By Debi Russell
Parenting often feels so strange and foreign- like waking up in a new world without a roadmap.
I remember a hard season when I had two teenage boys and one ten-year-old girl; trying to figure out how much to let go, how much to reign in and what in the world was happening to family dinner times?!
In the midst of that strange new parenting world, I found myself unsure and unsteady in my role; failing at times, other times merely trying to navigate the tension of kids growing up expressing more independence.
I'm on my third teenager now, and while there is less unknown, there are still times I find myself longing to know the next right step to take in helping her grow.
It is in these times God's grace for me (and my kids!) comes through in little glimpses of His work and promises of His continued work through his word.
In the Old Testament God gave His children a very literal portion of provision, manna, like food on a daily basis during their wandering in the wilderness phase.
I'm presuming Moses shared some of my feelings about being in a new and uncharted place as they wandered around trying to find the promised land. God gave them this manna for nourishment, on a practical level. But on a deeper level, it was a way of reminding them that they were utterly dependent on Him to survive. Because let's face it, you cannot make food fall from the sky!
So every day, God provided His grace to sustain His children in the form of manna on the ground for them to collect and prepare meals for their families. The only caveat was each person could only gather enough to feed their family for the day. Not for a week, or month. In fact, if they took more than one day's worth, it would rot.
God knew the tendency to be fearful about the future and try to create false security in stockpiling was very real, so he provided a way to keep His children from indulging that fear.
If we look for it as parents, we can see God still offers daily provision for us today.
In Matthew 6:11 Jesus teaches us to pray for "daily bread" much like God provided for His children in the desert. While this certainly implies God to provide for our physical needs, this prayer can also include asking God to give the daily wisdom, patience, creativity, strength, and peace we need in loving and leading our kids.
Just like the Israelites were often fearful God would not keep providing, we too must wrestle with believing God is working in us to give us what we need as parents. In those moments, going back to both His expressed promises such as 2 Peter 1:3, and His faithful character shown throughout scripture can encourage us.
Equally helpful is seeing how God provides others in our community who have gone before us in parenting and can give us wisdom or who can be another loving adult to help invest in our child. Looking back I see so many different teachers, youth leaders and family members God provided for my kids, just when they needed that person.
Situations I could not have orchestrated- simply good Manna for my kids from God himself. And finally, not every day, but some days God gives us little moments, where the seeds we have been sowing into our children's lives bear fruit and seeing the changes or choices made in the right direction are also an encouragement that God is at work through me in and my kids.
These little glimpses into the unseen work of God sustain me.
When parenting involves discipline, and I feel the loss of closeness to my children in their anger, they help me to remember why I keep at it.
When I fail and wonder if my children will be completely screwed up by my mistakes, they remind me that God is sustaining them too. When I wonder what it will be like in the future, I am reminded to only ask for enough for today, because today is all I am promised, and trying to secure the future will pull me away from my Sustainer into Self-Sufficiency.
I find great comfort in knowing God promises to provide my parenting manna are not dependent on my faith in Him or performance as a mom, but on His faithful and loving character as my Good Father.