1,254 tiny, hop-on-one-foot-when-you-step-on-them-in-the-middle-of-the-night pieces. That's six bags and two instruction books worth of Legos. It's more than six hours of sitting cross-legged on the floor with the 9-year-old who just wants her Millennium Falcon to be done. It's an aching back and a happy daughter.
As I spent my Christmas afternoon engrossed in figuring out whether the diagram in the Lego directions meant I should use a black piece or a dark gray one, I was struck by how much parenting is like building a Lego set. We take all the pieces and some less-than-specific instructions and we try to mold our child into a godly, functioning adult.
At times, it's frustrating. We want a better instruction manual. We just want to see the finished product. We wonder if all the detail is really necessary. We question if the Creator really knew what He was doing when He gave us this child.
At other times it's incredibly rewarding to see the pieces come together to form something new, something amazing. We may not understand why we're doing something or going through a certain circumstance, but when the pieces fall into place, we see that God is making something more beautiful than we could have begun to imagine.
And there are days when we step on the Lego. I can think of nothing that causes a bigger jolt to the system than stepping on the one Lego in the middle of the night that missed being picked up. Stepping on a Lego is it's own special kind of pain. As parents, there are days when we step on the Lego of parenting. We screw up and watch our kids suffer. We can't fix what's wrong and have to watch our kids feel pain. Our kids mess up, and we have to stand back and let them suffer the consequences. Nothing hurts more as a parent than watching our kids deal with pain.
Like building a 1,254-piece Lego set, the process of parenting is time-consuming. There are days it seems like it will never end, days when all we want from the moment we get up is for it to be time to go back to bed. It may seem like the child God is building will never make it to adulthood, we'll never see the finished product and if we do, it won't look anything like what we think it should.
You know what the saving grace of building a 1,254-piece Lego set is, the thing that keeps you going? It's the picture on the box, the knowledge the pieces in those bags will eventually turn into the picture on the box if you just keep at it. In the same way, it's the picture in the Bible that keeps us going as parents. God has plenty to say about parenting. Here are just a few "pictures on the box": "Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it" (Proverbs 22:6). "Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them" Psalm 127:3-5).
Parenting is a long-haul process. There are days we're going to mess it up. We're going to put a piece in the wrong place and try to force it to fit. When we do, we'll have to take apart what we've done and try it again. We'll have to fix the wrong, ask for forgiveness and try again. But eventually, we're going to see the rewards. We're going to begin to see the young man or woman God wants our child to be. We're going to finally see the picture on the box come to fruition.
In the meantime, we'll be sitting cross-legged on the floor placing piece after piece into place, ignoring our aching back and dealing with the frustration of a misplaced piece. Because the end product is amazing and worth every heartache, every frustration and every moment spent building it.