Sometimes I just can’t get much right as a parent.
Sometimes my words fail.
Sometimes my methods don’t work.
Sometimes my bag of tricks is empty.
Sometimes I am high on frustration and low on forgiveness.
Sometimes my kids are grumpy, and I move to the opposite end of the house.
Sometimes trauma triggers a child’s sabotage of trips, outings or holidays, and I resent it.
So often my kids have questions about birth parents, relationship hurts or scary news, and I can’t muster a response.
There are books, articles, and advice I can turn to for every parenting dilemma, but I am learning to look first to the ways of Jesus.
I crack open the pages of His book looking for a twelve-step healing method for my child’s hurt, scripted words to explain abandonment, or ingredients for a grace enhancing concoction. Instead, I find stories of how a village carpenter interacted with people in the Middle East, thousands of years ago.
Yet, somehow, I find His ways relevant. I find uncomplicated answers.
“The Gospels use the words “hands,” “fingers,” and “touch” nearly two hundred times, and the words often refer to Jesus: “Jesus put out His hand and touched him… So He touched her hand… He went in and took her by the hand… Then He touched their eyes… Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand… Jesus came and touched them… Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray…”
– Dr. David Jeremiah
Touch was Kingdom work.
Touch was valuable enough for Jesus’ time, and part of how He healed.
Touch was worth mentioning in the storytelling of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
When my child is fussing, sabotaging, or yelling, my comfort-seeking self wants to move away.
My head says I have every right to be bitter. My bruised ego says I need to self-protect. Nothing says to touch tenderly.
But Jesus. His ways were upside down, crazy opposite our ways.
He didn’t turn His back when rebuked. He didn’t get mad when a woman grabbed at His robe without asking. He didn’t hesitate to touch the contagious leper. He washed the filthy feet of friends He knew would hurt Him. He “gripped the hand” of a 12-year-old girl that everyone deemed hopeless. He didn’t heal the deaf man with words shouted from safely across the Galilee. He didn’t speak a blanket healing for all. He moved toward individual souls. He often healed with a touch.
Oh, to be like Jesus.
Maybe I can try.
Maybe He can use my hands for healing.
Maybe I can move toward, rather than away, when kids are hurting.
Maybe I can pat a back, open my arms wide, or lean in forehead to forehead.
Maybe I can see the mundane, challenging parenting moments as sacred invitations into an upside down kingdom.
Maybe touch is a more powerful tool than I thought.
As parents, the work of our hands is Kingdom work…
Sitting shoulder to shoulder by the eight your old with his answerless questions.
Coming home work weary, yet still bending low to hold the almond-eyed girl in pigtails.
Feeling feverish foreheads.
Writing a note for the trying-to-make-sense-of-the-world teenaged girl.
Conjuring up dishes for the son’s feeding issues.
Holding that new toddler, skin to skin, begging God for bonding.
Being ready with a hug for the unhuggable child.
Sitting knee to knee with the newly adopted, not-ready-to-be-held toddler.
It’s worth a shot, I think, this imitation of Jesus. This decision to move toward the hurting right inside our homes. This effort to touch.
Moms and dads in the trenches, don’t lose heart. These work-of-our hand encounters can feel unseen, hidden, unimportant. These hand in hand moments can feel like one in a zillion as parent and child. This skin to skin parenting work can feel ineffective.
But Jesus demonstrated otherwise. It’s God’s healing, assuring, loving work through us. It’s upside down, Kingdom work. Every last touch. Every last day.
So when you feel stuck and helpless, Mom and Dad, start with a prayer and a look down at your hands. The answer will come.