We returned last week from 23 days in the northeast, visiting our family. It was a fun, busy, at times chaotic trip that was every bit worth the effort (a decent amount, actually, since I was single-parenting for 2/3 of the time).
On the final day, I took my children to visit my 90-year old grandmother at the retirement home where she lives near my parents’ house. I had visited her several times in the prior weeks but not with all three kids. They were rowdy and boisterous, zipping around the lobby seating area where we were visiting. The older two didn’t listen well. I felt like a mother who has not taken time and effort to train her children.
Afterwards I began an internal post-visit assessment of the situation, and mentally unpacking my response to my kids’ handling of themselves during the visit. How hard was it appropriate for me to come down on them for their poor performance and lack of obedience? Should they receive a consequence for not obeying their mom fully and well? Were my expectations of them overly high? It was, after all, day 23 on the road, and they were anticipating our evening flight later that day. And they’d been without their father for over a week. Did I need to relax and just leave it alone? Or should I view the situation as a failure on my part to train them appropriately for need-to-sit-(primarily) still situations such as this one?
Eventually the chief conclusion I reached, at the end of my pondering, was this: I have the brain of a strategist, and that in itself needs some consideration. My natural bent is toward rational thinking, assessing situations, coming up with conclusions and recommendations, and making adjustments. It’s why my (paying) occupation as a consultant is a good fit. It’s a primary reason I kicked off this blog. My mind naturally ponders, and it naturally goes in a diagnostic direction.
But there can be overmuch of that type of thing too. The downside of continually observing, assessing, diagnosing, tweaking (and to be clear, there are many upsides) is that I can spend a lot of time in my head. And I can spend a lot of time focusing on things that need to be improved on. It’s not always the best place to spend my time in parenting.
At the end of the day, I would rather be a mother who enjoys her children for the bulk of the day than one who continually assesses them and ponders their behavior – how they fared; how things could be improved. And I’m not sure that I’m such a mother now.
Not long ago I arrived upon a typical-consultant-style concept about the life of faith. In my head I call it the “stewardship-surrender spectrum.” (I know, an alliteration too. Nice, huh?) At one end is stewardship: we need to steward our lives, gifts, time, opportunities well. Laziness and procrastination unwelcome. And lest we’re inclined to blow this off, let’s remember that all this matters a great deal to Jesus. At the other end of the spectrum is surrender. Our life is God’s, and at the end of the day, the only thing that really matters is loving Him wholly and well. Everything else pales in comparison, and we are not in control. So let go already; get over it. Stop assessing each detail of life and trying to control everything, and just relax into Jesus and the full life He died to give you.
The point is to live smack dab in the middle – halfway between stewardship and surrender. Both are critical, see, but too much of either one is disastrous.
An analyzer like me with type-A tendencies can spend more time in the stewardship side of things than she should. And, I’ve been thinking recently, I do spend too much time thinking about stewardship and trying to make the most of every opportunity. I am diagnostics-heavy. God would have me lay off the stewardship a bit and draw me back toward surrender, and I think He’s in the process of doing so. Now just to the job of letting Him! And if there are fewer ponderings here in the coming weeks as a result, then you’ll know why.