God used my old “armchair parent” story recently to encourage me in an unexpected way.
A few weeks ago, I spent a glorious weekend at the beach with a group of my closest girlfriends and my sister. All but one had heard about the time my daughter’s former principal called me an armchair parent. My newest friend in the bunch asked me to tell the story and the others agreed to listen in.
I share the details in my book Longing to Belong, so I’ll borrow from its pages to tell the story again.
Here’s a condensed version of what’s in the book.
My daughter, Sarah, didn’t have a behavior problem in elementary school. She had a sit-down-be-quiet-and-stay-focused problem. Her third-grade teacher had little patience for Sarah’s hyperactivity and sent her to the principal’s office on a regular basis. I spent a great deal of time on her elementary school campus, helping out in the classroom and attending sporting events. One Friday afternoon, I ran into the principal. Sarah had made multiple trips to his office by then. He made an off-the-cuff comment I remember clearly, and I can still picture the corridor we were standing in when he said, “With some children, you can’t be an armchair parent.”
I had no idea what that meant, but it sounded like a reprimand. The principal seemed to think that I sat around with my feet up rather than actively parenting my child.
Several months later, I was reclining in front of the television while the kids were playing in their rooms. I heard a clap of thunder and noticed my son had left his gardening toys outside.
“Scotty,” I hollered. “Please bring your toys inside. It’s about to rain.”
“OK, Momma,” he called back, and hurried out the sliding glass door. I returned to watching my TV program.
Within minutes, the heavens let loose a torrent of rain. I hopped up and noticed the yard was empty. I called Scott’s name out into the rainstorm, but he didn’t answer. I hurried to the garage, where I found my preschooler sitting on the concrete floor, taking off his wet shoes. His child-size wheelbarrow, rake, and shovel were lined up to drip dry against the garage wall behind him. My eyes widened in disbelief. My son was barely three years old. He had done everything perfectly without any supervision. I walked inside and plopped on the couch, incredulous. I had only known how to parent Sarah. I had never experienced this ease. As I propped my feet back up, I said aloud, “So that’s what armchair parenting is.”
The principal’s careless comment was based on a false assumption. I’d worked hard to raise my daughter, and I knew it. You might even use the word travailing to describe my tenacious parenting style with Sarah.
Raising Scott had taken far less energy.
I included the armchair parent story in my book to illustrate how the false accusation made me feel less than and believe lies about myself.
When I recounted that story with my girlfriends at the beach, I had no idea God would speak a fresh word to me. You see, I not only know what it’s like to travail at parenting, I also know what it’s like to travail in prayer. I’ve made a habit of bringing deep, heart-wrenching needs to God again and again like the persistent widow in Luke 18:1-8. The women with me that weekend know of my tenacity in prayer, and God spoke through one of them to encourage me.
“Armchair prayers,” she said. “Get ready for God to start answering armchair prayers.”
As my girlfriend explained what she meant, I sensed God confirming her words. In the same way that Scott had been easier to raise after I’d grown accustomed to exerting great effort with my parenting, this next season of my prayer life would take less energy. Praying would no longer require tenacious persistence. Instead, I would see God move in mighty ways in response to my armchair prayers.
‘Those two words refreshed me like the sea breeze and salty air blowing by the beach house.
Since returning from that fabulous weekend with my girlfriends, I’ve realized that my armchair prayers aren’t necessarily answered the first time I lift them.Some are, but not all.
The difference has been in the effort put forth.
I’m still fervently bringing certain requests to God again and again, but I picture myself at rest. I believe God will move in mighty ways, so I don’t have to travail. I simply must trust.
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him. — 1 John 5:14-15 (NIV)
If you’re weighed down with unanswered prayers, sit for a few moments in your favorite armchair. Rest in God’s presence and let go of your timetables and expectations. God hears you, and he will see to it that all your needs are met. He may not show up until the eleventh hour, but he will show up.
So, don’t lose heart.