A burden or a gift

Mar 27 2020

What will you choose?

Having been through several periods of confinement for different reasons (convalescence, contagious children, complicated pregnancy…) I feel particularly sorry for those parents of young children who are currently facing a situation where everyone is locked in together. It is particularly trying to find oneself living within four (sometimes narrow) walls with children whose physical, intellectual and emotional needs are inversely proportional to their size.

You can quickly find yourself at the end of your rope. Almost to the point of not being able to stand those energetic little monkeys that you love so much (especially when they are finally sleeping, hehe!), with that unpleasant feeling of ‘enduring’.

So, I would like to invite you to take a few minutes and ask yourself this question as honestly as possible:

‘Are these children that God has given me a burden or a gift?’

It is not about answering according to your mood of yesterday or the mood you are in now, in which case the answer would be ‘it depends’. But what is your underlying belief? Are they a burden or a gift? And why?

I see their presence as a burden when they prevent me from achieving my goals. When their needs interfere mine. When, for example, I want to fit them into my schedule, as if they were objects, not subjects with their own needs, dependencies, emotions or limitations.

Pent-up anger may then grow inside me, making my gestures impatient, my tone abrupt, my words annoying or even belittling, and inevitably transforming encouragement into demands.

To those of us who love Jesus, those of us who love to welcome His presence with a chorus of praise on Sunday, I ask this question:
‘Do we welcome His presence into our lives so enthusiastically when He takes on the features of this little child who demand so much of us? Those children whose needs so joyfully interrupt our nights or our plans?’

Let us remember what Jesus himself taught us: “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me” (Luke 9:48 NIV).

Do I speak ABOUT my children – and TO my children – with the same gentleness and respect that I would have for Jesus?

It is certainly not a question of idolizing our little ones and falling into the trap of a permissive upbringing. But to understand that love – according to Jesus – takes infinite care of the needs of the most vulnerable. And there is hardly anyone more vulnerable than a child.

The Bible affirms that they are a gift (Psalm 127:3). Am I calling God a liar by grumbling at them as if they were a burden?

One day, when I was at my wit’s end, I sat down and asked myself this question: burden or gift? All the circumstances were screaming for the first option! I didn’t answer for a few minutes… I let it settle. Then I decided to believe God, rather than my feelings. To proclaim that whatever the circumstances (sometimes really difficult), they were a gift. This paradigm shift in the depths of our being completely changes our outlook, our attitude, our life choices… but also our choice of words: ‘turbulent monsters’ or ‘treasures full of life’? ‘problem child’ or ‘victory to be won’? ‘trouble’ or ‘hidden blessing’?

Because the reality is that our children become what we think they are. Our words create life or death. And it is our words (even ‘in jest’) that reveal what we believe. For his mouth speaks from the overflow of his heart (Luke 6:45 AMP).

I would go even further: our actions speak much louder than our words! Our attitude and our gestures proclaim – much more than our words – what we believe deep down.

Children have a phenomenal capacity to capture (and absorb) non-verbal language. Long before they even understand the meaning of words, all of this will be imprinted deep in their psyche.

If I see the presence of my children as a burden, they will become a burden, reinforcing my original belief. And the more I ask my children to adapt to MY needs, the more the relationship will become tense and difficult, with bad moods, jealousy, whining, arguments, stubbornness and lots of mistakes.

If I decide to believe that they are a gift, I will experience each annoyance, each difficulty and each expression of their needs differently: as an opportunity to grow and learn to truly love. For in the end, this is the goal that God is pursuing in my life: to teach me to love as He loves.

Moses, the greatest leader of all time, walked at the pace of the little ones. But we often ask our little ones to adapt to our rhythm; to our constraints; to our requirements.

No matter how much we teach them later on that God loves them, how many times have I seen hearts hardened from not having experienced a love that met their psychological needs?

The responsibility of parenthood is immense and it can seem overwhelming. Especially when we ourselves have not received that quality love that fulfilled our own psychological needs. We can feel helpless, overwhelmed, even exasperated by their needs. So how do you do it? This question will be the subject of another article soon to be published.

For now, I leave you with this question: their presence, their needs, their energy, their difficulties: gift or burden?

What will you choose?

Esther Pardini
Paris Campus