If I sat down and listed all the things I do wrong, I probably wouldn’t finish until the day I died. I guess I’m a pretty critical, judgmental person. There. I’ve said it. I am; I’m judgmental and overly critical. A lot. The thing […]
Lately, I’ve been having some conversations with friends and family about, well… friends and family. If you’ve read my previous posts about my prodigal, you’ll understand that he weighs heavy on my heart. Despite giving the situation to God, it feels as if someone’s left […]
To my Beloved Child,
There are always two sides to every story. Two perspectives, if you will. Before you read anything else, know this:
I love you. I will always love you. Until the day I die, nothing will change that, and I do mean nothing. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. It’s something you may not understand now, but one day, you’ll get it. You may not be inclined to trust or believe me on much these days, but at some time in the future it’ll make sense.
Right now though, from your side, through the lens of your world, my love for you probably feels like this:
Disappointment. You think that because you’ve made choices I strongly disagree with, you’re the disappointment, not your actions and behaviors. Nope, sorry again. I’ve never been sorry that you were born. Or that you are my child. (Okay, maybe that one time when you were 5 weeks old and I hadn’t slept all 5 weeks, I might have fleetingly wished those 9 months lasted 11 instead.) YOU are not the disappointment. Seriously though, I am upset that the values we tried to impart to you have meant so little in your life lately. It saddens us that everything we tried to teach you, you’ve pretty much thrown out the window. Putting Christ first, the importance of family… It’s baffling that the child who saw so much of the world in black and white has let culture define a world where there’s only grey. No good or evil, just… “do what makes you happy.” Not, “do what’s right.” This brings me to….
Sadness. We raised you to believe that actions have consequences, and unfortunately, some of the choices you’ve made will have repercussions. It’s one of the hardest parts of being a parent – if not the worst part – letting those consequences happen. I’m just sad that you’ll have to feel the pain of those ramifications. If I seem to look at you with sadness, that’s why. I know those choices will cause you heartache at some point. It hurts me when you hurt and I can’t fix it like I did when you were 3. The society we live in tells you that things will be fine if “you do you,” but honestly? It doesn’t work that way in the real world. People are people and not everyone can be happy all the time. Sometimes one person’s happiness means someone else’s sorrow. Not always, but… enough. Regrettably, because not every joy can be shared by all, you might feel…
Condemnation. Because children always look to their parents for approval, when I disapprove, you feel condemnation. You sometimes feel guilt even when you believe you’ve done nothing wrong. (That’s a God-thing by the way, you just don’t recognize it yet.) It’s also a variation on the classic “My mom only had look at me and I felt her wrath” thing. You probably hear it in my voice when you tell me something you know will bother me. You see it in my eyes. Read between the lines of my emails and texts. You want praise and instead you feel judgment. I’ve always been a “heart on my sleeve” kind of person, so it’s been hard for me to hide the sadness and disappointment. Together, those feel like one giant ball of condemnation to you, though, don’t they? Guilt is a very powerful emotion, and much of the time, we feel it because we know we’ve made mistakes.
So what do you do?
Keep us all at a distance. Like the toddler who’s caught with chocolate all over his mouth and a cookie in his hand, yet insists he didn’t get into the cookie jar, you think that if you don’t have conversations, won’t come home, or don’t want us visiting you, you won’t feel our apparent judgment. You’re probably playing up the “what if’s” in your head more being absent from us than if you let us into your life. All those nights as a teenager when you were late coming home, the “what if’s” were always worse in my head than reality. What if you crashed your car? What if you had a flat tire? What if you met someone who sucked you into doing harmful things? Those never literally came to fruition, so my guess is, you think the worst of us and it’s easy to make us the bad guys instead of recognizing that you are sinning. Yes, I’m going to say it: sinning. But you know what you’d learn if you were around us? That we own up to being sinners ourselves. We’re not any better than you, and we’re not any worse. Our sins may be different, but a sin is a sin, and a sinner is a sinner. The only real difference is that we know and try to take responsibility for our sins. We know that there’s only one hope for our sinful nature – Jesus Christ, who died so that your sin – and mine – would be erased. You don’t want to have that conversation because you’ve turned your back on Him. And once you’ve turned your back on Him, it’s oh, so much easier to turn your back on everyone that loves Him – and you – as well. When you don’t have conversations with us, it’s easy to…
Judge and condemn us. I may not have been the best mother, your father, the best father. I know I didn’t have all the answers. My mistakes were more numerous than the stars. And you probably don’t want to hear that I “did the best I could.” But everything I did as a parent, I did only with hope and love for your best. Yes, you might have done __________ differently, or you don’t like the way I __________.
I get it.
I was a child myself before I was a parent. I’ve likely shared some of the same frustrations as you about my own parents at one time or another.
I remember once when you were 14 or so, and your younger brother was doing something that you felt was dumb. Just… dumb. Something like watching a certain cartoon series, or thinking that Captain Underpants was the coolest, and you couldn’t understand why he thought whatever it was was so great. I remarked to you that only a few short years ago, you’d felt equally about that very. same. thing. “But,” you replied, “I know so much more now than I knew then.”
I probably wouldn’t make all the same choices today knowing what I know now. How they would have affected us. Affected you, and your brother and sister. Many I might still make. But I didn’t have the information available then that I have now. So holding my feet to the fire because I made decisions based on what limited information I had then that perhaps hurt or caused unhappiness to you is pointless. I hope you can understand this point, because someday, you’re going to look back at these choices you’re making now, and realize that you didn’t have all the best knowledge then either to make the most informed choices for the rest of your life.
But hey – the good news is, God will use it anyway.
“So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11
Right now though, these are all just words to you. One day though, you’ll understand.
Until then, I’ll keep waiting, watching, hoping and praying.
I love you.
I had a difficult and highly disappointing conversation with one of my sons the other day. After ending the discussion, I was just…. wrecked. I try to remain optimistic most of the time, but some times are just harder than others, aren’t they? I’m only human with limited understanding.
It baffles me how children raised in the same household, with the same values, common experiences, teachings, etc… can have such varying perspectives and beliefs.
And yet they do.
Most people are quite familiar with the parable of the prodigal son in the Bible; it was a story told specifically by Jesus to His followers, because sons and daughters will test us – have tested us – since the beginning. Jesus shared this specific narrative about children going astray because He wanted to comfort His children; He wanted to give them hope.
That’s what He does… give us hope.
Sons and daughters have challenged mankind from inception. One only need look at Adam and Eve; even God was not immune from His first creations rebelling against the order of things. Not only that, but the Bible is literally rife with children turning against, walking away from, or even plotting against their parents. (Not that my son is conspiring to have me killed, but in some ways, his words can have just as lethal an impact on my heart.)
Cain. He killed his brother Abel.
Isaac’s sons… Jacob & Esau… Jacob tricked Esau out of his birthright.
Jacob’s sons… At first they wanted to kill their brother Joseph, because he was the favored one. Instead, they sold him into slavery.
David’s son Amnon. He raped his half-sister. David’s son Absalom, looking for revenge against his sister, had Amnon murdered. He then plotted to overthrow his father’s kingdom and was killed because of it. Upon hearing the news, David said, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!” So great was David’s love for his son, in spite of all Absolam had done against him, he would have died in his stead.
Love. It’s powerful. Unyielding, regardless.
Another of David’s sons, Adonijah, declared himself king before David died, even though it was David’s wish for Solomon to reign after him.
Solomon. His son and successor Rehoboam reigned with such a heavy hand, taxing his subjects mightily, that he split the kingdom built by his father and grandfather in two.
These were the children of God’s most favored and chosen individuals. The ones He built kingdoms upon. The ones whose lineage threaded all the way to Jesus. The ones whose hearts and minds and lives were focused solely and desperately on God.
They loved their children too. Just as much as you love yours. Just as much as I love mine.
Children don’t do what they’re supposed to do. They don’t do what we want them to do. They don’t see things the way we think they should see them. They don’t always believe what we believe.
Sometimes they do. But for the most part, they fight against doing it the way we, as parents, have done it. They struggle against becoming us. They want nothing more than to be themselves. Which, if we really get to the bottom of it, that’s who they should be. It’s who we want them to be. It’s who God intended them to be. They have to figure it out on their own. They have to learn, and fail, and flounder. And it doesn’t always mean that our way is their way.
More importantly, our way is not God’s way. Our time is not God’s time.
To myself, I must consistently repeat this: My way is not God’s way. My way is not God’s way.
My time is not God’s time. My time is not God’s time.
I don’t know how He’s going to work out my son’s story. My other son’s story. My daughter’s. My husband’s. I don’t even know how He’s going to work out mine.
I know I’m not alone in this struggle. I know that – literally – generations upon generations upon generations have dealt with the same fears and doubts and labors and pains that I have.
I do know that anything I want and hope for my children’s lives, God wants those things for them – for me – for you – infinitely more. If I am heartbroken, He is more so.
But most paramount, if I am hopeful, He IS the hope.
See this picture? And the small blackish-red dot about 1/3 of the way on the right? That’s me. Ziplining about 300′ above the forest floor, and 1900′ from one end of the gorge to the other. It took more than a couple deep breaths, a few “you can do it!” mantras in my head, and one gigantic leap of faith to step off that platform.
I don’t know about you, but the older I get, the more I find in my life I need to let go of. Having the courage to take that step over the forest treeline is a very real analogy for “letting go,” yet absolutely nothing like the courage needed to live real life.
I suppose learning to “let go” might be a natural side effect of being a parent, but there’s more to it than that, I think. I mean, as a parent, after a point, you’re letting your children become responsible for certain aspects of their own life. And it starts pretty early, at least it did in our house. By age two or three, our kids were putting away their toys, helping set the table, cook, bring laundry to their rooms, etc… As they got older, they were in charge of more of their lives. As an example, being homeschoolers, I have always planned out each week’s worth of school work for them to do. I also break it down day by day, because for me, smaller goals seem more doable. When they were younger, I checked their work every day to make sure they had accomplished that day’s tasks. But as they got older, (and I only have one at home still) I let them figure it out. If they wanted to to finish 3 day’s worth of work in one really long day, so be it. If they have/had a lot of extra activities that week and they had to make up work on the weekend, well, that’s fine too. I have had to let go of my idea of a “perfect” plan, and slowly let them learn how to manage their own time and efforts.
But it’s not just about letting go of my perfect plan for homeschooling, it’s about giving up my vision of a perfect life, because I am sometimes overwhelmed with perfectionist tendencies, unfortunately… I am an only child, an introvert who lives my life oftentimes in my own head, or perhaps lost in the pages of a book. And because books so often have happy endings, and are at the very least, wrapped up neatly with a bow by the end, I sometimes expect that to be real life. But it’s not. Not by a long shot…
When we moved to where we currently live (and our house is for sale and we’ll be moving out of state again!), I literally was in culture shock: we had moved from Central Florida to the mountains of rural Appalachia. In Florida there were palm trees, grocery stores on every corner, warm weather, and no lack of things to do, see, or places to go. Instead, we now had giant trees that lost their leaves, a single grocery store just under a half hour away, extremely cold, gray weather, and very little to do except hike. Neighbors weren’t next door; they were 1/2 mile down the road. To go, see, or do almost anything, it was, at the very least, a half-hour drive, but usually closer to an hour. Pioneer Woman may have come to love that in her life; it didn’t work so well for me! I had to learn to live with what we had. I didn’t always, and still don’t always do that well, but I’ve had to learn to let go of my ideal life. Maybe you’ve heard that saying “if Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” Well, it’s true. I could have spent the last 13 years crying and gnashing my teeth over where we live (and I have, at times!) but that’s not good for my family on a day to day basis. I have come to love certain things about where we are – letting my dogs roam on several acres, having a decent size garden outside my back door, and just a nice sense of privacy and quiet. But it took me a while to get here.
Likewise, our oldest has graduated college, is living in a different state, and has made some choices that directly contradict the way we raised him. I would love to magically sweep in, and cast some kind of Harry Potter spell on his life so that things would be “right.” But that’s impossible, so I have to let go. Let God, really. I mean, despite all my admonitions to him throughout his life, all the prayers I’ve lifted on his behalf, I have to let him learn the lessons God wants to teach him. Not the lessons I want to teach him. I have to be willing to let God’s plan work out the way He wants it to; not the way I want it to.
Now we cannot…discover our failure to keep God’s law except by trying our very hardest (and then failing). Unless we really try, whatever we say there will always be at the back of our minds the idea that if we try harder next time we shall succeed in being completely good. Thus, in one sense, the road back to God is a road of moral effort, of trying harder and harder. But in another sense it is not trying that is ever going to bring us home. All this trying leads up to the vital moment at which you turn to God and say, “You must do this. I can’t.
C.S. Lewis ~ Mere Christianity
And I guess that’s really the wonderful thing about getting older…. learning that so much of life really isn’t within our control. Learning that there is a plan greater than ourselves out there. Learning that if we just surrender, more often than not, life will actually be better than what we hoped for. Better than what we, in our limited understanding and experience, could ever envision.