As I have mentioned elsewhere, I had a dysfunctional upbringing. There was a period of time after my mother died and my father was out of the picture when I had to learn what it meant to be a functional adult. I had to learn quickly, because Adulthood was upon – graduating high school and going to college was going to mean I was on my own without the safety net of parents to go back to.
I knew that some of my problems were clearly due to my traumatic upbringing. Some circumstances required cultural adaptation from my Indian American context. It took me longer to realize that my personality would present some obstacles as well. It was hard for me to accept that some of my baggage didn’t come from my family of origin.
Being an ENFP, I hate routine and struggle with following through on projects. The mundane details of life would particularly bore me. For example, I hated planning things out for a whole week – how much better it is to wait and see what might happen! Spontaneity was highly valued; I wanted to be able to do what I felt inspired to do. While I knew that there were deadlines, it was hard for me to accept that they were truly inflexible. When I did miss a deadline, I often was willing to live with the consequences because I valued my freedom so highly.
There came a time when someone became frustrated with me in this regard. As a mentor, she warned me at one point that, if I didn’t change, I would not be a good mother and be able to provide my children the structure and routine that they would need.
That had a big impact on me, but perhaps not in the way she intended. I know she meant for it to motivate me to be a better, more responsible person according to her understanding. Instead, it made me question deep down whether I was cut out to have kids at all.
After all, my wiring was so strong. My best attempts to discipline myself felt futile because it felt that I had to sacrifice the things that were distinctively Me. I already felt like I was too damaged by my upbringing to be a good mom, but this made me really doubt I could ever be a good parent.
At the risk of sounding terribly cliché, my dear friend underestimated the power of Love.
We underestimated how strongly I would feel toward my children. We underestimated how willing I would be to set aside my preferences for a season of life that would demand so much. Only Love can do that.
You see, against all odds, I did get married and have children. I look back at the time when my children were very little and I marvel at how many invitations I turned down and how little I went out. It wasn’t a decision I made all at once; it was a thousand small decisions to be home so my children could go to bed on time, or to go to the carnival and hold bags and coats rather than have my own fun, or to plan out meals so my kids would be exposed to a variety of healthy foods, or a hundred other mundane daily choices.
It was out of the depth of my love for my children that I could find strength and motivation to do things I would never ordinarily have the strength to do.
I would be lying if I said I didn’t have challenges parenting little ones; I most certainly did. After all, I have the same personality and the emotional needs that go along with it. However, I also consider the needs of my children in each season of their growth with joy, as I do with my marriage and other close relationships. Providing for them has made me a better person, and they provide for me in ways I could never anticipate. Somehow, there is enough love in our family to accommodate all our needs. That love was the reason for and the source of all the activities that our household has to sustain.
My decision to follow Christ was similar. I had very little interest in Christianity. I could never see myself restricted the way Christians are. I confess at times I still feel out of place with other Christians.
But when I encountered an irresistible Love and acceptance, I just couldn’t turn away. Suddenly, without even wanting to admit it, my whole life became about this amazing Love.
It wasn’t work, it wasn’t hard, and it wasn’t all about rules at all; instead, out of this deep Love, I found hope and motivation to live differently and to love myself and others well. I found strength to do things I could never, ever dream of doing. It became the source of and the reason for my life.
That is a message of Christianity that we often lose. Our commitment is not based on tradition or culture; it is a response to an encounter with a Living God who first loved us. It is a response to a God who sent Jesus out of His deep Love for us in order to restore our connection to Him forever. When your commitment is fueled from that Love, you will have enough to make it through the worst days on this side of eternity.
If you haven’t found that type of Love that transforms you, let me tell you it is out there. Unfortunately, it isn’t found it in every church or in everyone who calls themselves a Christian, but it is out there. My prayer for all who read these words: that the Love of God would come to you in tangible ways through people and circumstances in your life, and that cynicism gives way to a sincere search to know Jesus more.