one time i asked one of those really wise "older" women her best advice about teenagers.
she thought for a moment (that's how you know someone is really wise. they THINK before they speak. that's also how you know that i am NOT really wise. i don't think before i speak. or think before i promise to write an entire month of blog posts about what to expect when you are expecting a teenager.)
then she answered slowly for emphasis...
"there is no perfect...."
and because patience is not my love language i filled in the sentence for her...
"teenager." (i may have said it with a touch of pride. victory. self-righteousness. just a touch though.)
she smiled. a wise smile.
"yes. you are right. there is no perfect teenager."
i then agreed WHOLEHEARTEDLY. and commenced to speak eloquently for a half hour on the imperfection of my teenagers. it was a moving and passionate dissertation on their failures as teenagers to live up to the standards i had expected. explained. exhorted. and exhaustively demonstrated to them the previous decade (plus) years of their lives. it would have won a tony award had it been in the middle of the musical matilda (which was just nominated for 12 tony awards. which i TOTALLY PREDICTED LAST MAY before it had even hit the broadway stage. i digress. but i digress proudly.)
that wise older woman listened (again, see the wisdom.) smiled. nodded her head a lot. clicked her tongue at the appropriate "tsk tsk" moments. laughed at my little jokes. it was awesome. until this one moment when i took an especially long breath because it had been a really dramatic part of my story and i had made a lot of gestures (i really should up the cardio so i can maintain my dramatic moments without needing extra air). she took her brief and limited opportunity to add one more little bit of wisdom. if "add" means to "drop like a hydrogen bomb on someone's head" this statement...
"well, there are no perfect teenagers. that is so true. but what i was going to say was that there are no perfect parents... i wasn't one. you won't be one. yet somehow God manages to accomplish His purposes through, because of, or in spite of our imperfections."
that is almost as direct of a quote as i can manage. i was still a little light headed from my strenuous work out during the riveting part of my imperfect teenager tale.
so maybe she was trying to shut my mouth or maybe that was her real answer all along. but it did shut my mouth. because i didn't really start to launch into a raucous tale of all my imperfections.
the Truth has a way of shutting you up sometimes.
looking back on my last few years of teenage parenting. i don't think i was prepared for my own imperfections to pile up so large (and to look SO UGLY and stink SO STINKILY) during these years...
but that is okay. God was prepared for these years. He knew my imperfections were there and rather than let me continue to wallow in them or CHERISH THEM (God help me, i do have some imperfections that i like to CHERISH) He lovingly and graciously keeps pointing them out to me. not to shame me. not even so i can develop a 12 step plan of checklists on my road to perfection. but to remind me of what He has done. His perfection. His spotless record. to help me see the gospel clearly. to keep me in a place of humility. to point me to the cross as the only way to be whole.
it was all a complete antithesis to the way i was parenting as i kept pointing out my teenagers' imperfections. to someone else. even if i was doing it to "get wisdom" i was gossiping about my own children. and maybe "slightly exaggerating" some things for emphasis (which is also called "lying" by some people who don't have my flair for language subtleties. and it is called "lying" by God who does have a flair for language subtleties. just not a flair for "lying".)
oh, the irony. the utter irony. pot meet kettle. oh, look you are both the same color.
that is why the end of the 7th chapter of romans is one of my favorite section of verses in the Bible. one reason because it leads us into romans 8 THE BEST CHAPTER IN THE BIBLE (like we get to hand out tony awards to chapters of the Bible that deserve special recognition but if we did then romans 8 is taking home "best performance by a chapter in the Bible"... and the end of romans 7 gets "best supporting group of verses". and matilda is winning all the other tony awards. CAN I GET A LITTLE CREDIT HERE FOR MY BROADWAY ACUMEN?) here it is in the message version...
It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.
I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?
The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does.
He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.
this life of contradictions. when i thought my problem was my imperfect teenagers i was to prideful to see my need to be rescued by God. to focused on them to know that the real problem was my heart and where my hope was set. it is not set on having perfect kids. OR IN BEING THE PERFECT MOM but on the perfection of Jesus. who works in and through and in spite of OUR imperfections AND OUR TEENAGER'S to accomplish His will.
so, what to expect when you are expecting a teenager...
expect to be imperfect. because you will be.
and expect Him to be the perfect Parent. because He will be.
you have His Word on it.
He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it. 1 thessalonians 5:24