Proverbs 1:1-7 NRSV
1 The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel:
2 For learning about wisdom and instruction, for understanding words of insight,
3 for gaining instruction in wise dealing, righteousness, justice, and equity;
4 to teach shrewdness to the simple, knowledge and prudence to the young—
5 let the wise also hear and gain in learning, and the discerning acquire skill,
6 to understand a proverb and a figure, the words of the wise and their riddles.
7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.
As a single father of a certain generation, I would love to have the wisdom of Jim Anderson from “Father Knows Best”, or at least Mike from the “Brady Bunch”, but more often than not I feel like Homer Simpson: just fumbling around, trying to do my best, figuring it all out as I go along! It would be nice to say that I’ve pretty much “got it” now that my daughter is a young adult, but while I have gained some wisdom, each new day, each new stage of life brings with it new opportunities for teaching and for learning.
This is not to say that I have been completely useless as a father, far from it…while I have made my share of mistakes, I have done the most important thing, just like these fictional characters, I too love my daughter very much. I have always made of point of being there for her when she needed me, no matter what she was going through. I have also been an active and involved parent, not only because it was the right thing to do, but also because I wanted to…I could not imagine a life where I did not have my daughter with me!
As I raised my daughter I shared my experience, strength and hope with her. I also let her know it was okay to make mistakes, as we all do, but that it is important to own up to the things we have done wrong, even if they were intentional missteps, taken in the heat of the moment. I believe that in almost any situation (unless there is actual abuse) no one is 100% right or wrong, and that it is important to keep your own side of the street clean. So, even when my daughter and I were going through our worst times, and she was getting into a lot of trouble, I would make it a point to apologize for when I acted unreasonably, due to my own anger and frustration! This did not make what she did ‘okay’ but it did help to calm down volatile situations, and was an opportunity for learning and for healing some of the brokenness between us.
This healing allowed us to continue to move forward by putting aside resentment and pain, so that we could eventually come to a place where we could begin to deal with the larger issues behind our turmoil.
As a parent, I also took lessons from the people around me, learning from the example and advice of my family, my ex, friends/girlfriends, professionals, and even my own parents (who seemed so much wiser to me as I made my own journey as a parent). Sometimes I did what they did, at other times, I did the opposite, but most of the time I took what they taught me and did what I could to make it fit into our own situation.
I learned, and gained in wisdom, as I was teaching and guiding my daughter through her own life. One of the most important lessons I learned was when to let go, and to trust God’s grace. This is something I practice every day, and will continue to practice until I get it right…as it is very hard for me to have this trust, especially when I do not see immediate results. As my daughter was growing up, most notably during her teen years, there were many things I could not control and I had to just stand back and let her face the consequences of her actions. This sucked, as I wanted to ‘fix’ everything, but there are just somethings I do not have the tools to fix, or make right again.
This is where I took advantage of the wisdom I had learned, which taught me when I was in over my head, and I reached out for help. While I prayed for my daughter and myself, I also sought help from professionals, and in a real way, I let the ‘system’ take over when she was facing serious trouble. Fortunately, this worked and with help she was able to turn her life around.
However, even if this did not work out so well, letting go (and letting God) would have been the only thing for me to do, not only to stop things from getting worse, but also to keep myself from falling too far into despair. For by trusting in God’s grace in my life, I was given hope and strength and the ability to allow myself to be supported by the people around me, when I felt it difficult to stand on my own two feet.
When we share our experience, strength and hope with each other and with our children, when we let go and turn our troubles over to the care of God, both directly and by trusting in the help of others, we are sharing our faith in God’s love, and teaching our children about the power of that love in our lives.
We are teaching our children, for better or for worse, by all that we say and do…sometimes, we get too busy, or too frustrated to remember that, but if we use our faith in God to inform us in all that we do, or at least to lead us making amends for our mistakes, we are teaching our children well, and giving them a good foundation upon which to build their lives…even if sometimes this takes a while, and can be difficult. Remember that what we work for often has much more value than what we are just given, especially if we work for it with the help of others. For working together builds unity, and strong relationships that can give us hope.
So, while I am not a Jim Anderson or a Mike Brady, I am glad I am not a complete Homer Simpson either…but am glad that I share one trait with all these characters: love for our children, and the desire that they live their lives happy, joyous and free, just as God wants all His children to live!
Let Us Pray:
Dear God, thank you for surrounding us with your love and your wisdom, through your Word and through all those who speak this Word to us! Help us to share this wisdom with our children, and with all those around us, and let us always be open to the learning that comes from trusting in your gracious love…the love that gives us the hope to continue on as we follow the often rocky road of single parenting.