Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Vanity in Parenting


Vanity is defined as an excessive pride in or admiration of one's own appearance or achievements.

Often when we hear this word, we think of an obsession with our physicality or looks.

While I do struggle with vanity in this sense, it pales in comparison to my struggle with vanity in parenting.  Those of you who see me on a regular basis know that I don't pretend to have a good fashion sense or frankly even a clue about style.  If friends wrote in to one of those "What Not To Wear" television shows about me, I'd likely get on.  But I absolutely DO care about how my kids look to others, and not just in a physical sense. 

Let me explain myself further.

We would consider a person vain (in the physical sense) when they constantly focus on what they look like.  Perhaps they are obsessed with name brand clothing.  Perhaps they are first to mention another persons looks before anything else.  Perhaps they fret and obsess over presenting themselves as physically put together in whatever setting they are in.  Individuals with this struggle might curl their hair before heading to the gym or wear fake eye lashes in labor.  Just saying.

Well in parenting I can constantly focus on what my children look like.  Obsessing over whether they look smart, well mannered, considerate, mature, disciplined, creative, even beautiful or handsome.  When I look at other children I sometimes focus on these attributes first.  Sometimes, with certain people, I feel the need to present my house and family as put together, organized, and thriving.  I'll remind my children to behave and use manners when someone is coming over I'd like to impress.  I'm even guilty of sometimes dolling up little Allie-girl so people see her as adorable.  

Why do I sometimes do these things?  Because I have pride concerning my children's appearances and accomplishments.   I care because I feel that their appearances and accomplishments reflect back on me.   

The Bible teaches that man looks at the outward appearance but that God looks at the heart.

We find this nugget of truth from 1 Samuel 16.  Samuel is sent by God to the town of Bethlehem.  God tells him to go the house of Jesse where he will find the new king of Israel.  Now Jesse had many strong sons but God told Samuel to anoint the youngest of them all, David.  Why?  Because David was a man after His own heart.

God views my children and family in this same way.  He doesn't care if they are in the highest reading group in their class.  He doesn't care if they look hip and trendy.  He doesn't care if they appear well-mannered and disciplined to those outside my home.  He doesn't care if they are the star of their basketball team.  He doesn't care if they are master musicians or artists. 

He only cares if their hearts are seeking after His.  For when they are, their appearance and accomplishments are in His will.  Their motivation is drawn from their love and commitment to Him and His Word.  They want His adoration.  His praise. His recognition.  His stamp of approval.

The same is true for me as their mother.  God doesn't care about whether I look like a smart, creative, fun, and accomplished parent.  He cares if my heart's motivation is His.  I should care only that I receive His stamp of approval. 

Vanity in parenting is a slippery slope.  And its doomed to fail us.  Our children's appearance and accomplishments will never impress this world because frankly our world is full of critics and skeptics who are virtually impossible to impress.  Just look at the rising trend of competing parents.  Even if my kid was worthy of impressing others, most parents have a million reasons why their kid is better.  

This is a truth and lesson I'm slowly learning. God is chipping away at my vanity in parenting and exposing it as foolish.  I've begun to find freedom in presenting my children and family as works in progress.  I have become more vulnerable and real with other moms about my kids because I've finally come to the realization that I probably couldn't impress them even if I tried.  I want more of God's heart in my parenting.   

As I pray for myself and ask God to show me more and more of His heart regarding my children and parenting decisions, I cannot help but pray for my children as well.  They will struggle with vanity in some sense.  It's nearly impossible to avoid its' self-absorbing grip.  Wouldn't it be incredible if they could learn at a young age that vanity in a worldly sense is meaningless and doomed for failure BUT that striving after a heart like God's is a surefire way to receive God's praise!  In the same sense, wouldn't it be great if they could care most about pleasing Him (before others and myself) in their appearance and accomplishments!

Would you join me and let's pray for our children in this regard.

God,

Today I pray for my children and ask that you would protect their hearts from vanity.  I pray they would learn at a young age that striving to impress others with physical appearance and accomplishments is doomed for failure.  Protect them from obsessing over their physical appearance and accomplishments in order to impress those around them (even me).  I pray they would know that You care only about their hearts.  May they humbly seek after Your heart.   And may they strive to impress You with honest and sincere hearts that are fully devoted to You and Your will for their lives.   

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