Peace in Tension: Parenting

I’ve been reflecting quite a bit recently on how often peace is found and lived out in the tensions between two extremes. Truth and Good. Faith and Charity. Love and Wisdom. The natural world and the spiritual world. This life and the next. God’s sovereignty and humanity’s free-will.

These meditations have application in every area of my life, but a recently highlighted one for me has been in my role as a parent.

Some days I’m a terrible parent.

Other days I’m a great one!

Really, it’s more like moments than days. Minutes. Seconds. Parenting is made up of a thousand, no a million, tiny moments, small decisions, reactions, these tiny, minute, seemingly insignificant seconds that add up, that can be so big, that can be the pin head on which lives change and destinies turn and worlds stop…

It can be really easy to get bogged down in a single moment and lose sight of the big picture.

It can also be really easy to stand back so far, trying to see the whole picture and miss crucial moments.

Like so many things about our faith, peace is in the tension between the truth of two extremes.

Every moment matters.
It’s all about the big picture.

Both simultaneously true. Hard to fathom. Hard to hold. Hard to find balance on that tension.

But it’s there.

Parenting can be like a never-ending test. Every move, every choice scrutinized, criticized, by ourselves, our partners, our parents, our friends, perfect strangers, the whole Internet, (never mind our children!). Angels. Demons. Everyone watching. Quick with comments, criticism, advice. It ranges from well-meaning to mean-spirited and everything in between. The motivations are as varied as the people who bear them and all of it focuses on us like the lens of a reality TV camera, or maybe the 10 o’clock news crew, pulled in tight to catch each micro-second of our lives. Our choices. Our children.

One second. One snapshot. One moment in time. A photo can speak a thousand words, but it doesn’t mean much if we don’t have context. If we don’t zoom out. Pan sideways. If we don’t know or understand the frame that came before it and the one before that and the one before that.

Every moment matters.
It’s all about the big picture.

There are truths at each extreme.
So what are the lies?

Every moment matters. Yes, it’s true. But the lie? It’s hidden there, deep and sneaky, because it’s based in the truth. The lie says every moment matters, so if you miss this one, it’s ALL RUINED. If you mess it up, that’s it, you’re done. That’s a lie. The truth is that every moment matters and there will be another moment. No moment makes up the picture on it’s own. Stand here, in this truth, that every moment matters and look, down the line. See there, at the other end, the big picture, made up of innumerable moments. Stand at this end and face the lie, that this moment is EVERYTHING, and say to it no, it’s not. You’re not. You’re not everything. There are more moments. INFINITE moments, and they ALL MATTER. Every moment is a chance, a choice, and each is precious but on their own they are not everything. They are a piece, to be valued and treasured for what they are in themselves and because they make up the whole.

Look down the line to find the truth in the tension.

Standing at the other end, the truth is that it’s all about the big picture. Where’s the lie? Again it’s sneaky – the lie says it’s all about the big picture so that’s where we should be focused. If it’s only about the big picture, we stand back and let moments pass us by. If it’s only about the big picture we dismiss the moments that we don’t like, that don’t work out, we bury them in the big picture and smother them with other moments, staying back, unfocused on them, always looking ahead or forward and away and missing the now. The moments. The precious, beautiful moments that make up the whole. Each one valuable. Each one a chance, a choice. The lie is that we can see the big picture if we look forward, or even if we step away. But we can only really see it when we look back, back through the moments.

Find the truth in the tension by looking down the line.

So in the moments when I’m a terrible parent, I take a deep breath, and know that this moment is not the sum total of me as a parent and that I am not defined by this one moment. When I look to the future and begin to panic at the overwhelming picture of 18+ or 25+ years, or, really, the lifetime of parenting ahead of me and I start to hold to tightly to a vision of the future in which I ‘get it right’ or I spiral down as I realize I will never ‘get it right’, I take a deep breath, and come back to this moment, this one moment where my child is asking me to watch them, to engage with them, to parent them, and this one moment where I can be a great parent.

I find peace when I find balance between the two extremes, I find peace in the tension existing between two simultaneously true realities.

Every moment matters.
It’s all about the big picture.

About Anne Grace Glenn

Anne Grace Glenn is wife to Rev. Coleman Glenn (a priest in the General Church of the New Jerusalem) and a mom of two. Raised in the Presbyterian Church in Canada, she spent her university years with Catholics and seriously considered becoming a nun and joining the Sisters of Life. She met Coleman at her brother’s wedding (he married a Swedenborgian (New Church) girl), and they spent their courtship 12,516 km/7,777 miles apart, which gave them lots of time to talk. Long theological discussions led Anne to investigate the claims of the New Church and the Writings for herself, and she has embraced them with her whole being. Anne Grace occasionally refers to herself as ‘denominationally challenged’ (she both enjoys the challenges of denominations and is challenged by them), and she has a heart for ecumenism. Her parents are missionaries with OMF (formerly CIM) serving in Singapore. Anne Grace has a BFA from York University with a double major in dance and East Asian history. She spent several years dancing professionally in Toronto, and a year volunteering for OMF in Singapore. In 2012 Anne Grace and Coleman were married in Canada and she moved to Dawson Creek, BC, where they served for 18 months before moving to Westville, South Africa. She has lived in Ontario, British Columbia, Japan, Singapore and South Africa, and embraces both being a TCK (Third-Culture-Kid) and raising TCKs.

3 thoughts on “Peace in Tension: Parenting

  1. So well presented! It reminds me that we don’t have to live in an either/or world – we can choose to live in a both/and world. So much of our faith is based in these seeming paradoxes. You did a beautiful job of demonstrating how we can strive for the both/and. As I read your piece, I kept feeling like there is a song in there just waiting to come out :).

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