I grew up in Roman Catholic schools and churches, and spent a lot of time in confusing and poorly presented Theology classes.
One thing I do remember learning is that we receive grace through our struggles and tribulations. It didn’t make much sense to me as a 12-year-old, but viewed through the lens of parenthood this teaching becomes much more clear.
As a parent, it is hard to be vain. I barely have time to brush my own hair and swipe on lipstick, let alone spend some quality time with a curling iron. I’m disheveled, but happy. I get more joy out of brushing my girls’ hair than my own.
As a parent, it is hard to hold grudges. During one particularly good sermon, my pastor said, “Holding grudges doesn’t hurt the person you’re angry with. Grudges hurt the person who is choosing to stay angry.” My kids keep me so busy that I don’t have the energy to hold grudges, even when I am very upset.
As a parent, it is hard to be selfish. As soon as these tiny, wrinkled people came into the world, something changed in my heart. Of course I loved them while I was pregnant, but everything changed when my first baby was laid in my arms. Putting my children first is less of a choice and more of an unconscious instinct. Their needs, desires, and dreams are so much more important than my own selfish desires.
It is also incredibly difficult to be lazy! I have two kids in diapers and I change an average of 15 diapers per day between the two of them. There are also dishes, laundry, and baths to take care of. Sitting at the computer is a luxury that I can only partake of once all these other things are done.
I do think that parenting has made me a better person, but it hasn’t been conscious decisions so much as just adapting to my life as it changes. Does self-improvement “count” if it is not a conscious change? I think so. My children help me to spend time wisely, be loving and patient, and to be humble. If that isn’t grace, I don’t know what is.