Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Working on unity

serene at 11 months in fullerton
Ever since Serene came into the world, God has been teaching me many a difficult lesson on unity. As in unity between Alex and me. When we were pregnant, Alex and I wholeheartedly touted that when Serene (and any subsequent kiddos) arrive, we would put God first, then one another as husband and wife before our kids. We piggybacked on the widespread notion that kids feel most loved, secure, and content when their parents prioritize one another before prioritizing them. It was a complete no-brainer for us. Thus said we who were still childless and therefore pitifully naïve.

Then Serene arrived, transforming our world in the absolute best and most humbling way possible. There is such deep heart-awakening joy in parenting (which I mention often in this space), but there is also great conviction of pride and selfishness (which I share not enough). We quickly realized people advised prioritizing the spouse before the kiddo(s) for a reason: such a feat is far easier said than done in the day-to-day hullaballoo of new parenthood. Serene's complete dependence on us during the newborn days daily revealed to us our self-centeredness, our lack of sensitivity towards and love for one another, and our ultimate ineptitude at supplying her every need. We were sleep-deprived, anxiety-ridden, brand-new parents who attempted with all our might not only to acclimate to a newly born human creature, but also to regard one another as new teammates on a united front in this life-changing season. Add my postpartum hormones and recovery, my exceedingly painful skin infection, and sprained wrist into the mix of sinful tendencies during those first few months, and there was more chaos and finger-pointing than there was peace and unity. We bickered at one another and I unleashed my temper on Alex like crazy. I felt like he wasn't doing things right (i.e. is it so hard to apply diaper rash cream correctly?!). He felt like I wasn't patient with him. I felt unloved; he felt disrespected. Serene's first month of life was the most challenging time in our marriage. All we knew was that we wanted the best for her, and rather than recalling we are a team and putting one another's interests first, we turned against one another out of selfishness amid conflict.

Eleven and a half months into this parenting gig, and I praise God we don't fight as much as we did during the newborn era, though we're still figuring out what works best for our baby. Our parenting preferences are vastly different. Alex thrives on intuition and spontaneity. I run on structure and routine. I constantly learn that despite our distinct parenting styles, God is Serene's best and ultimate parent, no matter how hard Alex tries to win her heart, and no matter how I act like a mama bear. God has been bonking me on the head about our blatant disunity, which shows us how desperately we need God's grace and mercy because we cannot accomplish this giant responsibility of stewarding Serene's life well apart from Him. Alex reminds me how God uses our differences to complement one another, for we are far better together than we are apart. If only I could readily rejoice in the heat of conflict when he says that, rather than fume because he's right but I'm too proud to admit it. Thankful for this refining process that shows me so much of my ugliness. What a beautiful truth that we have Christ who does not leave us in our sin. Rather, we have a Lord and Savior who teaches us how to love Him, one another, our child(ren), and others. A God who gives us the Spirit to, by grace, "[be] of the same mind, [have] the same love, [be] in full accord and of one mind" so that our joy may be more full through the gift of children. Praying Serene Joy would one day discern a unity between her parents that stems from the Lord.

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