Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Shack: Trust and Love

I've been discussing with different people on how I've been using this book to learn how to parent better.  We were created in the image of God, and sent to earth to live in families so we can learn to be like God, so it seems like we should try to parent as God parents us.  Of course, when I mentioned that to a friend they immediately hung their head in disparage and said something like, "oh no, I don't need THAT!"  I wasn't really able to clarify then, but maybe this post and quote will make it sound a little less impossible and a little more hopeful!

Like many people, the main character (Mack) has problems with God because He lets terrible things happen to people on earth.  He doesn't know how a loving father could let that happen.  There is a lot of discussion on pages 124-125 on why God is good, why there is pain in the world, and how He tries to use that pain and evil for good.  It's at this point that Mack kind of admits that he does not really trust God.  This is Papa's* response: (*"Papa" is the name that the author uses for God.  I'm going to use it from here on out because it helps me recognize that this is a conversation between the characters)

“You cannot produce trust just like you cannot ‘do’ humility.  It either is or is not.  Trust is the fruit of a relationship in which you know you are loved.  Because you do not know that I love you, you cannot trust me…For now I just want you to be with me and discover that our relationship is not about performance or you having to please me.  I’m not a bully, not some self-centered demanding little deity insisting on my own way.  I am good, and I desire only what is best for you.  You cannot find that through guilt or condemnation or coercion, only through a relationship of love.  And I do love you.”      (pg 126)
So there it is, in black and guilt or condemnation or coercion.  Now, none of us will admit that we do those things because in reality what we do isn't at all as bad as any of those words sound.  But aren't I trying to coerse my child into doing something if I say, "I'll get you ---, if you do --- for me"?  If I had a relationship of love with that child I could say, "Hey, you know what, I can't really go to the store for --- right now because I'm working on ---".  An older child might recognize that they could help in some way, but a younger child might need a little more prompting like, "would you like to help me?"  I'm having a hard time coming up with a condemnation scenario, but I think it can  also mimic the idea that your love is based on performance.  After I read this, I started to say things like, "I don't want you to feel bad about that or feel like you've done something wrong, I want to have a discussion about it so we can have a relationship.  I love you no matter what you do or don't do."  I can't believe how positively my kid responded to this statement!  As far as guilt goes, nobody needs that!  I've had to take back some things I've said to my kids, I do it with a genuine apology (not something followed by a "but you..."), and I still sometimes worry that the guilt is already out there.

"...and I desire only what is good for you", is another line that I especially liked.  Seriously, if I keep my eye on that and communicate that to my kids, what else is there? I know I was able get that idea across to my oldest on several occasions, but it has been more difficult with subsequent children. Not only are there more personalities to juggle, but what is best or good for one, might not be the same for the other and we have to make compromises.  That's hard for little kids to understand, and doesn't seem fair for older kids.  What am I talking about here?  The baby that misses their nap or has to sleep in the car because you need to take another child someplace. (not so good for the baby)  The oldest child that can't leave out their projects (be it school related, a puzzle, legos, etc.) because their little siblings will or already have gotten into it and ruined it.  The fact is, as their parent, you want what is good for them, but sometimes it's difficult to find the communitative good for all your kids, all at the same time.  I guess that's when it's important to have those strong relationships of love and trust already built. (Ugh!  Where was this book 13 years ago?) I've found that when I just pause an argument and say, "you know, I'm just trying to figure out what is good for you here," we make progress by listening to each other and figuring it out together.  I've surprised myself by swallowing my pride and seeing that sometimes I need to "cave" into my daughter's request.  (I'm joking with the word "cave" there, but how many times do we stand our ground because we can't give in to what our kids want?)
So there you have it, Parenting 101, from The Shack.  Of course, this could be Friendship 101, Leadership 101, Marriage 101, Teaching or Business Relationships 101...the list goes on.  It really is a good idea to create a relationship based on love with anyone that you want to trust, isn't it?  And don't we want to trust anyone that we want or need to be in contact with on a regular basis?

1 comment:

Rachel said...

These have been really good for me to read. Keep them comin' (please)!