Self-sacrifice - I did not know until I had children what it was to give myself up completely to the need of another person. To wake, to feed, to play with, to rock, to change and bathe and clothe at every moment of every day - not to mention doing laundry, picking up toys, washing dishes. How is it possible to do so much for one tiny person, and instead of being overwhelmed with need, to be overwhelmed with love instead. I think this reveals a small inkling of how much God loves us. He cares for us in every moment, and yet is not overwhelmed by our need, but rather loves us fiercely.
To love fiercely - Falling in love with someone and committing your life to them teaches you a fierce love - a love that considers what is best for that person, a love that surpasses their faults and mistakes, a love that endures through the joys and sorrows of life. Rearing a child teaches you to love fiercely as well - to love through the moments that are great frustration, to love them for their unique personality and gifts, to long for the best for their life, to agonize with them in their pain, and rejoice in their accomplishments, to long to protect them and guide them.
The myth of infallibility - Being a parent has taught me above all that I am not capable. I cannot do this journey alone, dependent on my own strength. I will fail every time. I remember when we were deciding on a name for our 3rd little girl, I wanted Faith for her middle name, because I knew there was no way I could continue the path on my own. There is Hope as well, because the Spirit of God leads me beyond my weaknesses.
The Spirit of God leads me beyond my weaknesses - When I have thought I have not the strength to go on... when I feel that my patience is completely depleted... when there are those days of little sleep, cranky kids, sickness, struggles, transition, travel... God leads me beyond myself. He has never abandoned me. I remember when I felt I was at the end of myself, I emailed a dear friend and mentor and she wrote to me and encouraged me and shared with me the following verse:
He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young. Isaiah 40:11
Gently leads those that have young. He gently leads us because he understands. He shows the way because he knows we cannot make this journey without a shepherd to gather us in his arms and carry us close to his heart.
To enjoy life - One only has to watch a child carefully to truly understand what it means to enjoy life - the joy that comes with the fascination of discovery The joy that comes from the simple things in life: a hug from a parent, bubble blowing, a tickled tummy, swinging, a shared giggle, playing in water. The joy that comes from reading. The joy that comes from singing. Joy in the beauty of nature. The joy that comes from spending time together.
So many lessons learned. These 5 are just the ones I thought of first. I could continue writing all night. Boiled down to one main lesson though is how much our Father loves us.