The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Sometimes this sounds like a promise; sometimes a threat.

Our younger child has strong feelings about nearly everything and might just be the most determined person I know, except for her father. These are not just signs of her particular age, but seem to be enduring qualities, given the family resemblances. I must say, qualities I admired in the adult I chose to marry feel quite differently coming from the pre-schooler I am trying to parent!

It is the kind of payback that makes grandparents smirk and wait expectantly for thanks and apologies for their adult children. Current parents of young children hopefully click on articles about the newest research study saying stubborn children could do really well in school someday. Someday is a long way off when I just want the child to get in her car seat in the next 15 minutes (oh yes, I have to plan that buffer into our schedule).

I wonder how God feels when the family resemblances crop up, and we resemble not obedient children, but children acting like our divine Parent? We are made in God’s image, but certainly must push that to the edge of chagrin for Our Mother/Father God sometimes.

Like our Parent, we live as if our agenda is righteous, simply because it is ours. This works – to some extent – for God because it is clear that God created more, knows more, and can do more than us. See the Lord putting Job in line, responding to but not answering Job’s concerns with “Are you God?”

Job says, “The Almighty – we cannot find him; he is great in power and justice, and abundant righteousness he will not violate. Therefore mortals fear him; he does not regard any who are wise in their own deceit.” (Job 37: 23-24, NRSV)

The Lord does not appreciate Job’s lip. Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” And the “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” (Job 38: 2, 4 NRSV)

I say something more like, “Are you the Mama? No, I’m the Mama, so it’s my decision.” But, you know, same kind of non-answer. I know more, but I see you asserting your autonomy, independent human being created in my image.

One reason I believe that God “gets” parenting is that God actually seems to change the divine mind occasionally. Being changed by love for someone else need not be a sign of weakness, or being wrong to begin with. Justice and mercy are not objective concepts, but borne out as we interact with each other. I think of Abraham negotiating with the Lord to spare Sodom if there can be found only ten righteous in the city (Genesis 18: 20-33). Half of my life as a parent is spent negotiating. The children are, after all, asserting their ability to care, be determined, and to affect outcomes. And if I want them to become responsible adults (not to mention if I ever want to get anywhere on time ever) I have to somewhat engage in the push-pull of negotiation.

But does the Lord God ever get to the point of being corrected by the children? My husband and I do occasionally, usually for using a word we have taught them is bad, such as “stupid”. We apologize and affirm that they are right, we should not say such things. As they grow up, I imagine the mistakes they call us on will become bigger, as our apologies will need to be. I am having trouble coming up with a time that the Parent person of the Trinity does this in Scripture, but I sure know when Jesus does.

A Canaanite woman begs Jesus to heal her daughter. First, he ignores her. Nevertheless, she persists. When she becomes so disruptive that Jesus’ male disciples ask him to do something about her, Jesus tells her that the children’s food should not be thrown to the dogs. She repeats his own word back to him so he can hear it: “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” (Matthew 15: 27) Hearing that he had used that word to dehumanize a grieving mother seems to be a wake-up call for Jesus. He doesn’t exactly apologize, but praises her faith (admitting that she too is included in the family of faith although she is not one of the lost children of Israel) and gives her what she is requesting. That feels like a parenting win for God the Parent, because Jesus did not grow into a person who just repeats religion by rote, but one who can recognize his own flaws and worthy correction. Perhaps, just like his Holy Parent?

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