline of mercy for future generations.

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