the next thing

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Lately, I’ve been failing at parenting in a big way. This is not some sort of low view of myself where I just don’t think I’m good enough or something like that. This is absolutely factual failure. It’s the kind of failure where I know exactly the right things to do, and I have found myself incapable and unwilling to do those very things.

I’ve been praying for a breakthrough. Which is rather stupid when I think about it because I don’t need to have a breakthrough. I’ve already had the breakthrough: I just need to do the right thing. I’ve become fond of a certain response when people ask us how we ‘do it.’ Usually, what they want to know with that question is how we raise a large interracial family with foster and adoption and two jobs and a marriage and special needs and all of that thrown into the ring. Typically what I say is, “I just do the next thing.” We do plan for the future, we do worry about our children, but the very facts of how we make through each and every day tend to boil down to just that one statement: we just do the next thing. No matter what it is. We keep going. We do the next thing.

The rub of it all this past month is that in a certain area of my parenting, I have refused to do the next thing. I know what it is. I absolutely have no doubt about that next small thing I need to do. I’m just not doing it. Sure, it’s complicated, and there are a myriad of reasons why I’m refusing to move forward. Excuses, all of them. What I want is for the problem to be fixed. What is happening is that it’s getting worse. I can stop the downward spiral. Just take a step in the opposite direction.

I read several blog posts last week about doing something small because the small things are what brings us big change. Ugh. I know, I know, I know. Then on Sunday, I went to church and listened to a sermon about Jesus feeding the 5000. If you’re not familiar, this is a story where a boy brings his meager lunch to Jesus, and Jesus performs a miracle, making that boy’s five loaves and two fishes feed an entire crowd of people. (My eldest son wants me to remind you that it says 5000 men. There could’ve been well over 15,000 people once you figure in women and children. This is important to him so that we can truly grasp the depth of this particular miracle.) The thing that’s important though is that that little boy brought his lunch to Jesus. That’s it. He couldn’t have possibly thought it would feed all of those people, and he didn’t give Jesus the number of the local Chik-Fil-A so they could order box lunches for everyone. He just gave Jesus his lunch. The smallest of gifts used for the greatest impact.

I think I haven’t been doing anything because I want the next thing I do to be the solution to the whole problem. I want to be the person who brings the greatest impact, who gets the whole thing done, who fixes our entire situation. Today, I’m saying it aloud, because I need to put it on record: that’s not my job. My job is do the next right thing, no matter how small it is. I don’t have control over the ultimate outcome and pretending like I do is doing our whole family a great disservice. I can control my own actions. So today, tomorrow, this whole week, I’m going to do the next right thing. Maybe not every time, maybe not even most of the time, but no matter how small that next right thing is, I’m going to do it. Then I’m going to do the NEXT right thing, and after that I’m going to do the NEXT right thing. Over and over again.

Tomorrow, I’m going to give Jesus my lunch. No matter how small of a lunch it is, and trust me, right now, it is small. I’m struggling to find enough in me right now to even give anything at all, but I do have something, even if it’s the smallest something ever. Tomorrow, I’m going to get up; I’m going to open up those clenched fists where I’m clutching my illusions of control, my own abilities, my pride, my shame, and all of the things that are happening with this whole trauma-parenting thing, and I’m going to give everything I have to Jesus. I’ll let you know what happens next…

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