So, I’m in the middle (chapter 10, to be precise) of reading Sarah Mackenzie’s The Read-Aloud Family. And by “reading,” I mean “listening.” Ironically, the only way I can read right now is to be read-aloud to myself. 🙂 I much prefer reading an actual book. I love underlining and circling and underlining and dog-earring. I love writing my thoughts and mini-essays in the margins. I process and remember so much better that way.
But after going through a LOOOOONG season of not reading much of anything besides board books and debate briefs, I decided a subscription to Scribd was a small price to pay for my own mental health and investment in mother culture.
I have no regrets.
There are lots of great parts in Read-Aloud that I wish I had pushed the “bookmark” button for, but didn’t get to, (alas, the downfalls of listening and driving…) but this one I managed to scramble and tap the small icon before it moved on too much past the thought.
Mackenzie is quoting children/YA author, Katherine Paterson, when she writes,
“When I write a story it is not an attempt to make children good or wise. Nobody but God can do that, and even God doesn’t do it without the child’s cooperation. I am trying, in a book, to simply give children a place where they can find rest for their weary souls.”
These three sentences sponsored several thoughts.
First, I have written Christian drama, adapted books for stage, and even dabbled in children’s writing myself–although I want to do more. I have personally felt the conflict of wanting to make the best decision for the story, and the expectations of a conservative Christian audience to insert clear black and white messages and even work in a salvation prayer or a character hug somewhere. But you and I know that life isn’t like that. It isn’t black and white. We don’t know all the answers. And I don’t know why writers are expected to inject all of that in a play that’s 90 minutes long, or a story that’s barely 10 pages (in the case of a child’s picture book). I mean, we aren’t all script writers for Full House, you know?
Second, I love the implication here that, just like we shouldn’t expect an author to shoulder the burden of “making children good or wise,” we CAN expect THE Author to do that. I believe that each story has the Gospel in it– Creation can’t escape it. Every time a story has good triumph over evil… every time sin has a consequence… every time a character struggles to make the right choice… every time a princess is rescued or ANYONE is rescued– that’s Gospel. That’s Truth. That’s the Story that is inscribed on our hearts. I believe God can and does use story–all of it– to impress Truth on us. That’s His Craft. His Business. His Work.
The third thought Paterson’s words provoked had absolutely nothing to do with writing and everything to do with parenting. Ah, parenting. You know. That 24/7 job that, at least for me, takes 98% of my brain’s CPU when its in problem-solving mode.
I very much feel the heaviness in my heart when my children do things they aren’t supposed to do. The problem isn’t that they are “misbehaving” or “acting their age.” Children do silly things, have maturing brains, etc., etc. I get that.
My thing is, so often, I have a hard time discerning if something is “just a phase,” or the beginning of a horrible character flaw and sin habit. The first possibility requires more patience than anything else. The second requires intentional consistency that is exhausting, but necessary.
Unlike bookwriting, parenting does have more of a goal and obligation of imparting goodness and wisdom in their children. It is the parents responsibility to take care of their specifically-given children, unlike an author that writes for an age-group of people they don’t personally know.
But here is where I think the quotation hits home. Literally.
Like a story, I can’t make my children good and wise. I can’t. Sure, I can *try.* Sure, I can encourage it and make choices that help deposit those things in the heart of my children. And sure, I can do my best to NOT GET IN THE WAY of goodness and wisdom taking root. But the burden of squeezing in all goodness and wisdom in my children in the 18 years I have them? I can’t do that.
But you know what? Making my children good and wise isn’t my job. Because “nobody but God can do that.” And Paterson is also right– God waits for cooperation. A willingness. He waits for me– and will wait for my children– to come to Him, after feeling the tug and persuasiveness of His Love and Truth and promise of Rest.
And that leads us to the end of the quotation: “I am trying, in a book, to simply give children a place where they can find rest for their weary souls.“
Recently, I have been full of my own wonderings of “what should I do?!” as a parent. I don’t want to under-react or over-react, so I don’t know how to ACT at all.
But when I heard this quotation, it was like a little light went off in my head and heart.
What if I tried, in my home, to simply give children a place where they can find rest for their weary souls. That was it. To offer rest.
So when drama happens? Offer rest.
When they are tired? Offer rest.
When they are sad? Offer rest.
When they don’t know what to do? Offer rest.
And we might think to ourselves, “how much rest do they really need? How ‘weary’ can a 3 year old be?” (Or a 6 year old or 10 year old or 13 years old or 35 year old… <<ahem>>)
But weariness affects our children just as much as it affects us. They have their version. We have ours.
And in our weariness, what do we want most?
And think about it. Isn’t it life-Rest and soul-Rest that draws us to Jesus?
So, it makes me wonder. What would happen if I stopped trying so hard to “make” my children good and wise, and instead, focused on making a home that invited them to experience True rest?
Wouldn’t I be inviting them to Jesus?
Wouldn’t I be ushering them to the One who CAN make them Wise and Good and Whole and Well?
And in focusing on Rest for them, an interesting thing happens.
I find that I can find Rest, too.