I love Summer! Everything about it-the warmth (even if it’s really hot!), the water activities, the relaxed schedule, doing fun things with the kids. This summer has brought fun trips to Six Flags, the beach, hanging out in beach towns, ice cream, swimming and……….lingering dread that my son will begin High School in the Fall. At times, this dread has been a cloud over the moments we have together. It’s not that I can’t deal with change. Life changes in our house all the time. It’s not that I feel old (although, realizing that my own high school days didn’t seem THAT far away doesn’t help). It’s not that I don’t like teenagers. In fact, my career focused on journeying with them in the most vulnerable times of their lives. I still carry a passion to engage and empower them. What is the dread?
I’m having a hard time acknowledging that I don’t have ultimate control over his life. I want to stop time. I really, really do. People told me that life would go fast. Even Ferris Bueller knew it. “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”. I’ve gone from stopping to look around to staring. I’m afraid of missing a moment. The next 4 years will go by really fast.
As I have wrestled with my awakening to this news, the story of Hannah and Samuel came to mind. Hannah waited so long for her son; feeling heartbreak and shame for not being able to bear a child. Finally, her wish comes true and within 3 days of this joyful gift from God, Hannah offers her son, her flesh and receptor of all her wishes and prayers, up to God. She literally hands him off to be raised to be the man of God that she wishes for him. Hannah recognized, in the midst of her human bond to her son, that Samuel was really God’s child. She had been blessed with him but now; in order for him to grow up in that blessing, she had to let go.
And so that is the realization that faces me this week. As much as I like to think that it’s possible, I really can’t control everything. And I really don’t want to. The act of letting go is the process of realizing that my son is God’s child and I have had the privilege (a little overwhelming to think of it) to raise him to seek out the life God is acting in right now. It’s time for me to move out of the way and let go; reluctantly.
I pray for the dread to turn to joy.
As a child, I dreamed of becoming a parent. The visions of pushing a smiling baby in a stroller, accompanying a preschooler to the first day of school, fun birthday parties, exciting Christmas mornings created mind pictures of my expectations of parenting.
And so I was blessed with my first child in 1998. I never thought I could love someone so much (except my husband:)) There were challenges for sure-no sleep, the constant feedings, diaper changings, entertaining a child in the midst of attending a professional meeting. But hey-the child is needy and thriving from the love wrapped around him.
With the additions of baby number #2 in 2000 and baby number 3 in 2003, a harsh reality of the human condition began to surface in our children:human will and the quest for independence.
It began when I saw my one year old son throw his juice cup out of anger. I was stunned. I didn’t realize that children that young were capable of feeling such intense emotion and expressing it in such an intense way. It was a reminder of our human nature-frustration when things don’t go according to OUR expectations.
As my kids grew, the challenges in this area became more intense, frequent, and exhausting. It’s no wonder that one of the first words a child learns is “No.” “It’s time for a nap”, “No”, No more juice (for the umpteenth time), One time, my daughter in her walker managed to pick up the dog’s bone. I found her chewing on it and upon quickly removing it from her grasp, a tantrum erupted. “Why would you want that? I have something so much better for you (even if it’s a frozen teething ring with no taste)” It was at that time that I had a glimpse of myself as my daughter and the ways I have responded to God’s tough love to me.
“That job is not right for you”, “Florida is not where I want you to relocate (O.K. that was a tough one)”. Those are the big ones but my days are filled with many mini-battles of the will between my Creator and me.
Helping my children learn submission of the self is becoming exhausting and; at times, heartbreaking. Feeling their hurt as priviledges and objects are taken away is gutwrenching. I’ve been there. If they only understood that I’m doing what’s necessary to motivate them to want better attitudes, behaviors for themselves.
And ultimately to become more like God.
Feeling that heartbreak allows me to have a glimpse of how God feels when we fight for our own will. It allows us to glimpse the magnitude of sadness, compassion, and mercy that God has for us.
Lately I have been reflecting on what it means that God “knits us together in our mother’s womb.” as is written in Psalm 139. When reading these words previously, I thought about the sanctity of life. That we are all created by the hand of God and reflect His image. That even in the midst of unexpected pregnancy, God’s sovereign and redemptive hand is at work.
While that understanding arises out of this verse, I’ve found another question to ponder. How does Psalm 139 speak to the features of human creation that we on earth view as flawed? My daughter is incredibly creative, sees the potential in the mundane, and has a witty sense of humor. She also struggles with manic modes, feeling “outside of the box”, and struggles with cognitive and emotional processing. Everyday moments become exhausting struggles.
What if she did not fight this disorder? What if it had never been in her DNA? What would she look like? How would she view life?
I am challenged by her “quirks.” As much as it can bother me at times, her distractibility teaches me to “stop and smell the roses.” I’m usually so focused on my agenda, that I miss the small things that enhance our lives: flowers, nature, sunshine. Maybe because she often feels out of control, she notices things that bring simple enjoyment.
She also can become very focused to the point of obsession in finishing a project. These are her most creative moments. Research shows that many people with Bipolar are incredibly creative and accomplished.
We joke about the many items that I have thrown out but are rescued by her and put to use: a gift bag; sprayed gold, stamped and ribbon attached is made from a bandaid box, a yogurt container becomes a planter, a sock becomes a cell phone holder.
While I do not believe that in God’s goodness, her life would be willed to struggle, could the affected parts of her brain actually enhance her being? Do these areas actually work to achieve God’s purposes for her and her ability draw people to her Creator?
What are the implications of accepting God knitting us together;quirks and all?
Doesn’t a knit item have a unique characteristic even if there’s a bum stitch or hole?
And doesn’t the fact that the item is still valued tell us something?
Photo taken from Flickr: Lisa Risager