Parenting Perfectly in a Pandemic: How’s That Working For You?
Activities – cancelled. Vacations – cancelled. Even simple dinner parties with friends – cancelled. With COVID-19 continuing to dominate our headlines and our minds, parents have found themselves with more time with their children. Families are riding out the COVID-19 crisis with unprecedented amounts of “together time.”
Suddenly the family dinners we were supposed to be doing all along are possible because everyone is home. Family game nights, movies, and devotionals are all possible because everyone is home. The internet is replete with resources—good resources at that— to provide structure and activities for families staying at home.
When the world as we knew it suddenly began to spin wildly, I sought to control what I could in my home, where we all were forced to be. My self-imposed pressure to do the social distancing season well was stoked by the fuel of outside pressure, seen on social media, heard in conversations, and read through well-meant internet tips. It actually seemed possible to make the new normal better and perhaps perfect. Given lemons, we would indeed make lemonade.
Whether it was e-learning schedules, mealtimes, scheduled exercise , or technology rules, I tried to coerce good ideas and resources for homeschooling, family devotions, and new habits into something they were never intended to do. I took a good schedule for e-learning and made it law. I placed my worth in how well I kept the rules. I took an image of a fun mom and wife who successfully educates her children and made it my hope. I sought perfection by my own hand and devices in the midst of the pandemic.
And let me tell you, it’s not going so well.
Sure there, are moments of calm when everyone is doing their schoolwork. There are occasions when my children listen the first time. There certainly have been sweet hours spent playing games and watching movies together.
But there have also been really dark, despondent days—full out days—in which the pressure to do this perfectly and my inability to do so have crushed and angered me.
In those moments, I am acutely aware of my shortcomings. The tools I had engaged to perfect the pandemic failed, and so I had failed too.
Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, describes man’s state after the Fall in Genesis 3, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world.” However, we were not left to live a futile and hopeless life forever.
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast .” (Ephesians 2:4-9)
Christ took on flesh to save us from our own flesh. He was perfect when we could not be. He satisfied God’s justice on the cross. He defeated death when He rose from the tomb on the third day. Jesus did it all, no credit to me. The Gospel Christians believe hinges on the fact that our salvation is by grace—it is unmerited, undeserved. We can do nothing to deserve it. Salvation is in short, not up to us.
Similarly, our life here on earth is not solely up to us. God sent His Holy Spirit to be at work in His people. The Scripture refers to the Spirit as “the Helper.” Through the Spirit, we are sanctified, that is, made to look more like Jesus, while we live on this side of heaven. This, like our faith, is not of our own doing. Sanctification is not, nor ever will be, up to us.
Just as our justification and sanctification are by God’s grace and through faith, so too, making the “most” of any given season during our lives is by God’s grace and through faith. I am not meant to make the most of this pandemic on my own, and to think so makes my growth about my ability and not about God. When I rest in my own abilities alone, it can end only in disappointment and despondency because I will unfailingly, fail.
Certainly we must be good stewards of our time and resources, both of which have most definitely changed with the pandemic, but ultimately God will use this time for His good. He will be the source of any good that I see within my home, and beyond my home’s walls.
When I see myself rightly, as unable to do what only God can do, then, repenting of my trying to be god-like, I correctly turn to the God who is able. Jesus Christ, Son of God, more than being the perfecter of the pandemic, is the perfecter of faith. “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:14).
Thankfully, God will not only work on and through those He loves and calls His own during a pandemic, but beyond the pandemic. God can take a vessel as imperfect and controlling as me, and use me for His good purposes, purposes that I may not be able to see or even understand. But when I consider the God who gave his only Son for my life, I know I can trust Him and His provision in the days of COVID-19.
I can release my attempts at control, resting in the one who actually has control, and in doing so, I find freedom. Freedom from pressure and guilt, freedom from it being up to me. Freedom from perfecting the pandemic.