Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Parenting and Tightrope Walking

{The formatting on this one post got all wonky after the fact. No idea why. My apologies for the paragraph-long gaps of white space.}


One of my kids won't speak to me today.

So naturally, I'm writing a post on parenting. Everyone knows that only the best parents provoke their children to seething silence.

More and more, I'm realizing that certain heart issues in our children don't necessarily go away; they simply switch forms. If you tell a toddler that he cannot have Kool-Aid and must instead have water, he may throw himself on the floor and wail. He simply did not get the decision he wanted. But he gets over it.

An older child may shut himself {or herself} in the bedroom and refuse to speak. He simply did not get the decision he wanted. He will probably get over it...but resolution is more complicated and prolonged.

I've decided I much prefer the wailing toddler and his short-lived tantrum.
Honestly, I don't have too much trouble disappointing my kids in little ways.

"Water instead of juice."

"No, you can't play outside for even 5 more minutes. Supper is ready."

"I know that toy is only $1 but we're not buying it today."

" 'Everyone else' may be watching that show; we don't think it's appropriate."

But when it comes to the big stuff, the consequential stuff that involves more than juice and junk toys and playtime, I struggle. I'm afraid he {or she} will hate me. I'm afraid I'm getting it wrong. I'm afraid that this or that decision may affect his future in some catastrophic way and that when I'm visiting him 20 years from now in jail, I'll say to myself, "If only I'd given him his way on August 23, 2011."

Today was one of those days.

Discouraged and weary, I went to Jesus. I read. I prayed. {Not because I'm righteous but because I'm needy.} And I also savored today's message in Jesus Calling and its timely encouragement:

Entrust your loved ones to Me {Jesus}; release them into My protective care. They are much safer with Me than in your clinging hands. If you let a loved one become an idol in your heart, you endanger that one--as well as yourself.

The author, Sarah Young, then writes about Abraham and Isaac and how idolatry, "even in the form of parental love," is "detestable."

Parenting, like most of my pursuits, is one I'd like to get right. Daily, I get it wrong. I have not parented close to perfectly even one day in ten and a half years. I have read books on the subject, looked for answers from wise and learned experts, attended conferences, and talked to those who appear to have done a pretty good job.

And after all of that research, I still feel clueless. {No offense to the "experts."}

The truth is, we so easily and unknowingly place these tiny people up on pedestals and we bow down to their happiness, their education, their behavior, their manners, their skills, their well-being.

And let's be honest, if they turn out well, we can reflect their glory and shine glittery with success. If we're lucky, others may even look to us as supposed experts one day. How lovely.

It is a good thing to love our children sacrificially, to desire to raise them well and to "bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." But I'm beginning to wonder if it has more to do with resting and releasing than it does with rules and requirements.

Perhaps it's not about figuring it out; it's about lifting them up...

To the One who loves them more than I do.

To the One who promises to provide moment by moment, just as He did with Abraham.

It still amazes me that in an instant, a father's hand was stayed, a son's life was spared, and perfect provision appeared. Not before. Not after. At just the right time.

But that poor father, he had to completely let go and entrust his only child to the One who created him, the One who surely had a plan for his life even if that meant death.

I realize that parenting seems less dramatic {and violent} for us moderns. And though our cares may appear trivial compared with the literal sacrifice of a child, we still worry to the point of ridiculousness.

Oh how we cling tightly to our own. It seems downright unnatural to do anything else. But over and over, I'm seeing that His ways are counterintuitive. It makes sense to read books, to follow methods, to make checklists; it does not make sense to do the opposite of, well, doing something.
Praying and trusting and resting in can feel a bit silly and ineffective. But let me tell you, I have never had such peace in the midst of such uncertainty.

It's a season full of decisions: school, sports, curriculum, activities, peer groups, etc. And of course there's the everyday parenting challenges from outright rebellion to excessive whining to silent treatments to special needs to sleeplessness. With every decision and every challenge, it's easy for fretting to turn into obsessing.

Sometimes we walk the road of parenting like we'd walk a tightrope, carrying our kids on our shoulders while we're sweating bullets and teetering with fear, praying we'll make it across and not drop them to their doom entirely.
But that's not trust. And it's certainly not freedom. I, for one, don't want to live that way.

I want to walk with confidence and know that the One who's got my back is the same One who's got my kids' backs and who put the safety net of grace underneath for those moments when I fail and fall and need to begin again.
I'm grateful for the gentle Voice that whispers:

Loosen your grip and give those babies to me. I'm the expert, the One who formed them and knows them perfectly. I'll provide what you need moment by moment, situation by situation, decision by decision. Just let go.

I got this.


  1. where was this post 2 years ago when i was not only trying to walk this tight rope but also be the mighty "lion tamer"?! i was ready at a moment's notice to fight to the death any force that i deemed threatening to my kids. all i can say is "to God be the glory" for changing me!!! i still want to pick up my lion whip some days but by God's grace those days are fewer and fewer. this post is so good! i love the quote from Jesus calling!...idolatry in the form of parental love is detestable...! wow!

  2. So right Marian!! The best thing we can do for our kiddos is hand them over to Jesus every day. Beautiful post. :)

  3. You nailed it again, girl! My favorite line: "But I'm beginning to wonder if it has more to do with resting and releasing than it does with rules and requirements." What a convicting and intriguing thought!

  4. "I got this."

    Yes'm, I think that's exactly what God would want us to imagine His saying.

    I have Jesus Calling. . . but I haven't cracked it open in a while. I think I need to find it and dust it off.

    For the record, I think you're a very fine mom.

  5. Whatever stops the noise.

    Best parenting advice I can give...

    Just thought I'd say hi...

  6. Secret uncovered.. Treasure discovered.

    This is a powerful and truth-filled post, honey. It gives me joy to see you navigating these waters of parenting with such a Captain.

    Let me add: the closed door always opens. She emerges. Life resumes. Ask me how I know.

    Love you forever,

  7. Seriously - this was beautifully written. Truth and grace wrapped up in one post. Thank you for sharing. Carrie


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