Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Blind Spots

This past Sunday the children at my church learned the story of Joseph and the Coat of Many Colors. One part of this story has always left me perplexed: what was Jacob thinking, giving a fancy coat to one and not to the others?! What an extraordinary parenting gaffe! Especially given that Jacob himself was so beset by sibling rivalry that he stole his twin brother's birthright when they were young.

Unfortunately, even the best parents have blind spots. As a parent who is mostly looking in the rear view mirror these days, I can see that I probably over-shared with my children. I probably caused them to worry about things that I should have worried about alone, or with other adults. I was probably too straightforward in shooting down some of their dreams. I am also pretty sure that they told me about it while it was happening but I couldn't always see their point of view. I had parenting blind spots.

It's always easier to see other people's blind spots. I have watched parents do the same thing over and over, expecting it to work "this time." I have seen parents favoring one child, or one gender of child over the other, or conversely expecting more of one than the other.  I have seen parents live vicariously through their kids by pushing them into sports or music or even careers they wish they had had. I wonder what other people have watched me do.

I suspect that Reuben, or Dan, or one of the mothers told Jacob he was making a mistake by favoring Joseph over the others. Did they point out to the patriarch that he wasn't being fair? And did that parenting mistake imbue Joseph with the confidence he needed for the rest of his journey? Did that extra bit of love fill up his self-worth so that when his brothers later came to him in need he was able to be gracious and merciful? Jacob's blind spot caused his favorite son to be sold into slavery but it seems it may also have formed Joseph's character for a particular future.

Which brings me back to a familiar theme in my thinking: God can use evil (or failure or shortcoming or disappointment or mistakes) for good. I am not the final form-er of my child's character, an important one to be sure, but God is always present, with me and with my children.

So I can float on God's abiding presence for another day. I may have blind spots but God sees all. I can do my best, and leave the rest to God. What a wonderful way to travel through this river of parenthood!

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