“If I had known how wonderful grandchildren were,” the joke goes, “I would have had them first!” Those of us who have children, whether our own or adopted or foster children, know how wonderful they can be and also how challenging they can be. And parenting does not get easier as children grow - it is just that the issues are different.
But grandparents can enjoy time with them but then hand them back! It’s their parents who have to decide on the key things.
It was not the nappies or the sleepless nights that really bothered me as a young parent - though they were a real challenge. It was the uncertainties. We loved (and love) our children immensely and want the best for them. But how to respond to a youngster who cries for an hour? Is it frustration or tiredness? Is it a sign of mistreatment? Is there an emotional trauma? Is it temper and wilfulness? Is it serious illness? Should we call the doctor?
I have seen more of 16 month old Samuel, one of our grandchildren, over the last few weeks than usual. And in a few days time I will be in sole charge of him for a day while his mother is enjoying a precious eight hours or so “off duty.” I am not feeling daunted by the likelihood of a messy nappy at the most awkward moment, nor by thinking of various activities in a London park. But there are times when parents just do not know what is best, so how can grandpa know?
How do we make good choices? Time and time again the scriptures point us to God as the source of wisdom. James helpfully promises “ If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (James 1:5).
Wisdom is not about specific answers to detailed questions but it does enable us to make wise choices.
We often put ourselves under pressure to get it right, to make the right decision. Sometimes Christians assume there is just one course of action that God intends us to take. But I have found it very freeing to realise that I do not have to make the “right” choice all the time, just a wise choice. If it turns out really successful then good. But if it turns out that it needs to be adjusted or even reversed, then godly wisdom enables us to change the plan. Good result either way!
So asking for wisdom not answers is better in practice. It is also better theologically. It recognises that God does not make us robots but sons and daughters.
We are people not angels. We - unlike angels - are made in the image of God. They may have amazing power we cannot imagine and are spiritual beings. But they are “ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation.” (Heb 1:14) The differences are, first, that we have bodies and emotions and minds as well as a spiritual aspect to who we are; and, second, we can make choices. Like God, we can choose what to do next.
So let’s ask for wisdom from God so we can make good choices.