The problem with parenting....and all other challenges

One of my most fav readers commented to me after the last post(advice from a couple of pros - see below)  that the actual tasks of caring for small children might not be hard in themselves, but dying to yourself is.  

That woman is spot on, I think.  Very wise.

Her insight led me to today's post -

What makes parenting (at any stage) difficult? Why does it feel like a war with the ones we love the most?
It's not the war's the war within.

Our spirit vs. our flesh.
For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you would  Galatians 5:17

But wait - before you sigh in disgust, "oh great it's all my fault" and quit reading, give this a listen.  The war is a good sign.

I'll get to that part in a moment but first let's examine "desires of the flesh".  At first glance, it's tempting to read that and think we are exempt if we aren't guilty of public drunkenness, pornography addictions or extra marital affairs.  While those things do fit into the "desires of the flesh" category, there's a whole lot more in that box.  Believe me!
What does our "flesh" desire?  What IS our "flesh"?  Here's how John Piper defines "flesh" -it does not simply refer to the physical part of you.  The flesh is the ego which feels an emptiness and uses the resources in its own power to try to fill it. Flesh is the "I" who tries to satisfy me with anything but God's mercy.
So that longing for personal comfort (sleeping for as long as I want to or not having to experience emotional angst over sibling squabbles), that quest for personal pleasure (all the golf/reading/whatever I can get in or all the Oreos in the pantry), that yearning for significance in the eyes of others (through the car I drive or the successful children I spawned) are all desires of the flesh....human attempts to fill the emptiness of our souls.

These desires are incompatible with the "desires of the Spirit" (the desires to know God, to honor and obey and delight in Him above all else). That's why I say that this "war within" is a good sign.  If there were no struggle, that would mean the flesh is completely in control.  And that's not good news at all.

Parenting (and marriage and relationships at work, in the neighborhood, and at church) is the battlefield on which the war is waged.  It's not the war - it's just where it happens. When my flesh vs spirit struggle clashes with that of my child/spouse/neighbor, it can result in great carnage but remember that those relationships are not the war....just where it happens.  That means the enemy isn't your child, your spouse, your boss, or your neighbor....and it's not you, either.  It's the flesh that was dealt a mortal blow but doesn't know it's dead that's the enemy.  Flesh that doesn't want us to obey the command to love God with our whole hearts and to love others as much as we love ourselves....and our own comfort and pleasure and significance.  Flesh that opposes every effort we make to live according to the Spirit, our new nature.

Flesh that is doomed to destruction.  And next time, I'll share some thoughts on how to walk by the Spirit so that we don't carry out the desires of the flesh.

And maybe there'll be some tips that we can apply to marriage and parenting and all other challenges, uh, relationships.

For now, take heart.  The hard part of parenting is designed to render the greatest blessing - a life led by the Spirit....the path to joy and peace and blessing.  Hallelujah!