She came to me suddenly, unexpectedly with her bubbly way and smiling face. She had sat there in a center row, face focused front, but when I sat next to her she flashed me her 32s and my then 7 month old Nate clamored to be with her. We didn’t know her but she knew of me. She introduced herself and told me that she heard our women’s pastor mention me, knew that I was on maternity leave from ministry and had wondered who I was. Christen said she was single with no children and free to babysit my children anytime. I nodded and smiled. Even though I had just lost the help of another single woman with no kids who volunteered for six months to serve me and my family, mainly helping me with my newborn, it would take more than an introduction and a smile before I could trust this woman with my kids.
But after weeks of her offering and my desperation I invited this 24-year-old to have dinner with my family every Tuesday before our midweek services so we could get to know her. Immediately my boys liked her; my husband and I did, too, so I had her help me with the boys on Tuesdays and Sundays, the days my husband was fully engaged in ministry himself and I could supervise her interaction. On Facebook Christen describes herself as “(s)catter brained” so though Chris proved to be faithful to God and my family, fun-loving and great with my boys, her absent-mindedness had me many a day repeating routine instructions or assisting her with assigned tasks, sometimes because she was too slow for me or didn’t do something like I would. I sometimes wondered, “Is having her help me really helping me when I still have to help her so much?”
Right after that thought, this popped in my mind: “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10-KJV). Though this scripture speaks to none of us being good enough to save ourselves, I understood that God was telling me that my non-absentminded ways don’t make me perfect. Somehow in that moment I knew Chris was helping me with more than just my children; she was sent to help me learn to be flexible when there is room for flexibility, to have patience instead of being ever-demanding, to remove my beam before trying to snatch her speck, to ultimately have greater grace in the midst of grace being given to me. I suspect that I am not the only mother wanting to protect her children and give them the very best to the point we may shun the help of people God ordained to help us physically and grow us spiritually. Perhaps, like me, you need to reassess your help and see if you need to embrace the parenting partnership.
If you have quickly dismissed those who could help you with your children, be they a babysitter, an activities director or youth minister, ask yourself:
- Why did I shun that help?
- How have I fared without that help?
- What are my children missing without that help?
If you have help and are controlling like I was, ask yourself:
- Are my critiques legitimate or nitpicky?
- What is God trying to teach me that I am missing?
- What is my help learning from my behavior?
- Are my children adequately cared for, loved and safe?
If your discernment doesn’t alert you to evil or simply an ill-fit, you may have to reconsider engaging the help sent to you. If you have help and are being nitpicky, ignoring your lessons, behaving non-biblically or missing the fact that your children are okay with your parenting partner, then you probably need to relax and seek God for redirection. When we focus so heavily on what we want, we often miss exactly what we, and even others, need.
There is this ever-present theme of mutuality in the Bible. You are most likely familiar with the “one another” scriptures. These remind us that the connections we have are not intended to be one-sided, with just us being on the receiving end. We are to serve one another, mourn with one another, give preference one to another, love one another, build up one another and so much more (Galatians 5:13; Romans 12:15; Philippians 2:3; John 13:34; 1 Thessalonians 5:11).
Our connections are clearly not just about us but about relationship—us relating to others not only to meet our felt-needs but to meet both parties’ spiritual needs. I believe we are called to look beyond the name ‘babysitter’ and see the giver, the compassion, the teacher, the healer, the preacher. When we do this we are in prime position to help the babysitter become the spiritual giant God has called her to be.
“Don't look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too” (Philippians 2:4-NLT). With this and the host of “one another” verses firmly planted in mind, I, four years later, still correct Christen from time to time because I know I am helping her, but I try not to speak to her in exasperating tones. I know her love for my family is deep and rich and joyous and never malevolent, and ours is the same for her. She is family. Now I close my eyes, don’t always yield to what I hear, and let the boys enjoy a day with Christen at the park, the pool, the library, the backyard, in her home or in my home so I can nap, minister to others or go on a date with my husband. I see the bigger picture, the eternal perspective, of parenting partnerships and live to create that picture, indeed putting the Kingdom first.
Do you struggle to receive help? What did you gain from this article? Please share in the comments section or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.