I can say with all sincerity that I have loved being a dad. I know Jody feels the same way about being a mom. She loves it. Parenting has been the greatest challenge of my life, except for trying to submit my own issues and foolishness to the lordship of Jesus. When one realizes that God has entrusted little people to your care it is a responsibility that can easily overwhelm. Me and Jody had many questions before we had kids.
What if we completely screw them up?
What if we do everything wrong?
What if they grow up to be terrible human beings?
Or maybe that's the same question worded three ways. My point is that we were terrified to take on the responsibility of parenting and yet we were also excited.
We wanted to bring another person into the world and have the privilege of raising and teaching it to love Jesus. How can you be terrified and excited at the same time? I imagine it's similar to the feeling you have right before you ride that brand new roller coaster that's bigger, faster and longer than ever. On one hand you feel like you should just walk away and on the other you know that nothing will ever be quite like that experience.
All these thoughts and feelings are just based on the idea of having a child. Once the little one arrives, things kick up a notch. It is no longer a thought but a reality. I remember the first time I held each of my children. I never lost that sense of awe at holding a little person that God miraculously created in the womb, a unique combination of genetic material, creativity and design, representing the image of God in yet another individual. With each child, I always thought the first time I held them I might drop them so I held them gently, but firmly. How is it that we so immediately and strongly love someone we don't really know? All we know is that they are ours, a gift from another Parent who wants to share the joy of fathering and mothering.
As children grow, that feeling of love never departs but it is clouded by the frustration of dealing with a corrupt little sinner (see Romans 3:23!). We love without reservation but like is a negotiable term. As we train and discipline, correct and admonish we see the development of a person who might - could be - hopefully will be a person who loves Jesus. Fears of screwing them up become more real as we see the ways in which our children are as flawed as we are. Our kids are really just a magnification of all of our qualities, both good and bad. If you are frustrated with your child, often you need look no further than your mirror.
Then one day your kids are preparing to leave home. 20 years have flown by and everything you have imparted will figure into the man or woman they have become. In the moments of parenting it's easy to think that we are succeeding or failing based on our own merits or the outcome of each situation. But when it's all said and done, the best thing we could say about our parenting is that through it all we depended completely on God for wisdom and direction - that we prayed unceasingly for our children and that somehow we were recipients of God's incredible grace.
Wherever you are in your parenting journey, know that the only way through it is in complete dependence on God. He is the ultimate parent and his balance of grace and discipline is always perfect.