"'O God, be merciful to me a sinner.'" - Luke 18:13

My love language is words of affirmation. I know this because of its opposite. Critical feedback or feeling unappreciated cast a long shadow over me of feeling unloved. As my first line of defense, I take on the role of the self-righteous Pharisee in today's Gospel. Pride takes over, and to displace my pain, I start taking stock of my moral superiority over the one doling out the criticism or lack of appreciation. This opposite of humble stance is never productive. Once the threat detection alarms subside, I'm left with no other option but to turn to God. I turn to prayer and in my helplessness, redirect my attention towards God with the words, "Have mercy on me, a sinner."

As a relatively new parent, my Kindle and Audible queues are brimming with parenting-related books. In the current book I'm reading, Raising a Secure Child, I was turned onto the idea that "self-sufficiency is a myth." As much as I want my daughter to be independent and to have the courage to explore the world, she first needs the reassurance she can go to my wife and me for unconditional love and comfort and that she is seen and heard, regardless of any shortcomings. Unlike the Pharisee, the tax collector in the Gospel was aware of his reliance on God. The tax collector humbled himself to be open to God's grace to be forgiven and transformed. He did not hide from his sin by overcompensating with "holy" deeds. With the demands of parenthood, I may not be able to go on a pilgrimage or attend a retreat, but I discovered my daughter is my teacher and being a parent is the spiritual practice. Though I strive to be a good enough parent, I am invited to keep coming back to God for times when I do fall short and to be reminded I can't do it alone.

Do I overlook my own sinfulness and control God's favor over me by doing things for Christ instead of with Christ?

Greg Lontok