A parenting expert whom I follow likes to reply to parents who complain that their children just really know how to push their buttons that maybe we have too many buttons to push! I don’t particularly enjoy that line of his but think it’s probably a bit true.
In the past 2 and a half years, I’ve met with a life coach, mainly to help me figure out what I want to do when I grow up. In that process, we’ve discussed some recurring issues that stand in the way of my personal and spiritual growth. Whatever a particular issue is, it always seems to land in one of these categories – the need for control, the desire of others’ approval, and my sense of identity being found in my accomplishments.
There’s a book I read a while back about spiritual disciplines that suggested that when you need to work on a certain issue, say patience, you need to put yourself in situations where you KNOW you’ll have to practice patience in order to strengthen that muscle. Well, apparently, the same is true for those categories up there. But, what happens when you don’t put yourself in the position of getting stronger in an area? God puts you there! At least that’s what happened (is happening) to me.
Let me back up.
You may have already read some of our journey into and out of our first foster placement this past year. I’m not going to re-hash those details here. It was one of the most challenging times in my life to date. But one of the most surprising aha moments I had during the time we were fostering was that my motivation for fostering was indeed placed by God, but not for the reasons I assumed.
I thought he wanted us to foster because He knew we had love to give. He was asking us to sacrifice some comfort and convenience to provide for someone in need. He had already equipped us with some great parenting tools with some of the issues we had with our bio children. I was pumped – excited to do this thing for God. But, while all these things were true to an extent, I’m seeing now that He had much more in mind when he placed this desire in my heart. It wasn’t so much about what I could do for God but what God would do in me as we walked this road. It went something like this –
Oh, you like to feel in control, do you? Well – let’s have the social worker call you on a Friday afternoon about two children under 2 who need a home. Then she calls you later to switch the genders. She can’t tell you when they’ll get there so you’ll do a lot of hurry up and waiting, scurrying to get the house baby proofed and diapers bought and other kids squared away. Then, over the weekend, maybe it would be a great plan for a new house to come on the market that seems worth checking out – such a great house that you and your husband spend hours discussing the finances and go ahead and put in an offer. Then, a few days later, find out you’re pregnant with a fourth child. Then, lose the house you put an offer on. Still feeling in control?? Didn’t think so!
Ok, now that you’re spinning a bit on that – you feeling the need for some affirmation and approval today? Great timing because it’s a visit day! You get to drop off the children for whom you’ve been doing EVERYTHING and get criticized for not bringing a spoon for the baby’s food. Then, come home afterwards and have bio children be sad about not being able to spend as much time with you. Mmm, feels so good.
Let’s see, what else. Oh, yes, that pesky sense of accomplishment! What was it that you did all day today? There were days that it seemed I accomplished nothing, just literally nothing. Unless putting out fires (the figurative ones) is an accomplishment. Unless saying at the end of the day – well, no one DIED – is an accomplishment.
Oh, God. You were really pushing all my buttons. Sometimes all of them in one day. I think these buttons will be with me for most of my life. But, with some perspective now, I can see that he was filing them down for me. Scraping me up against situations that rubbed off some of the shine from those particular buttons. It doesn’t feel quite so nice now to want to control a situation. I don’t expect and crave nearly as much approval from others. And I’m learning to be content with a different definition of accomplishment. God also really showed up during all that button-pushing. He’s actually NOT like a bratty toddler who pushes buttons for fun 🙂 He’s pushes one, then waits for me to fall in to Him. He reminds me of songs and verses that soothe when I get raw from the scraping.
It still kind of makes me stop and think about how I perceive all of God’s ‘callings’. I’ve always thought of them as these great works we’ll go out and do. Think of all the great things He has for us to DO out there! And I won’t deny that He does have good things for us to do (and I believe we did great things for the kiddos that were with us for 7 months) BUT it’s about so much more than that. What if the things He calls us to are for our own good as much as for the ones we’re called to ‘help’? What if our need is just as great? What if our weaknesses are just as important as our strengths when figuring out our callings?
I’m going to end with this quote from Jennie Allen and her book, Restless. She is speaking of Joseph and the trials he faced on his way to fulfilling the purpose God had for him:
Even though it was all leading to a specific time and place, it was also building a man God could use. Sure, our stories lead us toward our purposes, but they also make us into people strong enough to fulfill our purposes.
My response? Push away, God. I’ve got lots more buttons.