Who Is My Neighbor?

When I was expecting my first child, an older woman gave me the best nugget of parenting wisdom that I have.  She told me to always remember that my child is my sister-in-Christ before she is my daughter.  I have clung to these words in so many situations as I am learning to be a mother, and found this to be an extremely helpful perspective to have even when my children are young.

For this season, the Lord has handed me the authority to teach and train these people.  But this season is temporary, and ultimately these children belong to Him.  Their lives are a story that He is writing, not me.  As much as it feels like they are just part of me, they are not.  They are God’s, and they are my neighbors.

Many confusing moments in parenting can be solved with remembering to treat my children like they are my neighbor.  It is not my responsibility to make sure that my children are perfect.  I gave them to the Lord, and He has them in His hands.  He told me to train them, to teach them, and to love them, but their personalities and their characteristics are created for His purpose.  This perspective influences my decisions, my words, and my attitudes.

When my children are continuing to disobey after many corrections, I am called to be patient, just like I would with any brother or sister in Christ.  Instead of sharing embarrassing stories or sins that my children have fallen into, I am called to kindness.  I am called to be self-less, to consider them more important than myself.  I am called to protect them, to hope in them, to persevere with them, to believe in them, to love them.  I have witnessed many parents being more kind to strangers than they are to their own children; yelling at their children, but speaking kindly to everyone at church; giving time and resources to others, but being stingy with their children; giving encouragement to friends, but criticizing their own children on every front; showing compassion and understanding to other children more than to their own.

I recently read an article entitled “The 10 Most Annoying Things About Kids”  The list was something like this…

  1. They are always there
  2. They never stop asking questions
  3. They are sticky
  4. They never listen
  5. They are loud
  6. They are always whining
  7. They are perpetually covered in snot
  8. They are filthy
  9. They are the kings and queens of inconsistency
  10. They are clumsy

Maybe this is why parents have such a hard time treating their children with the love they would show to a friend.  But isn’t this what I have been called to in Christ?  To love the unlovely?  To take a snotty-nosed, whining, loud, clumsy person and show them love?  To wash them and feed them and fix their hair and buy them pretty clothes and teach them patiently and correct them kindly?  When Christ was asked “Who is my Neighbor?” He answered by giving a story about a mess of a man who was cared for by a kind Samaritan.  When my children are throwing fits and refusing to swallow bites of meat and annoying each other, when they are generally just a big mess that is getting in the way of my quiet, clean life, can I take them up and care for them with limitless generosity like that Samaritan?

Obedience has a funny way of carving the path of our perspective.  The more I obey, the more I love, and the more I pour myself out for these people, the more my perspective changes.  I don’t see them as snotty-nosed, whining, loud, sticky, clumsy, selfish people.  I see them as princesses and princes of our King, the King we both serve.  When I obey, I see them as my sisters and my brothers in our Lord.  Although they are helpless, when I am kind to them, the annoyances of caring for them quickly melts away.  And what is left?  Gratitude for the years we have together, and with gratitude, love.