“I love to tell the story, ‘twill be my theme in glory, to tell the old, old story, of Jesus and his love.”
I regularly peruse Humans of New York, the surprisingly popular blog that provides its worldwide audience with a glance into the lives of strangers in New York City. This photo blog includes a personal quote that briefly encapsulates an individual’s history and present life circumstances – triumphant or arduous.
What do all humans have in common? A story.
Aside from the obvious DNA and genetic components that God miraculously imprinted on each of us, there are certainly outside forces that color who we are and carry on to be.
I was elated beyond belief, when twenty-three years, seven months, three days, and ten hours ago, I became the proud new owner of a nearly ten-pound human being! I discovered a love I never knew possible. My life held ultimate meaning. The first time I set my eyes on my miracle … yadda, yadda (screeching halt) …. imagine my shock when I realized that I received the wrong baby!
No, not really, but my idyllic notion did not match the reality in my arms. Several shades of purple bruising – a result of his difficult journey – splotched his fresh newborn body, his mouth was a bit too big for his small face, and not one chunky baby roll was found on his long, flailing limbs that refused to be swaddled. This little guy acted as though he had to make up for the 9 months he missed while in utero! His eyes were in continual alert mode as his tiny head bobbed to and fro like a data logger collecting information. I was hopelessly in love.
Two years passed and another boy child became mine. Over the next seven years, two babes of the female variety arrived to create my perfectly symmetrical tribe, and then I called it quits.
Did a few of my word choices so far give you an unsettled impression that I consider my kids to be my belongings? Truly I find greatest joy and delight in these four (and now five) people of varying sizes. Who doesn’t consider parenthood to be the top tier on the totem pole of life?
While we may not actually use words like owner and mine when referring to the beautiful miracles who are our children; how often do we conduct our lives and theirs in that exact manner? We micromanage, overreact, observe over-protectively like a mother hawk poised to sink our talons into anyone or anything that may leave a scratch, or forbid a scar, on our beloved little darlings!
My parenting style is more “Jen Hatmaker” than hovering helicopter parent. But in twenty-plus years as Mommy, Mom, Ma, Madre, and now Marmey, (the evolution of my name) I’ve had to resist the urge to control, and I’ve learned the importance of guiding my children into independence while expecting age appropriate responsibility and self-reliance.
I held myself back in the early days from spanking the big 1st grader who talked smack to my kid. Instead, I brought the boys together, encouraged (forced) my son to speak for himself, and prayed he wouldn’t receive a black eye for his assertiveness. Listening sympathetically to my daughter when she was hurt by a friend’s words became opportunity to show her, by confronting a difficult situation myself, how to speak honestly to her friend.
I recall a time I was nervous for a piano recital, anxious for a first basketball game, concerned about a history test or a science fair project. Not my game or my project mind you, but my kid’s! Ridiculous! The day of freedom and actual enjoyment arrived when I declared myself encourager, cheerleader, guider, and advisor for my kiddos, rather than Grand Poo Paw of all things lying on their plates.
Young ones are tougher and more capable than we give them credit for. I’m not suggesting we pick up a preschooler by the armpits and heave him over the tiger’s pen of life, however; it should be our ultimate desire for them to lean into Christ and trust Him at the earliest age. After all, they are first and foremost His. When we believe their lives are entirely in our hands, we often find ourselves consumed with worry and certainly not placing our children where they belong: in God’s most capable grip.
It seems easier and more parental to step in for them and rid ourselves of the pit in our gut that develops when we witness our child facing a giant. In reality, we are missing a crucial moment to teach them assertiveness, honesty, and most importantly, confident reliance on God, our Father.
Control is somewhat ours when our children are very young. We decide what activities they engage in, where they go, and with whom they come into contact. All too soon the backyard gate opens wide, and those bouncing pigtails and baseball caps are thrust into real life that includes influences beyond our protective reach: increasing academic challenges, decisions concerning work and education, public speaking and interviews, an employer’s expectations, discernment in relationships, and marriage.
Sharing life with my children as young adults and teenagers is amazingly sweet and at times painful. My commitment to prayer has become increasingly vital and, frankly, desperately necessary from day to day.
If Brandon Stanton, the creator of Humans of New York, were to bump into one of my sons or daughters on the streets, what would their story reveal? I hope with all my heart that their love and commitment to Jesus Christ would shine clear, and they would stand for the truth of God’s word. I pray they would revel in the wonder and awe that is reflected in our Creator, and that loving and serving others was not just taught in their home but exemplified. I hope they boldly witness about their God who made a way for them to have a relationship with Him. Each of my children is journeying with their Savior in a different way.
My grandfather often quoted 3 John 1:4, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the Truth.” Oh yes! What JOY!