Every week in The Kiddy Pool, Erin Newcomb confronts one of many issues that parents must deal with related to popular culture.
My college running coach relayed an anecdote that has stuck with me for years. He described a conversation with an athlete who says “Coach, when does this get easier?” The coach responds “It doesn’t. You just get faster.” That message parallels not just my running life (where, let’s be honest, I’m not actually getting faster anymore) but also my experiences with parenting and with being a Christian.
I started thinking about this story again this week after a conversation with a new mother who quipped “I guess I’m just not a natural at mothering.” She reached this conclusion after expressing the exhaustion of soothing a colicky child—a frustrating experience precisely because of her incredible love for her child and the inevitable realization that parents can’t fix everything, even for babies. Sure, some parents hit their stride right away, fall instantly in love with their babies, and seem to thrive on sleep deprivation and dirty diapers. Not me.
Yet the message that parenting is ultimately a relationship, with the attendant peaks and valleys, flies in the face of our instant-gratification, results-driven culture. Every decision from an overwhelming array of options gets sold as a deal-breaker. Parents feel the need to qualify conversations about the challenges of child-rearing with declarations of familial love—as if admitting that parenting is hard somehow diminishes affection and worthiness. I think the reverse is true, that parenting is hard precisely because of how much love is involved.
I hear the same kinds of concerns in Christian circles; the impression is that there’s something wrong with a Christian who struggles, in spite of the persistent theme of struggle in the Bible. Look at Hebrews 11 for a general survey of persecution, or consider that when Paul asks God to remove the thorn from his side, God says no. His grace suffices; His strength finds perfection in weakness. In short, He isn’t going to make it easy.
I once read about a group of Christians in Africa who baptize believers in the ocean, casting the convert into the waves three times to demonstrate that the life of the Christian is a life of struggle. The struggle is natural and necessary for refinement—even if that truth doesn’t fit our quick-fix culture. The elite runners who seem to float along effortlessly are fleet-footed precisely because of their intensive training. Christians can face trials peacefully not because knowing Christ makes life easy, but because the Holy Spirit dwells within the faithful. The parenting process cycles through moments of relative ease and challenge, with new trials budding like breaking teeth. It’s a process filled with intensive joy and confounding heartache, but it’s not easy. And that’s natural.